revolución de kale

Remember my friend Gail? The one who warned me about getting in the way of my own chill on a boundary waters canoe trip? Well, she’s back. And with more terrific life advice.
I had the good fortune of ushering in April in Zihuatanejo, Mexico—you know, that little idyllic little village on the Pacific where fictional Andy Dufresne lives out his freedom after chiseling his way out of Shawshank Prison? Let’s just say he chose well. And believe me, I was ready from some warm, utopian bliss.
zihuatanejo
But just prior to leaving, someone advised me to avoid ruining my trip with gastric mishaps by adhering to the following: only eat in reputable places, order canned soda instead of water or cocktails with ice, avoid street food, and stick to produce I can peel. Say again?? This was the exact opposite of what I had in mind. It was time to call in a Mexico travel pro.
I emailed Gail in a panic. She responded immediately and assured me that with a few simple precautions, I could eat and drink whatever I like. Amen. But perhaps more importantly, she dispensed theses additional tips:
  1. find a good tortillaria
  2. eat as many of those little tiny mangoes as you can
  3. don’t forget the  jamaica (hibiscus) concentrate for your margaritas
I didn’t fully understand the weight of this advice until I was in the thick of it, but man was she ever spot on. Done, done, and done. No regrets. If you find yourself in Mexico, do this.
tortillaria
I deplaned onto hot the hot tarmac, ready for Mexico’s agricultural treasures. And for a time, I was doing really well, cobbling together the remains of my high school Spanish, shopping at el mercado municipal para mi frutas y las verduas. I filled my bags with the most seriously gorgeous smelling produce I’ve ever had—avocados, pineapple, jalapeños, melons, jicama, carrots, radishes, cilantro, onions, garlic, tomatoes, limes, and of course, the prerequisite mango pequeños.
And back on my sun-drenched balcony, I proceeded to throw together some of the simplest, most flavorful salads I’ve ever had. Jicama, carrot, pineapple slaw. Radishes doused in lime juice with a splash of olive oil and coarse, smoky sea salt. Quinoa negra with jalapeño, mango, cilantro, and avocado. I marinated chunks of fresh fish in garlic and lime juice for the grill and made spicy fruit salsa while I waited.
In the mornings I brewed strong pour over coffee and slathered plain yogurt and local honey onto warm flour tortillas stuffed avocado, mango, radish, and cilantro. Afternoons were met with a cold Pacifico con limón and homemade salsa with chips. For all practical purposes, I had arrived.
salsa-y-totopos
But on the third day, I caved. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I took a taxi to the MEGA Comercial Mexicana out on the strip, and like a homing pigeon, I navigated my way to the back right hand corner of the store (MEGA is not an exaggeration here) until I found myself in front of a teeny tiny selection of very sad looking greens. 
And there I stood, wresting with my conscious for a good five minutes. Surely I can go without it for eight days, I reasoned. Why, I wondered, when there are so many other alternatives? I remembered Gail’s explanation that leafy stuff is in Mexico isn’t always the best, and how this would be a great opportunity to eat cabbage instead! (Her exclamation point, not mine.)
But it was no use. The next thing I knew I was in the check out lane. With kale. In a plastic container. Courtesy of Earthbound Farms, via the California. Never has produce made me stoop so low. At least I was spared the embarrassment of  running into anyone I knew. I tried, but I just couldn’t go cold turkey.
I resumed my love of simple, regional cooking, just with the odd addition of a little kale thrown in here and there. And I continued to toss my daily produce scraps from mi balcón to the free-range chickens below, taking care to explain the finer qualities of these peculiar stems—sturdy, adaptable, and with an undeniably assertive flavor. They seemed quite taken with them, really. I might have even started a Mexican chicken kale revolution.
mango-pequeños
Though I do have to confess that on my last morning, whilst trying to cram in every last bit of produce that I could possibly fit into my belly, I was surprised to find an ample handful of kale left in the plastic dome that had been shoved to the back of the fridge. Could it be? Was my body slowly adapting to a life without kale? I don’t know exactly how I go to this point, but I eat kale every day—at least once, sometimes at every meal. My teeth are perpetually flecked with green. Occasionally I find it in my hair.
The one item you are pretty much guaranteed to find in my fridge is a container of massaged kale. I de-stem two to three bunches into a big bowl, tear or snip the leaves into bite size pieces, pour a few tablespoons of olive or flax seed oil over, and proceed to knead it with my hands for a good 7-10 minutes. Sometimes at the end I toss in a big handful of fresh herbs before transferring it to my container. I repeat this process every few days.
Almost always, my breakfast starts with a large bowl of massaged kale. I’ll top it with just about anything—from cold left overs to hot oatmeal with an egg on top. But my favorite do up includes a handful of berries, a bit of sliced avocado, some hemp hearts or chia seeds, a glug of plain kiefer, a spoonful of maca root, a drizzle of raw honey, and a fresh squeeze of lime. Oh, and a pinch of habeñero salt. Is this weird? Have I told you too much? All I know is that I could eat this forever. Sometimes I go to bed, just so I can wake up and eat kale.
My only justification for this obsession is the fact that I live in a climate where it snows for seven or eight months of the year. Kale is one of the first crops in my garden and always the last. I depend on it. It gets me through. Which is no doubt why I found myself in a Mexican supermarket, 2,500 miles from home, searching for this reliable green that has fed me so well for so long.
¡Viva la col rizada!
kale breakfast bowl
After all this, I’d be remiss not to leave you with a legitimate kale recipe. I’m pretty sure this is the salad that hooked me on kale and turned me into a lifer. It’s a quick take-off on a traditional Caesar salad. The recipe, via Melissa Clark, calls for Tuscan kale, which is the dark smooth leaf variety, also call black or lacinato kale. This happens to be my kale of choice for most applications, but any kale will do.
Tuscan Kale Salad
Adapted from NYT cooking

1  large bunch kale
1  slice sturdy bread (rye is my favorite), lightly toasted and processed into coarse crumbs or small cubes
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4  teaspoon kosher salt
1/4  cup finely grated pecorino cheese, more for garnish
3  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for garnish
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
ground black pepper, to taste
Remove the thick stems by pinching the stalk towards the bottom and sliding your fingers all the way up the stem. It’s fine if the thinner portion of the stem remains intact. Slice or tear the leaves into ribbons or bite sized pieces. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place kale in a large bowl.

