Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cussing about the finite

Thursdays turn my hair grey.

I am beginning to see a pattern. Thursdays basically are shit days. It's not just the big schlep to motherfucking Orange for violin, nor is it related to any particularity of the week - sick days or busy-ness or what have you. I think that Thursday is just simply the day when all my half-assed illusions of order and control break down, and also when the finite nature of human time, space, and capacity is shown in starkest light. Right? Best laid plans and all of that. Also, I think my demons are more prone to get out of the box at this time of the week. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention to keeping the lid down on it.

Don't forget your demon box maintenance
So a body has two choices here -- succumb to the darkness, let the demons run free, give in and give up OR fight back, recalibrate the plan, accept limitations, put the damned demons back in the damned box, and keep going. (Ironic that I wrote that post on Jan 1, and here we are on Jan 31? I think not. I think demon wrangling probably needs to happen on a regular schedule, like taking out the trash.)

So, then. OK. There's always Friday.

PS Cussing is sometimes damned shiny.OK, it really wasn't that much cussing. 

Dinner: Remember when I seemed like a person who cooked? Yeah. Well, the person I am today had the babysitter heat up prefab frozen turkey and black bean chili and cook some rice.

Soundtrack: There was something funky playing on WCSB on the way home from work. The next time I DO cook dinner, I am going to take Nic's advice and do the James Brown.

Random thing: Speaking of limitations and the finite, have I mentioned how terribly, horribly old I am getting? And all my grey hairs? I know, I don't really have them many, and it's not so much that they bother me ... It's just, well, I use to have few just at my temples and now I keep finding them all over my head. It is alarming only so much as it is a reminder of my own finiteness. I don't intend to hide them. In fact ... when I'm an old woman, I will have a long mane of white hire, and I will smoke a pipe, play (slightly arthritic) boogie-woogie piano, and have two afghan hounds that I walk regularly, their long hair flowing in the breeze to match mine.

OK, I might have to delete the hounds part to keep my marriage intact, but otherwise, this is the plan.

I was also going to write about poetry down here, but I forgot that until now ... tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will write about how I have been thinking about poetry a lot.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fighting the fog on Z's day

And then there was this person.

She is 10 today. I remember turning 10. I also remember rubbing lotion into her very long feet when she was a newborn, wondering who she would be -- a circus performer, probably, with those feet -- and promising her everything. I never could have predicted everything she has shown me and all the people she has brought into my life or her intensity of spirit and her need for people. She is and has been pretty  much from day 1 the most social person I have ever known. How much I miss the small person she was and how much I enjoy the big person she is becoming.

I wrapped up a pair of gel heel cups for a present - because she needed them for her soccer cleats so I bought them, so why not wrap them and put them with her "real" presents. Strangely, she seemed genuinely glad to get them. It was the first thing she showed her grandparents when they came over.

Meanwhile, boy still sick, and me wobbling too. Felt like a lost day, and I just had a sick day two weeks ago. Sick days make me feel out of sync and in danger of darkness.

Reading: Story books to O

Writing: No, and this is part of the out sync part. Blah.

Dinner: Takeout Chinese - girl's choice for birthday dinner

Soundtrack: She got Just Dance 4 for her birthday (especially so she can play it with her two besties coming for a sleepover this weekend). We checked it out after school. This is her pop culture.

Random thing: What does one notice in the fog? -- the litany of negative things is long and pestering me, but the point of this blog is not the negative things (and who really cares if my house is a mess?) I noticed today how you can see Calvin's brick (we bought it to be in front of CPT, and then brought it home when the sidewalk in front of CPT was torn up and redone) from the window of my front door. In this weather is is very bare, but it reminded me of the time to come in the spring when we will plant flowers around it. I like to put primroses there.

I would like to be a slightly less neglectful gardener this spring. Just ever so slightly, if I could fit it in with all the rest of this.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Find out more about preeclampsia.
Read my story here.

10 years ago right now, I was naked in a birthing tub in my 16th+ hour of labor on the labor & delivery floor of Macdonald Women's Hospital in Cleveland, OH. In another few hours, I would get out of the tub sometime during 3 hours of intense effort to push out the big, long, healthy girl who would be Z. (Though she wasn't named until the next day.) It would have been an intense time, but having already lost my first child to preeclampsia (yes, this is what killed Sybil on Downton, and it could have killed me. Instead, it just killed my son, Calvin. And if you don't know about it, you should), the effort to give birth to this girl was particularly intense. She was two-weeks past her due date, and we were very eager to see her for the first time alive and well.

It is a cliche to say it, but I don't understand how a whole decade has passed since then.

Today, in 2013, the boy child was home sick with a fever and the blahs but no other distinct symptoms. As he put it, "My head feels dizzy and foggy, and now my stomach feels like is all full of some kind of vapor." I came home midday to be with him and let David go to work. Now, I feel like I might have caught some of his vapors. Not what I want for Z's big day tomorrow.

Reading: I have given myself the assignment to think about the endgame of this novel writing endeavor, and how it relates to other things I have finished or not. Zen Habits is a blog I read from time to time, and I found this post there about finishing. And then I was reading Booklife  by Jeff Vandermeer, which if you are a writer or think you might become one I highly recommend. He is both a writer and (often with his wife Ann) and editor of science fiction and fantasy, and in this book he offers a highly sane and compassionate guide to both the public and private sides of the writing life. I dip into it from time to time. His bit on "Permission to Fail" is a case for taking huge artistic risks. Not so much about finishing but it is relevant to my effort to stay true to the big, sprawling, impossible ambitious thing I have laid out for myself with the ToT. Better to try and get it right, despite its improbability, then to curtail it and always be wondering if I could have done it.

Writing: Yes, juicy meaty revision. Yum.

Dinner: Chicken chowder (with that chicken stock I made a while back when David had to empty the freezer to make way for the prepackagedness) loosely based on a recipe from Monday to Friday Chicken. Mine had bacon, onion, green pepper, thyme, bay leaf, chicken stock, potatoes, chicken, corn, and condensed milk. It is good.

Soundtrack: This morning WRUW's Swing a Verse program featured jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge, who was born 1/30/1911.

While cooking, I listened to Gossamer by Passion Pit, per Tina's response to yesterday's Facebook cookery music roulette. I  liked it more the more I listened to it, and I had accidentally set it to repeat, and found that second hearing was better than first. No time for more specific comments.

Random thing: Who knows? It's late, and I'm vapory ... temperature shifted 50 degrees in 2 days. My body is a little confused.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weird imagery and we have a winner ...

I feel like I dreamt this in the future past.
(See the rest of the series.)

No, really. I'm going to do this in 20 minutes. Starting now, at 9:57:30 PM.

What to say about the day?

  • Mornings always have precisely 34 more minutes of stuff in them than time. 
  • O came home very emotional and complaining of a headache. He ended up having a temperature of 100.2.
  • Tiger was the ultimate shoulder cat during dinner prep this evening. He likes to inspect every ingredient -- with eyes and nose. I talk to him like he might understand me.

