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.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

We thawed, and the 2-inch snowfall which brought our topographically-challenged city to a halt has melted away down into storm drains and low-lying fields. I'm always thankful for the rain that returns after a temperature plummet. (I'm going to whisper now: I love the rain.) (If I say that too loudly I'll get pummeled with rotting apples.)

On Thanksgiving, I did not deep-fry, in a vat of boiling butter, a cube of butter dipped in a butter-batter. God knows there have been times when I've wanted to, but I've always managed to stop myself before I went too far. And for this restraint, I am thankful.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A winter storm swooped down on our city yesterday, and it's not even officially winter yet. Three weeks ago we had a 74-degree afternoon, and this morning it was 15 degrees. Before leaving for work yesterday, I had a robust crop of nasturtiums; this morning their sad remains hung limp beneath snowdust. It's all so odd and we are all so unprepared. While other commuters suffered through blocked freeway lanes and ice-sheets and a journey home taking six, seven, eight hours, somehow I slipped through a hole in the chaos and made it home yesterday, late afternoon, in normal time. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that it was snowing, that it was icy, and that I should slow down.

I'm a bit of a weather fanatic, and upon waking at 4:30am, with no hopes of further sleep, I took out my iPhone and checked the temps, and was stunned to discover a reading of -6 in my fair town! The forecast for the next four days promised little better -- all these negative signs flashed before me on my tiny screen, tiny frigid barbs. It felt as if a gigantic shift had taken place in my universe while I'd slept; that a ferocious cold front had whisked down from Canada, compliments of El Nino (or Nina, can never remember which 'little child' we can blame). It was massively unsettling, and my mind began to race with the prospect of frozen pipes, frozen plants, frozen everything. Had a Midwest-style deep-freeze really settled in to our temperate region? This is Seattle, for god's sake, home of ever-present winter drizzle and gloriously-habitable summer. What was happening?

And that hour, the four o'clock hour, with its own other-worldly sense. Many dreams have placed me waking to a blue 4am light where the minutes cease to accumulate and possibilities abound in the eternal present, like an unexpected gift -- a present! -- of time and an infinite supply of benevolent blue light --

Then I suspected something -- a nagging inkling -- and checked the iPhone again, to discover that somehow the temperature reading had shifted from fahrenheit to centigrade. Ahhhh.....

My insignificant sliver of the universe righted itself, anxieties dropped away one by one, and I slipped into dreamless sleep.

Cracked at the Edges

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life's Rich (& Christmas) Pageant

This is a little embarrassing to admit, at this age, but I've always wanted to direct a Christmas pageant. Nativity/variety-show, all ages, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And I've suggested it, time and time again, starting at about the age of ten to my neighborhood friends. To family members. And there is generally little or no response. Alas.


Well, I brought it up at work today, that we (all four of us) should do a Christmas pageant, and I think everyone pretended not to hear. So I brought it up again, and they confirmed my suspicions. And wanted to know who would watch, because, er, well, there are only four of us. Oh. Well. Hadn't really considered this. No one had ever asked me this. I'm of the If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come persuasion. M. suggested that we perform it while walking around the block. Then suggested that we stand on the table and perform, ie., a makeshift stage. (I'll mention here that I'd just recited a poem whilst standing on my chair.) All good ideas! And then there was a lot of discussion (which degenerated rather quickly) of who would be Baby Jesus (R. would) and who would be Mary and Joseph (M. would) and who would be the Three Wise Men (C. would) and who would be the sheep, donkey and cow (that would be me). There! See! It can be done.

More on this later.

All this during a last-minute holiday crunch of prepping a delivery for a very large local holiday sale. We like to keep ourselves entertained.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Poetry + Lapsed Catholics =

Much hilarity at my writing group last night when Rosanne (for the second time now) offered to sing my poem, and suddenly we were listening to my poem Supplication to Our Lady of the Dumpster with a Celtic lilt. Then Ted (who is married to Rosanne) piped up "No! No! This calls for some Gregorian Chant music!" So Ted, with the help of Peter (both former Catholics) spontaneously broke into a 21st century version of what I'm going to call Seattle Plainsong. All I can say is Lord have mercy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday Poem: 3-year-old recites "Litany" by Billy Collins

You Tube has embedding disabled for this wonderful piece, but please do click on the link below and check it out:

More Tuesday Poems here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yin and Yang, Ick and Ack

Nothing much here but rain and red wine,
dead roses and an overall absence of pie.


