At least across (East) Tennessee.

We decided to tune into “news” one morning. A mistake, I know. The national mainstream media isn’t even trying to hide its partisanship any longer. And our local “newspaper” is a subsidiary of USA Today, which pedals what I call “abridged news for an abridged mind.” Honestly, I think some of their writers are area middle school “Journalism” students, themselves in need of remedial assistance. I truly feel I wasted the $2.97 I spent on a three-month online trial subscription.

So, back to coffee and oranges it is, sometimes on the terrace when the morning temperatures are mild. One morning a big, fat raccoon waddled past us on its way to the woods behind our neighbor’s house, completely oblivious to our presence. What a peaceable kingdom we live in.

My seasonal orientation is quite a mess right now. Our neighbor kindly brought over a quart of strawberries from a you-pick farm nearby she had visited; it had not occurred to me that strawberry season is upon us here in, “The South.”  Friends in Austria are posting snaps of the wild Barläuch that they can now see on day hikes, but I was unprepared for the tray of ripe berries and that earthy, sweet aroma. Of course we could have eaten them straight up, and some we did, but I decided instead to go all prairie homestead and make jam. Not the boil-jars-add-wax-take-forever kind of jam that I have zero interest in, but the modern, efficient, and easy-peasy Freezer Jam.

Mash berries. Add sugar and the magical substance, freezer pectin. Pour into jam jars and, well, freeze whatever you’re not immediately using. Voila. We devoured an entire jar the following morning with breakfast.   

Because I am an overachiever (and had leftover freezer pectin) I purchased blackberries on a subsequent grocery run to prepare Blackberry Freezer Jam. Equally delicious, fresh-tasting and not nearly as sickeningly sweet as store-bought. No worries, though, that I will turn into LaRee Westover and begin stockpiling preserved fruit. This was fun, and I may do it again. Or not.

Cooking was once again a dominant theme. No surprises there.

Anna Grace certainly has her maternal grandmother’s baking gene. Behold. Dark chocolate coffee brownies. Not a zucchini spiral or walnut in sight, either. Who does that to their brownies; and more to the point, should that even be allowed?

I tackled Chittagong Masala Murgh, a Bengali dish from a favorite food blogger.  The two hours of roasting spices and making onion paste with which to bake the chicken was entirely worth it.

This is the finale of a bowl of homemade Spinach Ricotta Ravioli with Basil Cream Sauce. 🤣

We discovered Bouyiourdi on a trip to Athens in our other life, and ate it pretty much twice each day while in Greece. A simple dish of feta baked in olive oil and chili, unfolded atop crusty baked bread; and for us, a light breakfast. 

More experimenting. We all hate the elegant aubergine in its Parmesan form, or really, in most any form. It is disgusting in the same way as Stewed Okra would be. Stewed Okra is one of the few canned vegetables remaining on the shelves of our local large chain grocer. That should tell you something.

But yet I continually attempt to make eggplant’s culinary acquaintance, and this time I think I succeeded. In putting together a fusion cuisine Mezze for dinner one night,  I perused (and yes, I know what the word means) Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem for inspiration and found a recipe for Burnt Eggplant with Garlic and Lemon.

So I burnt an eggplant on my cooktop. Then I mashed the innards with garlic and lemon into a spread, which we all devoured with our Harissa roasted spuds, Aleppo Pepper-spiced meatballs and Hummus. And Naan. Because I can make Naan and didn’t want to risk trying to make Pita and failing.

For Take Out Tuesday we rolled the dice on a local, woman-owned small place that serves Nashville Hot Chicken. O.M.Gosh was this good! Everything–from the presentation to the crunchy spiced chicken to the perfectly crisp pickle to the Texas Toast (for the sauce, natch) to the “Hand Spanked Buttermilk Biscuits”–was just so good.

Tony and I enjoyed our Espresso Martinis while the children played with sharp objects and fire one evening. ‘Smores for the win!

Somebody is getting awfully spoiled with almost-daily walks along our nearby lake.

Early in the week my iPhone pinged with the marvelous news that our Contractor was returning!  The excitement of his F350 Super Duty backing into the driveway is only matched by my running downstairs as a child on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought.

We waved from the appropriate turkey vulture wingspan distance; he then headed up to the master bathroom to do his thing. Two days in, and the water lines are in place for the sink and walk-in shower. It’s just beautiful. (And yes, that mirror is history.)

On the last day of April, the Tennessee governor announced he would not be renewing the “Stay-at-Home” mandate, set to expire the following day and had instead a coordinated a plan with regional leaders on how to slow roll the Volunteer State’s reopening. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and made plans for the weekend.