Reading Moving along with the Nalo Hopkinson, whilst O read Order of the Pheonix and Z practiced violin. (O has been without a chapter book since finishing Big Joke Game, and while I have nothing against his reading the Lego catalog obsessively, I do think a person needs a chapter book. Yesterday, I challenged him during a down moment by saying he had a choice - he could either go clean his room for 20 more minutes, or he could go search for a new chapter book to read. He came downstairs beaming and holding the Harry Potter. As he quickly pointed out, he's heard the first four. Now he's ready to read the next.)

Writing: Only the tiniest bit this morning. Hoped for some time this evening, but spent more time on food than writing. Tomorrow is a big writing day for me - afternoon and evening childminding help.

Dinner: What we call "chicken cakes" -- they are mushroom and cheese stuffed chicken breast, which are then molded into perfect little cakes (prefab) -- and oven fries, and a butter braised combo of fresh peas, and diced carrots and parsnips.

Soundtrack: While I cooked, I listened to Sufjan Stevens, recommended by Karly Whitaker, the winning entrant in my evening's Facebook contest! Congratulations, Karly! You won because your suggestions most closely matched my desire for the unknown tonight. What did I think? I was weirded out by the length of his not one, but two Christmas albums, and I liked individual songs more than albums, and the older folkier stuff more, in general though not song by song, than the more recent electronica stuff. I do like the back-up singers and the horn section, as well as the futuro-retro-trippy vibe in this appearance on Jimmy Fallon:

Thank you to all who played along in my Hivemind Musical Cookery Challenge. All entrants will automatically be recycled into the next contest.

Random thing: These images ( - I got them from Lisa's FB post) - color photos of Paris in the early 1900s - so science fiction wonderful. Maybe we begin to see what the world perhaps looked like in a totally different era. Somehow the flower carts - some to of the most mundane of images - are oddest to me. Reminds me of a story I want to write about aniline dye ... really.

And ending at 10:39, but I dozed off for a few minutes while in the process (sorry) and then had a conversation with David when he got home from rehearsal ... so kind of like 20 minutes of actual blarg.  Now, to bed ...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Now with food porn!

Party dress cookies

Excellent Sunday full of domesticity. If you follow this blog you will be getting by now that I simultaneously love and resist the domestic. It is something of a theme.

Naked cookies
O and I spent a chunk of the afternoon making cookies for the elementary school skating party. I was very low on butter and I don't keep shortening in the house, so I went on a quest for an oil-only cookie recipe, came up with a simple one that we tinkered with (a little more sugar, and the addition of lemon and orange zest, ginger, and a smidgen of nutmeg). They are rolled into ropes and twisted, then iced when they were cooked and cool. We colored the icing electric blue and hot pink. I liked them, and they disappeared from the cookie table. By twisting them, you create segments and crannies that are very pleasing to the tooth. Should I post the recipe?

Reading: Bit of New Moon's Arms

Writing: Diddly procrastination, then working on revising Lee scenes in Tucson. Tough stuff and exciting. Incremental progress. I wish I were in Tucson while doing this task. I like to tell myself that diddly procrastination is part of the process -- "Trust the process," Paul Selig always says -- I hope I am right.

Dinner: Cheese ravioli with garlicky chicken and broccoli with pesto, veggie broth and parmesan cheese.
A bit brothier than intended, but good.

Soundtrack: Z's orchestra is doing an arrangement from the of Barber of Seville this semester, so I thought we should listen to the real deal. She looked up from her homework when the overture played -- "Hey, we've heard this!" she said. "Well, you're orchestra is playing it," I replied. She screwed up her face and listened, nodding. Then she said, "That is crazy fast!" Got through the 1st act while making dinner.

Random thing: The Pasha took a long, luxurious bath tonight, listening to Storynory (thanks, Donna, for turning us on to that) while soaking in a Lush bath melt bath redolent of roses and sandlewood. When I stopped in to check on him, he told me of his plan to design a tub that is squishy and soft like my new memory foam mattress, but waterproof of course. "It's like all those pictures you see of ladies in the bath with their legs all stretched out," he said. "That would only be comfortable if you had  a tub like I'm talking about."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

And then there's Friaturday ... when I wax metaphysical

In the right mood, it occurs to me that Tiger is a liitle corner of the universe,
bounded by muscle and fur. Then again, so is a rabid dog.  

I know, I can only use the double-name days so many times, but it's been a long week.

On Friday I attended shabbat services at Fairmount Temple as part of a work effort (encouraging discussion about women's personal experience of abortion, rather than political rhetoric, within the congregation and beyond). It's the second time I've been to services there recently. If you know me, you know I am not a churchgoer - was not raised as one, although as a young elementary school student I went through a period of seeking and went to church with everyone I could get to take me. What I ultimately got from that was that most churches weren't where I wanted to spend my time. But I've never really stopped being a seeker, in my own contrarian, skeptical, and somewhat distracted way.

I was struck during the services by a particular phrase in one of the prayers that says that the day of shabbat is "a piece of eternity." This is such a fascinating concept to me -- a sort of immanence -- human action deliberately inviting the infinite into this finite space. Having gone to look into this phrase [potential essay?], I see that to anyone who studies these things, it might be a common idea, but ... It strikes me. And it is not unlike the spiritual side of yoga, although different in physical manifestation, in which part of what you are doing is using physical effort to connect to the piece of the infinite you carry within you.

I have always been very interested in the concept of immanence, as opposed to transcendence. A preoccupation with transcendence, it seems to me, can lead to a kind of cruelty, a disregard for the things of the world or for the lived experience of individuals. Immanence, on the other hand, imbues the physical, lived world with an importance people need to attend to.

Gives my mantra of "notice what you notice" another layer of meaning, perhaps.

Readings: On Friday, not much besides Borrowers. On Saturday, more of Nalo Hopkinson's New Moon's Arms, and skimming various internet findings relating to my metaphysical meditation above, wherein I found this quote from Isaac Bashevis Singer, whom I love dearly and truly. It's from his Nobel laureate lecture, given 12/8/1978:
The high honor bestowed upon me by the Swedish Academy is also a recognition of the Yiddish language - a language of exile, without a land, without frontiers, not supported by any government, a language which possesses no words for weapons, ammunition, military exercises, war tactics ... The truth is that what the great religions preached, the Yiddish-speaking people of the ghettos practiced day in and day out. .... In spite of all the disenchantments and all my skepticism I believe that the nations can learn much from those Jews, their way of thinking, their way of bringing up children, their finding happiness where others see nothing but misery and humiliation. To me the Yiddish language and the conduct of those who spoke it are identical. One can find in the Yiddish tongue and in the Yiddish spirit expressions of pious joy, lust for life, longing for the Messiah, patience and deep appreciation of human individuality. There is a quiet humor in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life, every crumb of success, each encounter of love. The Yiddish mentality is not haughty. It does not take victory for granted. It does not demand and command but it muddles through, sneaks by, smuggles itself amidst the powers of destruction, knowing somewhere that God's plan for Creation is still at the very beginning.
 Also, coincidentally ... synchronistically? ... from the chapter in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird on finding your voice:
Look at the two extremes. Maybe you find truth in Samuel Beckett--that we're very much alone and it's all scary and annoying and it smells like dirty feet and the most you can hope for is that periodically someone will offer a hand or a rag or a tiny word of encouragement just when you're going under. The redemption in Beckett is so small: in the second act of Waiting for Godot, the barren dying twig of a tree has put out a leaf. Just one leaf. It's not much; still Beckett didn't commit suicide. He wrote.
Or maybe truth as you understand it is 180 degrees away--that God is everywhere and we are all where we're supposed to be and more will be revealed one day. Maybe you feel Wordsworth was right, maybe Rumi, maybe Stephen Mitchell writing on Job: "The physical body is acknowledged as dust, the perpetual drama as delusion. It is as if the world we perceive through our senses, that whole gorgeous and terrible pageant, were the breath-thin surface of a bubble, and everything else, inside and outside, it pure radiance. Both suffering and joy come then like a brief reflection, and death like a pin."
But you can't get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don't have much truth to express until we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have goin in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in--then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home. (pp 200-01)
Writings: Friday, not so much.
Saturday, well, this long monster of a blarg. And also looking at voice in the opening section of the ToT in light of notes from group last week, but trying not to stay there ... also trying to get back into those dragony bits towards the end.