I wrote a poem this morning called
"Supplication To Our Lady of the Dumpster"
for my friend Rachel Maxi's birthday.
(Yet another poem in my series parodying Catholic prayers and litanies.)
Today, while her birthday, was also the final day
of her successful show at G. Gibson Gallery
in Seattle. There was also a fine article
about her show in yesterday's Seattle Times.

One more thing: it's dark, often and early.
And I kind of like it, this pre-holiday romantic gloom.
Come January, however, I'll go into silent hibernation
until the daffodils ruffle-up their skirts.
(Unless, of course, we hop on a plane to Maui.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Isn't summer over?

We are still frost-free here on our little east-facing hill in Doug-fir Land. While the pumpkin harvest has ended elsewhere, my little conjoined twins continue to plump up:

Odd little buggers, aren't they?

And a few last flowers, which show no intention of giving-in to the seasonal turn:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I read a blog post about coyotes.
Then I read a post about ravens.
And then I read a post about ravens and coyotes.
(Three separate blogs.)

Is this a theme?
The cats are safely locked inside.
The geranium-children have been brought in
for the winter. No trinkets askew/aslant/afoot.

Howl on, slivered-moon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let Me Eat Cake

I've made my own birthday cake every year since I've been twelve. (Okay, I'll do the math: hmm...that makes 42 cakes. Yikes.) My mother wasn't a big fan of cake, but she whipped out a cake mix for every family birthday. I started baking seriously at twelve, and told my mom that I was done with cake mixes, and that I'd make my own cake, and she was not happy. I wasn't rejecting her, per se, just Duncan Hines. Thus the tradition began.

Yesterday I was tempted to forego the tradition, as it was just Paul and me here, but relented late afternoon and made a half-recipe of cake-heaven: Golden Butter Cake with the simplest of ganache icings -- bittersweet chocolate and butter melted together. Like I said, heaven. Baked amidst a kitchen filled with the scents of chicken simmering in red wine, and sauteed pearl onions and chanterelle mushrooms. And roasted sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel's sprouts. (Is there a more vegetable more beautiful than a B. sprout sliced in half? Dollhouse cabbage!)

The weekend after Julia Child died, my boys, who were teens at the time, had invited over a houseful of friends. I often cooked up feasts for this group of boys, and that Sunday I decided to honor the memory and legacy of Ms. Child by preparing her Coq au Vin. My Dutch oven was of the cast iron variety, which imparts an odd tint to chicken cooked in red wine. When the boys sat down to dinner, I told them what we were having, and the guests all looked a bit nervous. French food? And why was the chicken purplish? (Of course, no one said this, but their expressions told all. I could hear them saying to themselves how are we going to get out of this and not be rude?) I told them about Julia Child, told them about the cast iron pan, and they sat down with more than a modicum of hesitation. But just minutes into the meal, their groans of pleasure and their exclamations of delight quickly shifted the mood from trepidation to glee. OH MAN! This is good! My own boys, old pros at the dinner table, winked and twinkled at me.


Friday, November 5, 2010


Working on a room of my own here at the house'o'the'burbs. Cleaning and boxing-up the remnants of my step-son's childhood/teen-years, he who has lived in Boston for the past four years. Every year when he comes home for Christmas I kindly ask him to clean the room out, and last year he made a small stack of books and board games with a note: "Please send these to B." Well. Didn't even make a dent.

So last weekend I armored-up against dust and teen-boy-detritus and went at it Full Court Press. He said he didn't want anything, and I conceivably could've just swept through with garbage bags or Goodwill boxes and have been done with it, but it just didn't seem right. Instead I put on my Good Mother badge and went through everything. Everything.

Sorted, rescued, plucked. Photos of him and his mom. Signed baseball cards. Childhood books which showed the signs of obvious affection and many-reads. Saved and packed-up for storage. I figure, he may open his eyes some morning at age 53 and wonder where that Nolan Ryan baseball card ever ended up, and then he'll remember that box of stuff. Maybe. Maybe not. But it just didn't seem right to get rid of everything. So.

