Chard rescue

We were hit with a sudden cold snap, which meant even this most reluctant gardener had to face up to the fact that her salad days were numbered.

A few snips of the scissors and two garbage bags later, the chard was in hand. Giant bouquets of it, requiring washing, stemming, chopping and blanching.

Remarkable how those leathery, luxuriant greens simmered down to just seven servings. Seriously. It took all morning to prepare seven chard balls for the freezer.

That Pioneer Woman's got nothing on me. Except her own show on the Food Network.

The killing freeze came and went and what little chard remains gardenside is thriving, it's hearty fronds stretching toward the sun. The next gleaning will be with a flame thrower.

(For a less snarky take on how to freeze chard, visit this nice lady for her take.)

19 years!

For 19 years of marriage, I've been following this man's skinny butt up many mountains. Still smiling!

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

Attn: Knitters and equestriennes

Meet artist Wendy Persch, whom we had the good fortune to meet at the Ridgeway Farmer's Market. She recently started knitting, and being the inveterate horsewoman, designed this fabulous knitted chaps. I'm going to repeat: Knitted chaps!

Sling them over your jeans at a football game when the wind turns chill or an art opening in Houston. Heck, where them on the streets of Manhattan. So clever and chic. I encouraged her to write a pattern.

To view more of her art work, pay a visit here.

Discoveries from the road

Vacation pictures can be tedious, so will spare you the stunning mountain vistas and autumnal color (so profuse we could barely take it in) and share the relevant bits.

Was completely taken with this flock moving to new pasture on the Last Dollar Road between Ridgeway and Telluride.

Does this look like a happy pup or what?

Bought hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn here.

Imbibed locally made, smoked tequila here.

Took the waters. (And, never you mind!)

Made in the San Juans and dying to try.

Hiked. And shivered. (To the lower lake only.)

Wishing for an annex in Westcliffe.

Fell completely in love with a town.

Hoping for an easy reentry. Sigh.

Who knew I had such good sense?

Actually...such a good sense of smell, which I don't. Nakeid IT, on the other hand, has the olfactory system of a hound dog. All I can say, it's a good thing hand-dyed yarn and new shoes don't come scented.

Back to the stink-ems. Sampling perfume is an affordable indulgence, but it is indulgent. For $15 you can get seven samples from this New York shop, which, if you could beg from Nordstrom's would be free. (But that would mean breaching the phalanx of bored, perfectly coiffed sales girls, who scared the tar out of me when I worked retail. And they wouldn't carry these nichy scents, besides. Fifteen dollars starts to look pretty cheap.)

The above source won't get you the classics. For those, go here. You'll pay more for seven samples, but this retailer will introduce you to the Big Whoops of the industry as well as the smaller players.

I started with a sampling from Guerlain and was underwhelmed. Remember I have the nose of an apneic truck driver, so consider that when you read the following:

Shalimar smells, well, old. Like a box of old talcum, hidden in a closet with the fox-collared coat Dad gave Mom the Christmas of '66 and your second knitting project--that hideous four-foot long stocking camp, riddled with holes before the moths got it. But you can see why people love it; it's not a simpering 18-year-old celebrity in a skirt short-enough to make her stage mum writhe. No, it's definitely lady-like, but crepey, a Revlon-lipstick of a scent that's had a life and traded her heels for Danskos.

Jicky was just icky. Originally created in 1889, Jicky was a ground-breaker, one of the first perfumes made with synthetic components. It comes out of the vial, honking herbs and citrus and Port-o-John like a guy proud of his giant, swaying belly. Jicky raised my bile, and I spent an uncomfortable evening, hoping he'd take this sweaty hands off me. We had a very bad date, Jicky and I. There won't be a second.

But then I met Sous le Vent, which had me at "allo!"

Sous le Vent rustles in as fresh as a new silk blouse and wears just as well. This lovely is all "ooh-la-la, let's have a nice dejeuner of salad and sweets and wouldn't it be divine to have a new scarf, too, regardless of le Euro?" Designed in 1933, Sous le Vent whistles in the face of the Depression, a flirty, fun escape until you view it's not-so-breezy price.

Maybe my nose isn't so bad after all?

Sniffing around perfume samples

After reading Coming to My Senses, I've gone a little bats about perfume.

Working from home there's little reason to apply much stink-em, unless there's a big do. But by the time a big do rolls around, the spray on your No. 5 bottle's jammed, your Coco's turned and your autumn favorite's been discontinued. (Hana by Aveda, they had no right.)

So you go around smelling like Burt's underarm deodorant. There are worse things.

