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peace comes dropping slow in the desert

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25 March 2010

peace comes dropping slow in the desert

vacation II

Sunlight. An open book about to be picked up again. A hot cup of coffee. A toddler playing happily by herself. Still in our pajamas at nearly noon.

This must be vacation.

vacation in the desert

For five full and loving days, Danny, Little Bean, and I were in Arizona, visiting Danny's parents. They doted on their granddaughter, she babbled happily in their presence, and we sat back and enjoyed the moments.

And the sun. People, it was 73° most of the days we were there. I sat on the back porch and drank iced tea, about 3 gallons of it. Little Bean played with gravel and bubble wands and sidewalk chalk. We rode around in a golf cart on quiet cul de sacs with her, and she thought we had invented the best thing ever. We watched the mountains grow pink in the sunset. We sat at the dining room table, the four of us together after she had gone to bed, empty plates in front of us, talking until it was time for sleep. At 9:30.

Oh god, it was so good to do so little.

the light in Arizona

It has been a busy and sometimes dark hard winter around here. Harder than I have wanted to share. Flying to Arizona, being bathed in light, and taking time away from the computer? Yes please.

Waking up in the morning and seeing that clear light behind white curtains woke me up than drinking coffee. Making breakfast in the kitchen, with all that light streaming in, felt like a slow moment. Watching that high light find the cracks in the wall and illuminating rocks made me feel much better. Even screwdrivers are beautiful in this light.

more produce at the farmers' market

Of course, Arizona has a much different climate than Washington. We're still eating leeks and kale, dreaming of English peas. But the farmers' market in Oro Valley splashed color into our sepia-toned eyes. Green, green, more green — orange!

at the Oro Valley farmers' market

We couldn't resist the strawberries. Little Bean ate most of them, her face stained with smears of seeds and a red grin. I could have bought every one of those jars of pickled things and homemade jams.

There is no decadence like being able to buy fresh citrus from the farmer who picked it from his tree that morning.

the kindness Rosemary gave to me.

Most of all, however, we felt loved. There's nothing like the comfort of family.

Danny's mother, Rosemary, made sure her kitchen was safe for me. She baked me gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and put them in a separate cookie jar. She made me two loaves of bread, one whole grain and the other cinnamon raisin, from mixes. She labeled a plastic cutting board with my name and kept one knife set apart for me. She even made a butter container for me, so I wouldn't find any surprise crumbs in my toast.

That is love.

at the zoo!

We didn't do much. There wasn't any need. Danny's parents are in good shape, but they are in their late 70s and early 80s. Reading the entire paper in the morning, doing the crossword by the afternoon, planning and cooking meals, watching a basketball game on tv, a nap, a little walk, and time for dinner. Conversation, then time for bed.

Sometimes I dream of the day when I am retired and can live, simply.

One day, however, we did go to the Tucson zoo. Little Bean stood on her tiptoes in excitement, to show the rhinos to her daddy. She cooed and squealed, her eyes growing wide at the giraffes and elephants. All the animals she sees in books are real? Over and over, she ran back for her grandmother, tugging at her leg to share something new.

It was, as Rosemary likes to say, a grand day.

grandmother feeds her strawberries

The time to climb onto the airplane back to Seattle came far too quickly. It turns out that taking five days away from work has left me 38 weeks behind. Never mind. It's worth it.

And when I start to feel the old stress climbing my neck, I look at this photograph: Little Bean eating the strawberries offered by her grandmother.

This love, this moment, for me, is the only thing that matters.

hot crab dip and tortillas

Hot Crab Dip, adapted from the recipe files of Rosemary Ahern

While we were in Arizona, Rosemary was kind enough to let us raid her recipe drawer. The small drawer to the right of the stove is filled with cards with recipes written by hand, dessert ideas cut out from magazines, and tried-and-true meals made from Junior League cookbooks and church publications. It was a treasure trove.

I wrote down a bunch of them to make for this site. How could I resist something called Scarlet O'Horseradish dressing? More than novelty names, these recipes had the dog-eared edges and scuffed ink appearance of something made over and over again.

