Eggs In Purgatory With a Twist

Eggs in Purgatory is a very simple, healthy way to prepare perfect eggs. You’re poaching in a sauce on medium-high heat, gently steaming the tops by putting a cover on the pan. Then, you can serve this on starch of some sort: traditionally bread or polenta. I can imagine using cornbread or rice, too. Being that I’m south right now, I have excellent grits on hand and spiced them up a bit with some canned chilis. For the sauce, I had some really lovely marinara sauce that had been made by a vendor at the farmer’s market in Brunswick, GA and was just waiting to be used for something like this where it could shine.

Here’s a roadmap of ideas for making eggs in purgatory:

sauce (pasta sauce, salsa, crushed tomatillos, etc)

eggs (local, beautiful, organic if you can)

starch (crusty bread, corn bread, polenta, polenta cakes, grits, rice, tortilla chips…)

extras for the starch or toppings (onion, chopped garlic, green chilis, jalapeño, herbs like cilantro, oregano, etc.)

Get going on the starch part first if it’s not already done (bread and tortilla chips make this a really quick meal to prepare).

In a small frying pan, cover the bottom in about 1/2 inch of sauce and heat until just starting to show signs of getting steamy. Drop the egg in there, cover the pan. Every 30 seconds or so have a quick peek at the egg and when it looks like it’s how you want it (anywhere from sunny to over hard) just scoop it out with a spatula.

It only takes a minute or two to cook the egg depending on how you like it, so be observant and don’t walk away too long. The whites will be nice and soft, and it’s easy to make an over-medium egg this way without overcooking the whites.

That’s about it! Take this for a walk and let me know what you come up with!

Repurposing: You Probably Already Have that Thing You Need

I regard pretty much everything as objects with more than one purpose, and I’m unlikely to buy something that does a particular job. Rather, I opt for things that can fill in for many jobs around house and boat. Here are a few examples of things I’ve been using or re-using that might help reshape the way you think about the stuff you’ve got or about the packaging you choose when you’re provisioning. This isn’t just for boats, by the way. Land folk will like this, too.

Net-like Produce Bags as Beachcombing Treasure Keepers

Onions, potatoes, and citrus from the supermarket come in a variety of bags, and lately I’ve been opting for the plastic netting ones so I can take them to the beach for shelling or reuse them at the farmer’s market for more produce. The bags collapse right down so you can even keep one in your backpack for spontaneous shell collecting, and when you’re done collecting and want to rinse your finds, you can dunk the whole thing in the water to get rid of sand.

Come to think of it, they’d make a good colander for produce, too. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m thinking that next time I process and clean some greens, I might wash them in one of these bags then whip it around up on deck, using the centrifugal force as a salad spinner.

It’s important to make sure you don’t LEAVE these bags on the beach. Ever. Animals can get caught in them. When you do dispose them eventually, consider shredding them up so birds don’t find them at the landfill and have trouble with their beaks.

Parmesan Cheese Containers as Handy Tupperware

I have a slight weakness for salty, dry, shelf-stable cheese of late. I’m also finding that the shape and top of these shaky containers is useful for a slew of things. Here are a couple of examples: Its long shape is perfect for storing wrapped butter as you use it, cutting from one end and leaving the rest wrapped, you just keep it wrapped end side down. Similarly, I eat veggie sausage that comes wrapped like Jimmy Dean Sausage (called Gimme Lean) and store it the same way.

I also keep popcorn toppings in it. We love to use a mix of nutritional yeast flakes, salt, italian herbs, and a dash of garlic powder on popcorn. We premix that flavor combo in a shaky cheese container and voila! Ready to go. If it’s a nice looking container and you want to give an edible birthday present, you could put together an herb blend/popcorn topping for a friend and give it to them in this, with a homemade label.

Shells or Rocks as Soap Savers

No need to go out and buy a one-job dish to take care of your soap. Just use a handful of rocks or pretty shells in a regular little bowl to help circulate air around your bar. Where’d I get that pretty little bar of soap? From this lady here.

shells in the soapdish

Packing Tape as Lint Collectors

I mail a lot of stuff and generally find that clear mailing tape has a lot of uses in general. Great for hair and lint pickup, you just make a mitt around your fingers on one hand, spiraling the tape as a single layer loosely. By making it loose and holding it to your hand with your thumb, you can flip it around to use the other side. We just had a guest over with a very hairy dog and this trick made cleaning up very easy.

