Saturday, October 31, 2009


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 --


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


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.)

Bozo Feet case you're considering going back to school.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

R. and I made some kick-ass green mole chicken
with masa dumplings. A helluva lot of work but
the kind of meal where there isn't much talking,
only mmmmm and aaaahhhh. R. tasted the puree
before it went in the simmering pan and nearly
set his mouth afire, smoke coming from his ears, etc.
I grabbed the butter and handed him a chunk
which quickly tamed the flame. Good old butterfat.

Today's math:
15 dumplings ÷ 3 people = not enough.

And then there was the tres leches cake which was
almost a dos leches cake because I forgot to buy
cream (leche numero tres) but I had some spray-on
cream in the fridge which easily whisked back to its
former state of liquidity and the 6-egg sponge-in-a-
springform soaked up all the sweetened condensified
and evaporatified milks and the liquidified spray-on
cream and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. [Whoa. Forgot
to take a breath there.]

Damn I'm tired.

(And then there was the painting of the yellow wall.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Some Bright Notes

--coffee with Robin, which involved wicked laughter

--a glass of Hogue Sauvignon Blanc ($6.99 @ Trader Joes)

--big wind, leaves flung above the treetops

--hundreds of crows passing over the house

--finishing the Friday puzzle

--pizza for dinner
Swept up by hundreds of wings....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Small World

I like to blog-surf: click on a link on someone else's
blog, or on a commenter's profile, and go from there.
It's stunning how quickly one can traverse the planet
via the blog-machine. You start seeing connections
between blogs, poets that follow each other, virtual
friendships that have sprung up and sent out their
tentacles through other virtual "blog-ships."
But my absolutely favorite thing is when I'm led back
to my hometown on this journey, and the circle completes.
Recently, I hopped from Denmark to Switzerland to
England to Australia and then back to Seattle (with a few
other stops/layovers along the way), where a blogger
had written about walking along Lake Washington Boulevard,
one of my favorite spots in the city and for many years
five minutes from my house.

This is the modern version of the pen-pal.
Remember pen-pals? Mine lived in Norway,
which, in 1967, seemed exotic and light-years away.
I still have her letters (her name was Kari)
and a Norwegian coin she sent me.
Maybe I can locate her, out there in the blogosphere.
Then again, maybe it will happen all by itself.

[Addendum: after I hit "publish", I went to facebook,
and Guess Who I Found.]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At Gem

The salon to which I make my every-six-weeks
pilgrimage is "Meg" spelled backwards. Meg is
one of the owners. What if her name were Anna?
Or Hannah? That would be much less interesting.

A great trashy pleasure is reading the fashion mags.
while waiting for my hair to "cook." Dieting is a prominent
subject in these publications, and one regimen (suggested
by a personal trainer) allowed the following delicious items
for breakfast:
2 eggs whites, scrambled
6 almonds.
That was it. Six almonds. Is that even possible?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wanted: Poem

My friend Elizabeth, who is an interior designer,
called me yesterday. At 85, she's facing major surgery
in a few weeks: removal of a kidney. She is recently
widowed. Nonetheless, our conversation, as usual,
was punctuated with raucous laughter and sharp
witticisms -- Elizabeth has a wicked sense of humor.
And she still works -- her current client is an affluent
woman with several properties, who regularly flies
Elizabeth down to California to consult on the design
process in a home.

I met E. seven years ago -- she was one of my first
customers on the opening day at Two Tartes. The
atmosphere there was a bit frantic, and we didn't know
that we had accidentally turned the coffee pot off.
Of course, E., perfectly assembled in her attire,
ordered a cup of coffee. She sat down, took a sip,
stood up and placed the cup back on the counter,
and said, "It's not. Quite. Hot."

I thought, oh brother, this one is going to be trouble.

Her companion, a wren-thin nervous man with grey wisps
of longish hair, fidgeted outside with a cigarette.

(Just before lunch on that, thankfully, quiet first day,
my business partner cut her fingers deeply enough
to require stitches, and fled to the ER.)

But what followed was not trouble at all, but the beginnings
of two friendships, with two regular customers who daily
added their own particular flavors to the quirky clientele
we were quickly developing.

M., the companion, was E.'s business partner, and their
office was in the crumbling Rainier Cold Storage building
across the street.

Yesterday E. came to me with a special request: she's afraid
she won't survive the surgery, and asked if I'd help her find
a poem (or write one) to her daughter (her only child)
to thank her for the love and support she's given her mother
throughout the years.

