Sunday, February 28, 2010

Easy as....

There exist few greater pleasures than cooking with my son. He who has completed culinary school requested a lesson in pie baking -- he specialized in all things savory, so there is still a sliver of wisdom to be gained from his mother!

He insisted on peaches. (He of Let's Only Use In-Season Ingredients said: they're in season in Chile.) Imagine my amazement when we found some ripe peaches at Whole Foods for way less than the price of gold. In February. In Seattle. Well then.

And now the kitchen air is glazed in a simmering sweet cinnamon haze.

He was concerned that his pie, before baking, was less than beautiful, and I told him that I believe that never in the history of pie-dom has anyone said, "This pie is ugly. I will not eat it." I told him that a pie is a rustic thing, that by its nature is can be ziggy or zaggy. A pie is always beautiful. One can cut rough strips of dough and haphazardly strew them across sliced apples or sugared berries, and nearly every citizen of the planet will sigh and moan in surrendered joy. (I say nearly because I happen to know a poet who doesn't like pie. He's a good poet, a good man, a good friend, but he is flawed, nonetheless.)

(We made French onion soup with duck stock also, but that's for another blog entry.)


My camera has tanked. Gone the way of the one which leapt to its death snapping and clicking in a parking lot in Westport Ireland. (See here.) This one was not so suicidal. Alas, it lingered, losing small parts of its ever-so-delicate self until the battery and film no longer nestled snugly together in their Fuji Finepix niche. P. and I have not had camera luck these past few years: three abandoned to their fate in Eire: in the aforementioned parking lot, another slipped from pocket to toilet, and one vanished in an Aran Islands woolen shop.

I'm adrift here without a camera.
At sea, blind and dumb.

Friday, February 26, 2010


This is a simple soup:

Chop up some onion, garlic, carrots and celery;
saute in a little olive oil. Don't ask for measurements --
I only measure when I bake. Give it some life
with a grinding of black pepper and a teaspoon
or so of kosher salt. After a few minutes, throw in
some chicken (or vegetable) stock, a large can
of chopped tomatoes, some chopped green cabbage,
a bay leaf, some basil (fresh or dried) and a generous
bit of chopped fresh Italian parsley. Simmer, gently.
I splash a little red wine in, too.

This soup reminds me of my mom (minus the wine).
It was a staple at lunchtime at her apartment
when she was in her late seventies and early eighties.
It's good humble eating, without pretensions of any kind.

I miss my mom.

She was born March 1st, 1916.
She would be 94.

Here's to you, Mom.
Here's to your soup.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


From Citizen K.'s blog, eloquence from Jesse Jackson:

Most poor children are neither black nor brown, they're white and they're female.Most poor people are not on welfare, they work every day. They work in fast-food restaurants, they clean hotels, they drive cabs, they do their labor in the dark, they're aides and orderlies in hospitals, they're cooks and janitors at schools, they keep other people's children, and ultimately cannot afford to take care of their own. Often they work in the football and basketball stadiums, selling the soft drinks and refreshments. But they are without health insurance. And they get sick too...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


My writing group met last night: we've been going at it, in various incarnations, since 1991, although of the eight poets currently attending, only two of us are original members. In '91, with a three-and-five-year-old at home, I was desperate for the company of other poets. I put out a call for poets in a small local monthly newsletter called Poetry Exchange, and soon received a handful of responses from other poets interested in a twice-monthly critique group. We met at a local library, until a clearly mentally-unwell man, who claimed to be a poet, drove us from the public venue (where we were not allowed to exclude him).

As with any group that meets for an extended period of time, life's experiences have not passed us by. In the past 19 years, we've sustained death, divorce, illness, births (of the grandchildren variety), home purchases & sales, business successes & failures, publications of every kind and travel to various far-flung corners of the planet. Professions/occupations of members have included: physician, nurse, photographer, glass artist, grant-writer, professor, baker, Buddhist-nun-in-training, poet-in-the-schools and secretary. In 1994 we launched a small nonprofit publishing company: Floating Bridge Press, which thrives -- and in the black -- with its well-respected collection of chapbooks and anthologies. (Only one of the founding board members still plays an active role in this all-volunteer organization.)