Shopping Bags and Packaging as Dog-do Bags

I don’t buy those neatly rolled things anymore. Even though I’m trying to eliminate plastic from my life entirely, stupid shopping bags seem to find their way into my realm. This goes for most packaging too, like packaging and wrapping from paper towels, bread, rice, chips, beans, potatoes, crackers… you name it. Even if it’s not shaped like a traditional bag, odds are it’ll work just fine for this job. Think about it, you just need a mitt big enough for the job and enough wrapping to get it to the nearest trash bag.

On that note, digging a 6″ hole when you are in the wilderness is acceptable, too, and we keep a camping spade in the dinghy for trips like that. Ditch the plastic bags that are just for that job. You’ll save money and plastic.

Paper Towel Rolls as Bag Storage

Now that you’re saving all your packaging to pick up dog waste, you can pack bags into paper towel rolls and put those neatly away somewhere. No massive, crazy stuffing or piles, just columns of bags ready to use.

Got some tips for me? Let me have ’em!

Making Custom Mats for Mimi Rose

Being at the dock here has its perks like close land heads and an easy walk to take the dog ashore, but we’ve been tracking a lot of junk onto our decks everyday, making a lot of extra work with all the cleaning. A mat on the deck would help.

More sword mat photos.

Through this post, clicking on the photos will take you to flickr where you can see more detail. Stick it out all the way through the end and you’ll see Maye enjoying the final product. 

I haven’t been able to find anything at a store that I think is suitable for the boat or that I’m willing to stow away. Also, we’ve only had access to stores that I don’t feel good buying things from (big box stores, etc). Colin pointed out a good option from a classic book we keep on board called The Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith. It’s called a Sword Mat.

When he showed me that I thought about how we didn’t just need one for the side deck, but that it’d be nice to have one for right in front of the companionway. We drag dust out and dirt on, and the decks are so light, so both were important. Oh, and what if we could make them long enough to fit in the cockpit well side by side, effectively making a nice grippy surface while underway?

Ooooh. Custom mats. Sounds fancy, right? Our first idea was to make them out of used material, but we didn’t have enough. Colin decided to splurge on some hemp rope and some tarred marline to make ours. We had thought about getting recycled plastic rope (the fibers are made from bottles and stuff), which comes in fun colors. I’d like to support recycling, but when I’m done with these mats years from now, I like the thought that I can just compost them.

Step 1 and 2 of making a sword mat

So the process is pretty simple. Lengths of rope, a little longer than what size you’d like to end up with (more notes below about measurement specifics for both the marline and the hemp) get middled over a length of rope (I’ll call it an end rope) that will be finished with crown knots when the whole thing is finished. (top frame, picture above). We secured that end rope on opposing cleats on the dock to hold it still while we worked.

The marline you prep by measuring out what you need, finding the middle, and bundling up the two halves for deploying as you go. Rug-wise, the hemp is acting as the warp and the marline is acting as the weft.

To help wrap your brain around what happens next, think about this. The ropes that are middled have half that comes out below the end rope and half that comes over. Let’s call the unders the A half and the overs the B half. Being careful to keep that middle point of each rope settled on that end rope, you’re going to pull the As up so they make a loop around the end rope and lay to the left of the B. It’s clearly demonstrated in the diagram below that comes from the Marlinspike Sailor.

Sword mat diagram

Then you lay the marline in there, tightly up against where the As and Bs cross. Then you flip the As and Bs again. Then you pass the marline across, and keep weaving all the way down.

Weaving the sword mat

Then when you get to the end, you just finish off the ends with some seizing. This is probably the most arduous part, just because you need to do a nice job finishing these off evenly.

Finishing the end of the sword mat

The last thing to do is to finish the top of the mat, where you began. That’s simply done with two crown knots.

Of course, when I took photos of these, they had been rained on and were taking their time drying. C’est la vie! That’s what the dark spots are. Here are the mats in place for at anchor or at the dock:

More sword mat photos.