Oh hell. This is a really difficult task. I'm not the kind of poet
that easily writes something on-demand. (I don't come with
a remote control on-demand button, alas.) But I'm honored
to be asked, and will get to work searching for something
appropriate out there in the Land of Poetry.

I'm l lucky to have E. as a friend. She's a substitute mom
who will talk about anything. And I mean anything.
She's a dear friend. We get each others jokes.
She inspires me. I'm thankful for these past seven years,
wish it was seventeen years, or twenty-seven.
But I'll take the seven.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


P. and I are hosting a small gathering in four
hours, and, as usual, I can think of many things
to do instead of prepare for our guests. This is
odd, because I love to entertain and cook/bake.
Nonetheless, I am fantasizing about:

1) preparing poetry mss. for submissions
2) finishing my book-group book
3) working on the jigsaw puzzle in the living room
4) writing a new poem
5) playing the piano
6) writing a new "plastic boy" blog entry
7) organizing books.

Alas, there's no reason to ponder cleaning house
because P. and I charged through that yesterday
(where I was very pleased to discover that my
husband is quite adept with the vacuum cleaner).

All this, of course, while keeping in mind that in my
bakery days, I prepared a full-day's compliment of
sweets between 5am and 9am Monday through Friday.
Four hours? Piece of cake.
Or, er, slice of pie.
I mean, slices of two pies: apple and pumpkin,
plus corn bread and cole slaw to accompany P.'s
Texas Red Chili and spicy pinto beans.

Here I go!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The October rains have begun in earnest --
these are the weeks of spilling, seeping, overflowing,
soggy saturation. For some it's flooding
and sandbagging. For me it's the luxury
of lying in bed and listening, the rare sensation
of security and insulation.

Pumpkin and geranium with rain:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Never before have I written here about cleaning ANYTHING, but I just couldn't resist passing this on..... For 22 years I've battled glass shower walls/doors, and short of cleaning them every day (what sane person would ever attempt this???), pretty much came to the conclusion that it was all about intense aerobic scrubbing. (Great for upper-body strengthening!) I'd tried all the grocery store chemicals. What eventually worked best was the straight edge of a hard Cuisinart spatula -- the one that came with the original model, which was a gift to my late husband before I even knew him. I wore that down to a nub! Wore myself out wearing it down to a nub!

So today, a lightbulb went on in the brain, and I thought I'd try googling "soap scum shower doors", with results nothing short of miraculous. The answer is Spray-n-Wash. Spray it on, rub it in, let it sit for about ten minutes, take a scrub brush to it, rinse, and voilĂ  . CLEAN. And I mean REALLY CLEAN.

So that's it. Get out that Spray-n-Wash and clean up that glass!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I realize that the pumpkins and gourds and skull
on my header look really moldy, but they're not.

Loving all the pumpkins piled outside the grocery
stores and at the fruit stands -- I can't resist the urge
to pat them all. Something very satisfying about that
hollow thunk. I used to grow gourds from year to year,
and when they self-seeded, they often cross-pollinated
and I enjoyed some very alien-looking gourd incarnations
for quite a few years. Then I planted grapes, and apple
trees, and there went the sun. Now I'm down to pots
of geraniums and herbs on the back deck, in another
house. In the old house, the apple trees are plagued
with apple maggots, but the grapes ripen golden and sweet,
and the starlings enjoy every last one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Important Questions

This happens often: I'll be out going about my day
and a really terrific blog subject will spring to mind
and I'll write the whole darn thing in my head, feeling
mighty pleased with myself. And then when I get
home and sit down in front of the computer, I can't
for the life of me remember what it was. I learned
on House yesterday that the clinical term for the inability
to remember nouns is called "nominal aphasia". So then
is this blog-loss syndrome called bloggial aphasia?
Blogginal aphasia? (And is it necessary to double
the "g" in "blog" when I add the suffix, as in "blogger"?)
Just wondering.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cooler nights, and the temps drop a degree or two
each day, but still the afternoons blaze in October light.
I made my first chicken stock of the season yesterday,
a long slow simmer on a back burner. If a scent can be
golden -- can we assign color to how something smells?
(may I?) -- then this was lit up with gold light: onion,
celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, carrots, parsley and all
the bits and bobs of the roasted fowl. It cooled overnight
in the fridge, and today I'll skim the congealed fat from
the surface and we'll have us some chicken & noodles.
This not fancy cooking, but for my money,
it's as good as it gets.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Crossword as a Metaphor for Life

The Sunday puzzle.
I fill in all the obvious answers,
(leaving, um, large gaps) and then go back
and try to make connections with what I've solved.
Some-times it seems so easy:
A follows B, F follows E, and so forth,
until it's A-Z all-filled-in.

