Friday’s Thankful

Yup, I know it’s immensely cliched, but today I have to say it: I am thankful for my family. They live scattered across the country, from Chicago to Colorado, Syracuse to Seattle, and Boston to Austin. The Clark and Ristow families literally have the United States covered… except Hawaii and Alaska, which someone really should work on so that I can come visit!

Some of the Clark family made it out to Montana for our wedding reception. Photo copyright Jill Fineis photography.
Some of the Clark family made it out to Montana for our wedding reception! Photo copyright Jill Fineis Photography.
Grandma Clark, on her birthday. She is now 97 years young and sharp as a tack.

Growing up, we used to drive to my Grandma Clark’s house in Syracuse on Thanksgiving morning. It was only an hour, but at the time it seemed like a very long journey. Now that I live in Montana, where we drive one hour to get to a grocery store, the Rochester – Syracuse jaunt seems like a plausible daily commute. Back then, upon arriving at my grandma’s house and fresh from a nap in the car, we’d spend the first half hour hugging all the relatives. And I mean all of them. Every last person on the premises would get up for a hug and a kiss whenever someone new arrived. The same thing happened in reverse whenever anybody was going out the door. No quiet arrivals or departures here! You can’t just slip into Grandma Clark’s house without being noticed, even though some 30+ people of all ages would be there.

No matter what our differences are, no matter when the last time was that we’ve seen each other – heck, no matter that I am often called by my sister Lara’s name – I feel welcome, supported, and loved by my family. This base of love and support allowed me to go out into the world and become whatever I dreamed possible, for which I am eternally grateful.

The Chicago Ristow family came to the end of the world for our wedding reception. Photograph copyright Jill Fineis Photography.
The Chicago Ristow family drove out to the end of the world for our wedding reception. Photograph copyright Jill Fineis Photography.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I skipped an entry, yesterday I was feeling thankful for the ability to turn off the computer and walk away from the internet for 24 hours. Instead I baked pies all morning, and enjoyed the company of my in-laws in Billings.

My new in-laws, the Bilden family. Copyright Jill Fineis photography.
At our wedding reception with my new in-laws, the Bilden family. Copyright Jill Fineis photography.

A Quilt from My Mother

IMG_3849At the end of the day, I snuggle into bed underneath a warm cotton flannel quilt. This quilt is especially cozy because my mother made it for me. Several years ago, she and I spent an afternoon picking out fabrics at the quilt store. As someone who likes to sew, I am easily absorbed by the process of selecting fabrics, envisioning all the things I could make – so I have fond memories of looking at fabrics and talking about quilt patterns with my mom. After a few unavoidable delays – back surgery and a move to Colorado – my mom got down to work. She finished the quilt and gave it to me and Bart as a wedding present shortly after we eloped in October of 2012.

The quilt has a deep yellow background with “flying geese” of various vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. They are framed by a cool blue inner border and outer border of maroon and forest green. IMG_3848They are the warm colors of autumn – my favorite season. In the afternoon, the sun streams through our bedroom window onto the quilt, inviting me in to read and relax… or perhaps even to take a nap. I hoped to catch the radiant colors of the sun-lit quilt in my photos today, but stormy clouds have taken a hold of the sky and cast a grey pallor on the world. With the winter storm arriving, I will be especially thankful for our warm flannel quilt as I cozy into bed tonight.

My Thankfuls

Evan, age 2
Evan, age 2

When I sit down for dinner with my nephew, Evan, we always say our “thankfuls”. Evan brought this tradition home from preschool, where the kids learned to pause a moment and reflect on the things for which they are grateful. Saying thankfuls with Evan is always a treat. As the sole vocal member of the youngest generation of our family, the spotlight is on Evan as he picks who says thankfuls first. I prefer not to be picked right away. I want the opportunity to collect my thoughts and speak from the heart. I love listening to everyone share their thoughts while I deeply inhale the rich scents of the hearty meal that we are about to enjoy. The meal always tastes better and the company more joyful after we say our thankfuls.  This week I’ll share a daily thankful in honor of Thanksgiving and the tradition begun by Evan.

Soon to be a scrumptious cuke
Soon to be a crunchy cucumber
Baby butternut squash
Baby butternut squash

Today, I am thankful for the harvest from our garden. In August, September, and even into October, I canned, froze, fermented, cured, and dried a variety of vegetables – from pumpkins and peppers to beans and cucumbers. Meals now are accentuated by produce that we grew. They taste somehow sweeter and more satisfying for all the work that we put into growing them.

A typical August day's harvest
A typical August day’s harvest

This morning I pulled four gallon-sized bags of tomatoes out of the freezer. All day they’ve been stewing on my stove, warming our cabin as they cook down to a thick sauce. I’ve added our onions and carrots from a neighbor’s garden, along with basil I dried back in July. Some of the sauce will go into lasagne tonight – the perfect meal for a windy and brisk autumn evening!

Straight from the freezer to the pot