Here’s how they’ll be when we’re under way:

More sword mat photos.

Things we learned while doing this particular project:

We were approaching this a very particular way: we wanted mats that fit certain measurements in the end. I’m going to have Colin write up a little something about how to calculate the amount of material you need, but I’m sure you can work out what needs to be done by thinking about it for a minute. You’re going to take lengths of rope that are a little longer than what you want (by at least 6 inches, I’d recommend, more if you can spare it).

Ours ended up both less wide and less long than we needed, despite good math. We wove the mats very tightly, perhaps if we had let off a little while still being consistent, that would have solved the length problem.

I can imagine that if you’re not looking to fit this somewhere in particular, then you can just use what you’ve got and pull it off cheaply and beautifully.

And here’s that Maye shot, as promised:

Maye!

Owning the Hardest of Things

I don’t plan to write personal things on this blog, but I’d like to share this story with you.

There’s this story in my family. It’s about my grandmother. We didn’t learn about it until one of Nana’s lucid moments way later in her life, when she wasn’t really herself anymore because what made her Nana was her cakes and her sewing and her crocheting and her long car drives to Presque Isle, Maine. But she still had her stories, and new ones were surfacing in her brain as her short term memory gave way to hours of contemplation in the nursing home.

Nana

Nana always made a big deal out of Valentine’s day. She’d make us little things and give us candy, she’d get cards and then even though the card was pretty enough, she’d plaster them with extra stickers all over. It was different than what happens in most families, I’d suppose. It was saccharine, it was the best.

My Nana

Nana was mostly deaf. She had lost her hearing at an early age, as she was born during the influenza epidemic and fell ill. She survived, but her hearing was very poor. It was the start of a long string of hardships. The kind of hardships where the word “hardship” seems like a gross understatement. Things I can’t recount here because they’re horrible. But this is a story about resilience, so I’ll move on.

Railway trellis

Well there was this one year that she got really excited about Valentine’s day, and she was a school girl. Go wild with your imagination, it’s just how you imagine. Kids of various ages, one room school house, all of it right in the middle of Maine’s dusty potato country with its long dark winters. Bright spots were manufactured by the punctuation of holidays, and Nana pulled out all the stops. She handmade Valentines for all her classmates

and received none in return.

 

 

 

Florence was deaf and spoke funny. She learned how to talk by watching other people, and her soft consonants revealed her lack of hearing. She got teased and mocked and was left behind a lot. Stupid Florence, dumb Florence.

My Nana

Beautiful Florence. Survivor Florence. Strong Florence. Mother Florence. Grandmother Florence.

Nana

So when I was thinking of Nana this past summer, knowing we’d go to Presque Isle to bury her remains and knowing that I’d be giving her eulogy, I knew I’d want to tell a story that could really illustrate to people why and how and how much I love her. What could we learn from her? What quality should I carry on from her that would make her most proud? What hardship did she bear for me so I didn’t have to?

IMG_7608

Nana, more than anyone, could have been a person marred into lacking trust, love, and affection for strangers. What did she do? She took this holiday and she made it her favorite.

And this carries past Valentine’s Day. It was her Way. When black people moved into her neighborhood in Munjoy Hill and deserved welcoming neighbors, when kids who were considered trouble needed a warm meal and the feeling of home, when poor folks in the neighborhood needed a good friend- there she was.

All the hard stuff, she gathered it up and she held it close.

Unlike some holidays, you can take or leave Valentine’s Day. But for me, I gather it up and hold it close because of Nana’s reminder. Her life was more complex and she was three dimensional in every way, with her foibles and her shortcomings. But I think on this, she was right. It most likely didn’t come to her like some great epiphany that grew triumphantly through the cracks of adversity. Nah, I think she was contrarian and I’m very sure she was a hopeless romantic.

You’re all my Valentines. Thanks for remembering my Nana with me.

Nana and a Little Dog

Happy Valentine’s Day

My beloved great aunts and Nana.

 

Truly Heartfelt Ideas for Valentine’s Day

My grandmother, Florence, loved Valentine’s Day. I’ve learned to love it, too. Always have.

