Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

All I can say is, that husband of Jean
is One Lucky Guy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

White Bean and Mushroom Ragout with Shredded Duck

This was what I wanted to eat tonight,
so this is what I cooked:

1 leek, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1/2 large onion, sliced
2 T. butter
1 T. duck fat, if you happen to be so lucky

Season with salt and pepper, and saute over low
heat for about 15 minutes, until all those lovely
onion-derivations begin to caramelize.

Then add:
about 2 cups sliced mushrooms -- I used
crimini and rehydrated black trumpet.
Some sliced celery -- as much as you want.
Saute for 2-3 minutes.

Add:
a couple of cups chicken stock
2 cans canelini beans, drained
a few sprigs fresh thyme, or about 1 t. dried thyme
1 generous bay leaf
a pinch of allspice
a pinch of cinnamon
a splash of white wine

Simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes.

Add:
shredded duck, as much as you want!
Stir well, let simmer a bit longer.

Taste, adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley.

This is yummy homey French-style goodness
that I could probably eat every day
for the rest of my life.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Miracle

First I walked on concrete,
the run-off trained
to follow exact paths.
I walked on gravel, tidy & sensible.
Clean, for god's sake.
Then wood, slick with moss,
planked-down over ice.
And gravel again: percussion.
But not water, never water.
I walked on dirt,
and with velvet arms
the earth gathered me in.

A few indulgences....

Dinner was lavish and decadent last night,
yet we seem to be establishing a history
of forgetting to cook the green vegetable:
on Thanksgiving, the green beans languished
in the refrigerator, and yesterday the broccoli
suffered the same fate. To compensate, there was
red-tipped butter lettuce with diced beets --

-- and blood oranges -- no complaints there!
Roasted red kuri squash, roasted leeks --

-- and fingerling spuds that lingered just long
enough in duck fat to achieve near-confection
status. The four men (I LOVE being the only
woman in the current group) wolfed down
the bloody lamb with nary a growl. They earned
points for keeping their lupine instincts in check.
I, on the other hand (other fork?) delicately nibbled
on a duck appendage which had been rubbed with
Chinese five-spice and who-knows-what-else by
Chief Culinary Wizard Riles --

(who stated in no uncertain terms that this is the
one-and-only time he'll roast two meat-products
simultaneously in a single oven).

I entertain a fantasy from time to time that a holiday
will occur where we'll fix something quick'n'easy
and arrive at the table ready to enjoy the meal
rather than longing for a nap by the fire.
But in the end, we do love this hours-long kitchen
encampment over the electric flame, although
I must admit that a question has arisen which I
feel compelled to share: Just when was it that
I became the prep cook for my son??!!!!

For dessert there were Oeufs a La Neige (thanks to
Radish King for the link), a version of Ile Flottante
aka Floating Island, but I let the chocolate/cardamom
sauce cook a second too long, so it was more of an
Ile sur La Terre (island on the earth). I was reminded
by the aforementioned Wizard that islands do not float,
so therefore my sauce-turned-pudding was forgiven.
(Has anyone else on this planet poached spoonsful
of meringue a few minutes prior to sitting down
to Christmas dinner? I'd like to know. I want to
form a club, or at the least, become a facebook
fan of it.)

Oh my. This is all way too complicated for the post-hectic
after-Christmas gelatinized Boxing Day noggin.
I feel as if perhaps it's my brain itself that's
been poached, pickled, set out to dry-age
for 12-21 days at a low humidity.
Call me when it's done.

This afternoon I'll start the French onion soup
process by plunging the duck remains in the soup
kettle along with onions, celery, carrots, thyme,
pepper corns and a clove or two. Later in the week
I'll put in more time at the stove, a meditation in
carmelization: hours of stirring half a dozen or more
sliced ohm-ions to their most rich and golden essence.
A glug of white wine, a little Cognac, croutes
and the best nutty Gruyere I can find:
The feast never ends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday

In the other room, where the detritus of dinner
lingers, the four men argue the weapons of
WWII. Russia. Germany. All of them
too studied, erudite.
And now it's Elvis, Bob Marley, The Beatles.
My father was a master of debate, and so
this discourse pleases me unto infinity.
My blended family, or at least the part of it
that allows itself to be together. Who is alpha?
Ohhhhh, argue some more. I love it all.

R. toiled all afternoon over the heat, reductions
of red wine and onions, beef and pork. All
enclosed in a pastry crust. O glorious feast!

Brilliant, every last one of them.
xxoo
T.

Irreverant

In which the Wicked Witch encounters
a giant fake nose while attending the holy birth:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Queen

The receptionist at Gem hair salon in Kirkland
was wearing this most spectacular vintage necklace
yesterday, and she graciously allowed me to photograph
her for my blog:


She looked like royalty standing behind the counter.
Found at an antique shop up the street, she said
that she wears it all the time. How great is that?!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

And yes, the snow is falling.
In my blog.

A Little Solstice Pomp....

The most abbreviated of days, and I believe it's going to
fill up with rain. This descent into darkness always
thrills me, oddly. I think it's because it always ends
in Christmas, which, oddly (or unlike many adults
I know) I still rather enjoy. Of course as the years
have accumulated, the delights exist less in the
material world and more in the pleasures
of the palate.

My sons have unanimously requested tourtiere
for Christmas Eve dinner. It's a French-Canadian
meat pie which was a tradition in my home
growing up. Here's the recipe:

1 # ground beef
1/2 # ground pork
2 pieces bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup water
1 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
3/4 t. sage
1/2 t. thyme
1/4 t. allspice
3 T. chopped parsley
1 potato, boiled & mashed

pastry for a two-crust pie

Brown the meats, add the onion and garlic; cook for a few minutes.
Add everything else except the parsley and potato.
Simmer for 20 minutes. Add parsley and potato, let cool.

