Pantry: today, so not prepared for the Armageddon

If the big Cascadia earthquake comes this week, we’re in a world of hurt. Of course, we would be in a nightmare anytime an earthquake came. But now, after having eaten or given away all of our pantry, we’d be in a particularly bad way. Usually we have a good quantity of dried beans, canned beans, rice, pasta, quinoa, barley, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, potatoes, onions, garlic, soy milk, home-canned tuna (and salsa and pickley things) olive oil, coconut oil, spices, oatmeal, flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips — pantry staples. Now, we are down to nuts, dregs of various vinegars, a few cans of beans we might in the next few days, some minimarshmallows and rice krispies (can you guess why?) and a box of crackers. The freezer went to the storage unit today so we have no help coming from there.

This winnowing down of our pantry has made me think a lot about how I cook and how I am potentially going to cook differently in another country/another climate.

Now, cooking usually goes something like this: what’s plentiful in the garden right now, and how can I center a dinner around it? Winter squash? Beets? Tomatoes? Kale? Cauliflower? Eggs? Grab it and then look into the pantry. Can I use my produce with rice or pasta or beans? Can I make it into a pizza? Can I roast it in the oven or make it into a soup or curry with a can of coconut milk?

Moving, we won’t have a garden. We won’t have our own chickens. There will be no dinner inspiration provided by something from the yard. We’ll have weekly produce markets (hooray) and stores. And it also seems like most things are in season all the time in Mexico. We will be able to eat the faw-away-from-Oregon foods (mostly fruits?) we don’t eat frequently here: bananas, pineapples, avocados, mangos, papayas, warm-from-the-factory corn tortillas, who knows what else? A new pallette/palate. I’m eager to experiment, to cook differently, to perhaps rethink the well-stocked pantry.

We’ll see.

In the meanwhile, we have no provisions for an emergency. Must be time to get out of here!

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In a box to the left

Things are getting emptier at our place, including our chicken coop. Our four Buff Orpingtons went off to their new home and we are down to the last few of the home-layed eggs.

We have taken several Subaru-loads of items to our new storage unit. As I pack, I am thinking once again about “needs” and “wants.” What do I need to pack for a year in Mexico? How many T-shirts do I need? What kitchen stuff? Are most of those things that will sit in the storage unit for a year “wants” vs. “needs?” When we come back, will I wish we had gotten rid of more things or will I be happy to be reunited with the art we love, my winter coat, my few pair of impractical-for-cobblestones shoes, my colorful 1960s Pyrex bowls and our juicer?

I’m starting to have anxiety dreams about packing the car — what if the things we want to bring won’t fit? What will we jettison to the storage at the last minute? Not my running shoes, golf clubs, art suppies, or kitchen knives, I can tell you that.

 

Sorting, decision-making, boxing, moving.  Busy days here.

Soon, we will be driving … and then sitting on the plaza in Ajijic…where a person might see a great band of school-aged kids who can really play.IMG_1385

Gazpacho in an empty-ish house

It's starting to look empty around here. The couch sold today and went off with its new owners, a young formerly Cali couple with a 9-month-old baby.

But at the same time, the garden is still cranking out tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, herbs — which all lead to gazpacho.

The roasted tomatoes and garlic will be used on the grilled pizza tonight.

And in case you didn't know, there are huge forest fires in Oregon right now. Air quality is worse than Beijing, China and it's best to stay inside and pray for rain.

Ready, set, ex-pat

So we went to the Mexican Consulate in Porltand to apply for our temporary resident visas.

But first…..
Since we decided last winter to plan for a year’s move to Mexico, I scaled back my garden efforts this year. I also had hand surgery in March which incapacitated me for long than i expected. Still, a friend helped me shop at the Food for Lane County plant sale and I bought some most excellent starts. I grew the largest cauliflowers ever. Broccoli was good, too. It wasn’t a good pea year at our place; maybe too wet for too long. It was a productive asparagus and artichoke year, though. Summer crops, we have enjoyed green beans (mostly roasted on the grill), tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers. The garden seems small since I didn’t grow anything for canning!

Great cauli year

And great potato year

Okay, on to our upcoming travel. We put our house up for rent with a property manager and have renters lined up for a year, beginning October 1. Our stuff has been and is in the process of being divided into the following categories: sell, donate, throw out, store, or move. Carloads have gone to St. Vincent de Paul. We have sold a lot through craigslist and our yard sale, including my beloved 1995 Nissan pick up truck. I will miss that the most of everything that goes away. Still, it was a good decision as we didn’t want to pay to store a vehicle and can likely manage just fine with only one when we return from our year away.

