Monday, December 29, 2008

I tottered off to my First Anniversary dinner
in my impossibly-high-three-and-a-half-inch red
patent-vinyl pointy-toe heels and a red velvet coat and two
different earrings. My appetizer was a Beet Bombolino
which is a kind of savory donut filled with melty gorgonzola
atop roasted beets atop a lake of almond butter.
I'd been fantasizing about this menu item all day
and I just kind of melted into it. Slid into it,
jaws agape. Holy shit it was amazing.
And now all I want to do is sleep, for days unending.
Christmas: done. Snow: done. Family party: done.

On another note, I bench-pressed 95 pounds today.
There were more than 29 people; I lost count.
This is a big house, and there were at least five
parties going on simultaneously in different rooms:
1) boys/men & football
2) college students & beer/wine/champagne/vodka
3) sisters & talking
4) teen nieces and texting
5) everyone & food

Three chocolate cakes plus chocolate fudge.


Happy first anniversary Paul!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finally, finally able to travel by car.
The trick, I've learned, is to get your car wheels
in the grooves on the road, except my car, an 11-year-old
Mazda, rides a little low, and the undercarriage
scrapes the blizzard-buildup between the grooves.
An ungodly racket, as if the bowels of the car
were (are) being gouged out. And we live in a
temperate rain forest. Ha.

I'm enjoying a Kir: white wine, creme de cassis,
a lemon twist. The Fouilly Poussé (which I like to call
"fussy pussy") was a bit sour, thus the rescuing elements
of liqueur and rind.

We went to see Seven Pounds today -- it's okay,
emotionally manipulative, lethargically paced.
My favorite movie of the year is A Christmas Tale, reviewed here
by Citizen K. (I don't do movie reviews.)

Twenty-nine people here tomorrow for a party,
all related to me. Nieces and nephews and brothers-in-law
and great-nieces and great-nephews and a step-niece
and a step-nephew-in-law and two step-great-nephews,
and, oh yes, sisters, many sisters.

I received two books on the art of book-making
for Christmas. Is this a hint? I've already delved
into the elementary first steps of this fading art form,
and it's great fun. The goal is to combine
poetry/collage/line-drawings. We'll see. I'm optimistic.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Before and after Merry Christmas cookies!


Be sure to check out Peter Pereira's poem on The Writer's Almanac....
Peter and I have been in the same writing group
since 1991. (And please, after you read his poem
buy his books!)
Ah, snow, snow, again, again.
Waiting for large grown children
to awaken, boys all. Blueberry pancakes await.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oh god help me it's snowing again.
What I would do for a drizzly rain.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the eve of the Eve

Always before Christmas the days lose shape,
lose the essence of Tuesday, Saturday.
Each waking becomes one less stretch of hours
taken up by ribbon, by tinsel.
And now, snowbound, the amorphous days
inhabit a limbo, a slushy lethargy
punctuated by tea, soup, bread.

As if we need more of this nonsense....
We spent an hour this morning not going anywhere,
and it involved a car, a snow shovel, hot water
and kitty litter. Now we're out of kitty litter
and we're still marooned on this hill. I decided
to take a walk to check out 520, and discovered
a snow-free highway and cars moving at normal speeds.
Well then. All this less than a half-mile from my
ice-locked car.

I have no presents for my husband, as they all require
the use of vehicles. I tentatively arranged some
pick-up action this morning when I was convinced
we were mobile, but, alas, I'm back to square one.
I'd really like to progress to square two or three.

Yesterday I made pumpkin bread and two loaves of basic
white bread. Friends came by (on foot!) and we spent
the afternoon playing board games, drinking tea,
eating popcorn and the homemade breads, while a fire crackled.
Later it was three-olive vodka martinis
and spinach dhal and cashew pulao.


gone away, is the shopping
here to stay, is the mopping
i'll curse right along
with this stupid old song
walkin' in a fuckin' wonderland

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Japanese maple, from my front porch

I crunched through the snow through the woods
this afternoon, saw a set of deer tracks. Felt
as if I didn't belong, as if the behemoth MicroS.
buildings looming above me up the hill didn't belong,
the apartment complex partially obscured by trees
didn't belong. Out of balance.(The world, not me.
But I'm not entirely certain of that. Some may disagree.)

