Wednesday, December 29, 2010


It's anniversary time for Paul and me: zip zip go the years! We had a completely over-the-top wedding feast for about sixty people at Cafe Juanita for which pacing was required; our menu can be found here. Tonight we'll enjoy a more modest meal at Luc. I'm considering trout....

December 29th, 2007:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Nog Circus

Prior to Christmas day dinner, I was sitting at the dining room table playing a board game with two of the boys, and R. was behind us in the kitchen whisking & whipping eggs & cream for his nog concoction: double boilers, nutmeg grater, eggshells, rum, vanilla, etc., when suddenly he let out a terrific yelp, dropped the stainless steel bowl of hot nog, which sent the eggy froth splashing in a lateral, circumferential sweep of the kitchen, managing to hit counters, hardwood floor, fridge, cupboards, cat dishes, windows, stovetop, rug, blender, toaster, microwave, wine glasses, champagne glasses, ferns, chairs, sink, dishwasher....did I miss anything? WHAT A MESS. He incurred a steam burn on one of his hands, nothing serious, but sharply painful, resulting in the sudden & fierce gravitational pull of the bowl. Paul and I jumped in with towels as R. ran his hand under a steady stream of cold water. Luckily, it was a rather large quantity of eggnog in the bowl, so all was not lost. It's amazing, though, how such a small amount becomes a really large amount when measured in splishes, droplets, dribbles and flat puddles.

(Note: the finished product, after all was sopped up, was sublime. The perfect accompaniment to my pecan pie, which I flavor with vanilla extract, Cognac, plus a splash of cheap Mexican vanilla.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

ho ho ho & ha ha ha

It's not Sunday but the Day After Christmas. (Or Recovery Day.) Just as Friday wasn't Friday but The Day Before Christmas. Is it this way for you too? The days leading up to Christmas lose their day-ness and instead become a lead-up to The Big Day. Tomorrow will be just a little bit Monday, Tuesday more Tuesday than not, and by Wednesday things should be back to normal, according to the Romans and their planetary naming system.

I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with four delightful men: my husband, two sons and step-son, each one of them sharp as a tack with wit that cannot be contained and a sense of humor that left me last night completely spent of laughter, exhausted by So Much Fun.

My two boys and I compete every year for the goofiest wrap job, and I was once again left in the dust by my eldest, who made use of cast-offs from his restaurant job, packaging his brother's gift (a bottle of fancy tequila) in an empty plastic gallon salad dressing container, and my gift (Home, by Emma Donoghue)in a compostable take-out box. My use of mildewed vintage dictionary pages taped-together to make large sheets of paper just didn't cut it. Even when I tied the package with upholstery thread and glued triangles of red ribbon to it. Alas. I've been outdone by silly sons, once again. One year I contemplated sewing together used fabric softener sheets to form a sort of wrapping-fabric. (Recycled!) This year I thought about gluing large clumps of dryer lint to a package. But didn't. I really must plan this in advance next year.

My morning today was spent perusing the 800+ recipes in this book, a gift from Paul:

For not being a cook, my husband sure knows how to pick out cookbooks: he hit a home run outa the park with this one. The recipes, oddly, are arranged by major ingredient rather than category, which, after two hours with my head in these pages, has me convinced is the way to go. There's savory beside sweet, but if you find yourself with a bushel of overgrown zucchini, say, you need only flip to page 467 to find Fried Zucchini Matchsticks, Every Year Zucchini Bread and Savory Zucchini Pie.

Here are some of the chapters, with a teaser recipe:
Grits (Hot Tomato Grits)
Okra (Oven Okra Etouffee)
Bacon (Kentucky Baby Hot Browns)
Gravy (Sawmill Gravy)
Coca Cola (Cherry Coke BBQ Sauce)
Watermelon (Watermelon and Purple Onion Salad)

I'm an obsessive reader of cookbooks and online recipe sites, and it is with pure pleasure to discover an entire book of new cooking adventures.