Fill pie shell with mixture, top with remaining pastry.
Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until brown.

My mom served this with buttered peas on the side.
She always would roast some beef and pork earlier
in the week, then grind them in her hand-crank grinder
(which clamped to the table's edge and was stored
in an old Quaker Oats cylindrical box with pictures
of Woody Woodpecker on the back.) She used this
meat instead of the pre-ground beef and pork.
I loved feeding the meat into that grinder,
turning the handle and watch it spiral out
on the other side!

My kids grew up with this pie also. On the Christmas
Eve morning of R.'s first quarter of culinary school,
I was happily ensconced in the kitchen, stirring up
my tourtiere, when R. came into the room, grabbed
the spoon out of my hand and bullied me out of the
way. WTF???? He firmly and calmly stated
that he was trying to INTRODUCE SOME CLASSIC
FRENCH COOKING TECHNIQUES INTO MY
KITCHEN. Hrrrmmmpppphhh!

Boy was that a mistake. I told him that this was
about as classic as it gets, or, at least, classic country
French-Canadian. This recipe has its roots in our
Quebec ancestors, Thomas Hayot and his wife
Jeanne Boucher, who, along with their children
Genevieve and Rodolphe, emmigrated from
Mortagne au Perche (France) in 1638.
R., in his new-found expertise, was not impressed.
I finally demanded that he leave the kitchen.

If you know R., you'll know that this is very
out of character for him. He's genial, easy-going
and generous of spirit. We had more than one
culinary run-in that fall, where I finally told him
that for 19 years he'd loved everything that had
come out of this kitchen. Moreover, I hadn't yet
poisoned him, forced him to eat watery gruel,
or made him suffer the penury of anything
from a store-bought-mix or squeezed out of
a tube.

Happily, as he progressed in his studies, his
criticism of All Things Mom eased, to the point
where I find nothing more pleasurable than an
afternoon spent in the kitchen with him.
Yes, we do engage in some good-natured
verbal sparring now and again over this spice
or that cut of meat, but it's with respect and
curiosity now, and the desire to learn.

My greatest pleasure, though, is when he asks
for cooking advice! From me!

Here's his Christmas gift to me (and himself)....
He endured way more than his share of adversity
while on the road to this piece of paper --
heart attack, victim of a violent crime, legal fall-out
from his father's death, plus other serious health issues.
But he persisted, Classical French Cooking Techniques
and all:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Three

And then it was candied orange peel and chocolate
almond macaroons and key lime pie and vanilla-bean
marshmallows and toffee dripped & drizzled with
bittersweet. And just on the first day!

Sugar-dipped ginger cookies and Russian tea cakes
and red-and-white candy-cane cookies and just
possibly divinity, if the air dries a bit. Not fudge:
I can't stomach its cloying sugary excess.

There is an ancient cookie press in the trunk
of my car which I may employ in the spritz department.
Love the interchangeable patterns, the spiraling
handle, the aluminum housing. There is even
a wooden rack with a slot for each pattern-plate.
The box is long-disintegrated so I store it in Zip-Loc,
alas. (I don't actually store the press in my car trunk.
It was at the other house, and I picked it up today.)

This could go on for weeks, months even. But it won't.
January carries its own particular abstinence, and
waits just beyond the kitchen door.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet, Part Two

Watching the checker fill my bag at Trader Joe's,
I thought, how can one be anything but happy
with this bagful of oranges, limes, walnuts, pecans,
almonds & chocolate? Little sack'o'bliss.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sweet

All I want to do is bake.
Great heaping mounds of cookies
and pies and tiny cakes iced and double-iced
with warm ganache. Loaves that thunk
when tapped, impossibly tiny tartes with berries
and apples and plums and peaches (not all in
the same tarte). Generous sheet-pans
of almond-studded toffee, heavenly divinity,
pumpkin bread and date bread with walnuts
and lemon cakes and marshmallows speckled
with vanilla bean specks and candied orange rinds.
Bake bake bake.

But who will buy?

I need a bakery, a patisserie, again.

It's time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Amazon.con

I spent an hour on the phone with a customer service
rep. at Amazon yesterday. On the phone. I'd received
their email notification stating that if you ordered by
December 17th, you were guaranteed Christmas delivery
with the spend-$25-and-get-free-shipping-option.
Well. Hrrmmmph. Not exactly, apparently.
It's only on certain items, but the rep. had no idea
just what those items were. And how many items
does Amazon sell? Hundreds? Thousands?
Hundred of thousands? And there I was, thinking
that by placing my order on the 16th, I was in like Flynn.

I am quite successful with the squeak/wheel/grease
routine, but an hour on the phone to an internet company!
Cheezitz Crisp. That's ridiculous.
My hands were going numb from holding my little Nokia.
(Yeah, I could've probably gone to speaker-phone, but
that would require knowing how to do that.)

Ended up with almost everything shipping immediately,
with the promise to credit me the $50 shipping charges.
($50 to ship it less than 20 miles to my house is NOT free.)
We'll see if that actually happens. So much for feeling
smug doing all my shopping from the comfort
of the couch.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The memory is feeble....

....but the internet is robust! Today I was
looking online for a gift-book for P.,
and did a search for reviews of a particular title,
and whose name should come up but Citizen K. himself.
Oh! I'd forgotten that one of his blog sidebars
is a list of books read in 2009, and this title
was on it.