Made a big realization that I am at (the beginning side of) the end stage of writing this book, and this is a place I have never been before. No wonder it feels so unsettling. Trying to make analogies to other big things I have finished in the past ... my epic undergrad career (!!), my MA thesis, past-due big-baby pregnancies, etc. ... to help guide me.

Dinners: Friday, pizza with artichokes, prosciutto, and basil (from Dewey's), and salad and red wine, with my friend Dallas, after temple.
Saturday, party food at Bottlehouse (first time we've gotten there, because we are behind the curve on these things. we will be back!)

Soundtracks: Friday, I'm not sure.
Saturday, David mentioned thata Current (Minnesota public radio indie music station) dj had said something about wishing Lloyd Cole had been her boyfriend, so ... the Rattlesnakes album by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. Also, a really great r&b genius mix based on Etta James' "The Wallflower."

Random things: Friday afternoon, the kids and I spotted a teenage boy in the neighborhood up the hill with a truly admirable bright lime green mohawk (and I say that as an individual who once upon a time had a lime green mohawk of my own). Z was a little critical of how it was falling down some in back. She observed that it would be much easier to stand a mohawk up if it were cut from an afro.

Saturday morning there was an entire flock of robins outside the door to CIM - I mean, like, 20 - 30 rust-breasted robins, all puffed up in the cold, jumping back and forth from the snowy ground to the bare branches of a small round tree with tiny red berries hanging from its very tips.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The schlep

It's a good word.

Now is when the discipline of doing this daily becomes a challenge. Thursday night, obligations every single evening this week -- tonight it is doing a double whammy of kids' music lessons, managed solo (with the help of a friend) now that David's rehearsal schedule is heating up. To immediately go on a tangent, it is a testament to the regard in which I hold Z's violin teacher that I am willing to make the drive to her new house. The far eastern suburbs (really "far suburbs" anywhere) fill me with existential malaise.

Had a nice time hanging out with O while Z was transported out to violin with a friend. At the grocery story, in the wine section, he did ask me why we always buy "so much special drinks." I'm not sure I gave a good answer.  His drum lesson was good. Schlepped out to her violin lesson. Schlepped everyone home. O finished his homework while I set up dinner in front of the TV so we could end the evening with a soothing dose of Phineas and Ferb. And scene.

Except then I learn on the intertubes that an old ... colleague? ... has died. I didn't know him well. Many people I know knew him better, and their grief matters more than my ... whatever it is. But it is a sadness, and it makes the past seem even so much farther away. Frank Green was one of the people who made Cleveland a good town for arts of all kinds.

So, Thursday. In Z's violin lesson, I had an interesting conversation with her teacher about the effective tool of making plans. And the plan for this week was to just get through the week - 5 nights of stuff, and full days. One more day, then a long sleep, then making a new plan.


Dinner: We bought subs during the schlep to eat while watching TV. My children do love the hoagies. Also, leftover sweet slaw. And, yes, I had a "special drink" (aka cheap Tempranillo).

Soundtrack: Itzhak Perlman radio on Pandora.

Random thing: On the way to the grocery story, O proudly announced to me that there is more than one word in Spanish for the color brown (marro'n and cafe). We talked about that for a while, and then I asked him what is his favorite word in Spanish. He was quiet for several seconds while we were getting out of the car, then said "I have to think about that." We did the shopping, went to drumming, and on the way out of the music school, he finally said, "I've been thinking about it, and I finally found my favorite word: anaranjado."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I like to call it Tuednesday ... and I like it balanced

Thank you, Charlene! 

Tuesday was another long day at work, which means another day when my noticing of the world in the way I hope to record here is diminished. It was a good day. I got to meet and hear Loretta Ross (her biography is really pretty amazing).

Wednesday was less long, and also pretty good.

Maybe what I need is for someone else to balance all my packages
(photo found on the Brooklyn Limestone blog)
But working long days diminishes my sense of balance. I used to think balance was a state of stasis: you find the balanced position and maintain it rigidly (not balance). Then I thought that balance was like a picture of someone holding a ridiculous number of packages, teetering and tottering under the weight but making the adjustments to keep them all from falling (not balance). I have come to believe that balance is more about picking things up and putting them down, sometimes holding several things at once and teetering a bit, but really more about being more focused with each parcel in turn. Balance happens within a day but also over the course of several ... one hopes.

Reading: At lunch Tuesday, I picked up a copy of Glamour that promised to tell me what guys thought of me based on my shoes. What was funny, and sort of charming, about this feature is that it featured four very different shoes - pink platform ankle booties, patterned rubber boots, fringed suede moccasin boots, and futuristic rubber and plastic fetish sandals - and had quotes from guys as to why each of these indicated the wearer was someone socially and sexually attractive.

Wednesday, I took some time after dropping the kids at school to sit in a coffee shop and read the Nalo Hopkinson (balance) and read again for 20 minutes while O was doing his school reading.

Writing: Working through notes from writers group.

Dinner: Tuesday, late evening supper of baked acorn squash with butter and brown sugar and rice pilaf (ordered by me, executed by David ... balance).
Wednesday, mac-n-cheese-in-a-hurry, but then fed spicy guacamole and olives and bread with turkey and cheese at a meeting in a zero-energy house. (balance?)

Soundtrack: Finally heard a song by Grizzly Bear that I was aware was by Grizzly Bear. Sounded OK, but I will curmudgeonly comment that I don't see what the big deal is. (Did you know that the Latin name for the animal is ursus arctos horribilis? I saw one on a hillside in Alaska on my honeymoon.)

Also, O singing "I'm dreaming of a white February, like no other wa-one ... No, no, no. I'm dreaming of a white May-ay, like there's never been before ... Wait, no. I'm dreaming of a white almond bark with no peanuts in it all." (Ever faithful to his peanut allergic sister.)

Random thing: The coffee shop I stopped in today was the Phoenix on Coventry. I was disappointed to see they had changed the door to the bathroom since I last peed there. Now it is just a generic hollow core thing. But in days of old it was a wooden door, the grain of which on the inside look liked a cloaked vampire/bat/fox/devil figure. I loved that image.