You know, sometimes we're all about the new. Not just the two of us keeping this site, but all of us who write about food. How many times can we write about meatloaf? Or scrambled eggs? So we make up new recipes and leave the simple stuff to our stoves. Except, sometimes the simplest foods are the best.

The last night we were in Arizona, Chuck and Jackie came over for cocktail hour. Chuck and Danny's dad, Jerry, have been friends since they were in kindergarten. I'm not kidding — they have been friends for 78 years. They have somehow lived in the same area at the same time, all their lives, from Iowa to Colorado to Arizona. After all that time together, they know each other as well as the most familiar meal. And yet, when Chuck and Jackie are due over for drinks and food, we all bustle around the house, preparing, making everything ready for these dear friends. We sat in the living room, sharing stories and talking about the weather. On the table was spicy hummus and crackers, cheese sticks, and this hot crab dip.

"I always love this dip, Rosemary," Jackie said, as she leaned forward for more. We all agreed. I don't know how many dozens of times Rosemary has made this dip, made with canned crab and mayonnaise from a jar. Every time, however, it has made people happy.

The best food sure doesn't have to be fancy. We think you'll like this too.

6 ounces cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise (homemade mayo is best, but the one from a jar is fine too)
12 ounces crabmeat (fresh is best, but you can use canned crab if you can't find fresh)
1/2 cup fine-diced onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon tabasco sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Beat the cream cheese until is whipped smooth. (You can use a food processor for this.)

Stir in all the remaining ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into an oven-proof dish. Bake until it is warm and bubbly, about 30 minutes.


Makes 2 cups.


At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... wonderful post.
I've always envied how little kids can live without a care in the world. Maybe I just need to slow down.
And thanks for the recipe. :)

At 11:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

You do know how to bring a tear to a girls eye... it sounds like you had a wonderful time on your trip and I hope you did... We have no family here and Dave and I had to move away from all everyone we knew just to survive financially, so just small snippets like yours and your trip bring a smile to my face, and I admit it I am insainly jealous, but joyously happy for you...

Don't worry about falling behind, you will catch it up in no time.

BTW, that dip sounds awesome...

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Steph said...

I am so glad you found the beauty in Arizona. I've lived here my whole life, and am only now, nearly 25 years later, beginning the see the unique beauty that Arizona has to offer. It actually took me traveling to different states and coming home to realize just how much I do love this state. It's not just brown trees and drab desert everywhere; it's incredible sunsets and pink mountains, JUST like you pointed out. And Spring in Arizona--is absolutely the best.

I'm so happy you were able to come here and enjoy your time! Hope you're able to come back again soon! (but avoid June-Sept; have you heard how hot it gets here?!? lol)

At 1:05 AM, Blogger thenewstead6 said...

Beautiful - thanks for sharing those memories.

The first cookbooks I had when I got married were three that my Mum passed over to me - already 25 years "out of date" by then so now about 40 years old. Some of the recipes in there remain firm family favourites. I have an excellent meatloaf recipe that the family love, as well as a Cheshire crumble - lamb in a lovely gravy topped with a cheese crumble.

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

"Lake Isle of Innisfree" is one of my favorite poems. EVER. Thank you. And the photos of the Shauna-safe kitchen labels brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing.

Earth Kind Herbal learning blog
The Purple House

At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Sounds like you had a much-needed "time-out". And that picture of Little Bean on her tip toes at the zoo? Gosh, how cute.

I'm going to try and follow your lead for our family vacation in August. I always end up bringing work out of guilt for taking two weeks off—talk about feeling 38 weeks behind!

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Assateague Girl said...

This is an achingly beautiful post. I am so happy you had time with family and with sunshine-- the photos are gorgeous. May you bring the sunshine and peace home with you...

At 3:56 AM, Blogger Lori P said...

I'm glad you had such a wonderful time - enjoying the sun and family. I know what you mean. Just returned from my moms this weekend. I love going there. Parent's are the best, aren't they?

At 4:11 AM, Blogger Carlie said...

Wow. That sounds divine. I hope that you are able to carry that peace with you. Gold star to Danny for having such great parents.

