Deep breath. You can do this, Heidi. You can focus and get back into that groove, that happy place, where words come easily and you pull stories and recipes and musings about living aboard out of your brain and heart and soul (and yes, sometimes it seems, out of your ass!) and they flow into your lightning-fast typing fingers onto the page. You’ve faced far worse challenges where you felt like you were drowning and always burst through the waves for that big gulp of fresh air and a fin-flip to take you in a new direction. So why not NOW?
For two solid years I posted at least once a week on this Blog. If I knew I’d be busy, I’d write the posts and schedule them to go live so I wouldn’t miss a week. Not a single week for two years … over 100 posts and now at nearly 200. I had a nice following of people from around the world that read my writing and the feedback was always positive from friends and family. I would joke to my husband that I was an “International Blogger” and I had to keep up my Blog so as not to disappoint my “Fans.”
I wrote daily and scheduled time to write. I went on writing retreats, met with our writing group at local coffee shops, and found inspiration all around me. I submitted my work in competitions and read it aloud in front of live audiences. After not believing that I was good enough for decades, I proudly proclaimed myself a “WRITER.”
Then COVID-19 swept across the globe. Life turned upside down. Our plans to go cruising were put on hold. Again. I became the caregiver and Head Schoolmistress for my beloved grandchildren. I had to cease swimming at the gym and working out with my personal trainer. Grocery shopping was more for survival than for enjoyment so meals became boring. We watched the terrifying news of the infections and deaths as they rose and panic and fear were the prevailing emotions. Add the election, with so much hatred from the Trumpers, and there seemed to be very little light in the world.
In the past decade-plus of living on board I have learned to cook, at first by necessity and later because I enjoyed it. When the Captain and I moved aboard Cool Change (Aaron’s dad’s Freedom 32) in 2009 we ate simply. Mainly because neither of us knew how to cook very well and the space was also challenging. The galley is pretty teensy with only two burners, an oven about the size of a toaster-oven, and an ice-cooled refrigerator. Since it was summertime, we barbecued/grilled chicken, beef, fish and veggies the majority of evenings.
Growing up, my mother did all the cooking for the family and never invited my sister and I to participate. (And the rare time we did, the majority of the meals were from cans and boxes.) In my previous marriage to Brett he did all the cooking. I worked 60 hours a week and came home after long days and late meetings to a warm meal nightly. I rarely ventured into the kitchen and when I did it was mostly reheating. He enjoyed cooking so it wasn’t an issue and we hosted many dinner parties for family and friends with him in the kitchen and me doing the event coordinating. It wasn’t that I didn’t like cooking; it was more that I never really had the encouragement, motivation or opportunity until I was in my forties.
2020 flat out sucked. The pandemic changed everything. We went from anticipating our life on the open ocean and exploring foreign ports to basically locking down at the marina. Our busy social life and wide circle of friends closed to just family and dock neighbors.
Eleven people that had some form of effect on my life died. Of those, three were my husband’s family members (Uncle Bob, Uncle Bill, and his mother, Donna Perry), one was a dear childhood friend’s mother (Margaret Sloane), one was a much-loved sailor (Jim Hild), one was a special writing group friend (Catherine Phillips), and five were influential in my careers (Cliff Benson, Julian Polvorosa, Charlie Gilcrest, Dr. Marshall Mitzmann, and Tom Guarino). I have never experienced so much loss in one year.
Macaroni and cheese is one of our favorite comfort foods. I’ve made it a kazillion ways using different varieties of cheese, baked, straight from the pot, with a bread crumb topping, and without.
This recipe was invented because I had a half cup of Alfredo sauce in my fridge and didn’t want it to go to waste. I figured it would meld well with the other ingredients I had on hand, and I was right! It was ooey, gooey cheesy and so easy to throw together.
Variations: Choose your own cheese blends and try different flavors of creamed soup and Alfredo sauce. (The sauce I had was garlic flavored; otherwise I would have added a couple of minced garlic cloves as we are garlic lovers.) Add a diced jalapeno pepper or a dash of cayenne if you like it spicy. Use different pasta shapes, but I suggest staying with one that will hold the cheese, such as shells, elbow or penne.
They needed someone to blame for the course of nature. And so they chose a black stallion as the horse that I would ride to my death.