The orchid that Kim's mom gave me as a present when she came for dinner an entire year ago is BLOOMING AGAIN!!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The president says Stonewall while I work a lot

A demon mask, and a piece of 8th century Japanese art
(from Cleveland Museum of Art, Gallery One -- part of the kids' day while I was at work)

"We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth." -- from Obama's second inaugural

Gay rights in the inaugural address!

And in other news ... I worked a 10-hour day, so this my deliberately non-work blog, will be thin.

Reading: No, but I did exercise!

Writing: Wii Fit is not writing, but it does start with the same letter.

Dinner: Had some salad with great sesame dressing and extra raw mushrooms at the board meeting. Then came home and had the yummy Hawaiian pizza David had made. (Monday pizza, week #3.)

Soundtrack: The Wii Fit has dreamy, electronic music to lull you into feeling relaxed and happy so that you will more readily accept the commands of your Wiiminatrix.

I am thinking of doing a series of "love song" posts for the month of February. Stay tuned for this exciting development.

Random thing: I got a really nice performance evaluation at work. Also, I hear there is funny video of Michelle Obama rolling her eyes at John Boehner.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mix tapes and macaroons

You can't have my mix, but you can use this to build your own.
(Buy now)

Do you know what is shiny? My writers group is shiny. I was worried last year that this group had reached its limit, as writing groups will do, but we rallied ourselves and decide to revise the way we do business and to think about how the group can serve each member's needs more individually. It seems to have worked. They were gentle with me, but also gave me lots of fuel to power this next phase of writing/revision/reshaping. Thanks, friends.

Also shiny, my parenting community. Faced with three impossible kid/work/transport situations this coming week (David is starting outreach tour season Wednesday. Whee! And I kind of become solo parent for a while), I reached out to friends, and I have managed to cover them all. I have trouble asking for help, so this is particularly shiny for me.

Reading: Finished the other submission for group. And more of the outsourcing article.

I desire to be a less desultory reader.

Writing: Revising some scenes in Arizona, and the city of Tucson is alive in my mind.

Dinner: Sunday is a good night for using up leftovers. Retooled last week's three-bean chili into "3 Sisters pasta sauce." By which I mean I added some sauteed pumpkin (cut and skinned during last week's curry making but too much for that recipe), onion and peppers, extra spices, and frozen corn. ("3 Sisters" is the Native American set of staples - beans, squash, and corn.) Served over fusilli with grated cheddar and some sriracha sauce.

Soundtrack: David and I wooed each other with mix tapes since the beginning of our relationship. Or mix CDs, as the care may be. And he has made me a mix every 2 years or so since we've been together, with songs that pertain to our lives together during that time. So, songs that were popular, or that we listened to a lot. Songs from movie soundtracks or TV shows (helps that we live in a good sountrack era). Songs from live shows and concerts we went to. More and More, songs that have been important to our children. He makes cover art for them too.

Usually he gives them to me for a roadtrip. Sometime recently ... last summer? for a roadtrip last summer? ... he committed the old cassettes to CD too, and gave me the whole bunch of them. [ed note: anniversary present! tied up in lace. lace is the traditional present for the 13th anniversary.]

So, tonight, I idly turned on the CD player in my car, and one of the disks from the not too distant past was sitting in there waiting for me. It includes an amazing acoustic version of the Siousxie song "Cities in Dust" by our friends, the band Queue Up. Ali's voice is so perfect and immediate and haunting in this recording. This is immediately followed by "Tightrope" by Janelle Monae, which may be one of the most joyous pieces of music ever. Terrific segue, and a perfect snapshot of my friendship with my husband. So much is contained there.

Random thing: Macaroons, what gives? I am getting banner ads fed to me that feature technicolor macaroons. At the art museum on Friday, I noticed a trio of teenage girls all buying a single macaroon each at the dessert counter, and thought "These are the macaroon generation." But why? I think I was first aware of the macaroon thing in Chicago a few years ago. I was staying with friends and stopped in the big Macy's that was Marshall Fields to get a gift for them, and came away with a perfect little parcel of improbably hued macaroons. Seemed like a novelty trend to me then, but now I feel like macaroons they have become mainstreamed, a staple. Like scones or paninis or, god forbid, the wrap.

And, here's a little present for you:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

We do not need a war revolution

"Don't be vague. Say Haig & Haig."

Strangely long day, which started with Z back to 8:30 a.m. Saturday orchestra rehearsals. Her regular teacher/conductor is on maternity leave, so her replacement was there for the first time. She is very, very French, and is a cellist with an understated sense of humor. They are playing an arrangement of Barber of Seville, which will be very fun.

The day ended with friends we don't see very often, talking loudly about religion, drugs, writing, and urban planning. Marcie was in rare form; funny as hell. We all had trouble deciding to leave, and I am hoping we didn't overstay our welcome.

Reading: Now I'm reading a NYer article about outsourcing yourself. And a submission from someone else for writers group.

And paging through Summer of Love by Gene Anthony, and The Dead Book by Hank Harrison, who was an early roadie/manager/whathaveyou, truth seems unclear, for the Grateful Dead and also Courtney Love's father. I knew this book existed, and I was interested in it for convoluted research-y, fiction writing obssessive reasons, but I knew it must have a tiny print run and who knew if I'd ever find it. Then I happened upon it quite by accident in a used book shop in Tucson, where I also felt like I ran into the ghost of Robertson Davies (what he would be doing in Tucson, I haven't clue ... perhaps just a scrap of his ghost caught inside an old book by him that I picked up). That whole trip to Tucson was quite magical.

And more Borrowers.

Writing: Two hours - reacquainting myself with manuscript and working on ghosts.

Dinner: Potluck with friends, including potato/cauliflower soup made by Natalie and much better than the stuff at the art museum. Circumstances conspired to have me create a bizarre scotch amaretto sour cocktail, leavened with some ginger ale. Scotch and amaretto is called a Godfather, so maybe this is a Godmother? Is that a gender-weird thing to say?

For all of you scotch geeks out there, this was from Steve's vintage bottle of Haig & Haig. Was it a crime that I mixed it?

Soundtrack: Not much listening but a lot of thinking about female blues singers of the 20s and 30s.

Random thing: At orchestra, the kids all got chatty and animated while switching music between pieces. The new conductor said, "All right. All right. We are just switching piece. It should be quiet. We do not need a war revolution." Is there a French colloquialism that this approximates?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lost tooth at Severance Hall

The back up band wasn't too shabby either.
(photo from PD review)
All is contained below.

Reading: I put Madeleine's Ghost aside. I imagine I will come back to it, but it isn't compelling me right now. I went to it largely because I wanted to see how he handled the ghost, of which I got some impression, but now the story is far away from that.

I started Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms instead. She's a Jamaican-Canadian speculative fiction writer. The book opens with a strong, confident, humorous voice.

Also, more Borrowers, from which I was going to type out a quote here to illustrate why I like her writing so much, but this blog entry is taking too long (no, I don't write them in order) so I will have to wait and find another compelling passage on another day.

Writing: Let's just say I'm taking a little break after the Herculean effort of sending 36 pages to my group. >sigh< Trying to be gentle with myself about this, but I need to get back to it this weekend.