I’ve gotten rid of some sentimental items, including a folder of old family pictures (no idea who the people were) from the 1920-50 era, sold to a woman for $2 at our sale. My army jacket, sent to me by my retired Army cousin (now deceased) that I wore every day, all winter, during high school and college. Dishes belonging to my mom. Grandma’s doilies (the better ones sent to a family member, the others sold at yard sale). The little cast-iron stove I had since I was a kid. Many many things gone.

I have such mixed feelings, jettisoning so many memory items. But how much can a person hold onto if that person also wants to have room for the future,for travelling, for moving aorund the world more easily? Don’t get me wrong; I have a big tote full of photos, my HS senior yearbook, my first pay stub from Dominick’s Finer Foods (now defunct), all the concert ticket stubs from my youth (from AC/DC to The Who to Madonna to David Bowie). So still plenty of stuff to store or lug around. But much less.

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Got rid of my mom’s old address book

So where are we moving and why? We are moving to Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. It’s a very ex-pat-friendly town on Lake Chapala, about 40 minutes from the Guadalajara airport.

Why? Like, many things in life, it’s a push and a pull. The pull is pretty easy: nice people and interesting culture; great weather; wonderful food; affordable cost of living; accessible health care; and well, because we can. And perhaps SHOULD while we are sill young and agile enough to have an adventure and actively enjoy it. The push? The current state of politics in the US is ugly and heart-breaking and frightening. And we are likely to either lose our health insurance completely in 2018 or be unable to afford any, given the actons against the affordable care act and its subsidies. If I am going to be uninsured, i want it to be in a country where I can afford to go to the doctor if I need to.

So away we go, leaving in mid-September and arriving at our destination on October 1.

Stay tuned.

Planning for an ex-pat adventure

Written on 11/10/16
I am seeing things through a different lens right now and I am both anxious and excited. I have been working on the whole Marie Kondo/minimalist/downsizing thing for a while now and feel like I have made some progress. Quite a bit of progress with clothes and books and decor and linens but still not enough with sentimental/inherited items, photos, kitchen things.

And then the election happened and we woke up yesterday and thought, “Why don’t we get out of this country for a few years?”

The whole point of minimizing is to make one more flexible, adaptable, able to do things, able to take advantage of opportunities when they come up. So let’s see if we can make this happen – to work through the anxiety of getting rid of things, renting the house, figuring out mail, visas, health insurance, car insurance, banking and to actually do it. I have very little anxiety about actually living in Mexico. I think we will find a place with little trouble and we will like it there.

I have a lot of anxiety about leaving.

The lens I have right now when I walk through the house goes something like this, “Will I/we get rid of (this thing) when we go or put it in storage? Will we want/need it when we come back? Is it something we could leave at the house if we rent it furnished or do we need space in a storage unit? How many boxes of photos/sentimental/inherited items do I want/need to keep and how will I dispose of those that have to go? What will out lifestyle be when we get back? Will I still want/need canning equipment, bicycles, soap making items, beer making stuff…?”

Everything looks different through this lens.

That’s a good thing. By January 2018, we will be in Mexico for a year. Let’s make it happen.

Winter has arrived

Winter has arrived here in Western Oregon. Painfully short days, darkness starting so early and lasting so long. Cold rain. Ice. Damp chill.

What does it mean at our house?
* Going to the gym a lot to keep obesity at bay.
* A gorgeous Oregon-grown Noble fir tree with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes, as my husband tells me often).

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* Lots of cookie baking.

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* Chili and curries and things in the crockpot.
* Planning our winter escape to Mexico.
* Some entertaining of friends and neighbors.
* Holiday parties.
* Eating cabbage and kale from the winter garden.
* A little volunteering at the warming centers that open for the unfortunate freezing unsheltered when temperatures drop below 30 overnight.
* Buying a couple kids’ coats at Old Navy and taking them to the family shelter.
* Overwhelming gratitude for what we have and deepening empathy for those who are suffering.

A cold dark time for sure, for me, missing my parents, thinking of holidays past and people who have passed. I’m doing my best to honor my mom’s memory with her cookie recipes. I’m doing my best to make my tiny sphere of influence a little bit brighter and kinder.

And I’m focusing on the warmth of Mexico we will be enjoying soon.