Sunday, January 4, 2015

Greens

Driving across town for the final installment of Christmas with my in-laws in Lakewood, we were all impressed with the appearance of the lake. The sky was a bright, milky mix of white and blue, but the water was a great expanse of shivering green. Grey-green, sage-green, sea-green, the green of lichen edging into moss on the dark side of a tree in a damp, cool forest. You might like to have a lover with eyes this color of green. The green was topped with a million tiny cuts of white as the cold swirled in from the northwest. 
Bunratty - green Telefon booth against grey stone and red brick building
Here is a picture of an Irish phone box that has nothing
 to do with anything, except the color is sort of right.*
On a side note, one of my great joys is that my kids have such big, varied families. My parents are so much different than David's, and yet both are terrific grandparents to have, especially in combination. When we got to Lakewood, O gave me a big hug and whispered to me, "You know why I like to come here? Because whenever I walk in this house I feel happy."

Bring on the polar vortex.

Reading: Books I got for Christmas:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The History of Rock-n-Roll in 10 Songs (inscribed to me) by Greil Marcus
The Republic of Imagination by Afar Nafizi

Also, bonus gift: I gave my mom a copy of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, because I love Sarah Waters, but she had already read it, so now I have it!

I love getting books as gifts, but often people don't get them for me because they assume I have them already. Know now: if you are ever inspired to get me a book, go ahead and risk it.

Writing:

Dinner: Latest pressure cooker experiment: Rice! Oh, and it is good, and yea, it is fast.

Topped with salmon and a combo of red kale and collard greens (recipe called for broccoli raab, but there was none at the store) braised with anchovies, onions, garlic, pine nuts, and raisins. The salmon was poached on top of the greens at the end of cooking. (From the small but mighty On Rice cookbook by Rick Rodgers.)

Might I say, I nailed that salmon?

Soundtrack: Sondheim. Particularly Z singing with great verve "Giants in the Sky" from Into the Woods. (Last night I dreamt the song was "Lions in the Sky.") But also, cast recordings of Company and West Side Story.

Random thing: My orange dog-cat has stopped liking to walk on a leash. He has done so for three and a half years, since he was a kitten (or is it four and a half?). He still comes bounding when I say the word "leash," but immediately runs back to the door when we go outside. He and O had a collision when they were out running in the fall, and I think it rattled him. Or maybe it is just the cold. I hope he gets over it. (He does still like to sit on my shoulder, thankfully, which has been doing most of the time I have been typing this.)

*Photo credit:© Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Also, apologies for the lack of linkie-loos in this post. Time presses.

Guaranteed Personality

File:Planking in supermarket.jpg

Grocery shopping has a lot of emotional highs and lows for me. As the food-oriented individual that I am I wish I could say "marketing." I wish I went to farmer's markets more (I go approximately once a year), but I've never quite gotten my system of time to gibe with it. Someday perhaps I will. (I do, during the growing season, actively do City Fresh, a social-justice minded CSA. More on that when growing season begins again.)

But grocery shopping, in a modern American supermarket. What an historical anomaly. Sometimes it completely overwhelms me. I can lose time in a supermarket. Sometimes I text David for help, like holding a string in the minotaur's labyrinth. I have been known to cry. Once I stood in line at a Giant Eagle late at night and watched someone buy tomatoes and ground beef both package on black styrofoam trays and wrapped tight in plastic and I saw the doom of our civilization. Once I met a yogi from Australia (where they apparently have different food marketing) who spoke of being paralyzed in an American supermarket as he stood in front of the milk coolers, unable to decipher the enormous range of his options. Still, I am fond of this activity.

I have vivid memories of going to the A&P with my mom when I was a kid. Animal crackers and chrome detailed shelves and learning how to balance fully loaded brown paper bags on my hip. My friend Tim and I would sometimes hang out outside by the carts and the gumball machines while my mom shopped. Tim had long hair. I had shortish hair and as a liberated hippie kid had no problem running around shirtless (I was 7 or 8, let's say). We would laugh and laugh when the old guys in feed store hats would call me Sir and him Miss.