But what peace, and how effortless it was to move my body
through that silenced landscape. Even the ducks -- walking
on top of their pond -- were oddly quiet. In our temperate
rainforest, all the ferns growing on the trunks of the big-leaf
maples were drooped with cold & ice. I recalled the blossoms
of the native blackberries lining my path last spring,
and how I missed their ripening mid-summer.What I would do
for a single bag of those tiny berries in my freezer,
pie-ready. It just makes sense to bake a blackberry pie
when we're snowed-in.
I waited all last night for the predicted Big Wind
but it remained gentle and fairly calm outside. I laid in bed
with the shades open and watched snow swirl past the window,
carried aloft in the benevolent 20mph gale.
And this morning, booted and swaddled in Irish wool,
I trekked down the driveway to fetch the Sunday paper
and every step sounded with a crisp crack as the crust
which formed overnight on the snow's surface shattered.
When I was fifteen I made a chocolate cake from my mom's
three-ring-binder Betty Crocker cookbook called
Black Midnight Cake and frosted it with seven-minute
icing. And because of some particular humidity
in the air, some fluctuation in the dew point,
the outer edges of this thick white swirly confection
crystalized: you bit through a delicate crunch before
losing yourself in the pillowy white; the dense black
of the underlying, now nearly irrelevant cake almost
an afterthought.
I've not yet been able to duplicate that incredibly
sensual experience. It was a gift to the tongue
and one of those surprises that occurs when one dabbles
in the science -- the chemistry -- of baking.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ah. Tomorrow winter officially begins at 4:04am PST,
but from the looks of it here, it seems we exist already
in the very depths of a frozen universe. We did manage to get
off our street and onto 520, which was pretty much clear
and dry. Hair cut, lunch out, and a visit to Sur La Table
in Kirkland, where at least 49 million people
were shopping for gadgets and there was a woman
directing the line for the cash register fa la la la la.
It took several stops on skating rink parking lots
to find a flashlight for sale, and then there were none
of the right size batteries left at any of the three stores
in the vicinity (according to another shopper).
So we ended up with tiny flashlights with microscopic batteries
so if we lose power in tonight's Storm of the Century
we'll only be able to read very tiny books.

The thing about snow is that it takes up so much room.

Friday, December 19, 2008

According to Those Who Know, Redmond (where I live)
received the brunt of the current storm: we officially
received 11" of snow! Damn. Last night we walked down
to our friend Sarah's house to celebrate her daughter
Emily's 20th birthday. Geez it was glorious stomping
through all that snow. In my bakery days I used to fantasize
about diving into the bins of flour -- so soft! so white!
Fine powder, glitter-dusted, white-mountain-seven-minute-frosting.
There was a semi-truck jack-knifed on Bel-Red Road, and four
cars had subsequently crashed into it. Glad to be on foot.

We really must venture out today over hill and dale
(and hill and hill and hill) for groceries:
supplies are dwindling. But: there are two bottles
of champagne in the refrigerator, so all is not lost!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Breakfast just wouldn't be right without my daily dose
of Zippy, by Bill Griffith.(In case you're unfamiliar,
Zippy is a comic strip.) Today, in the space
of three tiny squares, Mr. Griffith displayed a spectacular vocabulary:
god, Holyland Theme Park, Orlando, handmaidens, Blu-Ray disc player,
Mel Gibson, "Th' Passion of Th' Christ", animism, wicca and,
last but not least, hell. Other than a nice strong cup
of coffee, what else could one possibly desire?!

Thankfully Zippy prevents me from sliding hopelessly
into complete sentimentality: we awoke today, finally, after
days of Breaking! News! Reports! Inclement! Weather!
to a good three inches of white fluff. (Oddly it's darker
in the house than usual because all the skylights
are snow-covered.) And before coffee, before the crackle
of pepper-crusted bacon, I lit two candles and sat
at the piano and improvised a little snowflake-descending tune:
tinkle tinkle tinkle

Soon I'll go outside with my jewelers loupe
and examine some crystal structure up-close.
I read once in a kids science project book
that if it's cold enough outside, you can blow a bubble
and it will freeze. The actual temperature required
in order for this to happen was not stated, and so far,
it's not been cold enough here to accomplish this.
(God knows I've tried. )

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today was the day of the massive storm
that never happened. In fact, the sun came out.
Schools closed in anticipation.

I'm having a late-afternoon cup of coffee
and listening to Handel's Messiah.
We sang this every December in my high school
a cappella choir -- started practicing after Thanksgiving
and performed it right before the winter break
(which we used to call Christmas Vacation.)
Our choir director was a perpetually cheerful man
and I think probably every one of his girl students
(and come to think of it, probably a number
of his male students also) had a crush on him.
He was dashing and handsome and the best
music teacher I ever studied with. No one
left his class without being able to read music
and play basic scales on the piano.
And this was public school.
My singing voice is long gone but I still know
all the alto parts and most of the tenor parts
for quite a few pieces from The Messiah.
What a pleasure it was to sing!
I currently have about a 5-note tenor range.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa, circa 1963.
A Brownie Troop project.
Odd, indecipherable felt shapes were laid out
on a table, and we picked them up one at a time,
gluing each subsquent layer upon the previous,
until -- ta da! --
Mr. Claus appeared.