Dinner: Z and I dined at the cafe at the art museum on our way to the orchestra. She had fancy mac and cheese. I had half a cheese and tomato chutney panini, which was good, and some potato and roasted garlic soup, which was not. We both had mounds of very fresh arugula on our plates lightly dressed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Arugula (or rocket as the call it in England, and really we should call it that too, because it's fun) is one of my favorite things.

Soundtrack: Z and I got see Joshua Bell play the Beethoven violin concerto.

We were sitting almost in the direct center in the fourth row of the balcony, a nice spot visually and acoustically, and what was really extraordinary to me was the complete, profound silence in that hall during the most lyrical parts. I haven't experienced such a silence in such a crowd before.

Z and I also heard Chee-Yun perform this piece a couple years ago with CityMusic. At that point Z had been studying violin for less than a year. I had by requirement been sitting in on her lessons (still do), and I heard the concerto in a different way than I had ever heard it before. Not that I had ever studied it, but it is familiar to me from life. Until Z's lessons though, I had never contemplated the technique necessary. It's amazing how much music can come out of single length of the bow.

Z declared the performance last night was one with "an exciting mood." And she lost her twelfth baby tooth somewhere in the middle of the third movement.

I do wish we had spent more time listening in advance. I think that she would have been all the more interested had she a better sense of what she was hearing - something by which to judge, and I don't know why that didn't occur to me ahead of time. Oh well.

Random thing: Leaving University Circle I was stuck behind a silver Mercedes with "AYNRAND" license plates. Seriously.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sick Day, with shoes, movies and a special guest blogger!

Woke up puking sick, so my day was spent sleeping with cats, nibbling crackers, browsing shoes online, sleeping, and watching Netflix. Oh, and booking my face.

[Shoe fetish warning. Scroll down for movie mentions and a mini guest blogger post below all wacky footwear.] 

Elena posted these shoes on FB, and they consternated me. 

 I appreciate them conceptually and even get the kink appeal,
but as a lover of shoes as practical art, I find them troubling. 
The post sent me to the website selling them, KarmaLoop, and down a rabbit hole of extreme shoes. I love shoes. And it is interesting how split my reactions to many of the shoes here is. I just frankly don't get the huge platform stripper shoe trend, and I feel old admitting that. (But here's a good take down of the designer and the trends he is imitating.) Wedge sneakers are growing me though, especially in weird ice cream colors. Still so many of the shoes on this site, I wouldn't wear these days, but I am glad to know there are people out there who do. 

These ones I love though, and I would invent reasons to wear them. 

And these. Where can I wear these? Will you please throw a party to which I can wear these? 

After some crackers and a nap, I watched Margin Call because it's about the mortgage-backed securities meltdown, and I have an interest in that for a character. Indie film with a great cast (and now I have a full blown thing for both Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto), Kevin Spacey getting a little Gene Hackman-y. It's very well written, and shot well too. Also The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, well because Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. I have a feeling most people find this movie intolerable. I find it amusing as hell.


Dinner: buttered rice and ginger ale


Random thing: My friend Julie, with whom I saw the play and ate marrow with last week, wrote this to me this morning, and I told her I liked it so much I would put it on the blog:

"We had a lunch presentation today by a delightful Wisconsinite. He was from Chilton, a teensy town in the middle of no where. From the accent, I would have placed him in northern Canada. We all just sat there, dreamy, looking at his Nordic chapped face and his blue eyes, listening to that lovely accent, and sympathizing with him about the Packers. 'After all, we are Browns fans....' Above all, this man loves the extra hard limestone he quarries from his snowy, family owned land. His slides were shitty and charming. It made me realize that, soul sucking big box retail homogenization notwithstanding, we still live in a nation with regional identity." 
It was a good way to start the day, reading this. And then the puking, alas. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Teeth and the value of a golden ring

I went the the dentist today to have my teeth cleaned. Literally "shiny," but not for most people particularly interesting. But I used to be terrible phobic about the dentist. Not just that it made me nervous; it incapacitated me with fear and anxiety. I threw up on my dentist once as a child. I prefered having teeth pulled than filled (not that that was given to me as an option, but when I had 2 teeth pulled for orthodonture, I knew that that would be so much better any day any how).

scary webcam picture of my clean, healthy, long rooted teeth.

A few things go into this - trauma and a high tolerance for novocaine, combined with a childhood dentist who, I guess at this stage, didn't particularly know how to help with those things. Anyway, I didn't see a dentist for 15 years because of the phobia, and a lack of funds. After Calvin was stillborn in 2001 and I was very, very sick with preeclampsia, I realized two things 1. I was mortal and I needed to take care of myself, and 2. the worst thing had already happened so there was nothing left that could hurt me. (I also at the same time shed my phobia of centipedes.)

I found a dentist who treated me well when I met with and told him my story. He was kind and didn't shame me in any way, and he also was specially trained in dental anesthesia, relaxation pain management. Over the last 12 years, I have spent a new car's worth of money correcting those 15 years of neglect, and I have strong, healthy, deep rooted teeth, with several crowns. Better yet, my kids LIKE going to the dentist. They aren't just OK with the dentist. They have no concept that anyone would be afraid of this experience. This may be the thing about which I am most proud as a parent.

Reading: Some Borrower's Afloat, and I think some Bashevis short stories before bed.

Writing: No.

Dinner: 3-bean vegetarian chili, assigned by me and executed by the David.

Soundtrack: A program on WJCU reminded me that punks who released albums in 1979 aren't the only musicians who matter. There's also The Black Keys.

Random thing: In Borrowers, there is a discussion of which they would rather find in their desperate straits: a gold ring or a safety pin, and Homily, the mother says she would prefer a safety pin. The syntax was strange, so I paused to make sure Z&O understood what had been said. O asked why, and I explained that it was more practical, even if not more valuable. To which, O said scornfully, "Yeah, unless you traded the ring. Then you could get, like, 10 safety pins for it."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Her patronus is a fawn in need of mothering

Z and were working on violin practice tonight -- whe is working on the Becker Gavotte in Suzuki Book 3 -- and I asked her what story she wanted to tell with this piece of music, how to break down the mood of each section -- and she told me the story of a "patronus fawn" cautious because it was being watched and then happily running through the forest. In the last section it accidentally trips and falls into a pond and its mommy comes to rescue it. Felt like a gentle but important reminder. She is so smart and self-possessed it is easy lose sight of how much she still wants to be enfolded in care. [I could write a whole essay on my relationship to Z and my thoughts on attachment parenting here.]

Also, David accomplished an amazing freezer purge and cleaning and organizing. It is beautiful to behold, and I made chicken/vegetable stock with the bones and bits that had been accumulating for just this day. (Nevermind that this was prompted by a large influx of Market Day superprocessed items. I so rarely purchase processed foods. Leave me alone about that.)

Reading: More of the twentysomething article. Now I'm just depressed. Also, Madeilene's Ghost. Why does it take me so long to read a book? I actually almost lost this book yesterday, and wonder if is a sign to read something else.

Writing: Just reformatting what I sent to my group, because somehow it had been stripped of line spacing. Blerg.

Dinner: Winter squash (pumpkin and buttercup, both from City Fresh, in storage until now in my incredibly fabulous pantry [ed. : I was going to insert an image of a crazy pantry Kate Anna! sent me, but I forgot until after I published this. Damn.] ), bok choy, and red bell pepper curry over rice.