And now I learn, after informing him of this
moment of serendipity, that I had given him
this book for his birthday last April....
O god help me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Cheerful Gloom

The rain is back after a sub-freezing spell
and when I heard it pelting the skylights
last night it felt as if an old friend had returned.
And this early darkness makes me giddy
with glee. I can't walk around saying this
because most of the people I love feel otherwise,
but this is my blog and I'm sayin' it.
The more ominous the clouds the merrier,
I say. Light the candles, turn up the music,
pop open the wine. Get lost in your favorite book.
It's winter. Enjoy it. It's not going away.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scrambled

I've been given the gift of a day off tomorrow
and for that I am grateful. (Thank-you, Miss M.!)
Today at work I read and reread an order wrong,
substituting the words delicate leaf and rose hips
for branch; and oval for fishbowl. A brain disconnect,
sizzled wires, synapses akimbo & askew.
After some futzing, I realized that the items subject to
my misunderstanding had already been completed
and were ready to pack. Oh! Altogether too easy.
Or: altogether too easy to misunderstand. Or not.
Something! The day off is timely.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Red

P. has been in a dilemma about what to get me
for Christmas, as Plans 1, 2, and 3 have fallen through.
I'm not sure what that means, but I made him an internet
list today with links for a red bowl, a red baking dish,
a red tablecloth and a blue tablecloth. I have few needs.
I love red bowls. I had one a long time ago, but R., at
at a young age, climbed the shelving unit on which
it perched and pulled the entire thing down
upon himself. No injury, but lots of broken things --
the red bowl, a ceramic platter painted with blue violets.
After that, we bolted the thing to the wall.
No more broken anything.

In my sea-going trunk which I bought at a garage sale
in South Park for $10, there are piles and piles
of vintage linens, from my old life. None are precious,
all have suffered the indelible red-wine splash,
or candlewax. It's time for something different.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's 56 degrees in the house this morning,
and 19 degrees outside. It's interesting to think
that, if this were January, and it was a sunny
56-degree afternoon, we'd all be outside
contemplating short sleeves and remarking
on the near-balminess of the day.

But hunkered down over my computer, up to my neck
in soft blue fleece, and cinnamon-spiced coffee at hand,
the only place I'd even consider exposing that much
skin is in a deep hot bath.

Our annual holiday sale at work is tomorrow
and will be repeated next Sunday. We've had the
good fortune to be swamped with orders since
September, with absolutely no let-up. And we're
getting down to the wire here with last-minute
requests begging to be filled. We spent the last
two days converting Melinda's factory-house
into a boutique-house. We've been wading through
an ocean of packing peanuts and shipping boxes
and suddenly there are vast open stretches of floor.
(Okay, "vast" is a bit of an exaggeration, considering
that our "production facility" is only about 600
square feet, but still. The contrast is startling.)

I really want to be present tomorrow when the customers
crowd-in and ooh-and-ahhh over all our meticulous
work, but the thought of driving yet another day
into the city on my only day off is less than appealing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tree, Redux


I wrote about Chubby & Tubby Christmas trees before (here), and I'll probably write about them
next year too, but I do miss them. Untrimmed, unfashionable, sparse and often flattened from
having been trucked-in, they filled the parking lot of the variety store every December. For what seemed like centuries they cost $5; then the price leaped up to a whopping $7.

They dripped with sap and were mossy and lichen clung to the branches. They had cones. They were real trees. (Yes, I know, cut off in their prime but Oh Well.) Awkward, often. Adolescent Douglas firs, with skinny little trunks not unlike the legs of many thirteen-year-old boys. They'd never done the weight-lifting of the tree-farm trees. Never taken commercially-manufactured vitamins. Never been to the salon for a shaping.

And a Chubby & Tubby tree presented unique challenges when decorating: the branches slumped with the slightest weight, so many decorations were hung close to the trunk. The trunk itself was often too narrow to properly tighten into the stand. (I recall shimming it with wooden blocks.) Some branches stretched ridiculously wide, others barely existed. But if you had the space, you could buy the tallest tree on the lot and still pay only $7. Joy!

Gone now, farewell, au revoir. The Chubby & Tubby building on Rainier Avenue, vacant since 2003, is for sale. A beauty school camped out there for a while, then a school-supply facility for disadvantaged children. They too have moved on.

Driving past on my way to work, I attempt to summon the ghosts of Flattened-Christmas-Trees-Past, but, alas. It's dark, and it's vacant.

Only in memory.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Female Energy

If someone could figure out how to harness
the power generated by a menopausal woman's
hot flashes, we could power the planet.
Think of it, girls! No more HRT, no more
dread of the suddenly-a-sauna effect!
We could actually look forward to this
time of life, and its income-generating
possibilities!

Scenario: you are waiting for a flight
at the airport, and a fellow passenger loses
battery power on his laptop. You just plug
the computer in to your convenient yet-to-be-
invented device, take his credit card, (charging
by the minute, in this case), and voila! Power!
In so many ways!

And environmentally sound. I'll get to work
on this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From The Dishwasher's Tears, one of my very favorite blogs:


I have broken out the good martini glasses and my smoking jacket.


Strike up the band, and rearrange those deck chairs!


You must suffer it all. There are no exemptions.


All that's left is to do it in style.

Monday, December 7, 2009

We watched A Christmas Tale for the second time
this past weekend; this is what Citizen K.
had to say about it:

Superb film about a troubled French family gathering for what may be their final Christmas together. Sublimely acted and directed, this honest, penetrating study of complex family dynamics never veers off course on its way to the shattering final scene between the mother and the estranged son. Not to be missed. In French, with subtitles....

I love this film, as does Paul. We agreed
that we absolutely must watch it every year.
Highly recommended!

Brr

18 degrees.
There appear to be handsful
of tiny white flowers -- rosettes --
scattered across the roof of my black car.
Buds and blossoms: an icy bouquet.

Shortly I'll drive west where the weather
is warmer: it's 24 degrees in Seattle!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

And all flesh shall see it together.