Using a mortar and pestle pound garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer garlic paste to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pepper flakes, black pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss very well to thoroughly combine (dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat leaves—the best way to do this is with clean hands).

Let salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with bread crumbs, additional cheese and a drizzle of oil. Serves 2-4

just as they are

It’s finally time. I’ve been avoiding writing about this like one puts off writing about death. But invariably it needs to be done, despite one’s lack of words to do it justice. And I should warn you, it’s going to be a doozy. We’ve got to go back to the beginning for this one. Brace yourself.

Jill Lesley 1976

I got my first pair of glasses when I was three. I’m not exactly sure how my parents discovered this need, but once established, they dutifully toted me to the optometrist every year. And every year my vision got a little worse. I grew up hating my glasses. They were thick and brown and ugly. As I got older, I’d sometimes try for a more fashion forward frame, but even a mid-size frame doesn’t mingle well with my strong prescription. The larger the frames, the thicker the lenses—a fact I was desperate to disprove.

I began my campaign for contacts early and during the summer between fifth and sixth grade, I was deemed worthy to give them a go. And believe me, I took my contact lens wearing responsibility seriously. They were my golden ticket. They meant nobody need see me in my thick, ugly glasses ever again. I’ve maintained this strict, no glasses in public unless absolutely necessary policy my entire adult life. Until eight months ago.

We need to skip ahead here to the fact that I currently have only one correctable, contact lens wearing eye, and, at the time, it was suffering from a mild infection. Which meant no contact lens for a week. Not a big deal, except I had a party looming on the horizon. It was a 50th wedding anniversary—a celebration that felt a whole lot more like a reunion than a party. It involved people I grew up with and hadn’t seen in twenty years.

I begged my eye doctor to let me slip into my contact, just for a few hours. She acquiesced, but not before I began feeling a little vain and shallow. These are my people, I thought. They know me as shy the kid with dorky glasses, and they love me anyway. With a pang in my stomach, I dared myself to go to the party in my glasses.

And I did. And I felt incredibly self-conscious And yes, I know I was being ridiculous. Logic was no help. But it did prove to be a worthwhile experiment. I started challenging myself to wear my glasses out in public, by my own free will. It’s crazy, isn’t it? How fiercely we cling to our lifelong beliefs? Until someone or something comes along and politely pokes a finger in them. Whooboy. This is the work, sister.

But, as is often the case, this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Jill Lesley

A few months later, I was driving home from work listening to Jess Lively whose guest was Jacob Liberman, author of Take Off Your Glasses and See. I didn’t get very far into the interview, but far enough to remind me that my dad had given me a couple of similar books years ago—Aldous Huxley’s The Art of Seeing and Seeing Without Glasses by Robert-Michael Kaplan. They’ve been on my shelf for seventeen years. Untouched. I have a small house. I dislike clutter. Untouched things do not last seventeen years. I have no idea what made me keep these books. Perhaps it was out of nostalgia over his death a few years later. Or maybe it was because of our shared bond of bad eyesight. But most likely, I just wasn’t ready yet.

That night I thumbed through the books and re-read the letter my dad had sent along with them. He encouraged me to try the prescribed eye exercises and assured me that either way the books were filled with valuable life advice. In closing he wrote “Perhaps you will better understand why your particular eyes can be thought of as a gift.” I remember thanking him for the books, but secretly I was thinking, yes, yes, this may be interesting and enlightening, but it’s not for me. My eyes are too far gone. Oh how very wrong I was.

I finished up the podcast with Dr. Liberman and resonated so deeply with him that I ordered his book. While I waited for it to arrive I devoured the two from my dad. I’ve always chalked up my bad eyesight to pure genetics. But these authors were offering up a new theory for me to consider—that our vision declines due to environmental interactions, some external stressor. This could be a physical strain, like staring at a screen, or (and more likely) it could be emotional, some fear or discomfort that we don’t know how to process. Regardless of the source, our body’s solution is to create some distance between ourself and the perceived stressor. And how better to do this than by putting a slight blur on the world. Let’s just soften things up a tad, make our reality not quite so harsh.

Not a bad safety mechanism really. The problem, of course, is that the standard response to our body’s innovative response is to slap on a pair of corrective lenses. Ideally ones that bump us right back up to 20/20 vision. Which, if you buy into the theory, puts the strain we were so comfortably backing away from, full strength in front of us again. Okay, say the eyes, no big deal, we’ll just gradually blur things up again. An approach that works wonders on our subconscious, until the next visit to the optometrist, who dutifully sends us off with a slightly stronger prescription. I’m glossing over the mechanics of it, but are you seeing the pattern here?

Jill Lesley

In four decades of eye doctor visits, I have never thought of my eyes as anything but “bad.” They are something to correct. Something to fix. This is so engrained in me that it has never once, even remotely occurred to me that my eyes are fine. That they might just be trying to tell me something.

I’m sure the majority of optometrists would scoff at this theory (let alone the belief that we can gradually reverse our vision through a variety of exercises and techniques). And I don’t begrudge them, or the vision they’ve afforded me over the years. But science aside, I can tell you this. I spent the majority of my childhood (and even my adult life to some extent) trying to become invisible. Saying I was shy doesn’t do it justice. I had a normal, happy childhood. I was an engaged, albeit quiet, kid. But that didn’t alleviate a deep down desire to always want to back away, to quietly disappear. I did this without awareness, it’s just how I operated. It’s only now that I can recognize it and start to bring some understanding to it.

And interestingly enough, in my late twenties, when my nearsightedness couldn’t get much worse, a whole new string of eye issues started unfolding for me. I was plagued with a virus that led me down a slippery slope of chronic inflammation, a cornea with a scar that’s been likened to the Grand Canyon, a dense cataract, and glaucoma (remember when we fast forwarded to me having only one correctable, contact lens wearing eye?) Naturally, these events have further perpetuated my “bad eye” belief.