Buttercup = best squash ever

The curry was a coconut milk base. I had one can of coconut milk and some leftover cream of coconut, so it was on the sweet side. I did not blend my own curry, but used a combo of grocery store curry poweder, garam masala and balti, with a bit of extra tumeric. Also fresh ginger, garlic, and onion. Finished it with chopped almonds, a squeeze of lemon and some sriracha. It was special.


Class dismissed. Although I am tempted to tell you about the first time I listened to London Calling, as a 12-year-old, visiting my cousin in New York, and staying in the room of an absent roommate with a small turntable and a crate full of records.

Random thing: Z needed to do research for a folk tale she is writing for an imagined culture she has invented. She was looking up "red animals," in the course of which we found this magnificent fellow, a red stag with a crown of ferns: (You have to follow the link, because I am unable to embed this pic.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cocky mini post w/o illustration because that would take too long

Very brief. I am up too late, packaging up 36 pages to send to writers group.

Reading: Started the NYer Critic at Large piece about books about 20-somethings. Made me miss my Icelandic friends, laugh out loud, and rethink my ideas about my 20s. Which is something, because my conversation last night for my friend's project have me rethinking my 20s too.

Writing: To paraphrase Jonathan Richman: With gusto! Damn, you bet! As I just told my group, the closer I get to the "real thing" of this book the more I see there is left to do. But I feel more optimistic than I ever have.

Dinner: OMG the pizza I made. Red sauce with garlicky sauteed beet greens, freshly roasted red peppers, and salami. I challenge you to make a better pizza.

Monday night seems to be becoming pizza night. At least we have two down and a freezer full of Alesci's dough bought on special, so I say why the hell not. I wonder what next week's will be.

Soundtrack: Not particularly. Tried some early Beatles base genius mix, but it somehow got lost in an eddy of Queen and Hendrix. Not that I have anything against Queen and Hendrix, but just not my thing today.

Jonathan Richman really would have been more fitting. I surrender.

Random thing: Oh, who knows. So many. I have become obsessed with dogs. I say "doggy doggy doggy" to myself when I am driving and I see an attractive dog. There is a particular kind of larger-sized spaniel with a very feathery tail - white with caramel markings - that I have been seeing near Shaker Square recently. I like that dog.

Also, forgot to mention that David and I watched The King's Speech on Netflix this weekend. If nothing else, I like watching Firth and Rush together on screen, both so nuanced in expression. And nice to see Helena Bonham Carter not playing someone demented looking. I really liked the relationship Rush's character had with his family. I also like the colors. I have been very into the color scheme of movies. Lincoln registered on that wavelength with me too.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

We call him the Pasha

I think my son had the laziest Sunday morning of his life. We all had lazy mornings, but his was stupendous. O woke up a bit before 8 and crawled into bed with us for a half hour before engaging in a Pokemon video marathon in his underwear. After breakfast, David took Z to her soccer game (she won), and O turned to me and said, "Can we just cuddle for a while?" So we cozied up together, which was fine with me, because I have been operating on a major sleep deficit and relish any opportunity to close my eyes. I dozed for 20 minutes while he lay quietly. When I woke and asked him what he thought about while lazing like that, he said, "My mind is full of all kinds of things."  Then he asked, "Is today a school day?" I told him it wasn't, and he said, "Geez, this weekend feels so-o-o-o long." I told him we were lucky, and I got up to putter in the kitchen. He stayed in bed and read Ninjago books, then twenty-five minutes later called down the stairs announcing his intention to "just lie around and think about things for a while more." I went upstairs at 12:15 and found him asleep. I woke him trying to take his picture.

The Pasha in repose.

Reading: My own manuscript, does that count? And 5 pages of Madeleine's Ghost, and Borrower's Afloat.

Writing: Working on the structure stuff, seeing things to write and things to cut. I owe something to my group. It will have to wait until the morning.

Dinner: Roasted root vegetables, inspired by the recipe for which in Earth to Table, but I couldn't find jerusalem artichokes, and I add a toss with balsamic when they came out of the oven. Plus Kim's scarlet barley (barley with beets and lemon juice).

O, halfway through the meal: "I think I'll be having more root vegetables."

Soundtrack: Exotic animals day: Tame Impala's Lonerism, which I saw described on a comment thread last week as "the cure for cancer," which I assume means that listener thought it was really, really good. My favorite song was "Elephant." The rest was fine, good even, but nothing I felt impassioned about. Psychedelic Beatles are not my favorite influence. And a High Llamas album from several years ago, because it was something else had seen referenced and decided to check out. (I make no claims to being hip these days.) The High Llamas, you might know, sometimes worked with Stereolab. As David said,  "This is Stereolab." That's ok. I like Stereolab.

Random thing: Interviewed by a friend for a project she is working on, I cried about losing my first son, Calvin, for the first time in a long time. Cried, really, about how totally alone we felt in our grief. Calvin's 12th birthday is coming up in March. I'm sure he'll show up here more.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Let us celebrate the magpie's nest

I have now blogged daily for a month. I feel this deserves a celebration of some kind. How shall I celebrate? And what is it I am celebrating?  The value of this blog, for me, is threefold, I think. First, it serves like any diary to capture the daily. Already, I can go back and be reminded of things I would have forgotten. And I can begin to trace the patterns in my life.

Second, it is a version of mindfulness practice. The blog takes 20 minutes or so (or more), but the habit of mind infuses my day. Knowing that I will blog helps me to notice what I notice. Notice what you notice is always what I try to teach students when I am teaching. It is the foundation for everything else. The particular headings I have chosen for the blog focus my noticing on the things I want to cultivate or celebrate.

Finally -- is this a contradiction? -- the blog was intended to give space to my broad field of interest and awareness, to be a nest for the magpie of my mind.

Black-billed magpie on nest.(one of an amazing series on magpie nesting behavior from
the absolutely gorgeous blog Feathered Photography)

Some people are single-minded, and this can be a self-evident strength. I have always been multi-minded, and while I suspect strongly that this is a strength -- it helps me to see patterns and make connections between seemingly unrelated things, it means I can fit myself into many different groups and settings, it guarantees that I am rarely bored -- I also have not known particularly well what to do with it. The education system I came out of did little to support it, and our culture generally seems inclined to specialization, segmentation, single-mindedness. [Sidenote: This is one of the places I mentioned at the beginning of this month of blogging, where I could break this into its own essay, off-blog. It would be interesting to go back through the month and identify the others.]

Hey! You can read the fable
of the Magpie's Nest here.

What it does for you, dear reader, I would be interested to know.

Reading: It felt like downright synchronicity when I opened the current New Yorker to find a piece on structure and beginnings by John McPhee (abstract here). That is exactly what I have been mulling over on these recent days of non-writing, and he even provides examples of some of his structural maps! Love.

Writing: Yes! I do write! Spent 2 - 3 hours working on this structure/beginning question, feeling my way through an idea about how to pull together the disparate threads of the book at the beginning so that then they can unravel and branch out in the telling (seems counterintuitive perhaps). Keeping aware at all times that I am still not done writing the dragons, so shapes can still shift. (what an odd sentence) I like what I wrote, and I think my narrator is finally coming into focus.