Since fleeing the public library, we've been meeting monthly in members' homes. We're a dynamic and rousing group: the wine flows freely (or, as in the case of last night, vodka-tonics with the addition of a mysterious Italian liqueur), as does the wit. Snacks run the gamut from popcorn to pickled peppers to plum pie. Poets (hopefully, myself included, though I'm speaking here of others) possess a capacity for tenderness and perception that I rarely experience elsewhere. In this group, we strive to practice a modicum of restraint when evaluating each others' poems -- honesty without personal attack.

(I recall a University of Washington writing class I took taught by a visiting poet, who would mercilessly slice-and-dice poems/poets while standing on her pedestal in front of the class. Needless to say, I left that class with no respect for the instructor. She was an example of How Not To Conduct Oneself. The following year, a poem/poet she had eviscerated was the recipient of one of the university's prestigious undergraduate awards. Ha!

By contrast, in a workshop taught by Richard Hugo, he lovingly and with the utmost respect addressed the self-loathing expressed by a young poet in one of her poems: it was an incredibly moving experience.)

Last night's subject included:
-a jigsaw puzzle
-childhood perceptions
-Hanford fallout

The vocabulary included, among others, the following words:
-zig, zag

This language, these poets, sustain me, have sustained me, will continue to sustain me.

From time to time I entertain the fantasy of entertaining the group at the Ireland house. Possible? Yes. Likely? Probably not.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I saw this on The Dishwasher's Tears:

"No matter how far you have gone down the wrong path, turn back"

--Turkish proverb

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Existing in Eden

It's a little surreal plunking oneself down in an 80-degree landscape in the midst of a (well, admittedly mild) Seattle winter. My first few days on Maui I walked around in a daze: Sun! Surfboards! Mai Tais! Hibiscus! It seemed as if everyone but me knew what to do. I ran for the shade, in shock. The racks of tropical-print shirts in every store sent out a glare against which I knew I was hopeless to shield. I tried to convert dollars to dollars. (What's the exchange rate between Hawaiian dollars and Seattle dollars?) I was in culture shock, in my own country.

But thankfully the transition from persistent grey to allover blue was speedy, and before long I began to feel comfortable in my own bared skin and even -- shock! -- walked barefoot, a thing I rarely allow these tender paws. I soon began to envision everyone I knew, anywhere on the planet, in sleeveless shirts and shorts. E-mails from my boss in snowy Philadelphia seemed to be coming from an alternate universe. Snow? Ice? Aren't we over that yet?!

High humidity -- which crumples and then liquefies me -- did not exist. In its place, a constant benevolent breeze cooled the skin and carried with it an ever-shifting fragrance: plumeria, saltwater, rain-forest, eucalyptus. I was emptied out, blessed and sanctified in a baptism of cerulean waters. The possibilities for goodness seemed endless.


And again, sigh.


Re-entry has been gentle; with temperatures in the upper 50's and nary a cloud on the horizon, Seattle seems to have plunged forward into an early spring. Here at the day-four mark in my post-paradise recovery -- it seems I still exist in The Grace Period of Happiness that often follows an especially remarkable sojourn. My sister asked me, "Have you recovered yet from --", and knowing she meant "jetlag" as her next word, I interjected "--happiness? Are you asking me if I've recovered yet from happiness?"