A page of George Frederic Handel’s
autograph draft score of Messiah, 1741.
The Granger Collection, New York

In my high-school years as an alto (or second soprano, or tenor, as needed), our a cappella choir (or ockapella, as we liked to say) began learning/practicing Handel's Messiah in early November. We were an earnest group, with an instructor -- Mr. McManus -- who inspired us to hit every note with accuracy and passion. This was our most ambitious project each year -- pity the poor parents with no interest in classical vocal music and multiple vociferous children! (My mother included: I think her love for classical music made an exit sometime around 1975, and there was more to come.) But the group of perhaps sixty of us loved every trilled minute of it. We could be serious and dramatic and show off our honed expertise with long runs of notes and vibrato and barely a chance for a breath. (Not unlike that sentence.) All of us hailed from working-class families (Boeing) and most of us had our religious origins in some form of Christianity. It was the 1970's -- religious music was commonplace in the public schools. We felt important when we sang Messiah. We were important, and we sang like salvation was at hand. Our voices overflowed that school cafeteria as if it were the most prestigious European concert hall, drowning out the monotone of vending machines which lined an entire wall. No ho-hum Carols for us!

As long as Mr. McManus was the vocal instructor, all alumni were invited to return for the Christmas concert, and join the group on the risers. Two of my sisters and I did this several years in a row -- fun! And then somewhere along the line we stopped going, and I don't remember why. Maybe we felt that we had outgrown it. I know I had long outgrown my suburban hometown of Renton. But I miss that December ritual, along with my singing voice, which cut out when my boys were still quite little. (Gone, gone for good.)

Handel would turn over (and over and over) in his grave if he could hear The Hallelujah Chorus muzak-ized all over the planet. (But who knows -- maybe he'd enjoy it.) It's even available as a cell-phone ring tone. Seems to me that, as a society, all we like sheep have gone astray.

Still, it makes for some great listening on a cold Sunday afternoon, cranked up pretty damn loud on the stereo.

God help us.
And: hallelujah.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday, finally.

Today is my first day off after eight days
of working with a f---ed-up back. It hurts
to bend. Don't even mention twisting.
Thankfully the knees & legs are springy.
And now I can get up off of a chair/sofa.
These are good things.
I must remember to be thankful for even
these infinitesmally-wee improvements.
Wee-er than wee. Wheee. No.
Wii. Again, no.

There was a menu in my dream last night which was about 700 pages long and the waitress was getting pissy because I couldn't decide what to order. There were pages from my mother's 1950's era Betty Crocker cookbook, beat-up and falling-out. Entire chapters of alcohol and desserts. And it kept growing. When I decided I'd settle for a plain old sandwich, I couldn't find those pages, and then wool skirts and blazers suddenly began to fall out of the menu, all in dull-brown tweed. The hostess walked up to the front of the restaurant and shouted The sun is shining! Everyone applauded.

Not a particularly thrilling night in dreamland.
I woke up hungry.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sorry folks. No inspiration these days.

A full moon tonight, lambent above the Bellevue
skyline. It made the congested drive home
tolerable.

It's December. All I want to do is sleep.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My son has suggested that we make a Christmas
dinner with a "Twelve Days of Christmas" theme.
Yes! Although, after reviewing the lyrics,
this may be a fowl-heavy meal:

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

There may be a bit of interpretation involved.
Fun!
Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Umbria, Part 3

At The Molino:

This is rather like indoor camping. A dribble of hot water, a constant draft, a fire. Cooking on gas, tiny refrigerator, no cupboards. Bed very cot-like. The sound of the stream outside, the waterfall. This morning a fisherman stood hip-boot-high middle of the torrenti with a retractable pole, casting. Fishing season opened today (or yesterday) and apparently there is some life in this stream. The mailman drives by and honks; I don’t know why. It’s pretty quiet here, the end of the road about a mile and a half uphill, maybe a half dozen farms up the road. Peered in through the laundry room at the ancient millworks, the date “1767” carved into a stone.


At the antiques market, Arezzo: things, pieces of things,

pieces of pieces of things:

armoires, WWII army helmets, 19th century botanical prints,

a bar of hotel soap with the Porsche logo, dentist tools,

prosthetic glass eyes, iron candlesticks, rakes & brooms,

rope by the meter, tablecloths, doilies, embroidered napkins,

seventies-handbags, boots & shoes, hand-carved chairs,

dining tables, books, wooden pieces of old buildings

(window frames, mouldings, door panels, lintels),

ceramic jugs, tea cups, sets of silverware in ornate cases,

a stethoscope, mosaic tiles, oil portraits of anonymous

dowagers, mirrors, hand-knitted hats & gloves,

sets of china, rhinestone broaches – all existing

in a chilled fog, the threat of rain, street after cobbled street.

Endangered Blogging

There has been talk out there in the material world
as well as the blogosphere about the coming extinction
of blogging. Apparently, it's sooooo last year, last decade,
I don't know. Passe, I suppose. But the alternatives are
what -- facebook? Twitter? 140 characters? Not a chance.
I do enjoy facebook -- I see it kind of like flitting
in-and-out at a party, dropping a few lines (of conversation!)
here and there; and twitter, well, call me old but I just
cannot and will not go there. But a blog is a lot like having
your own daily newspaper column, with regular readers.
Room to spread out, really express yourself, get creative.
It's a way to create a global community, and I am completely
enamored of it. I'm here for the long run. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Etymological Ouch

As a rule I tend not to mention ailing body parts
either in public or on my blog, because it's boring
and no one wants to hear about your herniated/
abscessed/sutured/festering-disc/earlobe/ follicle/
toenail/artery/larynx/eyelid/hamstring.
(Except for teeth: I make this one exception.)
But I intend to violate this commandment Right Now
only because I object to the idiom used to describe
this particular condition.

So: "I've thrown my back out," which implies
an act of intent on my part, as if I've plucked out
the converse side of my torso and tossed it into
the garbage bin. (Or would that be more correctly
tossed into the food waste bin? That's a difficult one.
Don't know if anyone would want to spread composted
human back on their lettuce beds. [Eww.])

