Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tomorrow I meet my garden.

She's Back (tomorrow), 2008
I've planted some seeds with my father, but I have not had my very own space for about 4 years.  Tomorrow I meet my garden, a little patch of borrowed soil we will call our own for 90 days.

We'll be starting later than the photo above.  My knit hat will be replaced by a wide brim model, made of straw.

I had a grand plan, but I'm going to scrap the whole thing.  I want to see this space, meet the birds, and sink my hands into the soil before deciding what should live in it.

+++  update  +++
3:02 PM  I've just arrived home with 9 seed packets.  What is wrong with me?  The moment I make a grand pronouncement I up and do the opposite.  I'm not even sure I'll have enough space for these choices.  What about my respect for the birds and the space and the nature of the soil?  My commitment to meeting them first?  Sheesh.  I will now say hello with small pouches of seed for growing Progress #9 shelling peas,  Contender bush beans, Early Yellow Crookneck summer squash, spicy micro greens, Italian Red of Florence scallion/bunching onions, French Breakfast radishes, Cherry Belle radishes, Japanese Mini Sweet ninjin/carrots, and a mesclun lettuce blend.

Monday, May 28, 2012


City Flowers, 2012

Let me underscore the obvious here: Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps. 

-Ann Patchett
More here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

This Morning

May 25, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Before Noon

Breton's Nadja, 2012

I have an array of books piled upon my bedside table.  This is not new.  Some I've started, and some I have not.  Yet when I leave the doctor's office I find myself moving toward City Lights Books.

It was only a routine physical.  My reflexes flex, my lungs are clear, no moles to keep an eye on.  I am fine, but there are choices to be made about my future.  They don't just tell you what to do anymore, you are expected to participate, ponder various studies, make decisions.  It's strange how knowing more can make you feel less safe.

So I go to City Lights, unsure if I enter to find the comfort to think, or to escape life for a while.  I find Nadja by Andre Breton, a Surrealist romance.  Nadja reminds me of Dulcinea, and I've always been intrigued by Dulcinea. 

I chat with the tall slim bookish man at the counter.  He is grey, emanates just a hint of literary smugness, and is handsome in his own interesting way.  His smile is warm and kind and his black frame eyeglasses confirm his intelligence.  He notices my uncommon middle initial on my credit card and inquires.  I appreciate his odd attention to detail and it helps me forget all I wish not to think about.

Vesuvio is just next door, and it is peaceful, cool, and dark.  Although it is only 11:00 AM I decide to order a pint and sit upstairs beside quiet window light, with a new book I do not need.  But the book does bring me solace, its bright orange and yellow cover.  I pause and admire it, and the wonderfully painted little round table it rests upon, and I sip my pint and watch the silent bustle on the street below.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Now I get it...

Still Warm, 2012
Forget everything I've told you, everything about rhubarb.  This is the best rhubarb I've ever eaten.

I don't know what took me so long.  Did it seem too easy?  Too mundane?  I don't know, but I'm glad I finally came around.  Rhubarb and strawberries have not been paired for so long without good reason.  They are fabulous together.

My mother-in-law makes her rhubarb on the stove top, so I thought I'd try doing the same.  Why heat up the kitchen, right?  It is the perfect method.  From now on I will prepare my rhubarb on the stove top. Thanks, Chris.  

This is one of the most simple rhubarb recipes you will find, and the taste is superb, superb I tell you

So just do what I outline here.  Trust me.  I cannot imagine who wouldn't be smitten by this small pot of deliciousness.

Make sure you taste this warm from the pot (but do blow on it to cool it a bit first).  You will be happy.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote

3 thin stalks of rhubarb, cut into one inch pieces
1 pint of strawberries, cut into one inch pieces
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
juice of one lemon
the scraped interior of one inch of a vanilla bean pod

Place rhubarb, sugars, lemon juice, and vanilla in small/medium pot (with lid) over medium heat and stir gently until rhubarb begins to soften a little, just 5 minutes or so.  Add strawberries and stir gently, just a few minutes more.

Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for about ten minutes.

Eat warm or cool.  