I don’t really care that it’s a manufactured holiday and I don’t really think of it as romantic. It’s just sweet. Nana saw it as an opportunity to just pour love out on anyone who walks by, and especially as an opportunity to pour love out to people who really need it, and that’s my view too. Here’s the package my parents sent me this year, as of course, we’re away in Georgia and they’re in New Hampshire. They got a lot of these treats at the farmer’s market!

Care package from home!!

Here are a few ideas, sea-themed and big hearted, for valentines that happen to support small businesses and charities.

Help build a pelican sanctuary. Pelicans could be your valentine!

Pelican!

Sidewalk Pelican!

Real hearts instead of paper hearts: Petey the dog needs heart surgery, and you can pitch in.

Make the ocean your valentine at Save Our Shores.

Detail from Photograph of a Mural in Downtown Brunswick, GA

Octopus!

You can send milk, picture books, and soccer balls as Valentine’s gifts. Your valentine gets a card all about the gift and really, truly- Unicef sends the supplies to the places in the world where they’re needed most.

Give your valentine a gift subscription to Off Center Harbor. They’re a small group of hard-working boat builders, experts, and old salts with a penchant for storytelling via video. The content is top-notch.

If you were really thinking jewelry and going all gooey romantic, why not buy something from a talented craftsperson with a small business? Lofted Designs donates a portion of their profits every year to very deserving charities.

Whatever it is you decide to rain on your friends and loved ones and bartender and librarian and postal worker for the sheer purpose of making them feel special, I’ll give this one piece of advice. Make it with your hands or at least buy it with your heart.

It's so awesome to catch up with @pluckythirteenxxx xoxo! #mailbag #mademyday

Valentine I received in the mail the other day from a dear friend in NH!

 

 

Deviled Eggs, an Awesome Potluck Schtick

Deviled eggs!

These aren’t just deviled eggs in this picture, these are HUEVOS DIABLOS! That’s right. The yolks are mashed with sour cream, Valentino hot sauce, and a dash of salt. You can throw out that dusty little can of paprika that’s followed you around from apartment to apartment (or from boat to boat) and you can leave the mayonnaise for another time. Like for fry time. Mmm. Fries and mayonnaise.

I digress.

There are so many ways to prepare the flavors in deviled eggs that I really feel this little number is making a comeback. It’s easy to delight people of many walks- gluten free, vegetarian, or on a strict no-carb diet. Also, if you’re looking for something to be “your thing” at a potluck, this might be just the ticket!

Let’s just jump right into how to cook perfect eggs, ok? Be sure to get all the way through because I have other flavor ideas below!

Here we go!

1 poblano pepper

1 tomato

scallion

sour cream, or even better, crema Mexicana or crema Salvadoreña- plain yogurt would work ok too

eggs, probably 8 or 10 of them to make a nice plate for sharing

salt

hot sauce- something red and not too hot is good for most people, and this is to your taste.  Valentina, Tapa Tio, Tabasco, you get the idea.

The most important part of this recipe is cooking the eggs. Overcooking makes for tough whites and dry yolks, even though they’ll be salvaged somewhat by the delicious filling. Here’s how you avoid weird green bits and bad texture.

Start with a pot of salted, room temperature water. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of vinegar because I heard once that it helps with peeling. The best thing to do for easy peeling is to buy eggs well before you need them, and let them hang around for a week or more. Anyhow add the eggs in, making sure you’ve got about an inch of water over them. Now you turn on your burner and bring it to a boil and let it boil for just a couple minutes. Now cut the heat off and just put a cover on. Let that sit for about 12 minutes. They’ll be perfectly, gently, beautifully done.

If you’re ashore and have access to a lot of water, run the tap into the pot as it sits on the bottom of your sink to bring the temperature of the water in the pot down and to stop the cooking. Just let it run and spill out over the edge for a little while, as only land folk can do, and when the temperature is closer to room temperature again, go ahead and pick up each egg and tap it on the bottom of the pan to crack it a bit. While you’re peeling eggs, this will hopefully help the rest of them be more peel-able.

Not on land or short on water? That’s ok, this is just finesse. I swear it works to help with peeling and to stop cooking the eggs. You can just take them out of the pot. Or you could do the same thing with your salt water pump and just give the eggs a little rinse when you’re ready to peel them.