Or not.

But then.

I'll solve, say, the upper right-hand corner,
feeling smug and smart, and then something
won't work that connects the upper right-hand
corner with the lower right-hand corner. And then
everything that I thought was true, everything
that was successful, suddenly is dumped out
on its face.

Oh good god where did it all go wrong?
Where did I go wrong?
How far is it necessary to backtrack,
to erase, to redefine -- in order to discover
just where it was the error occurred? Or were
they all errors -- errors built upon other errors,
and must I completely rebuild in order
to continue on the way of Truth and Fact?
And maybe, just possibly, can I make it all work
without going back and making corrections (in pencil!)
every step of the way???

No. I can't.
(There's no messing with Will Shortz.)
No messing with 61-down: Gloomy Milne character.
(Okay -- that's an easy one.)
No messing with 87-across: Stop worrying.
But at this point, I'm feeling more like
109-down: Struck down, old style.

Perhaps what I need at this time, because
I am feeling like an 89-down (Rejected as unworthy)
is a 25-across: Drug distributor.

And so I take out the good eraser,
the nice soft one which doesn't smudge
or rip the newsprint, and give in to the act
of excision, square by square.

It's not a 93-down (Pill that's easily swallowed)
to admit that somewhere, at sometime, I've made
a mistake. (Or two.)

But I do.
And it's time to start over.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

If you haven't already seen this blog
(from The New York Times),
I highly recommend it for its creativity
and humor:

Abstract City by Christopher Niemann.

It had me laughing out loud this morning,
nearly spitting out my shredded wheat.
(You gotta love the details of laughing
with a mouth full of food.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A little less than two weeks ago I discovered
that someone to whom I used to be particularly
close, someone to whom my sons were also close,
is a criminal: identity theft, embezzlement, tax evasion.
Someone I've known (or thought I knew) since I was
twelve years old. I was called upon to assist another person
in a legal process, to give a statement regarding this former
friend's business practices.

At first I was (guiltily) gleeful at the chance for a kind
of post-mortem (death of the friendship) revenge.
But as the days passed, a profound sense of shock
and astonishment began to settle in -- how much
of our relationship of 30+ years was forged on lies?
Why didn't I see this? How could I have been so gullible?
Of course, my wise husband reminded me that people
of this pathology are masters of manipulation and deception.
And it wasn't all a surprise, but the new details that came
to light set my head spinning. And it spins still.

One thing keeps coming to mind, though: the fact,
the absolute veracity that I will never be this kind
of person. Plain and simple. This is not boasting;
it's an affirmation of all that I believe: to live life
as honestly as possible, to be kind and loving, and
to respect ones friends and all that they offer.

Not that this is easy. But to prey on those who
offer their love -- unforgiveable.

(And yes, I need to consider forgiveness --
when my head stops twirling.)

Monday, October 5, 2009


From In Blackwater Woods, by Mary Oliver:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

From dust we came, to dust we shall return.

We took the ferry across Puget Sound yesterday
from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, to my sister's
house in Poulsbo, for a family party in honor
of my 82-year-old uncle and aunt visiting from Boston.
I wonder what it felt like to him, my father's only
brother, to see this large gathering of relatives
who exist because of his brother, who died 43 years
ago. I don't really know my uncle, having grown up
3,000 miles from him. Nonetheless, he's been, for
the most part, the only connection I've had to my
paternal roots. And it's strange to think that there's
a good likelihood I'll never see him again.

Pondering the river that is life, its depths and shallows,
currents and eddies. The waters of Puget Sound were
an intense steel blue, choppy in October wind -- one of those
Pacific Northwest days where the smog has been swept eastward,
and everything seems to glow from within.
A landscape of gemstones: sapphires, rubies, emeralds.


And later today, with a different family group, we'll gather
to scatter ashes in Thornton Creek, and then rose petals.
And these words, from Raymond Carver:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.

And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It may seem that it's all about cut-out cookies
and pretty pink roses, but it's not.
(Just for the record.)

Friday, October 2, 2009