We're headed out to California soon for a week of driving down the coast towards the warmth of San Diego and I hope we get a similar feeling.

At 4:52 AM, Blogger Engineer Baker said...

Everyone needs some time to reset, rewind, relax. I'm so glad you got the chance to do so - your life is just too packed! And you remind me that I need to do the same, so I think that's what this weekend will entail - relaxing, going on walks, making bread, just being. Thank you for the reminder.

At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Lis said...

we missed you glad you are back! :)

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Swiss said...

Yeeeks - this post made me cry- you often tug at my heart strings- sensitive, real, loving- surprised though that it made me cry! Good morning and thanks.

At 6:44 AM, Blogger Shuku said...

Oh Shauna, what a beautiful, well-deserved vacation. The desert looks beautiful; my only regret was that I was never able to visit Arizona when I was in that part of the world.

That dip looks like something I would definitely try, once things here settle again. I spent most of the week before at home for my grandfather's funeral, and seeing pictures of Little Bean with her grandmother makes me smile and remember mine in the kitchen before she died five years ago. I made food for the family while I was home - gluten-free egg salad, tomato sauce, making sure my parents were fed in the deluge of visitors and necessary things that needed doing. Your recipes were comfort when I needed them. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time away!

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous CTJen said...

that picture of bean eating strawberries offered by her grandmother is beautiful and amazing and moving. Thank you.

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm visiting my grandmother in 2 weeks and will certainly raid her recipe files when I'm there. Crab dip sounds wonderful, as does your trip.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger GFree_Miel said...

Arizona looks so beautiful! It must have been nice to be somewhere so warm!

I know that feeling you were mentioning when someone goes so far out of their way to make sure something is safe for you. Of course, my own family does the same. But once I went to my friend's boyfriend's house for dinner and his mother, who I'd never even met before, made sure everything she cooked was gluten free and even gave us leftovers to bring back to the dorm! It's such a great feeling.

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Green Acres in the City said...

What a beautiful trip. That dip looks amazing.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger Allison the Meep said...

Oh, those pictures of Lucy are just so precious. And I really love the unintentional cuteness of a chef with a mother named after one of the most beautifully fragrant herbs.

At 7:36 AM, Blogger allergymom said...

As I read your post, I'm watching a spring snowstorm in SLC. Big, fat, lazy snowflakes. Don't think we'll get pounded the way Denver did, but it's not planting time yet either! Easy to dream of red, slickrock desert. And vacation.
Your mother-in-law knows how to pile on the love--gluten-free treats and a dedicated cutting board and knife! Whenever someone goes to the effort to makes something "safe" for my kids, I still get teary-eyed. Simple, perhaps, but not always easy for someone who doesn't live it every day.
Thanks for sharing your vacation. Mmm...fresh, local citrus. There's a treat.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger jenious said...

This is such a touching post---from your heartwarming sentiments to the lovely photos to the tempting recipe. You also helped me realize that I need to visit my family in AZ sooner rather than later. Welcome home :)

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that is love. What a wonderful mother-in-law, mother, and grandmother Rosemary is!

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Cove Girl said...

Friendships like that are great!

At 8:33 AM, Blogger jeanette from everton terrace said...

I'm also here in Arizona. Born and raised in Phoenix and it has taken me years to appreciate the beauty of the desert. You came at the perfect time of year - I'm so glad it spoke to you, it can be magical. Your post (as it often does) brought out the tears. You have such a way of communicating, it's lovely. The way your mother-in-law labeled everything and baked for you and only you, is indeed a huge expression of love. How lucky you are to notice these things and how lucky we are you share them with us.

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous ani said...

the love i felt and saw in this post were just so lovely and brought tears to my eyes. many blessings to you and yours Shauna.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your blessings with us.

Having just finished my first winter, mild though it was, here in NW Washington, I envy your time in the warm sun.


At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Sue Hickman said...

Wonderful post! The southwest is beautiful, indeed! I especially loved how your mother-in-law took special care to prep the kitchen so you can eat Gluten Free while visiting! What thoughtfulness! What a gift in love!

