Simple Life: Writing, Tools and Peaches

My weekdays since the first of August have been completely absorbed by working on a new book, a narrative nonfiction story I have tried to write half a dozen times over the past six or so years, and for which I have never successfully found the voice or narrative arc. I finally gave up and let the story grow in my subconscious until it found its own voice and thread, and demanded my attention; it’s been running hot ever since.

In fact, the narrative is coming along so fast that I can barely keep up with it. Since August first, I have written 36k words or 150 double-spaced pages, an astonishing amount in five weeks, for me or anyone else.

Mind you, this is a rough draft, meaning it’s not something I would want anyone else to read. Usually, I am a plodding writer, writing a few pages a day, laying down the narrative carefully, attentive to individual words and sentences, to rhythm and repetition and nuance and structure.

But with this narrative, I am just listening to the story in my head, sometimes getting up to pace and speak it out as a voice memo on my phone, then sitting back down at the keyboard to chase the words as they tumble out. This story has me by the throat; it wants me to listen and transcribe. Editing can come later.

By the time the weekend rolls around, I am worn out, mentally and emotionally exhausted. So I turn to tools–of course!–and using my creativity in other ways.

My “tool girl” project for the past five weekends has been refinishing the very weathered wood sash and trim on the five of the casement windows in my condo.

A casement window partly open. The gray patches on the wall outside are from stucco repair, which I am happy to not have to do!

(If you’re not familiar with the terminology, “sash” is the wood that frames the actual window pane, “trim” is the wood framing the opening in the wall. Casements open with a crank handle, swinging out horizontally, not up and down like awning windows.)

These are high-quality windows, with powder-coated steel exteriors and painted wood interiors, but the previous owner apparently was apparently in the habit of leaving the windows open all summer long, rain or shine, and the painted wood interiors as well as the sills took a beating.

I started with the casement window in my bedroom, which with its sill was badly water-damaged.

Midway through scraping the weathered paint down to the wood and removing damaged caulk from around the window and the sill.

After about four hours of scraping off loose paint, cutting out damaged caulk, sanding to smooth the surfaces, carefully re-caulking, and then applying two coats of paint, the window looked new again. And best of all, the wood is now protected for another couple of decades if it’s treated well.

Detail of refinished window and sill–it looks new again!

That project was so successful that I tackled the other casement windows in the condo, one or two per weekend. And then I refinished the interior wood sash and trim on the eight-foot-tall sliding glass doors that lead out onto both decks. And re-caulked the sills of the four 5-foot-by-5-foot picture windows throughout the condo.

About the time my inner tool girl needed a break, a friend gave me a box of beautiful western Colorado peaches. I love peaches, but I knew I would never be able to eat all of these before they rotted. So I blanched them, peeled off the fuzzy skin, and then sliced and froze them for winter, when they will be a treat.

If you’ve never frozen ripe peaches, it’s ridiculously easy: Start by checking for any bruises or dings and set those peaches aside for fresh eating.

Then fill a stock pot with water and bring it to a gentle boil. Drop the peaches in one by one (I use a large strainer to handle them) and let them simmer for one to two minutes but no longer. You don’t want to cook them, just loosen the skin.

Peaches in gently boiling water

Take the peaches out and place on a cutting board to cool to the touch. Then, using your fingers, slip the skin off–it should peel easily.

Slip the skin off once the peaches are cool enough to touch.

Then slice the peaches and put them into a bowl. Squeeze a lemon over the slices to keep them from browning and sprinkle with a small amount of sugar to bring out their juice. Stir and pack into a freezer container or a freezer bag (I use resealable gallon-sized bags).

Fruits of summer sunshine in the freezer for winter!

I also freeze some peach halves for easy winter desserts. Here’s my simplest version:

Turn a thawed peach half cut side up, put a small dab of butter in the hole where the pit was, add a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar atop the butter and sprinkle cinnamon over the cut half of the peach. Put the half (halves, because you’ll want more than one!) on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler.

Broil until the sugar has melted into the butter and the tops of the peaches are beginning to brown. Remove, plate, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And enjoy!

That’s my life right now–write all day on weekdays, work on the condo and put up fruit for winter. It’s a simple existence, and I’m happy with it. What makes you happy these days?