I’ve never intentionally done any activity without wearing my glasses or contact (which, despite their titles, isn’t actually what these books are suggesting). But this past fall, I started taking walks with my eyes, just as they are. One with a -15.75 correction and the other that can perceive light and close up motion. And I was stunned. Things were no longer blurry. Instead, they appeared exactly how my eyes wanted to take them in. My vision wasn’t good or bad. It just was. You may be thinking, yeah, so? But turning a lifetime of bad eyesight into perfect eyesight, was nothing short of mind blowing. The color was amazing. The dimensionality was amazing. The light was amazing. I think I cried on at least a dozen walks.

I was so moved by my discovery that I started trying other things with my eyes, just as they are. I can read with a book held an inch in front of my face. And at that distance, I can see the fibers that make up the paper, the pixels that turn into letters, and the well thought out detail of each serif. It’s a surprisingly gorgeous experience. I can cook in the kitchen and it requires me to be much less precise and far from perfect. Two traits I’ve had a lifelong struggle with. Coincidence? Ha. Hardly.

Not wearing my glasses or contact tends to rule out a lot of activities. But here’s the thing, when I use my eyes just as they are, my world is a softer, quieter place. There are no hard edges. I move deliberately. My brain steadies, stops it’s relentless spinning. I see more beauty and fewer problems—which leaves way less room for judgment. But the second I slip my glasses or contact on, it all goes away. The sharpness and clarity that my prescription provides can feel like a slap in the face.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I am entirely appreciative of the doctors, technologies, and surgeries that have given me the ability to see and lead my own unique life. I wouldn’t trade it for any other. But this new and growing understanding of my eyes has struck a chord so deep and so rich that it’s hard to articulate. It turns out my father was right. My particular eyes and all they’ve been through, are, indeed, a gift. I can’t wait to see where they take me.

Jill Lesley 1975

up and down

Can we talk peonies? I’ve always kind of shied away from peonies. They just seem so loud. So boisterous. And so unpredictable. One minute they’re in fabulous display, hollering “look at me! look at me!” and then, after just the teensiest bit of wind, they’re a hot mess. Petals everywhere.

I acknowledge that one of my hang-ups with peonies actually goes way deeper—to a reluctance over pink. I’ve never really embraced pink. That is, until I got nieces. They’re teenagers now and are no doubt sorting out their own issues with pink. But back in the day, life was pink! Pink, pink, pink. Everything was better with pink. And for the first time in my life, I kinda fell for pink.

Not that all peonies are pink, but they do own a fair share of the market. Being fond of pink only helps their case.

A few springs back, I was in Winter, Wisconsin, browsing a killer nursery, smack dab in the middle of nowhere (google it, and go if you’re close), not even remotely considering a peony purchase, when my eye caught the tag of a mostly leafless plant. I was mesmerized. I wasn’t standing in the Winter Greenhouse anymore. I was sitting cross-legged on the warm brick patio of my childhood back yard, bad haircut and thick glasses, watching the ants march dutifully up and down the stems of our one and only peony bush. Up and down, up and down.

I have a lousy recollection of my childhood. I’m pretty sure the childhood itself was happy (save the bad haircuts), but the details of it are hazy. So when I get a random, vivid memory, it always kind of shakes me. Our peony had the classic white blooms with big, sunny yellow centers. And I spent a lot of time watching it, creeped out and captivated, all at once. Up and down, up and down.

Next thing I knew I was checking out and there was a ‘Gold Standard’ peony in my cart. Not the most exciting choice in Winter’s lineup of peonies, to be sure. But this was the one. This was the plant that completed me. I’ve never been so excited to get home and transplant.

It went so well that I went back to Winter the next spring for a second, flashier, pale pink number, ’Pillow Talk.’ And it too sends me into the garden, brimming with anticipation and optimism.

So imagine my delight this spring when my sister-in-law called to offer me divisions from her mother’s, mother’s peony patch (both dearly departed women whom I love and admire). I’m so pleased to have a piece of this heritage in my garden. But I’m still a little startled by my new love of peonies. I’ve even started following peony_addict on Instagram. It’s easily one of my cheeriest feeds. I guess I’m finally ready for unapologetic, frilly pink.

All this said, I still wrestle with my peonies’ overall manners. I have a brand new rock-walled garden bed outside my front door, currently taking applications. But I hesitate to move a peony in. It’s a small space. What will happen, I wonder, when a peony throws up all over it?

But then I know. Life is what will happen. Beautiful, unplanned, haphazard life.

liver lady

Does death always come in threes? The mighty little community on Lake Superior’s south shore that I call home recently lost a handful of members, all unrelated and all unexpectedly. News of death is never easy and getting blind sided by it adds one more layer of emotion to sift through. When you finally hit the bottom of your grief, you’re left grasping onto the undeniable truth of how precious our time here really is.

And so it is that I’ve been muddling my way through a deep look at lifehow I give, how I receive, and how I show up. It’s kind of an overwhelming process. One that can almost set me into a panic. Which is not to say I’m unhappy with my life. It’s just revealing to step back and take a good, honest look at it. What time is it anyway? Is this a mid-life crisis lurking in the shadows? 

I’m getting off track. This post isn’t about me. It’s about my dog, Earl. And Rita, the liver lady. I live on a peninsula, and as far as I know, there is only one place to train a dog. The Blue Ribbon Training Club. So when Earl came into my life five years ago, I dutifully signed him up for obedience school.

I had been to Blue Ribbon with a former dog, so I knew what to expect. A damp, windowless, uninsulated, low ceilinged shed attached to the local groomers shop. Conveniently situated in a low wetland area (read, swamp). In the winter months the room is either freezing, or sauna-like, thanks to a big old barrel stove chugging away in the corner. There’s very little in between. This awkward space can easily become claustrophobic. 

blue ribbon training club

And then there’s Rita, the woman running the show. If you don’t know her, she can seem, well, a little gruff. It doesn’t take long to realize that this well-built woman means business. Rita runs a tight, no nonsense ship. Which is a good thing, as far as your dog’s behavior is concerned. But I always like to warn new people that the whole experience can seem a little surreal at first. 

A typical class finds Rita sitting on a perch, barking commands to follow—heeling around in a ring, reversing directions, halting, laying down, leaving your dog and advancing to work with the dog ahead, again and again until you reunite with your pup. And just when everybody is teetering on the edge of exhaustion, she yells out a joyous “Praise them!” If you’re not exuberant enough with your praise, she’ll yell it again. But it gets even better. The liver snaps. Homemade, garlic marinated, dehydrated liver treats that Rita slips to the dogs for good behavior. Earl will stand on his head and spit nickels for one of Rita’s liver snaps. I’ve seen it.

