Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wasn't it just seventy-five degrees
and the cosmos in lush bloom and dahlias
and roses and calendula and and and?
We push summer into October
and without warning it's over, finished, done.
Twenty one days until the winter solstice
and it's dark at 4pm. If it snows
I'm going to scoop some into a mug
and add a healthy glug of Bailey's.
My adult sno-cone.
From Eat the Document, by Dana Spiotta:

" be a human is to be perpetually insecure,
always edging on death, chaos, the uncontrollable.
Being a mother made this apparent. And you get this
small window where you can give your child a feeling
of unconditional security, no matter how much fear
you feel. In creating this sanctuary for you child,
you feel comforted in your own anxiety."

Ahhhhh....I remember dark winter evenings
of the past, the boys asleep, the husband snoring
in front of the television, the furnace clicking on, off.
The house buttoned-up tight. That sense of security,
vulnerable as we were behind such flimsy doors,
locks that could be kicked in with a modicum of effort.
How important it was to believe, at least
for the duration of the night, that we would greet
the sunrise (inevitably grey) with that same
glow of safety about us. The roof in place.
The house still bolted to the foundation.
The universe intact. How, not believing
would make existence unbearable.
This is the beginning of faith, and trust.
How easily we move through the universe, how often
thoughtlessly, until a muscle contorts, slowing
every inch forward, every twist. Awoke two nights ago
unable to roll over in bed. Could sit straight up
just fine. The clenched muscle affected specific
movements. Today I rejoice in every step.
(Muscle still clenched, but I'm more aware
than I was two days ago, more present to the body
and the air through which it moves.)


I was uninspired to cook dinner last night until
D. at work mentioned that he was making a ginger
cake for his dessert. Just that mention of ginger
set off in me an hour-and-a-half cooking/baking/sauteeing
frenzy: campanelle with cheddar sauce, fire-roasted tomatoes
and diced hot chili's; kale sauteed with a onions, garlic
and a hint of bacon (hint as in 1 tsp. bacon fat [it's
not gonna kill you!]); peeled fresh carrots from Dungeness Farm;
apple sauce (I found Jonagolds at MacPherson's last week
for 59c/pound) and ginger bread. (Why is it called ginger bread?
This was most cake-like.)
The house smelled like a party.
Smelled like happiness.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sometimes, the desire to be neither the adult
nor the parent. Enough enough enough.


If I were to become a writer of fiction
and prose, I would change the name
of this blog to Novel T.


Tonight, ripples of laughter from my sons
in the room below me. Right now. This is joy.
More subterranean excavating: the sorting of saw blades
and hammers and trowels and nails and screws and
Things With Handles and Things With Cords
and razor blades, chemicals, odd building supplies.
Nelson, god-bless-him, in the middle of it all,
taking over the organizing. Delving deeply
into the subconscious of dead-husband/father.
A house unfinished. Parts disassembled.
All will soon be priced, offered to the world.
And I'll be absolved of ashes, wood planks.
From dust we came,
to dust we shall return.
I know that there are some kind readers
out there who are going to thank me for not displaying
the photo of the Remote Control Tarantula
on sale today in the Target ad for $14.99.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I love this poem by Mary Oliver:

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yesterday. Dinner preparation. S., who is about
twenty and a student at Seattle University and who
hails from Sheridan, Wyoming (pop. 22,000) asked if
he could help with anything. I said, "Sure. Peel potatoes."
His response: "How do you peel potatoes? I've never
done it before. My parents don't cook."
My question: how does one get to be twenty, travel halfway
across the prairie and over mountain ranges
in order to study philosophy et al., never having
peeled a single potato?! So I taught S. how to
peel potatoes (remove any green discoloration!),
how to cut them into evenly sized chunks for cooking,
told him to start with cold water in the pan, a bit
of salt, bring to a boil, etc. He did it like a champ.
A bit later I employed his youthful enthusiasm once again
when the cream needed whipping, and he did it by hand
with just a whisk. I truly believe that it's important,
when learning to cook, to feel, kinesthetically,
how each particular food reacts to your manipulation of it.
For example, how the cream slowly loses fluidity, gains mass.
I believe in peeling a potato, or an apple, with a paring
knife, so that I can feel the curve of the fruit, feel
the skin releasing with each downward stroke.
When I make pie dough, I close my eyes once I begin
to use my hands on it, flattening a disc for the rolling pin.
It's velvet in my fingers, pliable and smooth,
with an expiration date (= toughness) if it's overworked.
Every gadget, every electrical appliance one introduces
into the preparation of food further removes the human
from the sustenance. Ah...I digress. All I wanted
was to peel a potato. Actually, S. peeled the potatoes,
and not long after that, we sat at the table and feasted.