Now the fun part begins. Or, that is, after I paint the walls, and I loathe painting walls. (Hmm...maybe there are some manuscripts I have to work on....hmmm....) But then I get to make it mine. I can spread out my papers and pastels and dictionaries and scissors and glue and postcards and photos and fabric and have at it. Not sure yet what it is, but I intend to find out.

It's high time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's November and today it was seventy degrees. WTF? I'm all geared up for torrential autumn rain and this balmy weather is messing with my brain. But at least my conjoined-twin pumpkins (there are two pairs) are still growing. I really want to get seeds from them so I can plant an entire crop of conjoined-twin pumpkins.

Not much else.

I fear I've begun to repeat myself.

I fear I've begun to repeat myself.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Fall Back

Fall Back

It’s returned, that hour lost last April,

slipped in at 2am while a half-moon gleamed

in the pine. Hovered while I slept,

unclaimed angel, tick-tock.

But I don’t desire to use it yet —

I want to be selfish, I want to hoard.

I want to tear it into ten-minute bits,

fold one into my wallet for the late appointment,

one in the vegetable bin when lolla rosa

need last until supper. Under my pillow

to extend the dream, in the oven to slow

Quick Yellow Cake. I’ll give one to my son

to get out of jail free. And one

I’ll bury in the garden in eternal plastic,

mark an X with apples. Maybe

I’ll forget it’s there. And just maybe,

in the next century someone will unearth

a ten-minute treasure, spend it lavishly.

copyright 2010 T. Clear


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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Five copies of my manuscript are in the mail.
Now the waiting begins. Fingers crossed.
A request sent out to the universe.

It's a pricey proposition these days, the submission of book-length poetry manuscripts. Pretty much the only way to go about it is to enter manuscript contests, which charge a reading fee of, on average, $25. Non-contest publishers are rare, and many this past year have stopped accepting new work because of economic concerns. With the entry/reading fee, the copy-fee, and postage, the average single submission costs $34. Not so bad if one is so lucky to have one's manuscript picked up early, but a friend submitted his ms. eighty-something times before it was accepted, and now he's published three books.

This collection feels really good -- not the first one I've put together but I've not felt this way previously. And I'm long overdue for a book, honestly. But I'm a bad secretary and the rustling of papers sets my nerves afrazzle, so I've avoided this task for most of my adult life. Excuses? Maybe. Sometimes I'd rather clean out a dozen litter boxes than prep my manuscript. (I need more cats.)


Duck and white beans and thyme and onions and celery are simmering, steaming up the kitchen. A hint of cinnamon and allspice in the air. This is my favorite time of year to cook: soups, stews, pumpkin bread, gingerbread, roasted vegetables. Stuffed chickens and boeuf bourguignon and butternut squash and mashed potatoes: all things to sustain the soul as summer slips out amidst an autumn storm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo, Part 2

But really, the most frightening thing of all is, according
to some (not me), a cat in human clothing. I actually believe
that Monsieur Chat looks quite chic:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I was all ready to post a Tuesday Poem this morning but this scenario presented itself to me instead....

On my way back into the house after getting the morning newspaper, I was greeted by the surprise of a lit Jack-o-lantern and our cat Sally all dressed up in her black-fur Halloween-cat costume.

One of the four boys has moved back in with us, post-college, in search of a job, and this was his doing. Isn't it great when kids can still act like kids?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

P. Patch

Pumpkin road....

Pumpkins with orange umbrella....


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cucurbita Viridis

My pumpkin vine limped along all summer -- despite my tending and fussing -- until we headed off to Ireland for three weeks in September. I assigned the watering task to my step-son, who apparently took it so seriously that the vine went rampant with growth. I left with a four-foot-long vine and returned to twenty-five feet, and it now measures at least forty-five feet. Alas, up until this week, only one flower went on to fruition, and it's a pumpkin that refuses to turn orange.

I think that maybe I live in some odd weather micro-climate. I've grown pumpkins, squashes and gourds all my life (but it's the first time in this location) and there's never been the problem of too little vine growth.