We discussed this at the Thanksgiving table, and came
to a conclusion that the phrase most likely originates in
baseball lingo, ie., the pitcher threw his shoulder out.
Voluntarily? Not necessarily, but as there is a significant
paycheck involved in the Act of Throwing Out, one
could argue that because of the monetary incentive,
a pitcher is willing to risk the throwing-out, is aware
of its possibility, therefore some degree of intent
is involved.

I must vehemently assert that there was not an iota
of intent on my part, and absolutely zero financial
incentive. Therefore, I did not throw my back out.
It was the sole decision of my back to contort itself
into this twisted version of hell which it has deemed
to visit upon me. But I would like nothing more
at this moment to wrench it from its skin sheath
and toss it -- bones & all -- into a fire of my own making.

And here's the theme song!
(Substitute the word hurting for watching.)
Cheers! Vicodin!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feast



I heard the eagle's piercing cry this morning as I lay in bed,
contemplating plating & pickles (my homemade 911 dills
debut today). I listened to the insistent rain,
and the steady stream from overflowing gutters.
And a cat nicknamed "Marble" purring up her own
gentle storm directly into my face, which translates to
FEED ME FEED ME FEED ME NOW.

This is my favorite feast of the year, the only requirement
that we acknowledge the abundance of the moment.
Food is such an ephemeral pleasure; but, then again,
which pleasure is not ephemeral? It all passes.
I'm reminded of a dinner of, oh, perhaps ten years ago,
to celebrate the simultaneous birthdays
of my mother-in-law and another friend.
High in the Belltown condo of Seattle arts VIP
Peter Donnelly, with breath-taking views
of the December lights of Elliott Bay, we tippled, indulged
and made a heck of a lot of merry. I recall a humble
yet sumptuous chicken pot pie, which, as the years
have passed, has in my memory taken on the proportions
of Dickens' prized turkey --
"What, the one as big as me?" returned the boy.

Only eight of us remain from that grand evening.
But suspended in the joy of that moment, I had the sense
of the eternal and the ephemeral existing simultaneously,
the yin and yang of each second we experience.

This is what I wish to serve up
at the Thanksgiving table today.
Whatever your celebration, your feast, your observance --
acknowledge the ephemeral, honor the present,
and have yourself some damn good pie.
Because, as you well know, it's over all too soon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Name! That! Child!

My friend Cz. works in a children's hospital, where she
has encountered numerous, er, shall I say, interesting
children's names. And because we share this fascination
of uncommon monikers she sent me this list:

Knowledge.
Fitsum.
Queen.
True.
9. (And no way is that Nine. It is 9. Be very clear on that,
and be mad mad mad parents if the naming program
does not provide a numeric option.)
Justice.
Bethsy.
Lezania.
Omahoney.
Agate.
Azure.

She pointed out that Omahoney was not pronounced
Oh! muh Hoe Knee (or O'Mahoney, which was my edit)
but Oh! muh honey! With the last name of Doll.
Go ahead -- say it! Omahoney Doll! Yes!

Omygod! Or, rather, O'M'God! Or perhaps just OMG.

Honestly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Umbria, Continued

In a jet-lag haze……stopped in a hill town – Stimigliano -- and lunched on fresh pecorino (two weeks old) and ripe tomatoes, schiacciata ( a flattishbread) and proscuitto and apples. We were perched on some steps in a square, in front of a WWII memorial. An elderly woman came out her door carrying freshly ironed linens, saw that Robin was drinking some red wine, and started chattering to us in Italian. She retreated into her home, then came to the door with a label-less litre bottle of pale yellow substance. R. stood and attempted to converse in her limited Italian. The elderly woman again disappeared, then returned with a 750ml bottle filled with the same liquid substance. She walked down the steps to us, entreating us to partake. So we did. The bottle appeared tohave been well-used, and not often washed. There was a film of black mold justunder the lip, and a residue inside at the bottom. A middle-aged woman across the square, standing in front of the produce-vendor’s shop, burst into laughter upon viewing us. (Quite nearly derisory.) (Sean suggested that perhaps she was serving us her day’s supply of fresh urine….) Robin produced a trio of plastic cups,and the three of us – Sean, R. and myself – sampled the “vino.” It resembled home-brewed apple cider, but the woman kept insisting that it was made from grapes, not apples. (This with Robin translating.) Faintly effervescent, appley, unfiltered. Not exactly delicious. In her limited Italian, Robin asked the woman her age (82) and name – Guiseppa. We returned the undrunk portion to her, having no cork with which to stop the bottle, and, to tell the truth, not exactly thrilled with

the prospect of finishing our “gift.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blue Heart


County Donegal, Ireland

Good Stuff

I just watched this over at Sandra's blog,
and absolutely had to post it. It's silly
and joyful and made me Laugh Out Loud:

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Umbria

In February of 2007, I spent two weeks with my friends
Robin & Sean and their two children in the hills of Umbria.
They were renting, for several months, a converted
mill-house. (Used for pressing olives.) I ran across
these journal entries and decided to post a few of them
until the muse (and the finger muscles) return.
Here's the first installment:

Pi and I hiked up the road this afternoon, daring the sun

to make an appearance. Few humans. Probably more dogs:

hunting dogs penned and barking, a chained Great Dane rattling

across his yard to us, teeth bared. A barnyard of ewes

and lambs, bumping into and stepping on top of each other.

Bleating, bleating. A coterie of doves. Rabbits in cages,

each with an inverted Fanta bottle tapped as water supply.

A friendly horse, a galloping donkey. A lonely apiary

on a hilltop, each painted a green the color of early lettuce,

each topped with an irregular lunk of concrete.