During his tenure at Blue Ribbon, Earl was more or less dubbed class clown. His starring moment came during a testing night. Owners lined up on one side of the room, dogs on the other. One by one we were to call our dog to us and have them preform just one command we asked of them. When Earl’s turn was up, he came to me as instructed and proceeded to fire off everything he had learned in class. Sit, down, finish behind me, sit, down and return. Rita laughed, looked me in the eye, and said “Don’t ever break his spirit.” And then she proceeded to give him a passing grade.

Rita is also the founder of Pet N’ Pals, a group of trained therapy dogs (and two cats) that makes weekly visits to area nursing homes. When Earl finished his obedience training, Rita encouraged us to go through the therapy dog class and testing. She could tell that Earl was made for this work. 

Earl has come along way since I adopted him, but he has a mysterious past. A fork dropped at just the wrong time can send him into a panic that lasts for hours. I agreed that he’d make a swell therapy dog, but I was dubious about his jitters. We made it through the classes without incident, and once again on testing night, Earl’s sincerity made Rita cave. One of the testing stations involves the owner sitting in a chair, dog at their side while a stranger lumbers forth with a walker. Earl managed to slink behind my chair and remain virtually unseen. Still, Rita noticed a little swish of his tail and passed him anyway. “He’ll grow into it,” she said. And he did. 

earl

As therapy dogs, Earl and his cohorts occasionally get called on to attend a funeral. They go and stage up in the back as an added measure of support. And it’s a really comforting touch. Every funeral should be so blessed. To be respectful, I always don Earl’s bowtie for these occasions.

It was with a breaking heart that I recently had to dig out Earl’s tie and let him know that he’d been tapped again for duty. This time though, it was for our ring leader—the loyal liver lady. Rita died unexpectedly at the end of January, leaving behind packs of dogs who owe their good manners and love of liver to her.  

Rita got dogs. If you walked into her funny little training shack and did exactly as instructed, you’d leave with a well-polished canine citizen. Period. And she had plenty of practice. Between classes and therapy outings, she spent more evening with a pack of dogs in her command than not. If that wasn’t dedication enough, she also donated classes, food, and emergency vet services to those who needed it most. Not that anyone would ever know. This was one area where Rita exercised discretion.

Small communities are such caring, tight-knit places to live. Of course the downside is that when people make their exit, they often leave a gaping hole in their wake. Rita is no exception. Her contribution and presence are noticeably absent. I take solace in her living, barking legacy. And I can tell you this. Dog heaven just scored big. Carry on, Rita.

Rita’s Liver Snaps

Beef liver
Worcestershire sauce
Garlic powder
Food dehydrator

Slice liver as evenly as possible, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick. Rub garlic powder over meat. Splash with Worcestershire sauce and a bit of water. Marinate 8 hours or overnight. Lay the liver out in an uncrowded fashion on food dehydrator trays and set temperature between 130 and 140º F. Dry until the liver is firm and crisp, with no trace of moisture, 6 to 8 hours, depending on thickness. Break into bite size pieces and store in an air-tight container. (I should also mention that while your dog might find this a delightful smelling process, others in your household may not. Consider running the dehydrator in basement or garage.)

earl

Rita’s service is on March 4 at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, WI. Her pack of therapy dogs will be in attendance. I’ll try and get a photo of our crew. Check back if you’d like.

And thanks to my friend Bob for taking these photos of Earl.

crafty devil

Whooboy! There are loads of reasons why the pig pen has been so quiet this past year. I’ll refrain from inundating you with the nitty-gritty details of my life. But I will tell you this. My kitchen routine has been turned every which way and has temporarily landed on smack on it’s head. Not in a bad way, but enough to leave me feeling a little discombobulated.

aip waffle

This spring and summer I got hot and heavy into Ayurvedic cooking  (and lifestyle shifts). Which means I was inviting more of a mind-body-spirit connection into my kitchen. I was concentrating on bringing all six flavors—sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent to each meal. I was trying to make lunch, rather than dinner, my heartiest meal of the day. My cooking got simpler. Indian influences took over my pantry with things like curry leaves, mung beans, and moong dal lentils. Certain foods, like garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers were reluctantly set aside to enjoy during cooler times when my body would be more willing to digest them. It was, and somewhat still is, quite a fun experiment.

By October, however, I was immersed in a whole new lineup of blogs and cookbooks. What started as an act of desperation to help my best friend (and husband) get an upper hand on living with chronic Lyme and chronic fatigue has become a full-on lifestyle change for both of us.

Say hello to the Autoimmune Protocol. A meal plan that is essentially a slightly more restrictive version of eating paleo. It’s a nutrient dense diet, which means heaps of (most) vegetables, grass fed meat, seafood, and organ meat. It also eliminate foods that potentially cause inflammation and therefore disease—which, as it turns out, is a hell of a lot of food. This is especially noticeable if you heart longs towards vegetarianism. The last of my mung beans and lentils are pathetically lingering at the bottom of their jars.

So why even get onboard with such a crazy extreme diet? A couple reasons. Solidarity and keeping the cooking streamlined are the easy answers. But the more research I did on autoimmune disease, the more I started asking some sticky questions.

Haven’t I suffered from Raynaud’s disease (an autoimmune circulatory issue that causes extremities to turn impressive shades of white and blue) all my life? Don’t I have an eye virus that has a tendency to run rampant, even while on medication to suppress it? Haven’t at least four eye doctors told me I have an immune response that’s causing my poor left eye to destroy itself? And, oh yeah, haven’t I been on a steroid drop for over fifteen years to combat inflammation in that eye? It’s funny the things we can overlook in life, isn’t it?  Denial is a crafty devil.

As is autoimmune disease, I’m learning.

All this to say, I finally came round to the fact that, yes, just maybe, my body is struggling with autoimmune issues. So I embarked on this radical diet with a half-skeptical “it certainly can’t hurt” approach. For years I have longed to reduce and even quit my eye medications, but such attempts always end in trouble. Maybe this will be my ticket.