And now there are half a dozen pumpkin sprouts frantic to swell before the first frost, or before the mildew completely deals its withering blow. Check out these conjoined twins!

Unfortunately, it's too late in the season for them to truly show off their genetic anomaly, but nonetheless they please me to no end.

Friday, October 22, 2010

McCoy's Fire House

After work last night I met my sister at the bar where my son cooks. We sat at the bar, fully in view of the kitchen, so we could stare at him annoyingly while we sipped our martinis. It wasn't terribly busy; there were perhaps eight of us at the bar, a few customers at tables. A bar menu of steaks (they smoke their own meats) and burgers (including a bacon/peanut-butter burger) and a lot of fried stuff. Affordable. Old (for Seattle) Pioneer Square building with high ceilings and comfortably-worn bar stools and creaky wood floor. Very comfortable -- reminiscent of many an Irish pub. In fact, the bartender was from Belfast. Well-made martini, three olives, a surface of ice crystals, a splash of olive juice ("dirty"). It was my sister's first foray into the world of Serious Cocktails minus the pleasure of fruity spritzes. She didn't like it. It's back to the Lemon Drop for her, I think.

In an effort to avoid the deep-fat fryer, I asked R. how the nachos were, and he said, "like you make at home." And indeed they were: lots of cheese but not gloppy, shredded beef, black olives, green onions, jalapenos, sides of salsa, guacamole, sour cream. Good basic food -- I was proud of my son! He's in a good position, as the only cook in the kitchen most nights, to move on to bigger and better pastures, as it were. The move up the culinary ladder is a long slow slog at low pay, but like anything, he has to pay his dues.

It was great to sit there last night, the doors behind us flung wide open to the mild October evening, the typical cast of characters bellied up to the bar. There are few things I enjoy more than a conversation with a stranger beside me, or a bartender. In a matter of minutes, I learned that the man beside me had three sisters, was raised in the military, didn't own a cell phone, didn't have an email address (not that I was asking for it, mind you), was on-suspension from his job at Boeing, was divorced and had endured more racial discrimination in Seattle than in Tennessee, where he spent many years. Phew!

In a quiet moment, R. offered us a tour of the back side of the place, and we got to go down a long, long stairway into the bowels of Seattle. I was a little hesitant, being leery of anything underground, but it was cheerful, well-lit and sparkling clean. There was a door, however, which I'm nearly certain led to old Underground Seattle. Yikes.

And even better, it wasn't a game night (two mega-stadiums down the street) so I was able to park right in front, on the street, no big-lot parking fee.

I could go there every night after work.
It could become a habit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Sara Teasdale


When I went to look at what had long been hidden,
A jewel laid long ago in a secret place,
I trembled, for I thought to see its dark deep fire --
But only a pinch of dust blew up in my face.

I almost gave my life long ago for a thing
That has gone to dust now, stinging my eyes --
It is strange how often a heart must be broken
Before the years can make it wise.

--Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933

Thanks to Tara at Out of the Lotus
for posting this recently. A copy of it
is taped to my refrigerator, and I read it
every day.

My step-son read this Sara Teasdale poem
when his father and I got married:

I Would Live in Your Love

I would live in your love
as the sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it passes,
drawn down by each wave that recedes;
I would empty my soul of the dreams
that have gathered in me,
I would beat with your heart as it beats,
I would follow your soul as it leads.

(Apologies to Sara Teasdale, as I had to
break her long lines in order for the poem
to fit into this format.)

For more Tuesday Poems, click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lost & Found, and Letting Go

Ten years ago my younger sister K. won the raffle at my sons' school: a $2k travel certificate, good for anywhere on the planet. Lovely person that she is, she said to me "Let's go to Paris!" Guess what: I didn't turn her down.

I humbly admit being somewhat well-versed in Many Things Parisian, having spent numerous extended periods of time in that city way back in my more youthful days. But this was a K.'s first foray into Europe, and I stepped up to the invitation with unabashed glee. (I'll mention here that she left her husband and two sons at home.)