To cart out the Christmas ornaments
is to delve into my own personal Ancient History:
the annual catalog of joys and injuries, pleasures & miseries
all boxed up together, a jumble of past lives.
Tonight I left more than half in boxes,
as did Paul.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

As Paul said, we got a "damn fine tree."
It's a Frasier fir, very crisp needles.
Handel would roll over in his grave if he heard
his Messiah emanating from a display of blow-up
snow-people. On the other hand, he might be astonished
at how ubiquitous The Hallelujah Chorus has become.
A few snowflakes fell as we tree shopped.
(And by a few, I mean three or four.)
Pretty darn exciting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Bringing my piano to this house has brought up thoughts
of another piano, another residence, another life.
In 1987 my late husband and I were living in Eastlake --
a four-plex -- with our nearly-one-year-old-son R.
It was January, 25 degrees. Husband M. was out
with friends, and I'd put the baby to bed for the night.
As I left his room I thought I smelled smoke.
Did the downstairs neighbor burn her toast, again?
Our smoke alarm, which sounded when someone lit a match,
was unusually silent. I was on the way to bed myself,
but decided to step outside and get a breath of fresh air,
then walk into R.'s room again, to see if that burning odor
persisted. By the time I'd walked to the front door
and walked back to his room --what? Maybe ten seconds?
-- his room had filled with smoke, but I could
see no flames. I swooped in and plucked him from his crib,
called 911, then called M.: Something. Is. On. Fire.
I grabbed a blanket from the couch for the baby, propped
the door open for the cats, and fled outside
into the frozen night as sirens grew louder every second.
My downstairs neighbor was already outside,
visibly disturbed: a plastic garbage can too close
to a wall-heater had ignited in her bedroom,
directly below R.'s crib.

A night janitor in the office building behind us let me into
his warm building, where I watched flames consume the back
of our apartment, my son awake, oblivious. M. appeared
at some point during the chaos. I remember firefighters
(62 responded to the call) on the roof with axes.
I remember news cameras, sparks shooting into the night.
Didn't know where the cats (three of them) were.
We ended up that night at my in-law's house, and various
relatives showed up, offering support and sympathy.

The next day we returned to find an immense pile of burned
belongings and furniture piled on the parking strip in front.
Inside, everything that was in the rear three rooms (and not destroyed)
was stacked -- neatly! -- in the living room. Two cats hunkered
down beneath the dining room table, clearly hungry and very put out.
The third cat I found halfway up a cedar, paws wrapped tightly around
the trunk, claws embedded for who-knows-how-many hours.
My Waterford crystal champagne flutes were still upright
on my sideboard, filled with insulation from the axed-open ceiling,
albeit on the opposite side of the room.
And the piano. A century old, black, ornate. I sat down and played
Chopin's funeral march. It was so cold! The stench of burn
was pervasive; nearly impossible to take a clean breath.

We washed things for a week solid -- every single item we owned
had to be scrubbed, or thrown away. Everything. Every cup, every
article of clothing, every knick-knack: Everything. Lots of books
went to the dump. Melted baby toys. Singed teddy bears, my stuffed
toy monkey named "Vincent" -- All ruined. But because I had essentially
pulled my baby from a burning apartment, I was on an adrenalin high.
I walked around for weeks -- months -- with an incredible sense
of capability. It was kind of odd: I kept waiting to feel traumatized,
but it never happened. Yes, it was horrible and terrifying, but I walked
away from it, literally. All I lost was stuff.

Even now, all these years later, it feels funny to say I saved my baby.
Feels like I belong on the Hallmark Channel: heartwarming family drama
where a young mother saves her toddler from a devastating fire.
But I did. And because he was so young, R. remembers nothing about
his near-singeing. His crib was scorched. All the handmade quilts
I'd been given as gifts prior to his birth: burned.
All his toys: burned.
But I still had him -- perfect and alive.

That lovely old piano ended up with my friends S. and R.
Lord knows where it sits today. But can you hear
that funeral march -- steady, somber, intoning the death
of a certain life, sooty shadow on its century-old felt pads?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Periodically I look at the Help Wanted ads on Craigslist,
the food/bakery/etc. ads, and yesterday I came across this gem:

"egg experience very preferred."
There is a delicate line between having too much to do
and having not enough to do. I like to balance on that line,
or even a little bit on the Too Much side. Empty space
has the ability to call forth demons with many names.