And now it's on to that recovery I mentioned earlier. Perhaps a nap.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last-Century 'Joy'

Old cookbooks are always a curiosity, and I've long envied the fact that one of my sisters inherited my mother's old Joy of Cooking, most likely an early 1960's edition. A fortuitous benefit of marrying Paul is that he owns a 1975 edition of JoC. My more modern edition (the front 116 pages are missing so I'm not certain of the publication date) has been updated and, alas, purged of what I consider to be all the really great quirky stuff. There is no recipe for marshmallows, for instance, something I made as a teenager and finally do again thanks to the seemingly infinite number of recipes online.

But what's really been scrubbed bloodless of all interest is the "Game" chapter. Where now there is Lapin a la Moutarde, there used to be Rabbit with Chili Beans, and Jugged Hare. Gone is the black-and-white illustration of a rabbit hung upside down by its feet, being skinned by a pair of gloved hands, as well as this gloved-and-booted skinning of a squirrel:

There are instructions for the skinning and cleaning of porcupine, raccoon, muskrat, woodchuck, beaver, beaver tail, and armadillo. My favorite, though, is this passage concerning the preparation of oppossum:

If possible, trap 'possum and feed it on milk and cereals for 10 days before killing. [Does this mean that I should feed my 'possum Lucky Charms for 10 days? Quisp?] Clean, but do not skin. [Well, okay.] Treat as for pig [pig? I've never cooked 'pig'] by immersing the unskinned animal in water just below the boiling point [If any blog readers know where the boiling point of an unskinned 'possum is, let me know]. Test frequently by plucking at the hair [no, thank-you]. When it slips out readily, remove the oppossum from the water and scrape.... Serve with: turnip greens.

Got that?

As for beaver tail, "Hold over open flame until rough skin blisters."

And in case you were wondering, "small game such as rabbit, squirrel and muskrat may be substituted in most recipes calling for chicken."

I still haven't made peace with game meats after several winters of my childhood faced with a freezer-full of neatly-wrapped packages of dead Bambi and his cousin The Mighty Elk. Some aversion settled in me during those years of tender teen tastebuds where I suffered through elkburgers on Thursday and a bloody haunch of venison for Sunday dinner. I know, I know, venison and any number of odd meats (goat, for one) are fashionable dinner meats among current-day foodies, but if I'm going to eat something that tastes just like chicken, it damn well better be chicken.

So what's on your holiday table? Crow? Vole?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Claire Beynon


for Daniel

He has two wishes for his sixth

birthday; a pocket of ruby grapefruit

and a citrus knife with a bend in it.

It is the Fast of Ramadhan - the twenty-eighth day in -

and the weather shows no consideration.

Flies and an irreverent heat nudge Mr Sahlie

the fruit seller and his cart horse up the street.

The children are waiting. They know he will come.

He’ll spoil them with a fistful of pomegranate, a slice

of ice green melon. Upside down they wait, dangling

limbs and rinds of chatter from the purple crown

of a jacaranda tree. They swing from a sandpit sky,

scuffed toes bare, swishing through a thick mirage

of air. Up at the gate, in the post-box shade,

beach buckets brim with the horse’s drink.

Ramadhan. And today is the boy’s sixth birthday.

He drops to the ground with a ripe fruit sound

runs pelter, pelter down the street. There’s a horse,

a cart, an old man to meet (of course he’s remembered);

he whistles and grins, heaves the grapefruit down.

Next week, they agree, when the Fast is complete,

they’ll sit on the pavement, enjoy a pink feast.

“Mr. Sahlie?” I hear my boy speak.

“Why do these smell so wet

and so deep?”

CB 1993


Claire Beynon is a New Zealand writer and artist. Her first collection of poems - Open Book - Poetry and Images - was published by Steele Roberts Ltd (NZ) in 2007. When she isn't painting, her passions include Antarctica, walking along Dunedin's harbour edge, a cappella singing, gardening and paper-boat folding. . .