So far this new way of eating has been a roller coaster with every high, low, bump, and twist I can think of. Honestly it’s been a little exhausting—both emotionally and simply with the amount of time I spend grocery shopping and cooking—it’s a very fresh diet, not a lot of dry staples on the pantry shelves. But my intrigue behind the science of the diet is high enough to keep me on the ride. 

It also helps that there are some incredibly creative autoimmune cooks to draw inspiration from. I’ve learned to use cauliflower and winter squash in ways I never imagined. A food processor works magic on both—think fried rices and risottos. My toaster has not seen a slice of bread in months, but instead thick slabs of sweet potatoes toasted several times over. I top my “toast” with all sorts of things, but it makes for an unbeatable leftover turkey sandwich with avocado a dab of cranberry. I’ve finally perfected Sunday morning waffles using a base of cassava flour (a starchy root) and apple sauce. Coconut flour and arrowroot crust pizzas topped with things like figs, prosciutto, pears, and arugula come out for special occasions. And I even managed to make a tray of gingermen for the holidays. The dough was a little finicky, but what the men lacked in appearance, they made up for in flavor, rivaling even Grandma Myrtle’s recipe.

gingermen

Clearly I am not suffering for lack of food. But this has been a dramatic shift in the way I shop, cook, and eat. And oddly, I haven’t felt like writing much about it. It feels too new, too uncertain, and too raw. Sometimes I’m convinced this is the wisest eating path I’ve ever taken (and there have been many) and other days I wonder what in the world I’m doing and why can’t I just be normal for god’s sake?

I’ve also been wrestling with my identity in the kitchen. One glance at my cookbook shelf can send me into a tailspin of despair. Until I remember I can still open them, make adjustments, and garner ideas. And the protocol does allow for trying to reintroduce a wider variety of foods as you progress. Which is comforting. Extremes make me nervous. So I tend to think of this as the first chapter in a long book. Here are my cliff notes to date

  • the quality of meals has been off the charts
  • the prep time and planning required is also off the charts
  • being thankful for the first and accepting of the second is key
  • humans bodies are so responsive to the things we do and do not put into them
  • understanding and aligning with this makes any shift in diet way easier

And if nothing else, I’m learning a great deal about myself and how I approach healing. My no nonsense, type-A personality makes me a very good rule follower. Give me a recipe, hand me the instruction manual, tell me what to do. I will follow it to a tee to get the results I’m after. Discipline is not my problem. It’s my white knuckle grip to succeed that gets in the way. And even though I can rationally tell myself that this strategy isn’t at all useful, truly letting go and easing up is still a daily challenge. And that’s exactly where I’m at. Trying to relax back from what’s supposed to happen and opening my heart to what is. 

I’ve cooked some spectacularly delicious meals over the last few months. Not surprisingly, some of the simplest things are standouts. Like these two dressings. The honey balsamic is fantastic tossed with a salad of sturdy greens and warm roasted root vegetables. It’s also great on fruit based salads. I use the avocado dressing on slaws, dotted on fish and chicken, and as a dipping sauce for just about anything. Onward ho!

Honey Balsamic Dressing
(from The Healing Kitchen)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 t sea salt

Combine all in a jar and shake well. Keeps well for several days covered in the fridge (makes 3/4 cup)

Olive-Avocado Dressing
(from the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook)

1 avocado, pitted and skinned
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all in a blender and bend until smooth. Thin with a little water if it’s too thick. Keeps for a day or two covered in the fridge. (makes 1 cup)

aip waffles!

going rogue

Remember last fall when I was oozing uncertainty about another season of bee keeping? Well. The tables have turned. I’m not sure exactly what transpired, but I’ve done a one-eighty. Spring can’t come fast enough (and, just for the record, it isn’t).

spring honeybee hive

I’ve got big changes up my sleeve. I’m switching from deep hive boxes to mediums. Which basically translates to “easier” lifting. Wait. Did you hear that? It was my back, already sighing with relief. I’m also converting to foundationless frames. This means my bees will draw out 100 percent of their honey comb instead of getting a pre-made starter sheet of wax foundation to guide them.

There are so many reasons why foundationless feels like the right way to go. The most obvious is that bees have drawn out their own comb for hundreds of centuries. Why we felt the need to introduce starter comb to show them the ropes, isn’t entirely clear. Also at the top of the list is a naturally healthier hive. Left to their own devices, bees tend to make smaller cell spaces. This decreases the amount of time larvae spend in the capped cells before hatching out. The shorter development time interrupts the lifecycle of the deadly varroa mite. And, foundation (which is made mostly out of wax from commercial hives) is laced with trace chemicals. Yuck. The bees have it hard enough. Why bring more garbage into their hives?

foundationless frames

I also want to raise more cut comb honey. Which means I’m going to do some radical moves this summer, like “double shook swarming” (a technique that’s just plain fun to say, if nothing else). I’ll spare you the details, but it involves strategically separating hives, placing the components back to back during the prime nectar flow and reorienting/reuniting the boxes again in the fall.

I love cut comb honey. There is, in my book, nothing finer. But for whatever reason, there’s less of a demand for it. People are shy about how to eat it. Which always steers me towards producing more extracted honey. This year though, markets be dammed. I’m ready to spread the gospel.    

These changes are invigorating. Interestingly, my decisions happened through no real process. And that’s what feels so great about it. I’m type A. I plan. I figure. I troubleshoot before the trouble. And there is always a process. This time though, answers just sort of landed in my lap without my brain inserting itself. I’m not only bucking some conventional beekeeping methods, I’m shaking up my general life strategy to boot. I’m going rogue. And I didn’t even plan it!

I’ve mentioned before how my bees bring out the best in me. They slow me down. They make me take notice. And they repeatedly remind me that there is never a concrete answer. Ever. But now they’ve taken it up a notch. They’ve outdone themselves. I let go, threw it all out there, and this is their answer. You know that Zen proverb, about the teacher appearing when the student is ready? Evidently I’m ready. Thanks girls.

cut comb revival

This isn’t a recipe, so much as a mini-manifesto. Paring knife required.

What’s all the fuss about cut comb honey? Plenty. 