I'm not going to turn this post into a Paris travelogue -- Hazel's posts over at The Clever Pup are accomplishing that in fine fashion at the moment -- but I do want to tell a story that K. and I have repeated numerous times these past ten years....

Arriving at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on a sunny late-March morning, I insisted that we board Le Metro for our trip into the city. I guess that I thought I was still traveling on a student budget, and eschewed any notion of a taxi. Silly me! I hadn't considered the hefting and heaving of suitcases over turnstiles and into subway compartments and negotiating around the other million-or-so Parisians using public transportation. Aaahhhhh.....

We were suffering the usual jetlag/foreign-city haze, and when we finally arrived, sweaty and dazed, at our metro stop -- St. Michel -- bumped our luggage up the seemingly endless stairs, and emerged into the sunny midday Latin Quarter, with the Seine and Notre Dame at our backs, cafes on our left, a glorious fountain on our right, and Boulevard St. Michel stretching out in front of us, my only thought was to hightail-it the two-or-so blocks to Hotel St. Jacques, shed the luggage, take a shower and head out, refreshed, into the city. So I leaned forward into the bustling crowd and headed off at a brisk clip. Determined.

About ten paces down the sidewalk, I turned to say something to K., and she wasn't there. I turned around and saw her still at the stop of the metro steps, luggage at her feet, slowly turning wide-eyed (a kind of Mary-Tyler-Moore That Girl moment) to take in that glorious first Paris moment. I called out for her to catch up, and she shouted back "WILL YOU JUST STOP!"


What was I thinking?

She started a smile which I don't think let up the entire ten days of our visit.

There was one more lesson to me, later that day, where I was once again reminded to stop herding my little sister. We were shopping in Au Printemps department store on Rue de Rivoli, and I turned around and she was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the linen department, where we'd been perusing tablecloths, expecting to find her at every turn, but no luck. I then systematically looked for her on all (eight, I think) floors of the store, but still nothing. I began to panic. Did she have a city map? Did she know the name of the hotel? Could she figure out the metro on her own? (I can't believe that I really had these thoughts -- yikes!) I thought: Mom will never forgive me for losing K. in Paris. (I'll mention here that she was 39: a grown-up.)

Doom and gloom began to set in. Several hours later, we met up in a shoe store a few blocks away. She was contentedly checking our something fabulous in black leather and straps, and was unconcerned about my obvious panic. She has this way of peering at me -- a brief fixed stare -- which means, "sister, you're nuts." I realized at that moment that it was high time to let go of that big-sister/little-sister relationship, that she was no longer a year-old toddler set out in the backyard for her older (five-year-old) sister to watch.

(But I'll have you know I took my responsibilities very seriously, at the age of five!)

We are hoping to visit that glorious city again next May, and I promise -- PROMISE -- to leave my apron strings at home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dollars and Poems

I'm getting ready to dig into a box of poetry manuscripts into which I haven't dug for at least three years. Yesterday I texted Son #1 and asked him to rummage through a certain stack of boxes at the Brandon Street house to try and locate said box. There ensued a back-and-forth texting marathon as follows: 1) did you find box? 2) can you deliver it to my work? 3) can you leave it on the porch? 4) etc. (Rumor has it that the iPhone 4 can be used to make actual telephone calls, but DON'T BELIEVE IT FOR A SECOND.)

Son #2 delivered box to my workplace as I was sitting on the porch, shivering, in what I thought, mistakenly, would be warm late-afternoon sun. (A long conversation -- off the clock -- with a re-fi banker. Altogether too much information to learn that I Do Not Qualify even though I Already Make The Monthly Payments.) (When I was seventeen I would have qualified because I was the star sprinter on my high-school track team and I qualified for everything and then some.) (And while in the midst of this banking conversation, Son #2 not only delivered The Box but showed me the paint color he picked out for the new bedroom he's framing up in the basement. I disapproved! Pale blue: too dead. I told him to go back and get something warm and creamy, but he told me he'd already purchased (on my dime) the paint. All the while Mr. Banker is rattling on and on about underwriting and lender fees and points. And inside, at work, the paint is drying on a large-fishbowl-black-branches.)

How can I not qualify when I make the damned payments every single month and my credit score places me in a place above where the archangels of the credit-universe live?