Nope. Not yet. And I intend to hold on to this, um, condition as long as I possibly can.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More on Meals

I recall an evening when my kids were in grade school --
a weeknight, and I had cooked pot roast for dinner.
Nothing unusual from my point of view: it was dinner,
it was good, and we all sat down together to eat.
My next-door neighbor stopped by unexpectedly
just as we raised our forks, and when she stepped inside
and breathed in the homey cooking scents, she said,
"Oh! How wonderful! You've cooked a REAL meal!
And you're all sitting down together to eat!"
Indeed we were. Indeed we did every night.
If you must eat, it might as well be a good time.
The funny thing is that this neighbor was the epitome
of a Kansas (from whence she hailed) 1950's stereotypical
housewife. It would not have been out of the question
to assume that every evening meal at her table was
replete with home-canned peaches and freshly-baked
bread. But judging from her reaction, I'm guessing
that it was not.

So powerful, apparently, was my insistence that we sit
down together at the table and eat & talk that, recently,
when my son N. was visiting for dinner, and I suggested
that we take our plates and eat in front of the television,
he reacted with indignance and horror: we ate at the table.

It gives me no small pleasure to acknowledge that, as a
mother, I know I've done at least one thing right.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


Sharing a meal with another is a symbol of acceptance
of the other, an acknowledgment of one's vulnerability
as a human, of the necessity of fuel for survival:
a peaceful conjoining of needs.

I just finished Marilynne Robinson's Home, where
I gleamed this gem:

How to announce the return of comfort and well-being except by cooking something fragrant. That is what her mother always did. After every calamity of any significance she would fill the atmosphere of the house with the smell of cinnamon rolls or brownies, or with chicken and dumplings, and it would mean, This house has a soul that loves us all, no matter what. It would mean peace if they had fought and amnesty if they had been in trouble. It had meant, You can come down to dinner now, and no one will say a thing to bother you, unless you have forgotten to wash your hands.

And then, a little later, this:

She made up the dumpling batter and dropped it onto the stewed chicken. She, also, had eaten some terrible dumplings. It occurred to her to wonder if they were ever good in the ordinary sense, if at best they were not just familiar, inoffensive. They really were too inoffensive. It might have been the word "dumpling" she liked rather than the thing itself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Last Sunset....

Alas, this good thing is drawing to a close. This has been a life-altering experience. All my life
Hawaii has been a cliche-destination, and I chose -- for many years -- to pursue destinations to the east of the Pacific Northwest. It took me half a century to finally plunk myself down on this outcropping of volcanic rock that makes up the 50th United State, and it is with despair that I must depart in the morning. I could remain here for the rest of my life and watch waves pound the shore, in as many shades of blue that the eye can imagine. What is it about a breaking wave that is so compulsively captivating? Is it a primal urge that is satisfied at some point along the arc of water and force and roiling foam? Perhaps. And then, perhaps it's better left unanalyzed, better left taken for what it is: you decide. All I know is that something broke loose in me this week, became dislodged in that unnamed grey matter of the brain, leaving in its wake new pathways to the sea, much as lava forges its own fiery metamorphic passage.

Lahaina Bay Humpbacks

Above the Clouds

My number one desire while here was to visit Haleakala, the crater of the volcano that is Maui. Yesterday we decided to venture up, despite what seemed like a perpetual halo of clouds at the summit. We began the drive up a long, straight incline through miles of sugar cane fields, which, prior to the Captain Cook's initial European contact with the islands, were lush fields of taro. Soon the road began to zigzag, and the sugar fields gave way to fragrant eucalyptus groves, which in turn gave way to low scrub and red-and-black volcanic debris. The clouds hung like voile curtains which offered a hazy vista of the West Maui Mountains and the infinite blue of the Pacific.

There were few other cars, to our delight. The summit, at 10,023 feet, was illuminated in glaring noontime sun. Spectacular!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Entertainment

I sat at the free-standing bar by the beach today sipping an iced-tea, when a woman walked up beside me and ordered some lunch to go. Just an hour earlier, I had texted the details of this woman’s hair-do to my sister back in Seattle: from the front, she was unremarkable, but from the sides and back, her teased-and-ratted bouffant ballooned from her skull – flight seemed entirely possible, given the right wind.