At the very least, you can start your day by dropping a spoonful of honeycomb in the bottom of your cereal bowl. Smother it with hot oatmeal, add a pat of butter, a splash of milk, and swirl it all together for a breakfast that will give any cold, grey morning a run for its money. Wash it down with a shot of espresso and you’ll wonder why every morning can’t be cold and grey.

But summer will come, eventually. And when it does, you can drag your chair out to the patio, set out a slab of comb honey, some good French feta, a baguette, and if you’re lucky, a nice chunky beefsteak tomato. Pour a glass of strong sun tea and stay awhile. Hell, knock out a crossword. You’ve got all morning.

Sooner or later, though, you should get motivated. It is, after all, summer–ice cream season. Pairings are endless, but if you need a starting point, try your hand at a batch of fresh fig ice cream and top your cone with a thin sliver of honey comb. It’ll make you rethink the merits of those cold, grey mornings.

Still, when the weather turns and cool nights start rolling in, it means you can throw together big plates of crisp pears, spiced nuts, blue cheese, comb honey, and a nice pumpernickel. Set out some cold salted butter and call it dinner. But do save room for desert. There’s cupcakes glazed with bittersweet chocolate and honeycomb.

honey cupcakes with honeycomb

zing pow

Well hello! It’s been a while, no? I’m struck with a pang that this little piggy may have been written off as just another blog, dying a slow, bloggy death. But I hope that’s not the case. I’ve thought a lot about this space and what I want it to be. I’ve wrestled with trying to make it a “real” blog, but I’m not sure I have the drive for that. And maybe that’s okay, because honestly what resonates most about this place is simply that. It’s just a place. A place to write a casual note to a friend. And if the friend is lucky, maybe a recipe at the end. So if you’re good with such a note, however random or regular it may be, climb aboard. I’ll do my best to keep in touch.

Now. Lets get on to the business at hand. Bears. Friendly ones.

It’s hard to say where my loyalties laid as a kid. The happy-go-lucky, bumbling Pooh, or the exceptionally polite Paddington? They both have their merits. But lets talk about Paddington. Paddington has a suitcase with a secret compartment. This trumps an empty honey pot in my book. Well mannered, yes. But still not above pulling out his Very Hard Stare for those he disapproves of. I’m here to tell you—a well applied Very Hard Stare can take you places. And then there’s the marmalade sandwiches. How can you go argue with a bear who keeps a marmalade sandwich tucked under his hat? You can’t.

maramalade toast

After becoming fully acquainted with the bear in the blue duffel coat, I desperately wanted to love marmalade. But my 10-year-old pallet just wouldn’t go there. All those peels! And the bitterness! I knew Paddington must be onto something, but I couldn’t exactly figure out what. Though not for lack of trying, my distaste of marmalade lasted through most of my adult life. Until just a few years ago when I half-heartedly tapped into a jar of Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade. There I was one cold January morning when every last bit of wintery sunshine came hurtling though my kitchen window and landed smack dab on my piece of crusty, buttery toast. Zing pow. I get it Paddington. Finally!

Lucia’s is a long-standing favorite restaurant in uptown Minneapolis. It’s one of those comfortable places that you can’t bare to leave without buying some sort of treat to take home. My inner Paddington must have prompted me to pull a jar of marmalade off the shelf one visit. And that was it. My love affair with marmalade, or at least Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade, was set. It became a staple in my Christmas stocking. One bitter-sweet jar to be enjoyed in the bitter-sweet cold. It just had this way of evening everything out.

You may have noticed that I’m talking about Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade in the past tense. This year’s Christmas stocking was filled with many delectable items, but Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade was not one of them. “They don’t make it anymore,” is what my mom claimed when grilled about its absence. (I knew she had stopped there because Earl was the lucky recipient of a sack of Lucia’s peanut butter dog biscuits.) I was stunned. January will be okay, I thought. I’ll make it through without a jar of marmalade.

I made it precisely twenty-two days into January without a jar a of Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade. On the twenty-third day of January, the cold and endless grey skies left me no choice but to google “grapefruit marmalade recipe” and subsequently procure a few pounds of ruby red Texan grapefruit.

Having relied on Lucia for the entirety of my marmalade obsession, I was a little uncertain of my marmalade making prowess. And I’m not sure what I did actually constitutes genuine marmalade, as there was no overnight macerating as many of the recipes call for. But the recipe I finally settled on, via the New York Times, claimed marmalade, so I went with it. It also promised little “bursts of Meyer lemon” which is what ultimately swayed me.

Despite the lack of maceration, it was still a rather time consuming process, albeit a cheery one. Watching pink and yellow and sweet all meld into one was a nice cure for the winter blues. Though my level of skepticism remained high the entire time the fruit was simmering. I was seriously doubting that the water would cook off in time, but by some miracle, it did. Marmalade magic.

grapefruit marmalade in the making

I jarred up my marmalade, dubious (again) about seals forming without a proper hot-water bath. But every jar sealed. Everyone except the one I didn’t even bother putting a lid on. I think I might have eaten half the jar before even attempting to make a piece of toast. This magical concoction would also be a great compliment on a cheese plate, with brie and blue, maybe a pear and a few pecans. And, it’d be quite nice, I imagine, with roast pork or chicken. And on a turkey sandwich. Or just by the spoonful.

Having never attempted marmalade, I stuck to the recipe below pretty closely. Though I did halve it, and I also cut back on the amount of grapefruit peel. I was worried that the addition of bits of Meyers lemon with their peels might result in a peel overload. I also upped the quantity of grapefruit just a bit. My advice is to prep the peel called for and then play it by ear. Once it’s all in the pot, you can get a better sense of how peel intensive it will be. In retrospect, I still would have cut back, but maybe not quite as much as I did.

And yes, making marmalade is a process that is worth its time. Ask Paddington.

Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Marmalade
(from June Taylor of Still-Room, via the New York Times )

5 pounds grapefruit (strong vote for organic here)
5 Meyer lemons (again, organic is best)
½ cup lemon juice (from 2 to 3 additional lemons)
2 ½ pounds sugar

Remove the grapefruit skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the peel into 1/8-inch slivers; stop when you have 3/4 cup. Discard the rest. Slice off the ends of the grapefruit and the remaining grapefruit peel and pith. Remove grapefruit segments, reserving membrane. Stop when you have 5 cups of segments.