My fear here is that the contents of the above-mentioned-box will be fuel for a fire, any fire, the bigger the better. I knew a poet in grad school who said that she regularly stoked the burn pile in her parents' back yard with poetry manuscripts.

Poetry. Mortgages. They want MORE of my money and I have less to give them.

Poetry always wants, demands, more and more again.
And I give it.
How could I do anything else?

This is certain: it's never dull.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I am guilty of playing solitaire on my iPhone
in bed before going to sleep. Every night.
It's an addiction.

Last night I made myself pick up the novel
I'd tossed down two weeks ago
(Let the Great World Spin)
and I feel asleep mid-chapter.
(This was, of course, post-solitaire.)

When my son asked if I'd downloaded
any iPhone games, I gleefully told him
that I'd downloaded solitaire, and he rolled
his eyes and groaned. I know he was thinking:
So lame! But he didn't say it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


In the house in which I live, which is too big for me, I've spread papers over too many surfaces and in too many rooms: poems and pieces of poems and title pages and rough drafts and section titles and then, just blank pages. Some of the blank pages are turquoise, and I have no idea where they came from. It's far too easy to do this -- spread everything out -- when open spaces beckon. In the bedroom this morning I attempted to consolidate and tidy. I moved the many piles into fewer and larger piles. I threw out. I boxed-up. (Better than throwing-up and boxing-out.) Arranged and rearranged. Folded. Put in storage. Put inside of. Into the kitchen I carried more bags of food and put things in cupboards and the refrigerator and then began to take other things out because there was stew to be made. It's constant, isn't it, this shuffling of the implements of our lives. In my camping days one of the things I found so enchanting was the fact of so few possessions for a week or two, just enough to fit in the car along with fellow humans. How little we needed & how much we thrived with the little we had. A friend once told me to get rid of half of my possessions. I've pondered this. I am not a hoarder. But still the detritus accumulates and fluffs itself.

There are more boxes of more things in the other house and I've successfully pretty much ignored all of them for nearly three years now. Today I needed a poem for this manuscript I'm working on, something I wrote in 1998, and realized that it's in a box 19 miles away, or possibly on the hard drive of a computer in pieces in the basement, also 19 miles away. It was published in a now-defunct magazine called Heliotrope, the paper copy of which I thought I had in a box in this house but I was wrong.

I am going to scream now.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Anecdotal Science

There's painting I do on my job which requires meticulous attention with a tiny brush and it makes my hands go numb and throb. Usually I switch it out with other tasks, do my carpal tunnel exercises, hand it off to someone else. But yesterday an entire herd of glass vessels stood staring me down on the work table, and the only way to avoid their charge was to leave work early which results in 1) a smaller paycheck and 2) a back-up of unfinished orders. So with two and a half hours still to go, I reluctantly dragged out the box of acrylics, the brushes, the little plastic palette, and set to painting. It reminds me a bit of the old paint-by-number sets, where you had to paint all the dull and neutral colors first before adding the brights splashes of really great colors: I first immerse myself in lamp black (protective coating on my hands!) and then move on to sap green, perylene maroon, iridescent Aztec gold. A half hour into it and my hands were screaming at me.

And then.

Melinda and I were into one of our long-afternoon chats about anything and everything and the subject of heart-disease/clogged-arteries came up and, in reference to one of my relatives, asked if she'd considered The Cauliflower Treatment. Huh? Never heard of it, but there's something about the word cauliflower popping up amidst medical talk that is very comical, and I began to laugh. M., in an attempt to salvage her very serious question, went off to google "cauliflower/clogged-arteries" (which proved futile).

Still, the subject of The Cauliflower Treatment as a solution to the clogged-artery problem began to grow in hilarity, and we began one of our uncontrollable laughing fits, tears streaking our cheeks, bent-over & collapsed, surrendered to the moment. (Someone walking by the house at that moment would've heard a succession of shrill-pitched shrieks and might've been inclined to Alert The Authorities.)

When the laughs finally petered themselves out, as they do, I settled back into the task, literally, at hand, and my hands no longer ached. I finished the day's painting in good cheer, feeling finger-nimble and fit.

