Yesterday I started to harvest mesquite pods.  For those of you who don’t know (I just recently learned this too) the dry beans can be ground into a tangy flour and used in baking.  Being a passionate cook with a mesquite tree in her front yard, I decided to harvest the beans this year and give it a try.  I went out there, bucket in hand, and began to pluck the beans from the tree.  the trick, I had read, was to just tug on them very gently-if they do not come off easily they are not ready for harvesting.  I got a few off of the lower branches , but most had already fallen to the ground and consumed by rodents and bugs. 

Then I looked up.

At the top of the tree there were a lot of beans that were just right!  My mind started racing excitedly, and I began to try different strategies for getting the beans into my bucket.  I tried grasping the branches and pulling them towards me, but that was very unsuccessful.  I tried to shake the tree, but that was ridiculously ineffective.  Finally, I realized what I had to do.  I took a breath, set my bucket in a safe place, and climbed the tree. 

Although it was more difficult, and I ended up being bitten by a few bugs, I finally managed to grasp the beans at the top.  And they were exactly what I needed.  And now I have lots of beans to be ground into flour, and that makes me pretty happy.

While I was up in the tree, I started to think about how so many life events work the same way.  We always have a few options whenever something that requires work enters into our life:

  1. We can put in little effort (picking from the lowest branches)
  2. We can try to take shortcuts so we are not inconvenienced (grabbing the branches)
  3. We can do it the right way, even when it’s more difficult (climbing the tree)

This can go for anything-relationships, school, jobs, morals, etc.  I’ll admit, sometimes I try to take the shortcut.  If there is a way to do something that’s easier, even though it may sacrifice effectiveness, it seriously tempts me.  But I try to do it the right way, even when it’s hard or frustrating. 

So I guess I’ll end this post with a question: what kind of harvester are you?

Today, I got to do something I have been looking forward to all year: I got to make prickly pear jelly! 

First, I had an off road adventure in the Jeep to go and find some of the delicious fruits.  Harvesting prickly pear actually isn’t that bad; even though it’s on a cactus, it’s all a matter of watching where you step (to avoid spines in your boots and pants) and wearing gloves.  I got away with minimal damage and a lot of fruit-actually, I got too much, but I plan on making a syrup this next week to put into waffles and *adult* drinks.  And it was nice because I got to drive the Jeep!  Usually when we go off roading Nason drives, so I took advantage of my time in the desert today and took longer than was necessary, so I could put my own mud on the tires. 

When I got home I texted my mother-in-law a photo of the fruits in the bucket, and she came over shortly afterwards with the girls.  We sliced up enough prickly pear to make a double batch of the recipe I found, and then cooked it up.  We took advantage of the time to catch up and talk, and chase after the girls (they kept themselves entertained with Hide and go Seek, the bamboo in our backyard, and the Nerf guns we keep in the living room).  

We had a couple of mishaps, mostly when the mixture on the stove boiled over, covering my stove top in a 

Oops!

 

sticky mess, but we laughed it off and kept going.  And now there is quite a bit of prickly pear jelly cooling in my fridge!  I can not wait to try it out and see how it ended up this year-based on the juice that Nancy and I both tried, it’s going to be so good!  Thank you to Nancy for coming over and helping me today, the help and company was really nice! 

PS: If you want the recipe I used, I found it here.  Although they say to burn the spines off, I actually found it easier to cut the tips off of the fruit and skin them since I do not have a gas stove.  But, to each his own.  Use whatever method works for you. 

The finished product! (One container missing)

I know that plenty of people get nervous in the kitchen, but for me, it is my favorite place to be.  Personally, I love the kitchen.  I love its functional design, and its many funky gadgets, and its potential for so many projects.

But mostly?  I love the kitchen because I am passionate about cooking.

I think it is the coolest thing in the world to be able to take raw ingredients and craft something delicious.  I love to make up recipes (like the marinade for the chicken in the fridge right now) and see them come alive on a stove top.  something that looks completely unappetizing (like raw pork) becomes something incredible with a few spices and some olive oil (like Island Pork Tenderloin).  The kitchen is a place for transformation, for a unique kind of chemistry that is often overlooked.

Our first (small) kitchen

Even the tiniest of kitchens is still magical.  When we first moved into the apartment, I fell in love with the miniscule kitchen.  Size was not something that bothered me.  It was my space, and I was still able to make delicious things come out of it.  And now, with a huge kitchen, I am able to do so much more, due to the vast counter and shelf space.  It’s like I am unlocking this potential for great culinary things to happen, like in the small kitchen I was just scraping the surface.

This may seem silly to some, but it is something that is important to me.  I love to fix meals and cook goodies, mostly because I like to feed people.  I rarely cook if I am the only one who will be eating it, because I like to cook for people.

So, if you would ever like a home cooked meal, just let me know-I’ll make something tasty for you, and I’ll have a blast doing it!

Today was my first day off since finishing my Spring semester, which means it was my first day off without a sense of urgency since January.  To celebrate, I decided to do something I enjoy, but do not get to do often. I went shopping.

I went to Bookman’s to find some books to read over the summer.  After poring over various novels, I finally narrowed it down to three: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Ties the Knot, and David Levithan’s How They Met and Other Stories.  I can not wait to start reading again, after a semester of mostly textbooks and only a couple of good novels.  The only question is which one to start with???

After Bookman’s, I suddenly realized how close I was to a used furniture store.  Of course, I had to go in and take a look around.  I love old furniture.  I love the way used furniture stores are hodgepodged together like a maze, with new surprises around every corner.  Like the stone and glass chess set (yes it was missing two pieces, but that only added to the charm), or the tall bookshelf with the old white paint.  I loved the embroidered chair that comes with a tiny footrest, and the writing desks that fold down to reveal secret drawers.  I like the smell of furniiture stores-a combination of fabric, wood and memories.  There is always something unique and exciting, and I love searching for it.  I didn’t buy anything today, I simply spent the time wandering through the store, admiring the interesting pieces.

On a side note, our kitchen table was a used furniture find.  It is a funky little octogonal thing, with these fantastic chairs that have high backs, and it is wooden and sturdy.  I love it! 

After going to Bookman’s and the furniture store, I went down to Sunflower Market to pick up a few things, primarily peanut butter.  I love Sunflower Market mostly because of their great deals on produce, especially organic, as well as their great bulk selection of nuts and dried fruit.  I picked up some dried fruits and almonds to attempt to make homemade Lara Bars today, and I also bought some asparagus, which will go great with dinner tonight. And of course I didn’t forget the peanut butter.

All in all, I’d say it was a nice day off.  Now to get cooking!