Cut the ends off the Meyer lemons, deep enough so you can see the flesh. Leaving the peel on, remove the segments of lemon and reserve the membrane. Cut the segments crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. (I found this to be the trickiest part. Use a small paring knife to cut the lemons so you can detach the membrane while still leaving the fruit attached to the peel.)

Put membranes from the grapefruit and Meyer lemons in a jelly bag and tie closed.

In a wide and deep pot, combine the grapefruit segments, grapefruit peel, lemon pieces and jelly bag. Add lemon juice and 2 1/2 cups water. Simmer until the grapefruit peel is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Preheat the oven to 225 F. Working over a bowl in your sink, squeeze the liquid from the jelly bag; keep squeezing and wringing it out until you extract 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pectin. Add pectin and sugar to the pot. Place over high heat and boil, stirring now and then, until marmalade is between 222 and 225 degrees and passes the plate test. (Spoon a little onto a plate and put in the fridge for 3 minutes. If it thickens like jam, it is done.)

Meanwhile, put 6 sterilized 8-ounce canning jars and lids on a baking sheet and place in the oven. When jam is done, remove jars from the oven. Ladle jam into the jars, filling them as high as possible. Wipe the rims. Fasten the lid tightly. Let cool. If you don’t get a vacuum seal, refrigerate the jam. (Makes 6 8-ounce jars)

grapefruit marmalade

no path to power

My eyesight is notoriously bad. I was that bashful 2-year-old with the dorky glasses. Can I just say that kid’s eyewear has come a long way since the 1970’s? Fashion aside, I’ve never opened my eyes in the morning to anything but a very big blur. And it troubles me to report that the lush green blur that’s been gracing my bedroom window is tuning suspiciously yellow.

I do love fall, really. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to summer. In my world, summer is never hot enough nor long enough. But this one felt especially pinched. I knew things weren’t right when even my hobbies started to feel like chores.

Garlic, vegetables, honeybees. Too many living things were vying for my attention this summer. When all my attention really wanted to do with its meager free time was sit in the sun and get lost in a book. But attention knows better and it opted instead to tend to its commitments. Which sometimes left attention feeling resentful and cranky. It’s ridiculous, really—that selfishness should rear it’s head in the face of such great abundance. Still, I’m pretty sure I threatened to take up needlepoint and crop art at least twice.

bee journal notes

This summer’s bee journal is littered with harried notes, question marks, and “should haves.” Which, to be honest, isn’t all that different from other years, but something was lacking this year. My heart.

I found myself dashing out to the bee yard with just enough time to perform the minimal duties to make sure everybody got by. And everybody did. The bees provided a fine honey crop, despite my lack of participation. But even that left me feeling a little defeated. Now I had to find time to extract, bottle, label, and clean up. As with most things I undertake, my economy of scale is exactly wrong. Which sometimes seems like all I’ve managed to do is create extra work for myself. Clearly it’s time to reflect.

I wrapped up my tenth summer of beekeeping not sure if I’m ready to commit to an eleventh. I typically wait until the thick of winter to pull my bee books off the shelf for inspiration, but this unfamiliar feeling I had couldn’t wait that long. I went straight to Richard Taylor, my hero of beekeepers. His writing is practical, witty, and full of wisdom. One of my favorites is his Comb Honey Book. This felt like an especially appropriate choice since my attempts at comb honey this summer were unsuccessful. Managing bees to raise comb honey is an art, for sure—which means that just going through the motions probably isn’t going to cut it. It didn’t.

frame of bees

Partially I revisited Taylor’s book for management strategies. But really I was looking for a bigger answer. Why do I keep bees? What keeps me returning to this hobby that can be expensive, time consuming, and heart breaking? Is it worth consistently making three trips to the apiary because I forgot something I didn’t know I needed at home? Only four pages into the book and Taylor offered this up:

…the way of life available to a serious beekeeper offers a special kind of fulfillment. It is no path to power or riches, but it does offer, or at least make possible, rewards that are vastly more precious. A beekeeper’s work can be not merely a means of production, but an art that has its place within the total scheme of life, which is itself an art. It challenges both body and mind, demanding not only endurance and strength but the cultivation of great skill, and at the same time calls forth from within one the inventor, the artist, the poet, and the worshipper. The beekeeper has constantly before him some of the most exquisite of nature’s creations, often the beauty of nature that no gallery or temple can rival, and through his own ingenuity and skill he is able to offer to others the loveliest product of nature.”

Damn. That’s a hell of an answer. And one that left me thoroughly humbled. Because he’s right. My bees do all of those things. How grateful I am to be a part of their ancient world. I can’t deny that some days I yearn for fewer obligations. But at what cost? I’ll take all the help I can get channeling my inner inventor, artist, poet, and worshipper. I doubt that hours spent hunched over the crop art table glueing amaranth seeds into place would provide such perspective. Maybe, but for now at least, I’m in for another season of bees—no matter how many extra trips it takes. 

wax curl

p.s. That said, I do have honey for sale I’d love to share with you. Drop me a note if you’re interested and we can work out the details.

raising the roof

We’ve arrived. Finally, it’s Minnesota State Fair season. Which basically means I revert to being 12—begging to go, while also getting overly nostalgic for my home state. And, it gets me thinking about my dad.

fairchild

My father was a man of habit. He could have served as a fire safety spokesman for as routinely as he changed our smoke detector batteries. Saturday nights invariably involved t-bones on the grill and caesar salad made with his recipe clipping from St. Paul’s iconic Blue Horse restaurant. On weekday mornings our kitchen radio was tuned to Minnesota Public Radio, but on weekends he went rogue and switched over to am—WCCO. The day after Thanksgiving meant vacuuming behind the refrigerator, an event which was actually scheduled in his date book. Who does that?

At any rate, in my college years I came to predict a phone call each Labor Day. “Wanna go to the races?” he’d ask. “My treat.” It was forever his treat—this invitation to the Minnesota State Fair Speedway. I’m sure I respectfully begged off more times than I said yes, wheels I wish I could turn back of course. (Insert your own poignant quote about not taking things for granted here.)

By and large, my dad was a liberal, suit and tie, let’s meet for a martini at five o’clock sort of guy. Later in life he earned a black belt in Aikido, hopped on the local foods movement, and took up meditation. None of these lifestyle choices, however, curbed his love of stock car racing. I grew up watching the Daytona and Indy 500s, learning about the racers, their cars, and the pit crews. So when the big time ASA racers made their annual, one day trek to Minnesota, he hated to miss it.