Waded through mud, watched some men on a far hillside

tend a burnpile of brush, the crackle & spit easily within

hearing distance. Wandered offroad and traced the edge

of the hillside above the Molino, looking for a switch-back

down, but relented when every trail seemed to veer

precipitously close to a certain death. Down, down the valley,

the stream tumbling below, past the menacing dogs,

past the donkey and the horse, past the two men in red

chainsawing young trees – a scarcity of firewood.

Down to the Molino, where a thin trail of smoke

promised a warm hearth, a cup of tea,

the comfort of Randy-the-cat on the lap.


The Molino.
Crazy busy week, lots of hours at my job
which results in very sore hands, so spending time
at my computer is not my activity of choice
at the end of the day! In spite of the digital distress,
blog entries swirl about my cranium all day long:
I'm storing them up for a, well, rainy stay-at-home day.

P.'s broken wing seems to be healing well -- no more pain,
although I did witness him scratching his cast/splint today.

I saw an original Theodore Geisel in a docs office today --
many many cats in hats! And I must say it's awfully nice
of me to enable him to purchase art.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bones, Redux

When I was five, my sister Lorraine slammed
my right hand in the bathroom door, causing
most of my little finger to sever, save for
a thin slip of skin. I was wearing a green dress
which tied in back, and it was untied.
I remember a single shoe, but that might
be invented after many repeated recalls
of the incident. And then there was the
examining table at Renton Hospital, my mother
and father beside me. That's the extent
of the memory. The little finger on my right
hand sticks slightly out, and the joint tends
to get stuck when bending, but it's good
to still have an entire finger.

Karsten, a 23-year-old glass artist who
puts in a few days a week slogging glass
at the same place of employment as me,
said today that he suffered a fractured skull
at the tender age of eight days: he fell off
a clothes dryer. His mother was so completely
traumatized by this event that she lost all
her pregnancy-weight in a matter of days.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Praise of the Ordinary

I woke up this morning thinking about dishwashing.
The old-fashioned kind, by hand, in a sink.
So I'm going to confess that I've always rather liked
this chore (ahem, in moderation). The hot water
feels good, and if there is a window framing a garden,
I find it meditative. There's a reassuring routine to it
(and I can hear my mother's instructions here):
put the silverware in first, to soak, then begin
with the glassware, proceed to plates & small bowls,
then larger bowls, and then pots & pans. Sharp knives
are never set to soak -- too much risk of picking one up
unknowingly in soapy sudsy water. Finally, the
silverware, now easy after having soaked.

Believe it or not, back in my Two Tartes days, I had to
instruct new employees on the Art of Washing Dishes.
And I mean, from before step one:
-3) Clean out sink.
-2) Run hot water, add soap.
-1) Scrape chunks off dishes.
I was under the impression that, raised in the presence
of automatic dishwashing appliances, these kids had never
seen a pile of dirty dishes and a sinkful of suds. They would
approach the task with the speed of a sloth, and most
everything came out greasy or still chunk-studded.
So it was back to square, er, sink one.

When I became frustrated with their lack of progress
and the dirty dishes began to teeter and the clean
dishes were no more, I'd gently push the trainee
to the side and go into Power Wash. Generally,
everyone got out of my way when this happened.
Jaws dropped. I went into a reverie, the endorphins
began to flow in abundance, and in a matter of minutes
we were back in business.

It was a weird kind of high for me. (I've rarely had
any use for recreational drugs -- just set me in front
of a sink of dirty dishes, set the timer -- and wheeeee!)

(When my sons accuse me of weirdness, I thank them.)

In my childhood years of enforced house-chores, there
was always a pair of us sisters at the sink in the
post-dinner hour. And there was generally song, from us:
spirituals, anthems, all the songs from The Sound of Music
or Oliver or Camelot. When younger sister Kath and I
hit high school and were both in choir, and it was often
the precise notes of Handel that would rise along
with Joy or Ivory Liquid bubbles:



Or Vivaldi:


Alas, our voices were not quite as sweet
as those here, but I think that one of my mother's
greatest joys was sitting in the living room
with the evening Times, the lilt of her daughters'
voices filling our little red house.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Button Up

There's an intimacy in buttoning someone's
shirt buttons -- the proximity to the heart,
how you must ever-so-slightly lean in, nearly
brushing the face of the buttonee --

If it's a child you must stoop, allow yourself
to view the world from the perspective of a three-year-old.
A different place!

Today I buttoned Paul's shirt for him, and was struck
by how the act brought forth in me a tenderness
that is not necessarily accessed on a daily basis.
I think that the last time I buttoned buttons other
than my own was when Nelson was two-ish:
he learned to do his own early, as he did most
everything. He's 21 now, so it's been a few years.

And I thought how this is rarely an act done
in any state other than generosity. It's difficult
to imagine buttoning someone up while angry.
The recipient of this gesture is nearly always
a vulnerable entity, unable -- for whatever reason --
to perform the task oneself.

Of course, neither Paul nor myself anticipated
his broken bone, and we most certainly were not
prepared for the reality of surgery which occurs
tomorrow: adjust the schedule, because it's
going to happen.

But then, that's what life tosses us randomly:
injury, joy, boredom, even death.
This is it: take it. Find something in it.

For me, today, it was a visit back to the ordinary
gestures of mothers with young children.
Or not ordinary, for even in the simplicity
of pulling a button through a bound hole,
this gift of unexpected intimacy with my husband,
I found my own glad heart.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Theme Wednesday: ossa

Rain + darkness + curb = broken radius for P.

Radius: a straight line extending from the center
of a circle
or sphere to the circumference or surface.

Wait. That's not right.
He did not break his straight line
extending from the center of his circumference.

Nor did he break or in any way injure
the throw of an eccentric wheel or cam.