My prescription for you, therefore, is silliness, hijinx, mirth, tomfoolery & a healthy dose of hoopla.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Months ago, Paul and a friend scheduled a night at The Triple Door to see Hot Tuna. Last night when we checked in, we discovered that the friend thought Paul was ordering tickets for all four of us, when Paul thought each couple was ordering their own. And all the seats were sold out, so we stood in the lobby and dithered for a bit. Paul and I could sit, eat dinner, enjoy the show, while our friends could eat in the bar and then stand for the show. Not a very friendly option! Somewhere amidst our dithering, the young woman at the desk mentioned that a private suite was available. Of course, our first question was For How Much More $$$?? No extra charge, she said. She showed us the room, which was above the stage on one side, room enough for seven people, two tables, comfy chairs, and essentially a picture window onto the stage. She said we could arrange the furniture however we wanted, and a waitress would attend to us. Yes! We could adjust the lighting, and the sound. I was in heaven. The only drawback was that we felt not quite a part of the show, because we were separated from the rest of the audience by the glass, but to be able to listen to live music in a very comfy chair, with my feet up and very efficient table service was lovely. It felt odd to clap, though. I'd never been more acutely aware of how important that audience dynamic is.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Not a lot of blog action lately.
(Too much blah action.)
Got home from Ireland, jet-lagged, and started coughing.
Haven't stopped.
It's too early for a cold.


I spent the evening with four of my favorite men:
sons, husband, step-son. I LOVE cooking up a mess of food
for a bunch of guys. Even better when one of them cleans up.
Sat on the couch with my boys and laughedlaughedlaughed.

Nelson, who works in a pizza restaurant, said that a man
came in last week, and said, in a Spanish accent,
"I would like a small cock."
The girl working the counter beside Nelson
ran back into the kitchen and laughed herself silly.
Nelson said "WHAT????"
(The customer wanted a small coke.)

When my boys (ages 22 and 24) get going with their
grade-school potty humor they forget that

When I mentioned to Reilly that it feels like autumn outside
he reminded me that it's because it is autumn.

And that about sums it up.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


In order to avoid starting a big project, I instead delved
into another project I've been avoiding like the plague
for most of my adult life: putting together a book-length
manuscript. Oh, I've done it now and again, but I've always
been less than pleased with the results -- it just never felt
like it was right -- and then I'm lukewarm when it comes
to submitting it. Two years ago the Beloved Husband
(who truly is just that!) came up with a killer idea.
I've been kicking it around, procrastinating, avoiding,
doing things like cleaning out closets and scrubbing
the refrigerator instead of working on it. I'd rather
clean the litter box. I would fail utterly as a secretary.
I need a secretary of my own.

But avoidance is a powerful motivational tool,
and I now have in my hands what I think is my best
book-length manuscript to date, and after a few tweaks
and tunings, it shall be sent out. (Hopefully while
books are still being produced on paper. That part
could be tricky. I'd better get right on it.)

But now it's time to make a toast to the promise
of success: clink clink! (White wine, splash
of raspberry liqueur, lemon twist.)

Friday, October 1, 2010


Flervimple hogsneelze ke zokley. Shfrool? Qamble-dwoodly sho fa fa. Mimp glorg pag habimble-bop. Yurd bwix hulojink-jink: keego, sfoganju, plihcapi xoy, skiw & woomph. HEJOJINPY BOZIGNY YOGODDY!!!!!! SQUENZLE! (Yoob grimploggle snurg triq.)
(Plethcaj.) (Oid.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Perils of Packing & Putrified Peanuts

I was packing up an order Monday, scooping up handfuls of recycled packing peanuts to fill the top of a box, when I plunged my hands into something wet and slimy. LARGE and wet and slimy. SCREAM!!

We make a dedicated effort at work to use recycled packing materials as often as possible, and most of the packing peanuts we use are delivered to us by a woman who gathers them up at the local natural foods market. She also has a home-based business, and in her generosity, delivers to us the surplus peanuts from her foraging, as it were. We are fortunate, as these supplies can be costly to purchase, and why use something new when a recycled item is just as good?