And what a great venue. I mean on what other tack does the winner get a post-race glass of milk presented by Princess Kay of the Milky Way? Forget the prize money. This is serious incentive. The late Dick Trickle was a long standing crowd favorite, and we could raise the roof for him with the best of them. We’d get a couple of Kiwanis Club malts (which my father insisted were better than the official malts from the Dairy Building) and find seats as close to the track as possible to watch the next 300 laps unfold.

Dick Trickle and Princess Kay

My dad outlived racing at the fairgrounds, but only by two years. In 2002 the classic half-mile mile track saw it’s final Labor Day race. Fans were uprooted when the the fair board voted later that fall not to put forth the $4.5 million needed to update the track for just one day of racing a year. It was an abrupt end to a 95 year tradition.

I haven’t been to a stock car race since, but that’s probably just as well. My head turns when I hear a broadcast, but it’d be hard to top the two of us taking in the last bit of summer with the mesmerizing drone of engines racing by. My dad was not without some hard edges. I know, because I pretty much have the same ones. And we went head to head plenty of times. But if there was one thing we could pull off, it was knowing how to do the easy, uncomplicated parts right.

Happy summer friends.

live large

Last week I did exactly what they warn you about. I went back. I took a perfectly good childhood memory and jimmied open the door. I went to Disney World.

My brother surprised his two daughters at Christmas with a spring trip to the Magic Kingdom and invited me to tag along. I was hesitant to say the least. It’s not that I’m anti-Disney, quite the contrary. I have such fond memories of my own childhood trips that it seemed foolish to tamper with them. I’ve also heard one too many adult horror stories of barely surviving endless lines, non-stop piped in music, whiny kids, bad food, and overall crowded chaos. Five things I make a point to avoid.

Still, it was snowy and below zero outside when the offer came. My nieces’ tears of joy around the Christmas tree pushed me over the edge. I was in.

cinderella's castle

As our trip approached I started getting texts from my nieces. What color magic band did I want? (yellow) Should we do a character dinner? (of course) Did I want a homemade autograph book? (hell yes!) Oh, and by the way, we’re staying at the Contemporary Resort. (you know, where the monorail passes right through the hotel) Clearly my brother was embracing our father’s approach to vacation. Which can be summed up in three words. Do it right. Generally speaking our dad lived a modest lifestyle, well within his means, but when it came to vacations, he did not scrimp. Vacation was a time to check out of ordinary life and live large.

My excitement was brewing. Trepidation crept back in though when nearly every respectable adult who asked where I was going responded with a sardonic “why?” upon hearing my answer. I even got a few “heaven help you” sort of responses. Did they know something I didn’t? Maybe it wasn’t quite as magical as I remembered. I forged on, and even boned up on all the Disney movies I’ve missed over the past decade (for the record, Stitch is my new favorite character.) And I knew I was going in from a position of strength—I was riding on my nieces’ pure, undiluted enthusiasm. That’s powerful stuff. 

Here’s my report. Disney has changed. When I was a kid, Mickey and the gang roamed the streets at large. Now you have to pay to dine or endure long waits to get a giant mouse hug. In my day, there were lines for sure, but they were shorter. Fast passes didn’t exist. Nor did meal plans, or magic bands, or park hoper passes, or magic hours. It just seemed simpler, and a little less structured.

But the upshot, for me anyway, is that it’s still a magical place. People (albeit a lot of them) are generally happy to be there. The staff (who even go so far as to call themselves cast membrs) are happy to be there. There is a good mood vibe that’s easy to tap into. I surprised myself at how fast I embraced the fantasy of it all. I ignored my phone, emails, and even my Instagram feed. Can I tell you how refreshing that felt? It made the piped in music seem not so bad.

hidden mickey

I discovered that my brother does an uncanny impersonation of Mickey Mouse. He turned more than one head with his act. Forty three years I’ve known this man. Not once have I heard him pull out a Mickey Mouse voice. Untapped talent, I tell you. I also learned the fine art of looking for hidden Mickeys. A definite high point, and something I wasn’t privy too as a kid. The jokes on the Jungle Cruise are as corny as ever, Space Mountain is still a spectacular thrill, and the People Mover (yes, the People Mover) remains on my top 5 list. I could live in Tomorrow Land.

I have to admit that going in I was probably most worried about the coffee situation. I don’t drink a lot of of coffee, but I’m extremely particular about getting at least one rock solid cup. So much so that I dutifully packed my aero press and a bag of Big Water, Bayfield roasted Sea Smoke. I fumbled and crept around the hotel room the first morning, only to discover a great double Americano down in the lobby. I also stumbled on a perfectly steeped four-minute Kona french press at the Polynesian Village. Definitely worth a morning monorail trip. My aero press sat untouched the rest of the trip.

On the food front, there is plenty of fried, unhealthy, and poorly cooked mishaps to be sure. But it didn’t take much work to find some real gems. Everything I ate at Epcot was delicious. I’m still thinking about some of it. Potato and goat cheese ravioli with fennel leek cream from Norway, stuffed grape leaves and baba ghanoush from Morocco, the dank tequila cave in Mexico. They were all home runs. But even in the more kid-centric Magic Kingdom I did alright. My two best vegetarian friendly scores (besides a great black bean bowl at the Tortuga Tavern) were a beautifully cooked, salt crusted baked potato from the Liberty Square Market and a cup of good old fashioned, nicely buttered green beans from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Brilliant.  

Cosmic Rays

So, would I go back? Maybe. My nieces’ zeal certainly raised the bar. I’m not sure how it’d be without that unbridled energy. But I will say this. One late afternoon during our standard retreat to the hotel to regroup and cool off, my brother and I sat pool side in the delicious Florida sun, drinking an ice cold beer, watching his kids swim, talking about nothing in particular, and I was slapped with one of those rare, flawless moments of perfection. Had the fairy godmother herself appeared (and I knew she was close by because I spied her at the head of a long line earlier in the day) I’d have been hard pressed to make three wishes. My wishes were full. Complete. Not bad for a dubious princess. Not bad at all.

autograph book