As I've noted before, there are so many ways to serve your compote.  What has become my favorite is spooning cooled compote over Greek yogurt for breakfast.  Topping warm compote with cold vanilla ice cream, stirring warm compote into warm oatmeal, or topping a simple slice of cake with warm or cool compote are a few other great options.  Let me know if you pair your compote with something I haven't mentioned.


I'm going back into the kitchen for an additional taste, or two.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Imaginary Friends

Snail Mail, 2012

Hello, hello to all of you out there who take the time to visit me here.  Sometimes having a blog feels like having a group of imaginary friends.  Most of you, I have not met.

But there have been books, poems, postcards, even a lovely care package.  There are those of you who take time from your busy days to come here and thoughtfully comment and type well wishes.  And there are those who simply visit to read what I've written, a gift in itself.

I appreciate you all, more than you know.  You inspire me.  I must be doing something right in this life to have come into contact with you lovely people.  You know who you are.  Thank you all for making me smile.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Cloudy Day in May

May, 2012
Do you finish every book you begin?
No.  My mother convinced me there should be no shame in this choice.

Do you drink caffeine every day?
Almost.  It is usually in the form of a cappuccino, or something resembling a cappuccino.  Today it will be a Gibraltar.

Are you prone to overindulge in a certain fruit?
It used to be watermelon.  Then plums.  Now it is cherries.  I wish I had some cherries...

poem in photograph from Jim Moore's Invisible Strings*
*I happily finished it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

And There Were Lilacs

bradbury's, 2012
lilac, 2012
gone-to-seed, 2012
Yesterday I saw a park dotted with gone-to-seed dandelions.  The small park was wedged between a quiet street and a lake.  It was a strange shallow lake.  Minnows swam in and out of blobs of funky moss as they lethargically swayed.  It was no Lake Michigan.

As someone I know seeks nature when she travels, it seems I seek liquid--large bodies of water, and the caffeinated sort served in cafes.  They are the small references to home I need when I miss my kitchen and long for fresh pajamas.

When one of these cafes has a view of a lake, serves good espresso, and just happens to have a buckwheat crepe with rhubarb compote on the menu, well, there is a moment of bliss.  Until some very loud women sit beside me and I know my moment has expired, and my attempts to drift back into my novel will be futile.

I take a slow walk and explore the warm tree lined streets.

I am resilient.  My optimism returns, and I am off to another cafe, one housed in a beautiful old hotel.  The espresso is not as good, but there is a tall ceiling, large windows, and Limonata.  It seems the sort of space where everyone can do as they please and still peacefully coexist.  I expect the noise to disappear into the ceiling, but it does not.  It passes through the tiles on the second floor and settles into the dark wood floor below.  I write.  It is the perfect place, for a while, but it does not last.

I have found many people to be much louder than I'd like, and my findings are not geographically specific, but perhaps magnified when away from home.

This sort of travel, jumps versus long stays, stunts my writing.  I allow it so I can be with someone I love.  I adjust to these setbacks and hope when I am old I will not regret these days, but look back and think nice balance, good choices.

Although it slows me down, the distance from my work permits a return with fresh eyes and a less subjective emotional attachment.  It reminds me of Hank.  I was a teaching assistant for him while I was in graduate school.  Hank, known to most as Henry, is a great photographer.  He is also an engaging conversationalist, when he is in the mood.  I learned some interesting things about him during our time together.

Hank makes photographs every single day, but once he prints his contact sheets he files them away and does not look at them again for at least a year.  He believes the time gives him distance and the ability to view the work more critically.  He also told me that he angled for allowing the whole book, museum, gallery craziness to enter his life only once per decade.  He found it a distraction.

Hank can be very charismatic, but he is an artist, not a performer.  It is the making that he loves most.  He has his priorities in order.

And there were lilacs in the church courtyard.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Few Good Things

simple and sturdy, 2012
+ Steaming fava beans, and shelling them with someone I like.
+ Eating fava beans with buttermilk roast chicken, indoor picnic style.
+ Getting lost in Jim Moore's Invisible Strings.
+ Returning to read The Bell Jar again.
+ The simple beauty of the vintage French tea towels we use as napkins.

Happy Birthday, Dad.