Somewhere in my travels in the blogosphere this past year, I happened upon Claire Beynon's blog Icelines, struck up a delightful friendship with this amazingly talented & energetic poet/artist, and from there connections with an entirely new group of international poets emerged through the Tuesday Poem blog. The New Zealand writer Mary McCallum, our tireless moderator, suggested a pairing of the thirty-or-so poets for this week's entry where we each post a poem by the other, and while the pairing appears to have been decided alphabetically, I couldn't have been more tickled to discover that I was paired with Claire. Getting a comment from Claire on my blog is always a gift -- thoughtful, insightful, loving. How she finds the time to comment with such presence is a mystery to me; I barely seem to be able to keep up with the few blogs I follow on a regular basis. But there is no question: my life is richer for this connection, and I am in awe of the community we've built here as well as the possibilities for community.

Cheers and the best holiday wishes to all the Tuesday Poem editors, readers, fellow bloggers!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Odds &

I can barely bring myself to sit down with my computer and do a blog entry. Something has shifted, internally, or maybe it's just a by-product of the ample darkness these days in our hemisphere, our northerly city perched up here close to the edge of the continent, the northerly corner of the country. I dunno. All I can say is that I've been getting sufficient brief blips of e'mail, blogs and facebook on my newest appendage, my iPhone.

Winding down the year at work. It's been an archaeological dig all week, in the sheds, the studio and the dungeon aka the basement. I assembled a new shop vac today and went berserk (I've never actually written that word before) sucking up every last bit of broken glass and spilled packing peanuts: the rubble & scraps of a year of working to get orders completed and shipped out with nary a second to do that cleaning thing. We lugged box after box of excess glass pieces to the car for repeated trips to Goodwill, broke-down teetering stacks of boxes and bundled them for recycling, arranged & rearranged every last piece of blank stock, fresh for a new year. All is agleam. It feels good to work. I like to work -- I like the industry of it. This end-of-the-year scrubbing-down is mucky & grubby, but we'll ratchet the production back up to a noisy bustle once the holiday dust settles. Another year.

Big doings here on Sunday: P. and I are hosting a family party, to the tune of 40+ people. I'm making three soups: meatball with kale, corn chowder and minestrone. I'm going to attempt six baguettes...I need a bigger oven!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spontaenous (well, sort of) Handel

George Frederic seems to be popping up everywhere this December. In this video, Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony conductor, directs a crowd of more than 600 in the flagship Nordstrom store. Singers on all three levels of the store participated.

This video has been making the rounds of facebook:

In my school days, we sang selections from The Messiah in our Christmas concert, and once you were a member of the a cappella choir, you were granted lifetime rights to join the latest crop of junior and senior high-school singers in the annual Messiah performance. Several of my sisters and I did this for a few years -- it was a great musical reunion. I suppose this tradition lasted as long as that teacher did -- a much-beloved Mr. McManus -- dashingly handsome, irrepressibly cheerful, and the best music teacher I ever had. You couldn't pass his class without being able to sight read -- solo -- in front of the class. He was so beloved that in my four years as his student, I never saw a single student fail to thrive.

I also had a tradition of putting on my Messiah records when I was carving my Halloween pumpkins. It got a little eerie, especially when I was done with the knife and lit the candle. Where, exactly, was that music coming from?!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peacocks, Santa Bosoms & Parakeets

At the grocery store today a woman spontaneously said to me: "I love this music! And I don't even celebrate Christmas!" She was a breath of fresh air as she snatched up a bag of yellow onions and deposited them in her cart.

At the pet store, a man disguised as Santa was available for "Pet Portraits with Santa". When he stood up, his belt, which bisected his well-stuffed torso, cut him in half horizontally and he appeared to be sporting some very generous bosoms.