Here's the potato recipe:

Mashed Potatoes with Manchego & Olive Oil

by Jose Andres, Food & Wine Magazine
His tip: "Add the olive oil slowly to the potatoes because if you dump it in all at once, you’ll get streaks of oil."

Serves 12

2 heads of garlic, top third of each cut off
1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 cups heavy cream, heated
1/2 pound young Manchego cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Preheat the oven to 350°. Stand the garlic on a large sheet
of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap in the foil.
Bake for about 1 hour, until the garlic is very soft.
Squeeze the soft cloves from the skins into a small bowl
and mash with a fork. Meanwhile, bring the potatoes
to a boil in a large pot of water. Salt the water
and boil over moderately high heat until tender,
about 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.
Shake the pot over moderately high heat for 1 minute
to dry the potatoes. Mash the potatoes, then mash in half
of the hot cream. Add the remaining cream and mash again.
Stir in the Manchego to melt, then slowly stir in the mashed
garlic and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt
and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining
1 tablespoon of olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Remember, when you are grating fresh nutmeg
for your pumpkin pie ( and do not tell me
you are not using fresh nutmeg!), the recipe
does not call for freshly grated fingernail.


November 21, 2003

They fist the door with their 2am burden
of ill news, two men and a woman —
black, white, clergy, police. Clipboards. Bible.
I know their mission before they speak,
their faces dreading the apologies
for which they bear no blame.

Intimate strangers,
they hunker beside me on the couch,
knowing before me, before my children,
that my husband departed
the scene zipped dead into a sack,
spinal cord transected, right lung punctured.

I will not recall their names,
or whether, roused by duty,
they left a sleeping household
much like mine; the only difference
being that moment’s hesitation
in the turn of the wheel, foot on the brake.

Monday, November 19, 2007

......and more Jell-O

I dug up my circa-1970 Joys of Jell-O cookbook
and just couldn't resist sharing some tidbits
with you! I was especially delighted to find
the Ring-Around-the-Tuna photo online -- the same
photo as in the book. Notice how the pimentos
in the olives contrast with the green gloss
of the lime Jell-O! Stunning! And what a sparkle
those radish roses add!

Here are some more recipes to savor:
--Continental Cheese Mold ( I throw my moldy cheese
away, but, hey, maybe I'm missing something here.)
--Cauliflower Radish Salad (Cauliflower and Jell-O?
Together? Not on my table.)
--Orange Glazed Duck (Orange Jell-O on cooked duck.)
--Orange Ginger Whip (Sounds kinky.)
--Herb-Glazed Sandwiches (Again, just wrong: "Place
sanwiches on a rack and pour syrupy gelatin over them.
Chill until glaze is firm."
--Richelieu Molds (Jell-O a la Francais. Non non non!!)

Okay, here's something that's actually pretty cool,
if you consume Jell-O (and I will admit, even after
all this, that I am fond of certain Jell-O concoctions):
Crown Jewel Dessert (pictured above), also known as
Broken Window Glass Cake. It gets points for the title
alone. I think I prefer the pie version.

Recipes available upon request.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What I Don't Make For Dinner

I just couldn't resist posting this:

Pumpkin Jello

1 small box lemon gelatin
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 small container Cool Whip
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water; add sugar and spice.
Add pumpkin, mixing well. Chill until slightly thickened.
Fold in Cool Whip and nuts. Pour into
mold or bowl and refrigerate until firm

Hideous, eh?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nails. Roofing nails. Sheetrock nails.

With and without heads. With funny little grooves.

Short, long, featherweight, thunky.

I don't need any of these nails which live

in my basement. I have on my desk a small

compartmentalized plastic box of picture-hanging nails

which I purchased at Lowe's, which I use. Probably

enough in that box to last my lifetime. But the thousands

of nails in my basement sit in their rumpled paper bags

or their Folgers cans, doing nothing. I don't want them.

Today I brought my neighbor a glass punch cup

filled with many sizes of nails. She told me that she

needed one the other day, and had none. So now, she, too,

has a lifetime supply. I don't do garage sales. I don't

post on Craig's list. Do you want some nails?
Thanksgiving. Max, who is eleven and is home-schooled
and comes to work with his mom, asked me, in light of
the coming holiday, what I was thankful for. I told him
that I would have to contemplate this. He said he was
thankful for Wii. We didn't take up the conversation
again yet, but I anticipate it happening Monday.
So, I've been ruminating.....