I had an ideal view as she lounged beside me, prone sur la chaise. When my sister texted back (beep beep) Mrs. Bouffant jumped up, peered at me, then flopped back down again, with nary a ruffled lock. Hard to tell how old she was -- she had that perpetually-stuck-in-the-sixties look, so I felt as if I was looking with ten-year-old eyes at the mother of a childhood friend, which would put her at about 35, which was highly unlikely. So I guessed sixty, sixty-five maybe. Honestly, do women still do this to their hair? It was goofy fifty years ago and it’s still goofy.

My sister and I texted silliness back and forth, then I moved on to the subject of the older man on the other side of me who exhibited a very generous “B” cup in the flesh about twelve inches above his waistline. And saggy! Good god! Get a harness! Mr. Saggy Bosoms and I shared a polite conversation a few minutes after my text, but little did he know that the subject of his bared man-bosoms was zipping around in hyperspace, and that just moments ago a forty-something woman pushing a shopping cart at Costco in Seattle was visualizing his floppy chestal region.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010


I understand why people go to resorts and don't leave.
The only travel we did today was on foot, to a shopping
area down the beach. Other than that, I swam from pool
to pool and got knocked down by a wave. Crazy massive
wave. There was sand in my ears after that. (And in my
mouth and under my swimsuit. Go figure.) That was the
extent of my Ocean Water Adventure. I haven't been
swimming for some time, and it felt damn good.
In the pool, I mean. The ocean was less than placid.
I like placid. Floating. I like to float. My brain
is afloat. How in hell did it take me five decades
to cross the Pacific and arrive in this Eden?
I was busy trying to stay afloat in all the ways
that don't include water. And I've never been
a particularly strong swimmer.


Mmmm, mmmm, not!

Bill from Just A Moment of Miscellany recently commented, "Remember, SPAM is more or less the State Dish [of Hawaii]!" Thanks, Bill for that tantalizing tidbit. I ran into this can of macadamia nuts at Hula Hatties, and couldn't quite bring myself to buy them. The ingredients didn't list any meat-like products, though, as far as I could tell, unless I was missing something. Heavy on the chemicals, though. I don't know why anyone would think to coat macadamia nuts (or anything else, for that matter) with spam-flavoring. Scratching my head on this one.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Island Ease

We drove up the North Shore today and from a promontory, watched a solitary surfer finesse some colossal waves. I could watch the furling and unfurling of the surf forever: infinite shades of turquoise and blue, capped in white. It's just flat-out spectacular. (Where, exactly, we were, I couldn't tell you -- I have no memory for the Hawaiian place names, but they're sure fun to say: every vowel is pronounced.)

Lunched at Mama's Fish House. In the short time we've been here, it's been recommended by just about everyone we've met. It is, of course, on the beach; and even though we were seated at the back of the room, we could view the palm trees and surf through the spacious bank of open windows. In fact, it looked more like a movie than reality. (Hmm....I suppose I've witnessed most all of my tropical restaurant scenes on a screen....) The interior is shaded and intimate, with thick Oriental carpets throughout. The service was flawless; so was the lehi (fish) I ordered. But what nearly brought tears to my eyes was the appetizer of Polynesian seared beef with cilantro, ginger, sweet onion, tomato, cucumber and lime served in a grilled half-papaya. Good god almighty I nearly dropped to my knees in adoration of the chef.

Mama's is pricey -- our lunch, sans alcohol, cost as much as dinner out in an upscale Seattle restaurant. But believe me, it was worth every last shred of that beef, every last drop of lime. (Definitely goes on the list of Most $$$ Lunches ever, for me, after the formal dining room at Musee d'Orsay in Paris and La Gouloue on Madison Ave. in NYC.) I'm going to attempt to reproduce it (the dish, not the price!) when I get back home, probably with the assistance of my personal chef-son. Can. Not. Wait. !