Peel and cut the eggs in half lengthwise with a non-serrated knife. Wipe the knife between eggs so they all look absolutely perfect. Just kidding. No really though, wipe the knife. They’ll look a little better.

Now you can just lightly push the sides of the eggs to pop the yolks out into a mixing bowl. You don’t really need a spoon, but be gentle if you must use one.

Mash the yolks with the sour cream and hot sauce. Add both to taste and texture preferences. Salt to taste. For my 10 eggs, I used the whole thing of one of those little sour cream containers. I had a LOT of left over filling (that I then used as a base sauce for this really delicious rice) so you could probably use less.

Then you just put all of it into a pastry bag or a plastic bag and snip the corner, pipe it into the eggs. The poblano, tomato, and scallion toppin’ isn’t fussy. Just cut little cubes and drop a few pieces on top of each.

Now. Other flavors:

mayonnaise, wasabi, pickled ginger on top

mayonnaise, crumbled bleu cheese, Frank’s Red Hot sauce (buffalo wing!), chopped celery/carrot on top

Greek yogurt, dill, chopped cucumber on top

mayonnaise, chopped bacon, diced tomato on top, serve on a plate lined with lettuce (BLT!)

mayonnaise, sriracha, scallion on top

mayonnaise (just a tiny bit), thousand island dressing, chopped sauerkraut and a little strip of corned beef on top

What flavors can you think of that would absolutely dominate the pot luck?

Elizabeth City

The Dismal Swamp Canal is tops. After a dose of enchanting motoring through cypress swamps and and the tannin-tinged corridor resplendent with birds, we came to Elizabeth City, the Harbor of Hospitality.

At the Dock in Elizabeth City

We read about other people sensing a feeling of ‘former glory’ for this small, but well-established, downtown area but all we could see was hopeful re-emergence. They’ve built themselves a boring stripmall sort of a thing complete with fast food restaurants that’s only a 5 minute drive from the beautiful brick buildings you find in the original hub of Elizabeth City.

Elizabeth City, NC

Cruisers know this place for lots of reasons, but my favorite story is the one about the Rose Buddies, Fred Fearing and Joe Kramer. The free town docks had just been built in 1983 thanks to donations, and these two long-time residents decided spontaneously one Sunday to welcome all the boaters who happened to be at the docks. Joe clipped 17 roses from his garden and Fred brought wine and cheese, and the 17 boats on the dock were hosted by the two men who would be known as the Rose Buddies, and the kind gesture became tradition.

Rose Buddies Monument

The Roses that Named the Rose Buddies

When Joe died, his rose bushes were transplanted to the park at the docks. Fred continued the tradition until his death, bringing to the docks more than snacks and wine, but also bringing stories about the Dismal Swamp Canal and about local history. Now local businesses keep the legend of hospitality alive, and the Museum of the Albermarle takes care of the history part.

Sea Nymph at the Museum of the Albermarle
Moth boat SEA NYMPH at the Museum of the Albermarle, a free museum in Elizabeth City

It’s a bit after the season for all that, so we didn’t get to experience the Rose Buddies this time around. There was only one cruiser at the docks while we were there, an old salt who offered us his mooring anytime we’d like it in Stockton Harbor- his boat said he was from Bucksport and he lives in Bangor. From this far away that all means he’s from where we’re from.

Me, Maja, and Jetty

We met Maja and her little dog Jetty. Maja told us, when we gave our usual spiel about where we’re from because most people don’t know where Brooklin is, that she took art classes on Deer Isle at Haystack in the 60s. I ached for home a bit when she described working hard in the studios tucked into the rocky campus rich with pointed pines and then going to beaches for clambakes and bonfires with classmates and locals. Not much has changed.

Then Maja told us the story about how she had been a city lady for a long time, but one day read that there was a boat for sale for $2000.

“I thought surely that must have been the down payment,” she said. But no, that was the cost of the boat. After seeing a home movie of the 40′ wooden racing sloop under sail, she fell in love with the way it moved. Maja had never sailed before. She went to the bank and told them she needed a loan for some dental work, and that it’d be $2000.

“Your teeth look fine,” said the banker.

“It’s my gums,” said Maja. They gave her the money.

