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Back in the Saddle

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Back in the saddle, indeed. It's been quite a while since I sat down to pull together a Cookery Maven post and I honestly don't know where to begin. So much has happened in the past year and a half: Will graduated from high school and is at UW-Madison, Jack is a senior at UW-Madison, Sadie is a senior and is filling out college applications, Charlie is headed to the Conserve School next fall, I finished my cookbook (which will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Press in fall 2017), Seamus (our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) passed on, Aldo (our new puppy) is learning the 'Dougherty dog' ropes from George and Gus, we went to the BWCA for a week (and I only fell out of the canoe once), I have a job fighting factory farms with Socially Responsible Agriculture Project and we have an Italian student, Joele, living with us for the school year. 

Technically, I never left the saddle but I definitely took a pause in the bloggery world. Between writing a cookbook, dealing with a huge factory farm proposal in Bayfield County and the usual chaos that's my constant companion, I rarely found enough bandwidth to sit down and try to transcribe what we've eaten or where we've been. But I missed this -- the act of putting these little snippets of daily life into some semblance of order on the internet. So, here I am -- ready to roll and to begin again. Life is still so very good but it's taken on a more bittersweet tone: the kids are growing up and I'm searching for the gifts hidden in the spaces they leave behind.   

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I have not been camping (like sleep-in-a-tent, no-running-water camping) for about 17 years. The last time we went to the BWCA, Jack was 6 and Will was 10 months....needless to say, I was a little out of practice. Ted and the boys have gone camping for the past couple of years and sometime last winter, when bug nets and pit toilets seemed mighty far away, I agreed to go along for the BWCA adventure. Ted is a camping wizard and I figured we'd be comfortable but what I hadn't counted on was how good, and I mean heart-warming good, it was to spend a string of days with the kids. It rarely happens anymore -- uninterrupted time with five of the most inspiring, funny and remarkable humans I know. I can't believe I'm writing this but I'm looking forward to next year! However next time, I'm definitely bringing along a different sleeping pad, more socks, sun-dried tomatoes, oil-cured olives and more gravlax. 

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Will is midway through his first semester as a UW Badger and while I miss him like crazy, he's exactly where he should be. His senior year was a blur -- he took a geology class at Northland College, taught himself how to throw pots, grew a beard, let his hair get long and got a tattoo of Lake Superior. Somewhere between the days of Thomas the Tank Engine and Advanced Placement Calculus, he grew into a young man who I adore, respect and cherish. That old tired phrase where-does-the-time-go?, must have been coined by a woman who realized her kids were all growing up and leaving the nest. The days of endless diaper changes, Lego minefields and nap-time snuggles seem like another life when we talk now but I'm so tremendously proud and curious to see where Will's path takes him. I suspect it'll be a road less traveled...if the past 19 years are any indication. 

We rarely are all in the same city, let alone the same room and Will's graduation was the perfect opportunity to get a family photo. I am truly blessed (and not #blessed, I mean like what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this blessed) to have this family surrounding me. It blows my mind.  

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 I planted this garden the first summer we were in our house. It's been 9 years now and the garden has hit its stride. The majority of the plants are in charge of the themselves -- they pop where and when it suits them, they grow and flower on their own schedule, and really appreciate a good, thorough weeding two or three times a summer. It's funny how you can get to know a patch of earth but I have and I swear to God, I can hear them talking to me when I'm working in the garden. The message this summer was 'steady on' and 'don't force growth, let it come'. Pretty good advice, if you ask me. 

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We had a banner year with our tomatoes. It was a bountiful and long-lasting harvest and I have piles of frozen roasted tomatoes and cans of tomato sauce to prove it! 

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Over the past year and a half, the name of the game for me was cookbook writing, photographing, editing, and recipe testing (in between fighting CAFOs, my other favorite past-time). I don't know what I was thinking when I first signed the contract -- I assumed writing a cookbook was like writing a blog post and oh boy, was I mistaken. Deadlines are serious, repetition is not cool and it's important to differentiate between broth and stock while writing a recipe. Kate, my patient editor, had her work cut out for her but thanks to her persistence, my cookbook, Life in a Northern Town, will be published in the fall of 2017.  I still can't believe it. 

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George has a serious thing for cookies.....he really, really likes them.

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I think it's a good idea to have one epic meal a year and last summer, we took epic to a whole new level with lobsters, oysters and some mighty fine champagne. It was a warm summer night and it was about as perfect as those nights can be. I made gallons of lobster stock for a seafood risotto that's going to grace our table over the holidays. 

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I had this photo for the cookbook in mind well before I developed the recipe. Years ago, I did a Thai cooking class at Good Thyme and Becky took a photo of a trout tail hanging out of the pot.....and I loved it. Another trout in another kitchen but it's still one of my favorite photos in the book. 

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And finally, this little man is Aldo -- named after Aldo Leopold and a nod to Joele, our Italian exchange student (Aldo is an Italian name). He's from the Chequamegon Humane Association and they told us he's part Labrador and part German Shepard. I think he inherited a fair amount of Labrador DNA because he's even more food-obsessed than George, which is saying a lot. He's very sweet, loves to chew on socks, prefers to sleep on the couch and is learning how to be a good little brother to George and Gus. All in all, he's the perfect Dougherty dog.