Dinner: Beef & beet borscht (from the freezer, made in late summer, but dammit it is something *I* cooked) over wide egg noodles that had been tossed with butter and pumpernickel crumbs, topped with sour cream of course. Noodles with breadcrumbs is something I learned from the Greenhouse Tavern.

For dessert, some crazy stoner ice cream from Ben & Jerry's -- vanilla with salted caramel swirls and fudge covered potato chip clusters. Seriously. Z picked it, but she got no argument from me. Too bad the chips weren't crisper.

Soundtrack: David was on a David Bowie kick, and that was fine with me.

Random thing: Took O to his first basketball game of the season. The sound of the gym is hard for me to take, all that noise bouncing off hard surfaces and coming back at sharp angles. Having been so immersed in soccer, where play moves quickly but is spread out and scoring opportunity can be so hard won and far between, basketball feels like soccer on amphetamines.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Marrow to tofu

Totally exhausted, but ended the week with a date with my dear friend Julie. (We met in prenatal yoga more than 10 years ago, along with two other friends. We are collectively the yogamomz.)

We went to see a play that could have had the working title Domestication of a Sexually Liberated Woman, but that would have been too self aware. 50s-era sex comedy with a vampy witch who ends up swathed in yards of beige at the end. There were parts that were amusing, and the design was pleasing, but ... well, then we went to dinner, and that's where the real fun began.

Reading: Intro to Smitten Kitchen cookbook (fourth of the Xmas cookbooks), based on an uber popular food blog of the same name. Wonder when my blog is going to be so popular that I have to quite my day job to maintain it ... maybe I'll need to change my format.

She is a very different cook than I am, but I am looking forward to her recipes. I'll report back.

Writing: No, but the weekend is soon upon us, and I have an idea I am looking forward to experimenting with. (I know, dangling preposition in my "writing" heading. Leave me alone.)

Please buy me
more of this.

Dinner: Went to Cowell & Hubbard with Julie after the play. We shared the beef marrow (apologies to my veggie friends), and I had the tofu au poivre with broccoli rabe and mushrooms. Yes, marrow to tofu, that is the way I roll. In fact, maybe that will be the name of my uber popular food blog! I also had a lovely glass of Dave Phinney F-1 - a blend of grenache, syrah, and Bourdeaux varietals. I could really easily become a maniacal wine person, had I the time and money. And a glass of port for dessert, the name of which has eluded me. Not a port I had heard of before.

Actual cooking will happen this weekend.

Soundtrack: Julie was XMing raggae in her Mini Cooper named Rupert, as is her wont. She told me about some "chill" dj I need to check out, but like the name of the port I drank it has drifted away. I'll find out.

Random thing: An early evening nap.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lack of routine and a random duck

I was going to leave this until the end of the day Friday and do a two-day entry, but the dailiness of this is starting to get ingrained. I will be brief.

I have never been much of one for routine. In fact, have been mostly anti-routine. And yet, there are small moments in my day that recur on schedule and bring me great pleasure. My first sip of coffee in the morning, my morning writing (when I can get to it, which hasn't been this week) reading in the kids room while they fall asleep, the whole rhythm of the school week.

Completely random image!
I like coffee and I like ducks.

(You can buy this print from the Oatmeal.)

My work schedule has been non-routine this week, and it is wearing on me -- or maybe that is just what Thursday feels like. But, I am here, with my blarg. I can hold that part down.

Reading: No (lack of routine)
Though O did finish Big Joke Game. This is a milestone, his first real chapter book (as opposed to the short, limited vocabulary early reader books like Amelia Bedelia or thin Star Wars novels) that he read all on his own and with relish.

Writing: No (lack of routine)

Dinner: Mad rush kind of evening and no time when the four of us could sit down together. Pizza (with artichoke, black olives, red onions and feta) and salad from a local place we have recently started frequenting. Unfortunately it did not sit well with me. Not sure if this is me or the food. (lack of routine)

Soundtrack: Z was part of the Tiger Nation Instrumental Music Festival tonight. Orchestras and bands from elementary school through high school from all over the district. A lovely idea, it took such a very long time. I like for the young kids to see what is coming up for them. This is the second time this school year that Z has gotten to perform at the high school. She is beginning to feel like it is hers. And the Heights music program is an incredible treasure. The schools I grew up in had NOTHING that could compare to this.

I really liked the high school symphonic winds playing Pilatus Mountain of Dragons by Reineke. The principal oboist was truly outstanding.

And of course, 500 kids playing "Eye of the Tiger" is quite a thing to behold.

Home late, girl deliriously tire. (lack of routine)

Random thing: For someone who got out of my small hometown literally as fast as I could (moved solo to Atlanta 2 months after I turned 17), I sure do revel in the small town qualities of Cleveland Heights. Nice to see so many friendly faces at the concert.

And, so you know, I have a near maniacal affection for water fowl.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Interest bearing

O's last words to me before he went to sleep tonight were, "I really want at interest-bearing account."

Second very long work day in a row. This is challenging my sense of balance, but at least the last hour of it was a meeting with 4 other awesome, smart -- and very stylish, I might add -- women. And rye Old Fashioneds with my friend Barry, who lives in California but whose girlfriend lives a half a mile from me (two body problem). We met as precocious 16-year-olds, starting college and dissecting Aristotle. I was terribly shocking to him way back then. Now, we get to see each other a few times a year to drink and parse our various intellectual obsessions.

I drank a Pimm's Cup here.
Reading: In Madeleine's Ghost, I am reading a section set in New Orleans. A significant scene is set in the courtyard at the Napoleon House -- it's an illicit tryst and they are meeting in the Quarter because none of the people they know will be drinking there. Instead, it is "businessmen on convention, and housewives from Akron who wear their mortgages on their sleeve." I'm not sure what that last phrase means precisely, and I'm not from Akron, but I did have a drink and a sandwich IN THE COURTYARD OF THE NAPOLEON HOUSE when I was in town for my childhood companion's wedding last year. Being able to imagine the scene from memory tickled me inordinately.

Writing: blah - see what I said above about balance

Dinner: pinto bean and avocado salad from The Goodness of Beans, Peas, and Lentils, #3 of the Christmas cookbooks, a funny little volume I found at Loganberry, and picked up for David b/c we had been talking about the virtues of eating more lentils. Again, I chose, David executed. We agreed it was not the best-written recipe, but the salad was good in the end.

Soundtrack: WJCU was my college radio of choice today, and you know who kicks ass? Lucinda Williams kicks ass.

Random thing: Check out these amazing photos:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What is it about 3 a.m.?

I got 4 hours of sleep on Monday night, so that was not shiny.

Why is it that when I wake at night and can't get back to sleep I always wake at 3 a.m.? What is it about 3 a.m.?

And, David Bowie has a new single! (Watch it below!)

In the sleepless morning this fascinating piece from an online series on anxiety from the NYT:

more about it here
In the evening, ZandO and I sat together and read for an hour - first draped over furniture in the living room, then with them tucked into their bunks and me in the rocking chair. I remain simultaneously admiring and slightly skeptical of Madeleine's Ghost. Z finished (!!!) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and O is reading The Big Joke Game, which he got for Christmas. It's a book David loved as a child - about a kid who loves practical jokes and gets caught in a land called Limbo, where he has to solve puzzles to survive.