Well. Many of these peanuts we get are starch-based and biodegradable, and soluble in water. A bag of two of this latest batch got caught outside in rain, and the water dripped inside the bag, and, well, things began to grow, if you get my drift.

When I recoiled at the slimy handful, I stepped back, held the bag at arm's length and lo and behold what should appear but a basketball sized hunk of blue-packing-peanut mold. Alive! Thriving! In its own little warm, plastic-enclosed terrarium-of-sorts.


At least there is a good chance that this was organic blue mold.

I suppose I should be thankful for that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The man who mows my lawn was murdered this week,
along with his two daughters. The shooter was his mother-in-law,
who also injured her daughter before turning the gun on herself.
This happened Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon, the day before the shootings,
I stopped by my house (where my sons live) and paused
for a moment to notice that the lawn had been freshly cut,
the edges meticulously trimmed. Made a note to get a check
in the mail to him.

The man -- Chouen Harm -- has been taking
care of my tiny strip of grass for seven years. I recall having
a conversation with my son where he said it probably wasn't worth
the $25 charge, but a friend pointed out that it provided
a measure of order and sanity in my struggle to keep up this house
which I would've unloaded a few years back if it hadn't been
for the economic downturn. Thursday night, before I'd heard
anything about this tragedy, I dreamed that Chouen had come
to the house where I lived as a child, and only mowed half the grass,
leaving expansive wild swathes in the half-acre yard.

I recall a sweetness about him, and always made a point
to thank him for his good work. He was reliable
and efficient, year after year.

I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of grief
that the surviving wife/mother/daughter is experiencing,
or if she is able to feel anything but a staggering bewilderment
and numbness. I would suspect that a human consciousness
can only take in something like this in infinitesimal measures.

From today's Seattle Times:

Like thousands of her countrymen, Saroeun Phan fled Cambodia's genocide in the late 1970s, hiking through the jungle for days before reaching Thailand.

She left behind the horror of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, which exterminated as many as 3 million people through execution, torture and starvation, forcing many into labor camps.

"I don't think anybody can really appreciate the horror that was Cambodia," said Dr. Carey Jackson, medical director of the international clinic at Harborview Medical Center. Studies showed the average Cambodian refugee family experienced seven traumatic events — more than twice as many as other Southeast Asian refugees — including torture, rape, watching the torture or rape of a loved one, imprisonment and warfare, he said.

"They frequently don't talk about it," said Jackson, an internist. "There's nothing there they're particularly proud of, so they don't pass it on to their kids. They sublimate it; they push it down ...

"They are literally haunted people."


All I can think of is the capacity for horror -- horror upon horror --

that exists on so many levels, everywhere, and our too-often

inability to escape from it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I admit, even in my atheistic post-Catholic brain-state,
to a certain obsession with statues of The Blessed Virgin Mary,
which are ubiquitous in Ireland. We encountered her
in roadside shrines, at holy wells, in gift shops.
And that's it -- an obsession, without any philosophical
rants or reasons or explanations.

BVM on the road to Rosmoney:

BVM at St. Patrick's holy well, in rain:

A bounty of BVM's in a gift shop at the shrine in Knock:

Ring of Kerry BVM:

Not the BVM, but a saint (Bridget? [Gidget?])) in North Mayo:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes The Road Goes On Forever

Post #1354

And so it's back to the routine, and I am glad for it. My time in Ireland was so intensely packed with visual/musical/poetic imagery, I need some time to let it all sort itself out, to settle the rearing and reeling horses of exhilaration. Get a hold of the reins, as it were. The work I do for a living is good for this as it's often of a meditative nature. And then the people I work with -- all artists in their own right -- are a continual inspiration with their expanses of knowledge and expansive wit. I will miss, however, the ample swaths of time in which I indulged myself these past three weeks. But contrast is of utmost importance: yin and yang, zig and zag (Cheech & Chong). Amen.

And I will remind myself that All Things Are Not Beautiful:

Time to swear off anything made of plastic. On a remote
beach in the wild West of Ireland, I photographed these
eternal remnants of human existence. And they were not
few and far-between, but every step of the rocky way.
"Butterlicious" was exactly how I found it: upside down.
And may I add that I saw a Butterlicious container
on EVERY beach I visited.