He did however, fracture a long, prismatic,
slightly
curved bone, the shorter and thicker
of the two
forearm bones, located laterally to the ulna.

And Friday, he succumbs to the the knife. Yikes.

And while we're on the subject of skeletal parts,
I made myself (in a rush, this morning) a chicken
sandwich from a bag of meat that I'd stripped from
a roasted chicken last week. The meat was frozen,
and I wasn't paying much attention to the task.
At lunchtime, when I bit into the sandwich,
my teeth were met with a particularly hard piece
of chicken. My first thought was:
why is this piece still frozen and the others are thawed?
But, alas, no. Upon further investigation,
I discovered this wedged in between the bread slices:

Oops! I felt like the carnivore that I am. Primal,
unwittingly gnawing on fowl cartilage.
I had made myself a Bone Sandwich.
Empathy for my husband, perhaps?
Or was it the dithery brain of a middle-aged woman
that's responsible for this absurdity?
I won't say. The bone, appropriately,
went into the food waste bin.

When I checked my e'mail upon returning home,
I discovered that M. had scavenged the bone
from the waste bin, photographed it, and sent it to me.
Lord, lord.

Enough with the meat.
(Although that's what we are, when you get
right down to it -- meat -- dripping and raw.)

I offered P. this chicken bone as a replacement
for his compromised radius, but he declined.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pigment of Imagination

Painting at work today, mixing colors in the red tones:
pink, purple, garnet. Each just a short step from the other,
sister-colors, linked by a common heart. The reds always
make my heart glad, especially this time of year, this
bundling-in time, this season of hibernation & burrowing:
perylene maroon, iridescent garnet, quinacridone magenta.

And then I switched to blues/greens, and I could feel these
in another part of the body, up around the neck,
the back of the scalp. A tickle and a tease: Indianthrope blue,
duochrome lapis sunrise, duochrome blue-silver.

And iridescent antique copper over a mix of purples.
A depth of tones, one over another, a foreshadowing
of what we perhaps would rather not anticipate.

I have come to this love of colors-by-the-tube
late in life, compared to others who get out the brushes
early and get on with the business of painting. I have no
desire or illusions of becoming a painter. Heavens no!
One useless/idealistic art (poetry) is one too many, often.
And then again, there are uses for poetry, as there are
uses for painting. (If you know what they are, please
leave a comment.)

It's safe to say that the writing of poetry is as essential
to me as the act of breathing. It's my daily bread,
a communion between the soul and the word,
organic, intrinsic to the self, an idiomatic prayer.

And now, this sacrament with liquid color.
Lucky I am. Grateful.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Feast

R. cooked The Most Fantastic Dinner for my BD
last night. Oh. My. God. Someone hire this guy!

____
Poached Chestnut Mousse & Fennel Canapes
***
Cold Celeriac & Walnut Soup
***
Red Cabbage, Pear & Pomegranate Slaw
with Pomegranate-Balsamic Vinaigrette
***
Cassoulet with Duck & Forest Mushrooms
***
Roasted Parsnips & Broccoli with Sherry Vinegar
& Lemon Pepper
***
White Cheese Poundcake with Mascarpone, Ganache
and Toasted Almonds
***
Candied Roasted Chestnuts
____

I received these words from Robin this morning:

That was the best dinner ever. Woodsy. Fungal. Nutty.
Rootsy. Delish. Lovingly prepared by a loveable boy.
There's no place I"d have rather been. Wonderful company.
____

Over the top.
I am one lucky mom.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not Old Yet

Heading out into the the 8:30am darkness,
in this storm which seems to not want to end,
for breakfast with Nelson, at The Market.
The best kind of day for downtown Seattle!
We'll get a table somewhere with a view of
Salish Sound (aka Puget Sound) and revel
in the Seattleness of it all. God I love this weather!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prince James


(The young prince, before the onslaught,
on my mother's lap.)

I didn't have a blog entry in mind today
until I received a phone call from my brother.
He's the oldest of us seven (and the only sibling
of the male persuasion), and twelve years
more senior than I am. (Or, I should just say that
he's a senior, because I most certainly am not.)

I went to war with him when I reached adolescence,
and it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I discovered
that he was really a nice guy. Imagine that!

The purpose of the call was to wish me a Happy BD,
a few days early. Get out the record books! Stop the
clocks! Retirement must be good for him. I don't
generally expect to hear from him this time of year,
but when his BD arrives a mere six days after mine,
I always sign my BD card to him:
from your sister who just had a birthday.....
This was indeed a momentous occasion.

I've often suspected that he views his six sisters
as a single organism; a cackling, shrill lump
of female cacophonous flesh. I took a good-natured
risk this morning and broached this subject,
and he vigorously agreed, without pause.
Ha! I must give him credit for being able to differentiate
enough between us to realize that we were indeed
born on different dates, in different years.

All in good fun, of course. I love getting him to laugh,
and this morning his all-out, deep-throated galumph-
of-a-laugh nearly caused my phone to vibrate.
Whoa there Nelly!

He's gleefully retired on an apple orchard
in Yakima, and this morning the conversation
centered on apple varieties: yellow banana, gala,
golden supreme. He told me about taking a walk
last December through the trees and discovering
one still laden with red delicious apples that had
somehow been missed in the harvest. They were
massive and ridiculously sweet after having endured
several frosts. I love that image -- the surprise
of all that color in the winter landscape, the gravid
fruit hanging low to the ground, sugars simmering
just beneath the surface of the peel.



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Listened to Glen Gould playing Bach today
at work. November music. I rarely listen
to classical anything when it's sunny
and cheerful. Heat = Jazz, in my book.
On my measure. In my time signature.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Accidental Kale

Mistaken for rainbow chard

in a Sunday rush at the market --

sauteed in garlic and sweet onion,

it springs up crinolined

from my spoon as bacon, diced,

approaches a crisp autumnal brown.