Here's the start of a list:
my sons
my sisters
my fiance
my in-laws (you heard right!) (from last marriage and upcoming marriage)
my future step-sons
my three cats, except when I step in cat puke barefoot
punctuation (enamored of the semi-colon)
green lacewings
vintage aprons (even better with rickrack)
dinner parties
coq au vin
the letter "Z"
Eau de vie young again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Words That Have Fallen Out of Favor:



What do you get when you make a breakfast cereal
out of a loathesome ex-lover? Oafmeal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I was asleep this morning, deeply, when I was overcome
by a conscious urgency to awaken, to open my eyes, right now:
my upper floor bedroom was glowing in pink light.
I flung open the curtains beside my bed and the horizon
was brush-stroked with reds, fuschias, oranges.
Cold! I nestled back into blankets, watched the sun rise
above urban rooftops, above the Cascades.
And just as quickly it faded to greys and a dull blue, show over.
Alice-the-cat, old old cat, nestled at my shoulder
with a purr that sounds half-purr, half popcorn-popping.
Time for coffee and simmered oats.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Body of Christ

Sunrise outside Corpus Christi.
Paul took this on his iphone a few weeks ago.
I love that it's so spare and brooding.
Walking the mile home from work
there is a lovely anonymity in the dark.
The best light, of course, is down the middle
of the street, which I avoid. Heavings
in the sidewalk lose clarity so each step
is calculated. In the dark, I lose age.
Hooded and bundled, gender blurs.
A private mile. Silent.

Tying (tieing?) the knot in six weeks
and I did something very girly, something
very un-fifty-one: I bought a wedding magazine.
Oh-ho! We all have our illusions.
When I went to my local Columbia City florist
to discuss flowers, the sales-person asked me
what the bride's colors were. Hmm. Let me ask her.
I'll get right back with you.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In November

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.

-- Lisa Mueller,
from Together: New and Selected Poems

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Last Night

Party #1
P. and I attended the Artist Trust Awards Ceremony
at the Wright Exhibition Space -- a cavernous interior
with little sense of intimacy. We were fortunate
to meet Amy Denio, this year's winner of the Paul Goode
Ireland Residency. We are excited to send a musician
to Westport -- the small town of 4500 residents boasts
37 pubs, roughly one pub per 121 residents, and each one
with its own music scene. Amy Denio is even more excited
than we are -- and she's going during the darkest of dark times --
late January into February. She claims to love the gloom
and rain. I've not been to Ireland during the depths of winter,
but I hear that the impact on one's soul can be profound.
(Thus the pubs.) (That's what we lack here in Seattle.)
Let's see....if I put Seattle's population at a half million,
and divide by 121 (the number of residents per pub in
Westport), I come up with 4132 pubs. Make them all
family-friendly, and we're good to go!

Party #2
Our dear friend Herb celebrated his 50th birthday
at a friend's home on north Capitol Hill, on East Boston Terrace.
Impossible to find! This was not a house, but a chateau, complete
with turrets and triangle-leaded glass windows. Built on the edge
of the hillside above Montlake, windy views extended
to the north and west -- a panorama of city lights. Once inside
I felt as if I was inhabiting one of my dreams where there
were so many details a description of it defies imagination.
Winding hallways, framed art on every square inch of wall
ceiling-to-floor, in every room. (Curiously, the ceilings
were left vacant.) Every surface (and I mean every)
was crammed with bric-a-brac, collectibles, antique
this-and-thats. And then the books: hundred of thousands
of books, alphabetized, in every room, stacked and shelved
and piled, every imaginable author. And objets d'artes
on the shelves in front of the books where there was
(at some prior time) an available square inch of space:
the tiny bottle shelf, the Pez shelf, the salt-n-pepper shelf,
the elephant shelf, the PeeWee Herman shelf, tin-toy shelf,
etc. And no dust. Amazing.
It was a flea-market/museum/library in one.
Upstairs, waaaaay down a long wandering hallway,
past stacks and stacks of books, there was a bathroom
with a live turtle in the bathtub. There was a stuffed
musk-oxen head as well as two stuffed life-size bears
sporting hats. In the basement I saw drums and saw blades
and more, more, more books; a rather archaic- looking furnace
(scary -- surrounded by -- guess what -- books!)
but apparently I missed the wine cellar, where I'll quote Nelson
as saying "there was one dated 17--, hard to read
because it was so old." And I haven't even started in
on the refreshments yet! Phew!
French rose Champagne, a secret bottle
of Chateauneuf-du-Pape hidden in the kitchen (I was one
of the lucky ones to score a glass), countless (I'm not joking)
bottles of French reds set up on a table in the living room.
Beef tenderloin roasts (a bit too bloody for me) swooned over
by just about every man present, sliced Italian delicacies
from da Pino (down in my neck of the woods!), roasted salmon.
I swooned over dessert (what a surprise): a chocolate rum
mousse-cake and a coconut mousse-cake, and there was
a killer tiramisu, all made by Vic Taylor of Il Dolcino.
Desserts were served up with champagne glasses
of lovely, lovely Sauterne, or, if one chose, any variety
of single-malt Scotch or Irish whiskeys, all at least
15 years old. I had to be rolled out of the party
by my red velvet coat, the threads threatening to burst their seams.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reversed Polarities