This afternoon I was given the gift of five free hours,
and this morning I was given the gift of delivery
of my piano. I lost myself in music today, arrangements
of traditional Christmas Carols. The cats stalked each other
and hissed an accompaniment as the December light
eked away. Hot tea in a Lusterware pot. And now I'm
fairly played-out, the first time in many years. And it was
a high -- reading music again, making it all work together:
brain, fingers, keys, eyes. It's different now that so much
time has passed; it's easier. More focused. I'm more focused.
I'm getting my piano today! A year ago I tried to give it away
and wasn't successful. I'd lost interest in it, hadn't really played
it for five or six years. And now the urge to play is back,
and it's being moved from the Brandon Street house to Redmond.
Yay! My sister bought this piano thirty-something years ago,
and I gave her daughters lessons, but they weren't into it,
and twenty years ago, my sister gave it to me. Thirty years ago,
she purchased it used for, I think, $300. I'd be lucky to get
that much for it today, were I to try to sell it. The price of used
pianos has pretty much remained the same for a long time.
I suppose people buy electric keyboards -- portable and easy
to store. And they don't require a Big Truck and Big Men
with Big Tools in order to get from one house to another.
As far as pianos go, it's nothing special -- kind of beat up,
most of the keys are chipped. But it's sound, it's mine,
and I'm going to play again. Hee hee!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Last night Paul and I watched Christmas Ships on Lake Washington,
neatly tucked beside each other at the water's edge, a perfectly conical
bonfire shooting sparks thirty, forty feet into the night sky. A girl's choir
sang Carols, and no rain. Paul clutched his "red" martini glass; mine
(yes, plural, more than two) had already been tidily quoiffed
prior to our half-block trek to the beach. Pomegranate martinis:
tarte and vermillion. And then back to the party, where coffee
and lemon water replaced alcohol. And oh, we're getting on:
we left prior to 7:30, came home and fell asleep. Party. Animals.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I received in the mail today a Last Minute Shopping
catalog from Eddie Bauer. Have I missed something here?
Didn't I just notice that it's December? According to my
estimated calculations, as of right now, there are 24,883 minutes
until Christmas. That means that there are still 24,882 minutes
until The Last Minute.

I'm engaging in some very bad activity.
I'm ripping pages out of an old dictionary
and glueing them onto other pieces of paper.
This dictionary is mildewed and old.
I love dictionaries. I worship dictionaries. I wouldn't do this
if the dictionary was not mildewed. I desperately hope
that the Dictionary Police do not arrest me for Dictionary Abuse.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm typing using only 3 fingers on my left hand
because of slicing & dicing to my thumb & index finger
and wads of gauze taped to the tip of each. So.

Another spectacular sunset tonight, reflected in Lake Washington
on the drive home from work, the color of flesh & blood. Literally.
And Mt. Rainier. I will never cease to be amazed by its prominence
on the southern horizon. This is a dull entry. My apologies.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cooking dinner tonight for two nieces, two sons
and one husband: Guinness beef stew, fresh greens
with Sweet Orrin apple, toasted walnuts, celery
and a blue-cheese vinaigrette; buttermilk biscuits,
and bread pudding for dessert. It's going to be lovely
having girls in the house!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I ate a very small nibble of chocolate this morning
before I had eaten anything else, and I was just about
knocked flat with the flavor. Amazing. I recommend this.


We have a new cat, here in our cozy home.
Her name is Marley, and she's a tortie, six years old,
sister to one of my sons' cats. Tiny, thin, beautiful.
A rumbling purr. Affectionate.
Thank-you Carol & Tom!


It just occurred to me that Christmas is this month.
In three weeks. Not next month, next year, but Very Soon.
There is the recurring dream where it's a day or two
before The Big Day and there is no tree, no fancy lights.
Or the tree is needleless, barren, most of the branches torn off.
Memory adrift.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Detail, Gravestone, Roslyn Cemetery

Sunday, we drove over Snoqualmie Pass just past noon,
ascended the west side through thinning fog. Traces of snow
on only the highest peaks. Mist hung upon Lake Keechelus:
torn white blankets tossed on the water, rag-edged.
We lunched at the Roslyn Cafe, then drove up the hill
to the Roslyn Cemetery, a collection of 25 adjacent cemeteries
spread out over 15 acres, most of them representing fraternal
lodges, dating back to the late 1800's. I was delighted
to find a very small section signed "Druid." Only ten graves,
all the names of Italian origin. Druids in Roslyn, a hundred
years ago?! In a town with a population of less than a thousand?
Alas, I've tried in vain to unearth more information on this subject
on the internet. Looks like we must take another jaunt
across Snoqualmie Pass! (Be sure to check out Citizen K.'s
fact-filled and beautifully-written entry on the Roslyn Cemetery.)