Is this how it works?

We plunge along heartless,

our fists crammed

with lettuce, watery tomatoes.

End up gasping

at a table steamed full

of unintended desire.

Like love, we take one bite,

another, stunned by surprise

filling the hollow long within us:

such goodness in error, delight

in what might not have been.


T. Clear © 2005

(originally appeared in Seattle Woman)


Dinosaur Kale with Diamonds


I failed Catholicism.

(My new header is a photo of original artwork
designed by Mary Melinda Wellsandt, painted
and photo-edited by Yours Truly.)

---

All Saints' Day. This used to be, for me, a Holy Day
of Obligation, back when I was a Catholic.
I found this delicious tidbit whilst cruising
the online Catholic Encyclopedia:

Solemnity celebrated on the first of November.
It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and
unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply
any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of
saints' feasts during the year.

Kind of a make-up saints' day. If you failed, say,
in your observance of a Holy Day of Obligation
sometime, in, say, June, here's your chance
to retake the -- what? -- mass? Heaven --
yes heaven -- forbid that one would be a failure
at Catholicism.

And one more thing: if Pope Urban I, II, III or IV
had an office assistant, or a vice-pope, or any other
underling, would that person be called SubUrban?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hobo

Back in the olden days of the last century,
when we were penniless and subsisted
on one turnip each for dinner and walked
ten miles blind and barefoot and uphill
through the snow to school each day,
and uphill back home again, and forks
had not yet been invented and we daily
suffered through hour after hour without
You Tube and facebook --

STOP!

I was just kidding.

Seriously though, did anyone else put vaseline
on his/her face and then stick coffee grounds
on the vaseline to mimic a beard in order to complete
his/her hobo costume for Halloween? I don't know
whose brilliant idea this was, but I do remember
a big greasy mess and the coffee grounds dropping off
onto the shoulders of our coats (of course we had to
wear coats OVER our costumes: The Injustice of It!)
along the dark and often rainy trick-or-treat route.

Hobo! I can't imagine anyone these days dressing up
as a homeless person. Or even using the word "hobo" --

1889, Western Amer.Eng., of unknown origin, perhaps related to early 19c. Eng. dial. "lout, clumsy fellow, country bumpkin." Or from hawbuckho, boy, a workers' call on late 19c. western U.S. railroads. Hence facetious formation hobohemia "community or life of hobos," 1923 (see bohemian ). Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper

When I googled the word "hawbuckho", nothing came up,
in spite of the dictionary reference above.

I love the internet.
I love where it takes me.

I think tonight I'll dress up as a hobohemian,
minus the coffee grounds.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Deluge

I love October rain.

I love its wet-leaf smell
and the insistence of it,
how unforgiving it is, how
it just doesn't give a fuck.

I love that it turns every slight slope
into a path for a stream, a waterfall.
Love when it overfills hollows.

I love its symphony, its percussion.
How it helps me to sleep, and wakes me up.

I'm here.
I'm here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rules One and Two

It's been two years since I first posted this,
and I think it might become an annual event.
While I am grateful for this blessing of good
health, there are many in my life at the moment
who are experiencing otherwise. I find myself
going back to this quote by Brendan Gill, which
appeared in The New Yorker upon his death.
I'd torn it out and posted it on my bulletin
board, where, over the course of ten years,
become yellowed and splashed with the remnants
of cooking (it was in my kitchen). When I remarried
and moved, it ended up in a box somewhere, but
thanks to the internet, it's easily accessed:

Rules One and Two

"Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the argument that life is serious, though it is often hard and even terrible. Since everything ends badly for us, in the inescapable catastrophe of death, it seems obvious that the first rule of life is to have a good time, and that the second rule of life is to hurt as few people as possible in the course of doing so. There is no third rule."
--Brendan Gill

Mr. Gill, a lion of New York's civic, social and literary life for nearly half a century, died on Dec. 27 [1997] at the age of 83. Some 1,500 people crowded into Town Hall to celebrate him with recollections of his zestful life as a civic gadfly and tireless campaigner for historic preservation; as a distinguished critic of books, plays, films and architecture, as a prolific presence at The New Yorker under all four of its editors, and as the versatile author of 15 books, including biographies of Cole Porter, Tallulah Bankhead and Charles Lindbergh, and a best-selling memoir, ''Here at The New Yorker.'

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alaskan Way Collapse

This is undoubtedly a political move, in light
of the election in just a few days, but it's
terrifying nonetheless:

We're ramping up the production at work
to get us through this holiday season. We were
booked solid when I got back from Ireland
and we've received additional new orders
every single week since. Yikes. But no complaints!

---

P. and I are watching Project Runway Season One.
It's so much more fun than the current streamlined
& refined production! There's a lot more cattiness,
and Heidi Klum hasn't assumed the dominatrix role
(which gets tiring). And none of the contestants know
what to expect yet, so there's an element of surprise
that, by the sixth season, just isn't there.

Great stuff.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Paint, and Torrents


Not a big fan of painting walls; in fact, in the Brandon
Street house there's a wall in the living room which was
primed seven years ago and it's still not painted. There
was some mix-up in communication with the painters,
and this wall was left primed but without a color coat.
In fact, I've been known to loathe the act of painting --
walls that is. But I've learned in my job the joys of painting
in the artistic sense, so I approached Saturday's task
with new eyes, and found that it needn't be such an onerous
burden. (Really helped to have a cheerful husband who
participated willingly.)

And: ta-da!

(And...I actually used math skills learned in grade school
to position the artwork.)

---

It's raining like the end of the world, lights are flashing,
and there was just a big boom, and I'm guessing something
electrical blew out close by. It's not quite time to get out
the lifeboats, but I'm keeping a close eye on the accumulation
of water. (Wink, wink.)