A&P was huge by the standard of the day with a wall of windows at the front. One of my primary sense memories of the place is the spacious brightness. When I moved to New York City I found the narrow aisled, high-stacked, cave like atmosphere of the local Gristede's distinctly exotic. In between Athens and NYC, I had the honor of being a somewhat regular customer of a Piggly Wiggly in Atlanta. (The A&P of my youth no longer stands. It has been replaced by ugly student condos. I get a weird squiggly visceral feeling when I drive past where it used to be.)

When David and I were first courting long distance from NYC to Cleveland, I had fantasies about picking out tomatoes together. When I moved here we did our shopping together a lot, and I still feel sad when we go to the store together and split up for efficiency.

OMG, there's a blog about old A&Ps.

When Z was a baby I would take her to the store in a front carrier and talk to her the whole way through the store. This is a cucumber. Which should I get, the penne or the rotini? Look at all the different canned beans. Have you ever seen such a thing?

Both the kids have been lifelong participants in the shopping (and the City Fresh experience), by both necessity and design. I want them to be aware of their food, of the choices made, of the on-the-fly price calculations, of how a week of food is planned and executed. Sometimes this is a pain in the ass. Sometimes a great joy. Usually a combination of the two.

Yesterday, ZandO and I stopped at the giant Texas-based, libertarian-owned emporium of utopian fantasy food choice wonders on our way home from soccer, intending to get perhaps 7 items we needed for the weekend. The first pain in the ass was that parking lot was so full I had to circle twice to find a spot. Really? The second was that O was in full distractable 9-year-old-boy mode (We could get this. Oh, what about that. Mom, mom, mom! Ohmigod, look how big those onions are. Mom! I like how there is mist all over the greens; it means you don't have to wash them as much when we get home. Mom, mom! You said we could get the fresh orange juice sometime. Mom,, mom, mom! Hey, mom! I'm going to go see what's in that sample case over there. Wait, what did you ask me to get?)

The great joy was that in the course of an hour (!!!) the three of us discussed, planned, and purchased the food for a week's worth of varied, easy, healthy dinners (of the partly convenience, partly fresh produce variety). Dinners they will help me make and will enjoy eating.

Reading: If you've never read John Updike's story "A&P", you should, and now's your chance. 

I don't really know why but I have become, in my leisure time, a very slow reader. Maybe this is a response to all the professional reading I have to do. I went away for the holidays with 3 books and the year-end double issue of the New Yorker. My goal was to read the whole damn issue, because when do I ever get to do that, and then read at least one of the books. I am currently two-thirds of the way through the magazine and break ends tomorrow. Part of the great slow down of '15 has to include more better reading habits.

Writing: 

Dinner: Spaghetti with oniony, garlicky marinara and a mixed greens salad with cuke, tomato, dressed with oil & vinegar and topped marinated "feta salsa" from the utopian food choice emporium.

Soundtrack:
You're welcome.

But what was really on deck yesterday was the soundtrack to Big Night (in the car) and an internet Classic Banjo Radio station (during family work/reading/dinner prep time).

Random thing: O told us the other night at dinner that when he was a toddler he "had a very narrow palate" and that is why he wouldn't eat anything. 1. This is false. He ate everything except peas and cabbage. (Cabbage he will now generally eat. Peas, no, unless they are fresh out of the pod.) 2. What the hell kind of a phrase is that for a 9 year old?

Friday, January 2, 2015

This is not my beautiful refrigerator.

Also not my moon. The moon is not full tonight. But it did sort of look like this at dusk.
(moon from here.)
The day was spent doing more appropriately beginning of the year things like cracking the whip while the children cleaned the (900-years-overdue-for-a-good-wipe-down) fridge and trudging through this pile of grading.

Trudge is a word I like for its sound. If it weren't so onomatopoetic I would wish it meant something else to fit my enthusiasm.

In the afternoon, I went out to do an hour's worth of erranding that took two hours, when I returned home the kids were out stalking around the house with Nerf weapons and their favorite college-aged x-babysitter. When I finally exhorted them to come in to finish the refrigerator project, Z's hands were bright red with cold, O was happy in his gym shorts, and the moon glowed with a huge orange penumbra.