Let me clarify: not twenty-one years --
closer to 21,000 years. Spent three hours
underground this afternoon sifting through books,
discarding the useless, the undesirable.
Started to vacuum and smelled something
burning. Oh shit. Bad wiring from dead husband.
Rescued by angel/man/friend Tom who assured me
that my house was not going to burn down tonight.
I thought I had fire-credit: doesn't one residence-fire
grant one immunity? Apparently so. But then, wouldn't
one lit match just take care of all of it rather quickly?
Isn't this a solution? Apparently not.
How does one disassemble twenty-one years of living
in the same house? Dish by dish. Hammer by wrench.
Books to keep, books to pass on. Building materials
all to go. Away. A bit of an archaeological dig,
the layers of my boys' childhood. Each year of marriage
with its own stratum. The epoch of widowhood.
The subconscious of the attic now inhabited,
dreamed within, glossed with paint.
The onion-skin of the kitchen peeled away.
All the bad apples gone to compost.
A Somali woman once worked for me at Two Tartes.
She was thirty, had six children -- the oldest in middle
school -- and had fled Somalia unexpectedly. Said she
and her husband had about twenty minutes to leave
their house with their (then) three young children
or face certain death. Her husband worked in his
family business -- a hotel. They left everything,
ended up in a small apartment in the Renton Highlands.
She was enrolled in a refugee retraining program
at Seattle Central Community College. My job
was to teach her to bake. She knew well how to cook
her native cuisine, but Western cooking was foreign.
I started at the beginning, with measuring spoons,
cups, ingredients. She was intelligent, learned quickly
and had a marvelous sense of humor. Every day she arrived
to our hot little space in the midst of summer, fully swathed
in her Somali dress. I always dressed in as little clothing
as possible (no chef's whites for me) -- shorts and tank tops.
She insisted that she wasn't hot, but I sweltered.
That bakery cooled down to a toasty 85 degrees
in the afternoons with the AC blasting. (Wimpy AC.)
The basics -- flour, sugar, baking powder, salt --
these were easy for her. It was all the add-ins that
vexed her. She asked, "what is walnut ? What is cranberry?"
When she learned that my husband had died in a car accident,
she told me that she couldn't imagine such loss and sadness;
of course, I said the same right back to her about her
loss of country, home, culture.
Fatima -- pronounced "FAH -dee-muh" --
was a pleasure to teach. She was with me for ten weeks
and then left, and I have not seen her since. On her last day
she brought in a traditional Somali meal that she prepared
at home (and carried to us on the bus). I don't remember
what it was except that I loved all of it. I miss her.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Not cake, not today.

My sister Ann called me at eight this morning
(to wish me Happy Fifty One Years) --I was still in bed,
processing the remnnants of yet another very odd dream
where I was showering in my car while driving.
Very difficult to do -- when you close the shower curtain
you can't see where you're going. Also difficult to soap up
when sitting down with a steering wheel in your lap.
My horoscope today said I will invent something
in a dream which will lead me to riches. I don't think
this is it. I hope not.


I began making my own birthday cake at age twelve,
when my mother (who did not particularly like cake)
refused to make a cake from scratch. I have done this
every year since then, but this year I'm going to take
an extra-long walk this morning instead. And yes,
I will miss that cake. Golden Butter Cake, with bittersweet
ganache icing. Yeah baby. Even good the second day,
and the third, sliced, warmed in the microwave
for about twenty seconds. Oh my.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"What is a liar? Someone who tells the truth
about something that never happened."
--Glen Hansard (of The Swell Season and The Frames
and the movie Once)....crazy Irishman, singer, guitar
player, songwriter, teller of tales....tonight at The Moore.
Makes me lonely for Ireland.