It was a grey October morning and I watched the sun rise slowly over the wide expanse of forest from my prison tower window. Those trees and the life within had been my home since I could remember. My entire family had died of the plague and the town’s spinster herbalist took me in as her own before I could walk.
I thought about the creatures and plants, the changing seasons and the incredible joy I felt within the dense woods. Mother Martha, as I called her, had taught me the secrets of the earth; which species could heal and which could cause death. I had learned well and succeeded her when she left to die alone in her woods two falls prior.
I had been called to the Queen’s bedside to help with the pain of delivering the first heir to the throne. I knew from the moment that I arrived that the child had already died and it would be an arduous task to expel the fetus from her body. I also knew better than to announce the death as I would be called a “seer of evil.” I would do what I could to ease the birth and leave the decree to the royal physician.
Sometimes my recipes are created out of necessity, as in this case. I bought a 4 lb pork loin that I thought would be great for my hubby to smoke. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clue as to the fine art of barbecuing, grilling and smoking. He mentioned that this cut might dry out but went ahead and brined and smoked, spending all day tending to our main course for the evening. And lo and behold, he was right. It was far from tender and juicy and instead almost inedible.
I come from a long line of thrifty cooks, so wasn’t going to throw away the whole loin and thought long and hard hard to bring moisture back to the protein. (Although, I did pick this up from our local Grocery Outlet for a bargain price!) I knew I needed to simmer it in a liquid and with fall just beginning, our evenings have been getting cooler so a soup came to mind.
My hubby is a huge fan of mole sauce. He loves the bold flavor profile of chocolate and smoky peppers and a healthy bit of spice. Traditional mole sauce made from scratch calls for literally dozens of ingredients and a whole lot of finely grinding of spices. I took the easy route and started with a store-bought jar of sauce and doctored it up to what hubby says was “perfection.”
Hubby smoked the chicken thighs and they shredded up nice and juicy. You could simply buy a rotisserie chicken or bake or poach breasts, but make sure you don’t dry them out.
It’s hard to describe this sauce … It is velvety smooth and rich with an earthy-sweetness that mellows upon baking. And best of all … so easy to whip up in a few minutes! I made a package of Spanish rice for the side and added a can of diced tomatoes and a dash of chile pepper and it was the perfect compliment. Black, pinto or refried beans would also go nicely.
I started this blog on April 16, 2018 … one year to the day we planned to cut the docklines and begin cruising the world on our floating home. This was already a delay from our original dream of retiring early and leaving in 2015. Life happened and we changed the departure to 2019. Family circumstances and necessary medical procedures for the Captain and First Mate didn’t allow us to leave the country then either. So being conservative, we readjusted to leave in the fall of 2020 and winter in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
This would give us the summer to put a bit more money aside, finish final boat projects and make sure our family was healthy, happy and settled. In Spring 2021 we’d decide what our next course would be and go from there.
Then COVID-19 rocked the world. Back in March, we all believed that we’d be through this and back to life as usual in a few months; six at tops. We’d wait until December or January and then head south.
She took the pictures from the back of the closet and placed them in a box for the movers. She promised herself that she wasn’t going to look at them, but she couldn’t resist and turned over the small one that used to sit on her makeup table. As her fingers stroked the glass her mind drifted back to that magical day.
It went precisely as she had planned. All of their family and friends were in attendance, the sun was setting just as the ceremony ended, and the reception tent was aglow with twinkling white lights. So much love. So much joy. So much promise.
She was Cinderella marrying her Prince Charming and they were going to live Happily Ever After. That was then, back when life was easy breezy.
Hubby has been doing a ton of meat smoking since we were gifted with a mini-Traegar barbeque from his Dad. We’ve done salmon, whole chickens, corned beef (which makes pastrami), and beef and pork roasts. Roasts end up in recipes for two or three meals and I try to be creative in changing up the flavor profile so we aren’t eating the same thing every night.
This was a 6 pound lamb roast that started with a nice fat cap, making the meat tender and juicy. After serving it sliced the first night, I cut the leftovers into bite-sized cubes and made a stew for my daughter with potatoes, celery and peas, Shepherd Pies for us and finally this curry served over jasmine rice.
I live aboard a 42 ft Tayana Vancouver sailboat, hull #5 laid in 1979, with my husband and little dog. We are preparing to head to Mexico in Fall 2022 and I enjoy blogging about our preparations for our journey, cooking in my tiny kitchen and writing short stories.