At the craft aka crap store, I saw a wreath made out of peacock feathers. There was one that was blue/green/black, and then one that was in shades of red. Uh, red peacocks? I think not. They literally stopped me, silenced me, they were exquisitely beautiful. But I just couldn't bring myself to buy one, dead peacocks et al.

I wandered the aisles (trying hard not to do a peacock call) amidst the chaos of artificial Christmas, in search of candle holders, but came up short. I think I'll carve some out of red apples -- I've done this before, the only trick is getting the hole the right size so the candle doesn't wobble. I'll level each apple with a neat trim across the bottom, et voila! Bingo. Candle holders. Compostable candle holders.

The only small animals at the pet store were mice, rats, Guinea pigs and ferrets, so I lingered in front of the aquariums for a long time. I've never had fish save for the odd goldfish which, for some reason, upon its certain death, got flushed down the toilet, but I was so taken with these lovely shimmery critters that I actually looked at aquarium hardware. Too much work, though, I think.

The parakeets were equally lovely, particularly an-almost completely white one with blue underpinnings. Again, too much work.

As a child I spent a lot of time in the pet department of our local W.T.Grant store, which was an easy walk from my house. It's been an age since I looked at fish and birds, and I don't know exactly what compelled me to do this today, but it was the perfect antidote to the rain, the Saturday traffic, the holiday frenzy.

(When I mentioned to Paul that I didn't buy the wreath because all I could think of was dead peacocks, he said, "well, maybe they, you know, just fell off....") Hmm. I might have to make a trek back to the crap store and get one tomorrow. And, if I get tired of it as a wreath it could easily double as a hat.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I could sit here and complain about the darkness but a part of me loves it, how it encompasses everything. And I dearly love the rain. But darkness + rain + driving = a particular kind of craziness.

Wasn't it just a blink ago that I was sitting in warm dusky light, lingering over a glass of Spanish wine? Wasn't I just leaning into the velvet faces of roses, inhaling their lemony-apple essence?

Apparently not.
Autumn is just about over, and I have yet to accept its presence.

January looms, with a silence known only to winter.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bits, Bobs

A glass of Williamette Valley Pinot Noir.


I'm working on a project which gets into the corners of my brain cells and tangles things up. This involves pages back-to-back, photo corners, text, etc. The good part is that I'm learning one helluva alot and the bad part is that there is often an urge to scream. And that it's costing me a heckuva lot more than I expected. Sigh. But it's going to be fantastic, I do believe.


A big push at work these past few weeks, getting the last of the holiday orders finished and shipped out, lickety split. The annual home show/sale was today and then again next Sunday, which involves breaking down the home-factory and building the home-showroom. Glass shelving, fancy halogen lights, all excess paint/tape/buttercut pried free of all surfaces. Reports are that today went very well. A good thing. Job security. I work with a great group of three women, all of us artists in various disciplines. I regularly slay them with puns, and sometimes they laugh. Sometimes. (Not often enough.) The food is good -- lots of homemade soup, an occasional salad, freshly-ground coffee. Bits and bobs of this and that. Last week C. brought in remnants of pumpkin pie: one bite each. And then there was bittersweet chocolate with sea salt. And believe me, we work hard. Really hard. The hands ache, we manoeuver heavy boxes around precarious corners, battle spiders and wasps, go up and down steps over and over again, into the dungeon (the basement) for packing peanuts, bubble wrap. Glass is heavy. Sometimes it breaks. And sometimes at quitting time there's a nip of single-malt Scotch.

It's these small things -- soup, Scotch, puns -- that keep things simmering along at a tolerable pace.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Periodically a silence overtakes me, in either the form of a silent voice or a silent pen. One or the other. All I desire to type here is the word anyway. Followed by a period.

Every day on my commute to work I compose blog entries in my head, which evanesce the moment I have a space in my day where I can sit down and approach the keyboard. Not sure what's up, but something in the gutters and margins of my life is sucking up the words.