Then you remember how lovely it is to smell...lovely. That feeling, eye's rolled to the ceiling, as you smell your wrist, that sense of delight in the middle of a dreary day from a simple sniff. Suddenly you're no longer the goat at work--your hair is combed, you're striding through the Algonquin Hotel and you're wearing gorgeous pumps, black, pointy-toed, dainty of heel but comfortable (it's your perfume fantasy--in a perfect world all shoes are fabulous looking with memory foam insoles) to enjoy a late afternoon cocktail (not that you drink them but you're stuck at work with your wrist in your face, so you might as well enjoy a $15 fantasy beverage) with an editor who's just offered a six-figure advance...

See what the right scent can do?

So you find one that you love. And you think, wouldn't it be nice to have another? Something darker, spicier but just as private?

So you start making orders. A few samples here, a few there. You sample the classics trying to educate your nose, which has a mixed history (Charlie and Love's Baby Soft?) Only about one out of five is a keeper (more on this later) and the ones that are cost hundreds for a small vial.

So there you are in your home office in a dirty t-shirt smelling of vintage Chanel.

A sweet New Year

Of course, this is only a fraction of what our tree produces. But aren't they stunning? I love their wabi-sabiness, the scratches and dents and insults perpetrated by squirrels and worms alike. And the color.

Nature does it up right.

We enjoyed a lovely apple cake last night, recipe courtesy of Mama Elaine. I back off on the sugar a bit, 1.25 cups instead of two and split the flour between all-purpose and whole wheat. And use more apples, for obvious reasons.

L'shanah tovah, a happy and healthy and sweet New Year to all our friends and loved ones!

Yarn crawl

"Crawl" really does describe my participation in Yarn Along the Rockies: I crawled to class, bought yarn, made my students rip out their projects and came home. (My students, they love me.)

Was delighted, however, to see the parade of knitters in and out of the shop, smiles on their faces and yarn in their bags. Happy buzzing all around.

To all the hardworking LYSOs who participated in the crawl: You done good. You've created a real community.

Oh, and the yarn? More Sleep Season. Natch.

A change of seasons

One of my knitting students referred me to this wonderful blog, Advanced Style, which follows ladies of a certain vintage, who are still so in love with life, style and play, well, you'll see, they're an inspiration. The perfect distraction as the season changes from oppressive to Chanel No. 5.

The organic question

Y'all probably read about the Stanford study that compared the nutritional content of organic and conventional produce. The authors of the study conducted a massive review of the literature, identifying 237 for further scrutiny. These studies looked at many variables, including the nutrient content of the produce as well as their bacterial, fungal and pesticide load. None of the studies compared the longitudinal health of populations consuming largely organic or conventional crops.

Based on their meta-analasis of the literature, they found no significant difference in nutritional content; organic produce didn't necessarily contain more vitamins, though there was some indication that organic milk yielded more omega-3 fatty acids. Organic produce tended to have about 30 percent less pesticide residue but was not pesticide free. Two studies on children demonstrated that kids consuming organic diets had less pesticide in their urine than children on conventional diets. But the health benefits or detriments to the kids are unclear.

The researchers were careful to note the limits of their work, mentioning variations in farming practices, weather and soil influences and different testing methods among the studies. And they also were quick to say there are other reasons to buy organic apart from how much vitamin C might be in your tomatos.

Here at Casa de Nake-id we don't buy all organic goods. It makes me writhe to pay $4 for a cup of raspberries or $5 for two cucumbers. Plus Big Organic has a reputation for putting profits over poultry, so the idea of buying organic for the greater good only goes so far when it comes to how animals are treated, especially in large operations.

The food I trust the most comes from our garden. (Though after suffering a wasp bite washing chard, I'm not so sure.) I trust it not because it's healthier (Lord knows what's in our Northwest Denver soil), but because it's here. This time of year, I can often glean an entire meal from what's coming out of the ground and hiding in our cupboards. Apples, kale, arugula, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs.

Our garden is small and not particularly ambitious. When a real gardener shares the fruits of her labors with us--it's a delight. Like slipping on a handmade sweater, there's something about food grown by friends.

I started this post intending to get all huffy about the Stanford study--about how the issue is bigger than the phytonutrients in your carrot and how buying organic puts a big green thumb in the eye of Monsanto. But my point, really is this: The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is cook. You can take back your palette and your health by learning to whip up a couple of great salads and soups, bringing leftovers for lunch instead of Lean Cuisine and eschewing meat at every meal.

Yes, buy organic when you can. Support farmers who grow organically even if they aren't certified. And learn to make a mean stir fry. If you learn to love cooking even a little bit, you'll be seasoning your food with the healthiest ingredients of all--your care, attention and love.