Clouds swooped over the island all day with soft grey scarves of rain, and we drove up-country through fields of shimmering sugar cane and the occasional rainbow. The wind never let up, and the air was cool and delicate after each shower: not unlike Irish weather, but with heat. P. found a stunning navy silk Hawaiian-bowling shirt with intricate hand-stitching on the pocket and collar, and I found a white linen-silk-blend blouse.

Still no photos, though. Office Max was out of the card reader I use, and we couldn't bear to drag ourselves into odious WalMart, where we most likely would've found one.

We plan a quiet day tomorrow: reading, swimming, lounging. No traipsing about the countryside. It's time to get on with the business of lolling.
Meanwhile, on another part of the planet
where Mother Nature is not smiling so kindly,
the artist Melinda has finally touched down
in Philadelphia after a 30+ hour arduous journey
which took her first to a night in an airport hotel
in Charlotte, North Carolina -- not exactly on the
itinerary! -- where she can began to set up for
the Buyers Market of American Crafts. The month
of January our mantra was no snow no snow no snow.
Hrrrmmmph. The gods/godesses apparently had their
ears tightly clamped shut, as our supplications seem
to have called forth the blizzards of the century
on the eastern seaboard of North America. Now
my fervent hope is that the prospective buyers have
been as intent as she in battling the elements.
My question is, why schedule this preeminent
event during the time of year when the odds are
that ice and/or snow can greatly impact ones ability
to arrive there?

From Maui

We sailed for two hours tonight on Lahaina Bay
at sunset, on a fifty footer with a grizzled, blue-eyed
and perpetually cheerful captain named Gene
and his 22-year-old mate named Debbie Jean
(whose job while not hoisting sails and securing
the rigging was filling our plastic champagne cups
and handing out macadamia chocolates). We were
periodically accompanied by hundreds of Spinner
Dolphins -- their dorsal fins arcing above whitecaps --
while gray whales breached and spouted all around us.
The sun dipped down behind Lanai, and we headed
back to dock at twilight.

(No photos yet because I just discovered that I left
my card reader at home. Will pick one up tomorrow.)

I could sleep for a month.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I've had nothing to say. (Many who know me find this astonishing, yet it's true.) Every now and again I retreat into a pre-language cave and hunker there in the firelight for a few weeks. Blogging holds little appeal, as it requires the use of language. TV, though, is a good winter-in-a-cave entertaiment, and P. and I have been marathon-ing Battlestar Galactica. Not the 1980's Lorne-Greene-in-a-shiny-green-jumpsuit version, but the more recent of-this-century incarnation. Dark & evil sci-fi with half-human/half-cylon infants and Edward James Olmos at his graveliest.

My phone went all photoshop on me:
1. funky geometric graphics,
2. and then it died.


On the tag of an undergarment at a department store:
"prevents muffin top".

At last, a cure for The Heartbreak of Muffin Top!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nine to Five

Details from some new work Melinda (my employer)
has been working on:

It's gorgeous stuff -- brooding and emotive -- fog-shrouded
crow's nests and late-season dahlias with their last
remnants of color. Makes me swoon!

Melinda leaves next week to show at The Buyer's Market
of American Craft in Philadelphia and The American
Craft Council in Baltimore: two wholesale shows
and a retail show. We're keeping our fingers crossed
that all goes well; if it does, I'm guaranteed a job
until the end of the year, and Melinda can continue
to make her living as an artist.

Wish us well.


I have a manila envelope full of correspondence to
Mrs. Elmer Miller --

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Faux Fete

Seems I've created a bit of confusion here in blogland....
Sunday was my 54th anniversary of January 31st, and
today is my 54th anniversary of February 2nd, tomorrow
will be my 54th anniversay of February 3rd, etc.
But I am not yet 54. That happens much later in the year,
after we've rejoiced in the return of the light and then
lamented, once again, its waning.(I admit to exhibiting
confounding behavior from time to time.) I'll put all
your lovely wishes in an envelope and open it
just after Halloween!

(Maybe I should use this excuse to bake and eat
a chocolate cake. Hmm....) (Any excuse for cake.)

Color Therapy