It was her intention to take the boat down the ICW and to see where it took her. After a few terrible missteps that I suspect were rookie moves, like getting caught in terrible storms and running aground (the sloop drew 7′), one last big storm convinced her to go live in Louisville with her sister and leave the boat behind in the Chesapeake. She became a yoga instructor there, the only one in the town and a big part of bringing a healthful practice to Louisville. She said that if the boat hadn’t made her question what was next, she would have never decided to pursue yoga so passionately.

One thing that really struck me about her story was when she needed to repair a bunch of the boat’s canvas, somewhere in Delaware Bay. She went ashore, and a man there said he understood her situation, and should she ever need to borrow his truck to get into town, he’d give her the keys. Being from New York City, she was thinking, “What’s this guy up to?” She admitted that after a time, cruising was just like that. People didn’t have anything up their sleeves but the keys to a much needed truck or a nice shower ashore.

Maja's Care Package Left at the Dock

The Contents of Maja's Care Package

Taking the opportunity to pay it forward, Maja left us a big care package of beautiful pantry stuff one day, and later gave me a ride to the health food store and to the Post Office. I think, beside enjoying the town there, meeting her was perhaps my favorite part of Elizabeth City.

Leaving Elizabeth City

Cocktail Hour: Southerly Honeybee

Honey citrus cocktail

Here’s a drink that really takes advantage of the beautiful ingredients we got at the farmer’s market. The meyer lemon, when cut into, reminded me of the first time I traveled to San Francisco in the winter time and was offered a sample of lemon at the markets of the Embarcadero. Lemon is a fruit I would never think to just bite into except on a dare, but because it was so fresh, I could enjoy its unmitigated and full-flavored sourness, detecting a sweetness I had never experienced before in a piece of citrus. It was January, and I had summer in my mouth. THIS was the main reason I’ve had a hard time buying citrus in Maine, and THIS is what I’ve been looking forward to enjoying while visiting Georgia and Florida.

The ingredients also happened to work well with the only bottle of alcohol we had available on the boat*, a 2 oz bottle of Barenjager, a honey liqueur.

Local honey can play in important dietary role in ensuring wellness, and for travelers like us, it’s done a good job of providing us with low doses of local pollens that help us adjust to new plants as we’ve moved down the coast. It turns out that’s probably bunk, but hey, even if it is, we love supporting local beekeepers. Nothing but good.

Here we go!

1 meyer lemon

1 orange (that beautiful pink thing in the picture is an orange)

2 oz Barenjager

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup warm water

ice

This will make about two drinks, and do play with the ratios. When I do this again, I’d double the Barenjager and back off the honey a bit. This is just what I happened to have on hand and the low alcohol ratio worked well for the role the drink played, which was as an accompaniment to brunch.

Add the Barenjager to ice in a nalgene bottle or, if you’re fancy, to a cocktail pitcher. (I see you bein’ fancy.) Juice the fruit, and don’t forget the pulpy stuff- put the whole kit and kaboodle in with the ice mixture.

Make a syrup with the honey and water. You’re looking to make about as much honey syrup as you’ve got juice. Why add it to warm water? If you just add gooey honey to this drink, it will never homogenize with everything else. It’ll just sink to the bottom.

Shake all that stuff together and get it really cold. Strain off over glasses filled with ice or just pour it out into glasses if you’re at an anchorage and ice is like gold.

Variations: Try grapefruit or blood oranges. No Barenjager? Rum will be good in this, and you can get away with vodka too, obviously. Too sweet? Back off on the honey syrup. Play with all these ratios, taste this drink as you make it.

*Note: We do have a bottle of Coruba Rum, however, that is a gift that is to be opened when we get to our southernmost point in our trip this year. More on that later.

What Sailing Sounds Like: Tennis

Tennis’ record, Cape Dory, came out in early 2011, right after I had been to the Caribbean for the first time and cruised around the USVIs and BVIs. This album, from beginning to end, is full of words and sounds that are rooted in sailing because the married couple who comprise the band wrote all of the material during a 7 month cruise along the east coast of the US.

The title track, Cape Dory, performed live on KEXP in Seattle:

Seafarer, my favorite song on the record: