Home is a Well-Stocked Pantry: A Celebratory Essay on our 1-Year House Anniversary

by Ginny on March 27, 2011

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I’m celebrating today, and as part of that celebration I’m indulging in writing without a word limit. I promise, there is a recipe at the end of this post (Coconut Macadamia Granola), but before we get there I hope you’ll tuck in and let me tell you a story. It begins and ends with one word: Home.

Last weekend I opened the accordion doors of our pantry and was hit on the head by a falling bag of chocolate chips. It had been balanced upon at least a dozen other bags containing things like sea salt, rolled oats, pecans, pistachios, shredded coconut, Israeli couscous, red quinoa, black quinoa, brown rice, and brown sugar. This says a lot about my addiction to the bulk food section, but as I nestled the bag into a more secure location (on another over-crowded shelf) I stopped for a moment, stood back, and realized that this said something more: WE ARE HOME. It gave me pause, and I absorbed this small marvel: a well-stocked pantry. 

For the last 5 years (before this one), Noah and I never knew where we would be in 6 months. Uncertainty was a constant backdrop in our life, a houseguest for whom we felt both excitement and disdain. We ended up on a seasonal rotation to Juneau, Alaska, where we packed 12 months of work into 8 (split between Cordova and Juneau), and then had a 4 month hiatus to get “Outside” (as Alaskans call leaving the state), hit the road, and re-evaluate. Our most common dinner table discussions were spent mulling over two questions:

1. Where are we going?

and 2. What are we doing?

I learned to appreciate the possibility inherent in those two questions, but they frayed at my sense of stability both inside and out. Each summer I would rebuild a life in this little seaside town, beg for my job back, start new projects, make new friends, only to have to close the book every fall, dismantle the progress I’d made, and say goodbye with no idea of what came next. We lived with what fit into my wagon and Noah’s truck, and every few months, packed up and moved again. I hesitated to buy bigger than a 4-pack of toilet paper, and there was certainly no pantry stocking.

Almost exactly one year ago we rolled our little gypsy caravan into Missoula, and moved into a hotel room with a 2-burner kitchenette. We were unsure of what we were doing here– no job, nowhere to live, just a lot of hope, a few good leads, and a burning desire to find home. Montana was the place we had fallen in love, and had left 10 years prior. There were things we needed to do that couldn’t be done here, but we left grudgingly, reassuring ourselves with the notion, “We can always come back.”

That’s exactly what we did. Missoula felt like home more than anywhere else and with that to go on, we returned. Shortly after we arrived, in a moment of denial or perhaps defiance, I purchased an entire quart of soy sauce. And it felt goooood. It’s presence in our pint-sized hotel fridge put it’s foot down and declared, “I am here to stay.”

We spent 2 months in that hotel room, living in a state of emotional crescendo. We were willing things to work out.  There might be a job soon. . . and there was a house. Noah found it online while we were packing up our last apartment in Juneau. Months later, it was still available.  We found a realtor to show us the property and the moment we walked in, a knowing feeling washed over me: this is it. I quietly fell in love with this little 2-acre spread on the edge of town with a big vegetable garden, a fenced yard for a dog, and a view of the watercolor sunsets that make Missoula so dreamy. It had been on the market for 3 years, dropping in price, waiting for us, a young couple with the energy to fix it up. We named it, “The Ranchito.”

We went back to our hotel, and for weeks we waited, and talked, and sometimes argued. Life was topsy-turvy and every day the mirror revealed the toll of stress in dark circles and frizzled hair. I spent the time working on a new plan that gradually evolved into The Sunday Dinner Revival. This was my essence: home, food, and family. The thought that things may not work out, and we may have to do another temporary year in a temporary place was too difficult for either of us to consider. We talked about jumping in with both feet, taking a chance and buying The Ranchito, figuring out work along the way. Most of the risks we had taken in the past paid off in spades, but this one had a bigger price tag than any purchase we had ever made. The stakes, and the tension, were high.

We viewed the house a second time. Same feeling. Same intensity of desire. I looked out the living room window at a dilapidated pool and thought, “This will be our window. That will be our pool.” Repairs aside, it was a good feeling, and I remember it the way I remember seeing Noah for the first time: vividly and crystal clear. Standing in the driveway, discussing the prospect of making an offer, Noah’s phone rang. It was his friend, a former flight instructor from Oregon, who now lived and flew for the hospital here. The job that Noah had been pursuing for over 2 years had finally, miraculously opened up.

That ray of hope gave us the gumption to move forward and we worked out an offer, meeting with mortgage brokers, and financial advisors, asking ourselves (and each other) over and over,  “Are you sure?”

 Noah still didn’t have the job. We didn’t know how long the hiring process would take. What if he didn’t get it? One morning, as we were sitting there bug-eyed and what-iffing, Noah’s phone rang again. This time they told him, “If you want the job, it’s yours.”

Have you ever laughed and cried at the same time?  Yeah, me too.

Immediately, we made an offer on the house. It was accepted. After years of angst, deliberation, searching, moving, packing and unpacking, our two big questions were answered. It happened in a time span of less than 24 hours. I was on my knees with joy and relief.

We moved into The Ranchito almost exactly one year ago today, with the help of some friends. A neighbor walked over with a cold 6-pack of beer– an omen of good times to come. That night, Noah got out of bed around 2 am. I found him in the loft, overlooking the Missoula valley, the lights of the city twinkling in the distance.

“What are you doing up?” I asked, weaving my arms through his. This move was more of a sacrifice for Noah. He wanted stability for us, but was also putting a big dream behind him. Flying was his art, and the Chugach Mountains and the Alaskan sky, his canvas. He had lived that dream for 4 years, but was he ready to let it go? I worried that our new home might not feel as good to him as it did to me.

“I had to come and see what it looked like at night,” he said, and I could feel in his huge,  joyful smile a new sense of excitement and possibility.

***********************************************

 In twelve blurry months we found work we love, we settled in our first home, we adopted our first child dog, and now– it’s time to let you in on this– a baby is on the way.

Maybe it’s the hormones, but thinking about how far we’ve come and how much has changed, puts me in a place of deep reverence. So much of it feels…how can I put this, blissfully out of our control, yet at the same time, like a culmination of years of work, effort, and intention put toward getting here.

Noah was telling me the other day how much he loves his life. For the first time since I’ve known him, he has reached a place of lasting contentment and peace. I feel the same. The 15 years we’ve shared up till now has been a full time, and a fun time, and in many ways a trying time. The angst, and striving, and doubt of our twenties also gave us an enormous stockpile of experiences, adventures, and memories. It’s hard to fully close the door on that, but we are stepping through a new one, starting a new chapter. In this place, in this moment, we have a newfound clarity and calm, that things are just…ideal (nobody move! ). We are fulfilled, and our future is pregnant with new possibilities– pun very much intended : )

I think what inspires such window gazing about all this, for me, is that truth be told, the little bun in my oven was a surprise. We have been on the fence about having children since we met. The question mark was certainly increasing in size and intensity, hanging in our home like a blinking neon sign. This was a possibility with a deadline. So we teetered and tottered, analyzing, weighing pros and cons, telling our biological clocks, “Speak now or forever hold your peace!” We knew that no matter what we decided we would be okay, and we would make our life good, and joyful, and fulfilling.

But this little person, somewhere up in the night sky, got tired of waiting for us to make up our minds, and called out with a tiny whisper, “ready or not, here I come!”

In some ways, we miss our old vagabond lifestyle, but we are rooted for now.  And I don’t think either of us would go back, and let go of the profound gifts that come from having a sense of PLACE in the world. We are beginning to find the simple pleasures in things like a nap in your own hammock, a salad picked from your own garden, a pool that is perfectly chemically balanced, a garage to put our fly rods, snowboards, and kayak gear into, where it’s always ready for a day’s adventure. This is what life is, and has always been. A quest to find the sacred in the mundane, a journey towards gratitude for the simple things, a pilgrimmage that shows you that, more than anything, there’s no place like home, and that home is a place we create in our hearts. One snowy night, just before Christmas, I took one pregnancy test, and then another, and it suddenly became very clear where we were going, and what we were doing. We weren’t going anywhere, except on our biggest adventure yet.

Home is the word that makes that adventure feel not only possible, but very, delightfully, surprisingly good.

The other day, as I stood back and beheld my pantry, I had a recipe in mind: Coconut Macadamia Granola. It just so happened that I had every single ingredient on hand to make it. What a gift, and one I didn’t fail to acknowledge. As it baked, the smell of toasted coconut filled our kitchen, a favorite cooking show played on the radio, my nearby desk was covered with papers from a busy week of work assignments, the first spring weeds caught my eye in the vegetable garden, and my tummy rumbled with the presence of another small appetite. All signs of a full life about to get fuller.

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Recipe: Coconut Macadamia Granola

Toasted coconut is one of the world’s most intoxicating cooking smells, and adds a heap of flavor to this Hawaiian-inspired granola. I recommend serving this with yogurt and fresh fruit, especially tropical varieties like mango, banana, or pineapple. Or you can add 1 to 1.5 cups of dried fruit to the mix; just toss it with the granola as soon as it comes out of the oven.

INGREDIENTS

 

  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

 

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup roughly chopped macadamia nuts

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine first 7 ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. Add oats, coconut, almonds, and macadamias and stir thoroughly until honey mixture is evenly dispersed.

3. Spread granola on baking sheet in an even layer. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, stirring every 15. Granola is done when it has turned a pale golden color. It will be sticky upon coming out of the oven, but will dry as it cools. Remove from oven, and spread granola on parchment or wax paper to cool. Store in an airtight container. Keeps for several weeks.

Makes 5 cups

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorothy at Shockinglydelicious March 27, 2011 at 10:03 am

I don’t know where to begin! I clicked for the granola recipe, and am overcome with your news. Many, many congratulations on the life you built and your adventure to come. Hang on for the ride…it’s going to be awesome!

Reply

Ginny March 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

Heartfelt thanks Dorothy. Your story, and your joyful motherhood planted quite a little seed in me when we met. Now look what happened! : )
xoxox

Reply

Sara Arndt March 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Ginzeroni! I am sooooooo excited for you and Noah! I can’t believe it! It’s been on my list to call you and hear all about this new news! What an incredibly lucky little baby. I’ll give a call this week!! Xoxoxoxo

Reply

Ginny March 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thanks Sara! It’s been on my list to call YOU! I need your recc’s for parenting books– I know you’ve got some expert ones : )

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cassandra March 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

congratulations to you and noah!!!! what fantastic news!!!!!

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Pat Zanger March 28, 2011 at 4:47 am

Ginny, this is just so beautiful.

(One book recommended to me way back then — which I loved — is by British psychologist Penelope Leach: Your Baby and Child from Birth to Age 5. Very comprehensive, beautifully illustrated. Leach is in her 70s now & still going strong.)

Reply

Ginny March 28, 2011 at 6:48 am

Thanks Aunt Pat! I’ll add it to the list : )

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Sara Ohlin March 28, 2011 at 8:02 am

Ginny!! I’m so happy for you guys, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I love this essay, I loved it before I even got to the part about a baby, it’s beautiful and I can’t wait to keep up with the rest…How are you feeling? Oh, man just a wave of emotions reading this. (Probably from lack of sleep because our almost 1-yr-old apparently doesn’t need as much sleep as we do!) I hope you are feeling well, let everyone everyone everyone pamper you!!!!

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Ginny March 30, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Thank you Sara! You better believe I will be looking to Sprout for some tips on gardening with little ones. Btw, I am feeling like a champ these days, and milking the prego princess perks for all they’re worth 😀

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Lentil Breakdown March 28, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Congrats! Funny how life has a way of assuming its inevitability, and soon you won’t even remember your long-ago ambivalence.

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Ginny March 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Thank you Adair. So true!

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Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks March 30, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Wow. What a post! So visual, so real and such HUGE news. Girlfriend you bargained for more than a quart of soya. You’re going to be a great momma. I think you and Noah should start thinking about writing some children’s books. Such wonderful adventures… and more to come. Congratulations. -andrea

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Ginny March 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hey, I like that children’s book idea Andrea! Thank you, and thanks for your kind words : )

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Joellen April 8, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Ginny,
A great story. I enjoyed reading your blog and meeting you. I will keep checking in and will post to our facebook.
Best,
Joellen

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