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.

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.

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


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


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.


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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


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
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


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


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


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


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


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

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!


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

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


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.
Suggestions welcome.