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That's a great book you're reading!!

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed my beautiful home town. I've lived here my entire life, and can't imagine residing in a place where March didn't mean 73 degrees and sunny.

Next time you are here, I hope you'll be able to venture out - there are some wonderful restaurants in Tucson, serving a wide variety of delicious gluten-free fare.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this post!

Be grateful you have such a thoughtful MIL. Mine is sweet, but a bit flaky. We've been invited to her home several times for dinner, where the only thing I could eat was a can of black beans from the cupboard. And she thinks nothing of taking our gluten-intolerant son to Chili's where there is virtually NOTHING for him to eat. Drives me nuts. :-(

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Sho said...


I love the community cookbooks with all the practical, yet delicious, recipes. I have three of them that I rely on. Two are kosher, and one is Mennonite.

Anyone can contribute to these books. Is there any chance of a gluten-free community cookbook...You never know...

Your in-laws are delightfully hospitable and so loving. I guess that is where Danny gets it from.


At 11:08 AM, Blogger Sean-Michael said...

I see in your photographs that you were trying to capture the magical Arizona light, and it reminds me why I love photography. Thank you for sharing so many of your vacation pictures and inspiring me to pick up my good camera once again.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Theresa said...

What a great vacation and how sweet that she made all that special stuff just for you =] That is love <3

At 12:08 PM, Blogger GFreeBookClub said...

Sun, love, gluten-safe utensils, grandparents, vacation, crab dip, fast friends. Love. They are all love.

I just finished that wonderful book. That book is love.

Smiles, hugs, and love. They are free. No matter how much we share them, we always have more to give.

Thanks for sharing the love.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

Lovely Shauna. You have re-affirmed my belief that you must (MUST!) get out of Seattle in the winter. Someplace warm and with gorgeous light preferably. What did you think of The Help? I liked it more than I thought I would.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Jules said...

Tears filled my eyes when I saw the photos of the things your mother-in-law set aside for you in her kitchen. When I read your description of the photos, I wept. What a precious, heartfelt, act of love. You already know this, but I must say, you are blessed!

This is my first post on your site, as I only discovered your blog a few days ago when I googled "gluten" after my naturopath physician removed gluten (among eggs, sugar, dairy, and caffeine) from my diet...they are not all permanently removed, but with the connections between gluten and infertility (we have been on a 6 1/2 year journey of infertility), it seems likely that gluten will remain off of my "can have" list.

Your words are uplifting and inspiring. You have a gift...many gifts, I would say. Not only are you truly a writer, you are also a talented photographer, and an artisan in the, my friend, are an artist. Thank you for sharing your world, your life, your loves and experiences with us.

May you continue to be richly, and deeply blessed!

Oh, and the renewal and restoration the sun can perfectly captured that!

At 12:19 PM, Blogger The Whalen Family said...

It is pretty cool how your one post has inspired so many in different ways....from vacation to picking up the good camera. You have such a gift with words and by painting such vivid word pictures, your words inspire. That is a true gift, and a delight to read. Thank you for writing, but more, thank you for sharing your stories.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Daphne L. - Blogger said...

There's a generosity of spirit on your post... I have to imagine your in-laws lifestyle is very different from yours, and yet you find the beauty in it anyway. I hope the arrival of spring gives you a break from darkness, internal and external.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Jennywenny said...

How beautiful. I love tucson when its gentle like that in the spring and autumn. I was lucky enough to spend a few days there a few years ago, I put my mum, grandma and aunt in a lovely spa hotel and did a bike race, and they cheered me on. They were so appreciative of the warm sun in November!

I felt like someone had been keeping this big secret! Why didnt anyone tell me tucson was so beautiful!!

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been a longtime visitor to your blog. Thank you for another beautiful post!

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

My mother makes this same sort of dip with clams. substitute the crab with a can of minced clams, and add a splash of worchestershire sauce to the recipe.

It's a Christmas Eve tradition at our house!

Thanks, Shauna, for the joy your writing brings!

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Christa said...

