Find the Castle!

Source: via K. on Pinterest

I fell in love with this cute little castle in Maybole, Scotland. Then I took it a step further by visiting Maybole VIRTUALLY to poke around! It is perpetually spring there--frozen in April 2009 courtesy of Google Street View. My game is to play Find the Castle. It's easy.

1. Go to this page.

2. Use the directional cursors on your keyboard to navigate the town. If possible, just look at the Google Street View photos at the top of the screen, not the map below. (It seems possible to cheat.)

3. See how quickly you can find adorable Maybole Castle suddenly looming up in front of you! It is a very satisfying feeling.

After finding the castle, I tool around the Maybole streets and countryside. I found daffodils blooming on a roadside south of town. There's a cute little common by the railway station. It gets sunny on Drumellan Street, right by The Corner Pocket Snooker Hall. Just now I played again and, after finding the castle, I went down Kirkwynd and found an old ruined church just nestled among the blocks of flats. Oh Scotland!

Have you explored someplace with Google Street View, especially someplace you've never been? I want to go to Maybole now! (You can even get inside the Metropolitan Museum with Google Street View, I discovered.)

St. Valentine's lament

A long time ago there was a bookstore in our town called Collected Works. They had a great author program, and we saw people from local to national celebrities read there: Donald Hall, Colum McCann, Frances Moore Lappé, Verandah Porche, Wynn Cooper. The Colum McCann reading in particular was memorable because later that night I saw him stumbling into a bar declaiming Philip Larkin's "This Be the Verse." That's exactly what I thought published authors should be doing.

Anyway, at the height of their literary influence, Collected Works held a "Valentine's Poem" contest. I'm thinking for Valentine's Day 1996. I knew that I wanted to write a poem called "The Moon Over Birge Street," but the words didn't come to me until 2011. Collected Works was long gone, and I'd just heard a Gillian Welch interview on "Fresh Air." At that moment, my 1996 Valentine's Day poem finally coalesced in my mind. I like to sing it as a twangy folk number.

The Moon Over Birge Street

If I was pregnant when we parted
We would have a child
Two years of age
Four months five days
If I was pregnant when we parted
We would have a child by now.

He would not know you
And I wouldn't too
I don't know you now
Or I would know how
We could have parted
We could have parted at all.

And the moon over Birge Street
It just bears down
And the moon over Birge Street
In the slow frozen night
And the moon over Birge Street
It just bears down on me.

I heard she has given you
Two of your own
Two of your own
And one is two years old
Is it true she has given you
Two of your own by now.

Drinking in the kitchen
Smoking in the yard
Singing this song
It still seems hard
That we should be parted
That we should be parted at all.

And the moon over Birge Street
Bears down on me
And the moon over Birge Street
On Valentine's Day
And the moon over Birge Street
It just bears down on me.

Avocado toast and other simple breakfasts

When my brother-in-law J (who is the cooking part of Fresh from the Fridge) comes to visit, I know I'm going to try some new foods. Maybe I'll even be encouraged to eat fruit. That's cool, because he lives in California and brings exotic items like persimmons and kumquats and Reed avocados. This past holiday season one of the latter was perfectly ripe, and avocado toast was born late one post-Christmas evening. It's so darn good, it also works as a delicious breakfast. Feel like a nice greasy egg sandwich? Try avocado toast, man. I think it's even vegan!

Recipe: Slather ripe avocado on your favorite toasted bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with generous sprinkles of Magic Salt. (Magic salt was my DIY holiday gift. Basically it's the most delicious salt ever, made by blending salt, garlic and herbs in a food processor and letting the mixture dry out.)

While I'm at it, here's another simple breakfast I had back on Thanksgiving morning. Thinly sliced cucumber, thinly sliced daikon radish. Rye bread. Tea. Getting ready for a big day of eating ahead, this was light, cool, and crisp.

Simple breakfasts--what do you think?

Haggis Stew (Slow Cooker Lamb 'n Oats)

It has been years since I had haggis, "Great chieftain o' the puddin-race." It was in Scotland on my honeymoon--we had haggis several times and I thought it was great. I would like some right now.

With Robbie Burns Day in the recent past (January 25) and steel-cut oats in the cupboard, the least I could do was invent a slow-cooker recipe with haggis-y overtones. Mainly, it contains sheep bits and lots of oats. Note that steel-cut oats are key, with rolled oats this would just be mush.

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats, soaked overnight in lots of water and then drained
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (include leaves if you like)
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lamb shoulder chop (cheaper than stew meat, just cut out the bone and cube)
  • 1 small can chicken broth (or water, or lots of broth, or bouillon)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of rosemary, crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste

  1. First, note this is a trick recipe where you have to do something at least 8 hours beforehand (soak the oats). If you do this the night before, you can assemble the stew in the morning and have it for dinner.
  2. Place the vegetables (carrot, celery, potato) and drained oats in your slow cooker.
  3. Sauté the onion on olive oil. When it becomes glassy, add the lamb cubes. Brown. Deglaze with the chicken stock (or water or whatever you're using). Add all to slow cooker.
  4. Add bay leaf and rosemary. Make sure there is enough liquid to fully cover because the oats will expand quite a bit. That means add some extra stock/water if your deglazing liquid does not seem adequate.
  5. Turn to low and cook for 8 hours. If possible, stir during the day and add more liquid if things look too gummy. You can add liquid even at the last minute to get it to the right texture to serve. Add salt & pepper.
Serve with a side of oatmeal! Just kidding. A beer would be nice though.