Overall the day was a moderate success in the slow down project. Tea was made, children were conversed with, gifts were puttered into place, thank you notes were posted, the cat was walked, I managed to only sort of weirdly lurk on social media.

Reading: I love this piece about art making and found materials from today's NYT.

Writing: I read a lot of other people's (student) writing. I thought optimistically about writer's group.

Dinner: Pressure cooker project #2: pot roast with onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and carrots over mashed potatoes.

(Nancy wished for yesterday's white bean pasta sauce recipe. It was sort of like this, quantities liberally interpreted. I think mine had more garlic, more basil, and more beans. I mashed the beans with a potato masher. In the absence of fresh tomato, I used the dregs of some bruschetta sauce that was in the fridge to top it off, along with parm.)

Soundtrack: Mozart piano concertos, and stuff.

Random thing: Perusing the Best of 2014 stuff in the Times, I learned about Debbie Tucker Green's Generations, which is a play about AIDS across three-generations of a South African family framed as an argument about learning to cook. I really want to get my hands on this script because it completely gibes with a writing exercise I have students do about argument and subtext.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Languid Will


I will meditate on this image to further my aims
(photo thanks to Make: http://makezine.com/craft/giant_kitty_couch/)


2015, what will you be?

Over the past week of lounging and lolling at my mother's house I have thought about what intentions I would like to set for the new year. I have been dissatisfied with the options I present for myself. They are all so unmanageable. More, more, more. How can I do more of 10 different things when I can't even do enough of what I am already doing? Ok, then less. Less, less, less. I still feel tired. Less, as they say, is just another kind of more.

Last year, my intentions were about daily routines (this, I think was a kinder way of trying for the more, more, more). Over the course of 12 months I have done better and worse at them. And yoga. I am still straying off the path there. All I can say is I trust that yoga will still be there to receive me lovingly when I manage to return.

Yesterday, I caught a friend's Facebook post about celebrating a busy year by slowing down for New Year's Eve. This is a friend I might put in more than one "more column" - She is a person I would like to spend more time with, we sometimes talk about playing board games - more board games (actually that might be a really great resolution), we are partly connected through writing and also through food (more, more), and so on. Her post inspired me, though, to finally find the resolution I was looking for.

My wish for myself and for you for the year 2015 is to slow down. Slow down. That's it. On different days that will mean different things. Sometimes it will make for less. Fewer things on the schedule for a given day? Less anxiety? One hopes it will also mean more. Slowing down opens up space for the kinds of things I hope to grow -- walking, family time, good food, and always, writing.

Slow down and see what happens. (Didn't Thoreau say something like that? Also, this has nothing to do with the NYPD.)

Part of what I hope will happen is this blog will be rejuvenated as a document of slower living. I am going to step back from social media for a while. It is fast in a way that eats time and eats concentration, even though it brings me so many benefits (like the post that inspired me and friends I see only in the ether). In its absence I will, at a stately pace, try to return this blog to its original, observational, catching the shiny things, purpose.

We'll see how it goes.

Reading: I was excited to find an article in the current Writer's Chronicle title "Reading, Writing, Teaching, Time: a round-table discussion," and I was all ready to declaim how it helped to bolster my slow down philosophy. I read the first few pages and found that it was more about the crisis in the humanities (and how this phenomenon is not so new as we tend to think). This is a worthy topic, but not what I want now.

Dear reader, if you have anything to recommend that considers how to be a reader, writer, and teacher and cope with the limitations of space/time, please send it my way.

Writing: This.

Dinner: I got a pressure cooker for Christmas. Tonight I inaugurated it with white beans that I turned into a garlicky, creamy pasta sauce.

Soundtrack: Late 60s R&B.

Random thing: I found this delightful advocate for the slow: International Institute of Not Doing Much (www.slowdownnow.org). Hee.

Also, perhaps I will get around to reading this book, In Praise of Slowness.