How did it get to be Monday? Losing track of days.....
Coyotes in the neighborhood, two reports of them
in the past week, cats meeting their grim demise.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wedding Costume #2

Because Wedding Costume #1 just ain't gonna fit.
Went a'shoppin' with my friend Marie yesterday
and BINGO found the ideal dress in less than two
hours. Just short of a Vatican-sanctioned miracle.
My friend Candy says that the dress looks like
a cake. A wedding cake. It's flowy and feminine
and ivory with just a blush of pink. Reilly said
it looks 17th century (I think he meant 18th)
and that I should wear a powdered wig with it.
So does this mean that come December 29th
I'll resemble an 18th century wedding cake
with a wig garnish??!! God help me.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It's pepper season at MacPherson's Produce, and yesterday
I bagged a bowlful of red, yellow and orange rocoto peppers,
because the sign said " sweet and mild." While Nelson and I
were cutting them up (really beautiful black seeds!) I started
to cough and cursed this two-week cold. Then Nelson began
to cough. Then my hands began to burn, but I didn't think
much of it. We tossed them with balsamic vinegar and olive
oil, the roasted them with some cipollini onions. When I opened
the oven to check on them, I got a rush of heat -- not from the
temperature of the oven, but from the peppers --
and actually burned my face, mildly.
These were not mild peppers!!
N. tasted one and confirmed this. Yowza!
We plan to turn them over to the Hot Sauce King, Reilly.
He'll transform them into something of wonder, I am confident.
Hoo hoo! It's happened! I've hit the society pages
of a Seattle magazine!

Okay. Let's be realistic. On page 49 of the November
issue of Seattle Metropolitan magazine is a half-page
piece on the Floating Bridge Press Great Art Party
which took place in September. Three photos:
a lovely shot of Genevieve Church's goblet,
a 2x3" mug of Jeff Crandall (Mr. Art Party)
and a shot taken from the balcony at The Armory
looking down at the general scene of art/party-goers,
and waaaaaaay in the back is me (or, at least, my head)
measuring at least 1x1 millimeter. Not exactly
a glam pic, but, hey, I'm bigger than a pinhead.
(But just barely.) Hoo hoo.

Friday, November 2, 2007

In this dream, I am in the garden of my childhood,
my vegetable garden that I planted first at age twelve
and then every year thereafter until I left home.
On the sprawling half-acre despised by my mother
after the death of my father for what she perceived
as necessary upkeep: my sisters and I mowed, my brother
pruned the dozen fruit trees, the tiny barn slumped
and succumbed to rampant Himalayan blackberries .
The boysenberries and raspberries just gave up.
But in this dream, recurring monthly since I was eighteen
(and I reached the half-century mark a year ago),
it's late summer, and my garden suffers from neglect:
not enough water, weeds are prominent, the unthinned
carrots and lettuces barely formed. I hurry to restore
what little remains before the season turns; drag rusted
watering cans across the yard, tender a trowel, loosen
hard-packed earth. Every month in my sleep I return
to this garden and awaken filled with a sense of dwindling
hope. But lately the dream has shifted: there are hoses
and sprinklers to ease irrigation, there is more sunlight.
In fact, the light has taken on a deep golden radiance,
suffusing each plant (and me, I suppose) with an inner source
of fire. And the garden renews itself, the tomatoes plump
and lush, the cornsilk glistening, the rosemary and sage
fragrant and robust. Last night while inhabiting this landscape
I realized I no longer had to work so hard, so I just sat down
amid parsley and potatoes, amazed at the tidiness of the rows,
the absence of dandelions and crabgrass. The dream
had a soundtrack -- I think Patty Griffin was singing --
and it blasted loudly throughout the neighborhood,
the woods, the fields beyond. Complete and utter

Thursday, November 1, 2007

May I rant? May I express less-than-complete-happiness
for at least one paragraph? Youngest son + automobiles = :(
1) Son's first car, purchased from relative: engine went out after five months.
2) Son totaled Mom's car, which Mom paid to fix. Mom = :(
3) Third car, purchased at auction in Fife last May: entire coolant
system is rusted = $$$$$, therefore Mom + Son = WAAAAAHHHHHHHHH.