force majeure.

Nearly twelve years ago, we moved. After months of digging in my heels, I was forced ready to pack up my home by the ocean. Willingly, with intention and joy, we moved back to my old hometown.
You would think the actual move wouldn’t have come as such a shock to me.

My first night in our new home was spent lying wide-eyed in a sleeping bag on the floor, trying in vain to rally a little empathy from the snoozing hubs. “Can you believe we did this?”  "I can't hear the water, I can't feel it anymore!" It was more disruptive to my REM-cycle than an infant crying. I knew I’d never sleep again.

And then I heard it. off in the distance...the sound of a train rambling down the tracks and it instantly calmed me. It lulled me to sleep. As impossible as it was to imagine, my body and brain eventually adjusted.  I sleep just fine now. thank you.

And the train still inflicts daily calm. Beating the gates is not an option, nor is crossing the tracks swiftly.  the train does run through the heart of my town, the tracks were laid on a series of trestles and over passes and neatly tucked along side the roads on the outer edges of town. actually seeing a train is a rare and blessed occurrence, on par with winning the quilt raffle or having a neighbor drop by with a basket of still warm peach muffins.

It always feels like a kicky stroke of luck.

Besides, one town west? A railroad crossing. I could choose to avoid this fist-shaking game of railroad roulette, truth is, I’m drawn to the short-cut, even though I know it might cost me in the end.

 Gardening is like that too. It calms me. helps me find my center. A few weeks back there was rain for days. now, sunshine! all day long! and warm weather. tank tops, shorts and flip flops warm weather! The sky is a thin blue, like a favorite shirt washed too many times, without a cloud to be found. I have my coffee basking in the garden, happy and content in the perfect slant of light...did I mention that there was sunshine?  and...Irises, and fat buds on the peonies, brand spanking new leaves on the trees, soaking up the light and sporting a thousand shades of green while swaying lazily in the breeze. I am ridiculously happy! The light reflects off of everything, looking like tiny candle flames, and there is something new and exciting happening almost every moment.

Ahhh, gardening...a celebration of love jam packed with flowers, sunshiney days and lots of hard work. Is it any wonder I look forward to it every year. and since it is my force majeure I am able to indulge in all of my aforementioned vices with complete and utter abandon. I am enamored with  the soft, magical power that plants have over me with their gentile persona.  I love how the morning sun shines on them causing a warmth in my heart. Their gentle ways send me straight to garden estacy. 

When I lived down south, I missed my flower friends. the list was limited as to what worked best, hibiscus, Bougainvillea, Mandevilla, Carolina Jasmine, and my favorite...butterfly iris. But now that I'm back up North I can invite all my old friend to the garden party, choosing those I think I will have the best time with. Trying to work out a mix that will make our gathering interesting for all. Not all of my picks are hardy, so that brings about the matter of spending money for plants that last for only one season, one short season!  I do enjoy a good party. If my plan succeeds, I should be rolling in various peonies, hydrangeas, iris, bleeding hearts, Lady's Mantle, Shasta Daisy's, asters, fox glove, dahlias, lobelia, cosmos, and larkspur not to mention Lisianthus, Delphiniums, hollyhawks, lupins, poppies, carnations, candytuft and sweet peas. 

From this vantage point , the whole summer is my oyster.

I find I'm caught between the desire to go adventuring every day, to explore and go and flit on the breeze. (I blame this on my cooped-up winter.)
Or, on the flip-side indulge my longing for quiet, to slow down and just Be.
This past week has been interesting.
To say the least. It's been good for me.
What I know for sure is that there really, truly is no pressure on myself, other than the pressure I create. And though I'm famously grace under pressure, "good" probably isn't the word I'd use.
So I'm launching a new movement in my life, one in which I prove mostly to myself, my goodness under conditions of extreme rest and intentional leisure.
Some days I'll leisure quietly.
Some days I'll leisure wildly.
Every day, it's up to me. Except for the days that nothing is up to me, sort of like this past week I've been sitting in. In cases like this, I'll toss off the feeling of "pressure" like a bad shirt and instead, I'll do my best to rapture on the whimsy.
May this be a summer of deck sitting and perpetually sun kissed cheeks.
May this be a summer of choosing well and listening to myself.
May this be the summer of moving into new spaces and ideas.
May this be the summer we are drawn together, enjoying whatever wiggle room we find as the gift it is.
I want to grow stronger friendships and maybe some zinnias.
I want vegetables every day.
I want all the juiciest peaches and tan toes.
I want a clear head.
A listening heart.
I want to be teachable.
I want force majeure.
I choose unexpected and settled, and it's okay that settled for me involves long stretches of highway with the windows rolled down heading to the beach.
So that's my Summer manifesto.
But now it's Friday. Errands day. 
 The sun is out, the temperature is plum perfection. All I can think about is weeding my garden.

Oh! and it's time for bare legs! That means shaving is coming back in style, and . . . a new pair of warm weather shoes. I don't need any new summer shoes, but then I don't need to have blonde hair or red lips or dogs either. It's a happy choice. (Well, I do have to have dogs, it's my doom).

just sayin'.

  Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Now, these are really about the frosting, more than anything. You want to taste the chocolate, but of course, but the real star here is the topper. I'll warn you, these are rather dangerous to keep around, because they are tasty and creamy and seductive. And, somewhere in your mind, you convince yourself that they're clearly more "healthy" because they contain peanut butter, yes, I know that game, and this little harlot of a brownie will try that number on you, I assure you. So, beware. 

1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips for melt
2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, unmelted

1 to 2 cups peanut butter chips, unmelted
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3 extra large eggs
1 tbsp. + 1 heaping tsp. instant espresso powder (or instant coffee powder)
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour for batter
1/8 cup flour for coating unmelted chocolate chips
1 heaping tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 pan. Alternatively, grease pan, then line pan with aluminum foil (leaving overhang), and grease aluminum foil; after baking and cooling, use foil overhang to lift bars out of pan for cutting.

Melt the butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Allow to cool slightly. Stir eggs, instant espresso powder, vanilla, and sugar. Add and stir in the chocolate mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and combine. Toss the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips with the 1/8th cup flour, making sure chips are coated. Add chips to the batter and combine until distributed evenly throughout batter. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool, and cut into squares.
Once again, this recipe is adapted from Ina. 

 Here is the recipe for the frosting:

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural peanut butter)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium low speed until creamy, making sure to scrape down the sides as needed. Add the cream and beat at high speed until mixture is creamy and light. Spread on cooled brownies.


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