How I loved to hear you where in my home state. Being a native, I know what you mean by "enjoying the light". You couldn't of picked a better time to come. I always encourage people to attend Baseball Spring Training, best way to enjoy the being outside. We will looking forward to more recipes from your adventures here in Arizona.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger ccr in MA said...

The whole post is so great, the photos glowing, and oh do I share the waiting for English pea season, but I was especially touched by all the just-for-you pieces in the kitchen. What a welcoming thing for her to do. Marvelous.

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Nisrine@Dinners and Dreams said...

Beautiful produce. You look like you had a lot of fun. I would love to visit Arizona one day.

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous said...

I can relate about sun light. I feel that I have become more sensitive to lack of light in the winter time...
Beautiful peaceful post!

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Linda said...

Another Arizonan who loved your post. From the beautiful photographs to the incredible meaning behind a special cutting board, just for you, your post touched me.

Thank you for sharing your photographs, your life, your recipes, basically, everything!

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Melinda said...

"We didn't do much." A sign of true vacation - thanks for reminding us what it's really all about!

ps - Rosemary's hands are beautiful, they remind me of my grandmothers as well.

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Tara Barker said...

Your vacation sounds (and looks!) like a wonderful way to recharge! Good for you!

Rosemary is obviously a beautiful, loving woman, looking out for you like that. We recently returned from our own visit to the in-laws (nothing like going south in March!), and I had a similar experience with my husband's grandparents. They are in their 80's, and gluten-free foods (well, our eating habits in general) are pretty foreign to them, yet they went out of their way to make a lunch for us, and made sure the entire thing (pasta included!) was gluten-free for me! If that doesn't prove that "food is love," I don't know what would . . .

At 8:32 PM, Blogger kelly said...

The Help is such a good book!!
glad you got to have some sunshine in your soul!

At 4:40 PM, Blogger suz said...

So many times we hear the jokes about the horrible in-laws. It's so nice to see reflections of what true family is and should be - people who care about you, whether you were born into the family, or adopted into it later in life. I'm glad you've found your family, whether they are near or far.

(My in-laws live in Arizona as well. I'm from Florida and had never given the desert much thought, but it's truly lovely and amazing - thanks for sharing your view of it.)

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Deanna said...

I had many thoughts in response to reading this post, but the primary one? You have the greatest mother-in-law ever. She went way out of her way to accommodate you; I'm pretty sure many of my own relatives wouldn't do that.

May we all be blessed with such amazing in-laws!

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Ellie White-Stevens said...

This is a beautiful post. Not as much about food--but I find that food and family are so intertwined. That's incredible love. To accept your differences, your needs at the most basic level. Daily Bread. Makes me want to say a prayer and AMEN. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. Reminds me that I need to schedule a vacation. . . and go get some fresh fruits and veggies.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous The Picky Foodie said...

Isn't it wonderful when family makes that extra effort -- gives you your own cutting board, makes cookies and bread you can eat, etc. That is true love. Love to read you soaking it up! It's such an important part of making us comfortable with our allergies and intolerances. Lovely post, thank you.

At 10:13 PM, Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

In my family, it's my father who's gluten free- but I keep kosher, and the way my parents make efforts to prepare for my visits so that I can eat with them comfortably are incredibly touching. Finding food that we can all eat can be a big bother, but remembering that doing it is a palpable show of love is a beautiful way for me to start my day.

We had a Shabbat dinner guest who doesn't eat gluten, this last weekend, and no one told us in advance. I was really sad that I couldn't make sure that she had proper things to eat. It turned out alright, there were a bunch of things that she could have, but feeding people is a way of showing care- and I wanted to be caring.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous ondrea said...

Good morning, dear!
I moved to Tucson around 10 years ago, and it has been hard for me here, but the sunsets and the monsoons are my saving grace. :) I hope you got to see some fabulous flowers - there are more desert blossoms this year than I've ever seen. I would love to send you some pics if I may. Second thought, you're welcome to peek at them on my fb account. I almost forgot we're fb-friends! OH! And next time you're in town, I strongly reccommend the ArizonaSonoranDesertMuseum... avoid midday. ;)Be well. :)


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