Neither of them wanted to stop reading. I let Z stay up a little late because she was so eager to finish. She is debating whether to go on the Septimus Heap or Percy Jackson next.

No. Could have in my wakefulness but I read the Opionator and celebrated David Bowie's birthday instead.

Chicken rarebit from the Monday to Friday Chicken Cookbook by Michelle Urvater, another one "we" got for Christmas. (I gave it to David. It is the third book in Urvater's M-F series. The other two are staples in our kitchen. Urvater deserves to be more widely known that she is. I LOVE THESE BOOKS.) Again, I assigned recipe, and David cooked, because I worked late.

more here

Maybe you have heard. To celebrate his 66th birthday, David Bowie announced the impending release of his first album in ten years. Whee! Here's the moody single:

Random thing:
Z is proofreading this over my shoulder.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Collage with pancetta and woodpecker

Z continues her family collage project. It is a truly epic undertaking that she works on just a little at a time, joyfully and with great concentration. She is so deliberate and specific in the choices she makes about, and I have no idea what motivates them. There is a whole sort of granddaughter of Wharhol advertising image aspect going on that I find truly fascinating. Tonight she had me cutting star and bird ornaments out of the Pottery Barn catalog for her so she could fashion them into a halo for herself ... and a belt buckle for me.

A bit about Danish TV in the New Yorker, some of Earth to Table (see below), and a few more pages of Madeleine's Ghost.

I wish I read faster.

No. This morning during my writing time I did pre-work work.

Mmm. Acorn squash, pancetta, and sage pizza from Earth to Table by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. (Acorn squash from City Fresh, pancetta and dough from Alesci's, sage from a jar -- I used to grow sage but my sage bush died. ... I picked out the recipe and told David to make it while I carted kids around. He thought the cucumber slices I left out on the counter were intended for the pizza. This was funny. The pizza was fantastic.)

My Aunt Toni gave me this book for Christmas (it is one of 4 we got), and it tickles me that she picked it out for me. The subtitle is "Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm." All my food obsession and City Fresh and cooking talk has paid off! The book is beautiful, if a little overwhelming. It is laid out by seasons and each section has gorgeous photos, a shortlist of seasonal recipes (though how practical or locally sourceable seems a bit debatable to me), how-to articles on things like foraging and composting,  an interview with a locavore chef, and ... an essay about wheat? Really, four "wheat stories" in one book. Maybe I will love these wheat stories.

I don't think my boughten dough from the Italian deli would jibe well with the ethic and aesthetic of this book, but you do what you have to.

If you are already interested in local, seasonal, small-scale, or slow food, I think you will enjoy Earth to Table. If these topics make you a little nervous, wait a while. It may feel too too fussy.  First come talk to me at City Fresh next season and let me seduce you with my fantastic cooking tips for kale and beet greens and princess buttercup squash.

All Radio Disney all the time.

No, I am not in control of this.

Random thing:
Z and I stopped and watched a very handsome and very busy woodpecker after I picked her up from school.

I would have guessed it was a female downy, but looking at pictures on the interwebs leads me to believe it was perhaps a hairy.

A hairy (photo from

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Remember when it was far away in the future?

This has nothing to do with my pasta.
Winter break ends today. Remember when it was far away in the future?

I went in to work for a few hours this afternoon, to play catch up and get ready for my new "associate," who starts tomorrow. But mostly the day was spent getting organized for kids back in school and David commuting to Elyria for the week, which included planning menus, writing, and watching O's last soccer game of the season.

A bit Madeleine's Ghost before bed.

Cookbooks, of which we got 4 for Christmas - more on this later.

I have finished 13 heavily revised or brand new "dragon pages" since Wednesday. I had wanted to have 30. That was, perhaps, overly ambitious. 13 dragons are better than none -- that's what my rational mind is telling me to say. The goblins are really rattling the box right now, though. [reference this previous post for more on goblins]

I made my veggie-might sauce (not to be confused with "vegemite," the Australian yeast paste spread, which I also happen to like, but it is very, very different) with the addition of some crushed leftover meatballs - so veggie-meatie-might sauce - served over whole wheat macaroni, with a romaine heart salad.

This sauce is my one true original recipe as a cook, and I am very proud of it. David says I have to come up with a better name though. He says the association with yeast paste will doom me.

Some funk program on WCSB on the way to and from soccer. At dinner, David was spinning his 1972 playlist.

Random thing:
Genius Tiger rode my shoulder while I cooked dinner. He likes to do this. He purrs a lot and rubs his cheek against mine and watches what I am doing with my hands. It's the first time he's done this since before Christmas because I just haven't been cooking. Glad to get back to it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mapmaking and the Unkown

The funk holds on, terrible insomnia, but I try to make the best of the day. O had three sporting events. Z in a whirlwind of seeing non-school friends before school begins. David and trying to forge order out of chaos. Me trying to maintain momentum on the ToT.

Where be dragons? For an interesting discussion of the myth of Hic sunt dracones, you can check out this cool blog about "block prints and juvenile fantasy" or this discussion on the MapHist forum.

The "Writer's Block" chapter from Bird by Bird, and the essay on "learn from the masters" in this great set of cards and book I have.

find out more
It's called The Observation Deck by Naomi Epel. There's a small book, kind of the size and feel of hand-sized moleskine, and deck of oversized cards that have a pleasing matte surface and feature phrases like "open a drawer," "write a letter," or "ribe tuchus (sit still)." You can use the cards on their own as a random prompt for writing or meditation, or you can go to the associated essay in a book, which will elaborate on the idea with quotes from writers, lessons in craft, prompts for writing or editing, on so forth. I've had this set for years, and every so often, when I feel stuck or blank or otherwise in need of fortification, I will pick it up and draw a card. I don't think I've even drawn all of the cards yet, and even when I draw the same card it feels new each time.

Also, some of Madeleine's Ghost - wary of the time transition Girardi just made.

So hard to get to. I am now, finally, writing pieces of the book that I have held in my head for so long but never gotten down on paper - even when I said I had a "complete draft," I had not written these parts, and I knew I needed to. So, I have only ever had incomplete drafts (which I guess all drafts are in one way or another). Scary stuff. Exciting. Here be dragons ... or lions? (See image and associated links above for a lively digression into mapmaking and the unknown ... which, come to think of it is the theme for all of my writing this week. Neat.)

Z's friend A is here for an overnight, so I consulted her on dinner. We had penne with bottled pesto and buttered lima beans.

Jimmy Cliff Rebirth - which features interesting versions of "Guns of Brixton" and "Ruby Soho."
My uncle, a recording engineer, tells a great story about working on a Cliff R&B session that was never released.

Random thing: 
Our cat Tiger is really some sort of household deity. There is nothing that makes him happier than to have all four of us at home and engaged in domestic work. Today, David was putting away Christmas decorations, I was puttering and tidying upstairs, and the kids were in and out, variously helping and playing, and Tiger strutted around the house with his head and tail held high, squinting at us with benificent approval. It really makes a person want to do more housework, to please the genius Tiger.