Thursday, December 31, 2009

the next-big-thing

Twirl, January 2006

Is it odd that during this festive shopping season, when so many search for or hope to receive the perfect new item, I find myself struggling to part with the old?  Isn't it the stereotypical husband who insists on keeping his favorite old sweatshirt and the stereotypical wife who twirls in front of the mirror in her new party dress?  What kind of wife am I anyway?  Sheesh.

I do like to buy or receive something bright and shiny every once in a while.  But more prominent in my life are the few things I already own and hold close to my heart--the things I cannot let go.  Don't get me wrong, I'm quite selective with what I decide is worth keeping.  The space we call home is petite, so what stays must be truly dear.  I'm not a pack rat. I don't have an attic filled with my entire past and although these would serve as completely acceptable items to treasure, I'm not talking about my great grandmother's exquisite wedding dress or the collection of fine china that has traveled continents and been passed down through generations.

No, I refer more to things that figure in to my day-to-day life.  Items such as an extraordinarily comfortable and well-worn (bordering on over-worn) pair of jeans, a cozy sweater that is slowly disintegrating, but still feels warm and beautiful, and my frazzled scarf that I know should be retired. When I wear these things I return to wonderful places in my life.

I bought the jeans right before we got married and wore them with a sexy black halter to meet family and friends for drinks at our favorite neighborhood bar a few days before our wedding.  The sweater?  It was folded up on a table in one of my favorite shops when I saw it, the yarn was a creamy white color.  The cuffs, fabric flanking the zipper, and the interior of the hood, were made of satin and were the same beautiful winter white -- completely impractical.  I tried it on anyway and then had to have it.  My best choices are rarely practical.  As it turns out, it wasn't that impractical.  It's now years later and I'm still wearing it, today as a matter of fact.  I'm not sure what others think when they see me wearing this sweater, but it feels so good against my skin and it's so easy for me to forget it's current state and slip back to feeling as if I just unfolded it and I'm in the shop seeing myself in the mirror, wearing it for the very first time.  The scarf?  Chris gave it to me, just a fun purchase from a chain store.  It is not cashmere.  It is not handmade by anyone near and dear.  It is very special to me.  It did keep me warm through the winter while walking to and from the worst job I ever had and it stayed with me through the cold and frustrating days and nights in my studio as I worked my way through graduate school.

I love these things. Fortunately, I do not to need to save them. I have replaced each and every piece.  Still, I just can't seem to part with them.

Perhaps this connects to a theory of my father's.  He believes there are vast differences between his meeting an individual for the first time as an adult and revisiting a relationship with someone he knew when they were both young.  He feels a certain comfort level and an ability to let his guard down in the revisiting scenario.  He doesn't have the same questions and concerns that he has when meeting someone new because he already has a solid platform from which to begin.  He doesn't need to know everything about the friend he is revisiting.  He believes yes, this person might have accumulated some baggage during their journey, but somehow it is all forgiven because he understands the true essence of this person. He feels he "gets" who they are because he knows who they were before any of these mishaps occurred.

I think I'm a bit more skeptical, or maybe just too curious.  I need to fill in more blanks than Dad deems necessary.  My jeans, sweater, and scarf have been with me all along.  They never ventured off and lived in other closets before coming back to me.  We've been together through thick and thin and we've held close together the entire time.  This might also explain the extent to which I value my marriage.  Chris, I hope you know you are a smidge more valuable than my favorite sweater.  We've built this life together, and a wonderful life it is.  That being said, Dad's theory remains a very interesting concept and I like that it works for him.  It's sort of romantic, isn't it? 

So what am I trying to say here?  As this year winds down and we look back at what is most important in our lives my guess is that the majority of those things, if not all of them, are NOT newly acquired.  Hold on tight to the good stuff.  Appreciate it.  Often the next-big-thing is something we already possess.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

She could be herself, by herself.

Painting by Vanessa Bell of her sister, Virginia Woolf.

For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of--to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless.
                                                                                     excerpt from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last Shipment

Just a quick shopkeeping note:  I'll be taking a short break.  The last shipment (just for a little while) for my Etsy shop orders (payment received) will be made this Saturday morning.  Any orders placed (payment received) between 9:00 am PST on December 12 and December 28 will be shipped on December 29.  If something in the Chez Danisse Shop is on your wish list and you'd like it shipped before December 29, scoot over there quickly.  Thank you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My salute to the satsuma.

The glorious satsuma.
I love it here, I love it there, I really love it everywhere.

I like them seen way down below.

I like one resting in a bowl.

Or with some pals in a Nijiya Market still life.
They are so sweet,
they are so nice.

Sometimes safely tucked inside a nook.

Or resting quietly, with a book.

The peel drops from the flesh,
and there's never a seed.

Eat one today and happy you'll be.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

in want of.

Sunday Morning - December 6, 2009

a space.
without a gate.
for protection.
a place,
to fill.
or just to keep open,
silent, and still.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I sleep all day and fish all night

Photograph by Indulis Ozers (Dad), 2009

As we drove away from the lake the words kept running through my mind, and it is there they remain.

I sleep all day and fish all night

Wisdom on the lake. Proof that it can be found in the most unlikely places. The key is being open to it. The art of observation.

The sun broke through the morning chill and warmed my skin. The air, still. The water, like glass. I was kayaking with my father when we saw him. A man standing alone at the end of a long pier. As we moved closer we noticed he was holding a fishing pole.

Any luck? my father asked casually.

The man answered so eagerly with his fully formed fish stories, I almost believed he'd been anticipating our arrival. He told tales of giant catfish and bass that he'd struggled to reel in, admired, and then returned to the lake. He stood tall as he told us I threw 'em back. They were too big to eat.

He was not a frivolous man. This was serious business. He respected his sport, the lake, the fish, and himself. He told us he was retired. They don't let ya camp overnight here, so I sleep all day and fish all night.

His best catch, a catfish he estimated at 20 lbs, was caught by moonlight at about 2:00 am.

Amazing...I thought. Amazing.

His life was fully functional and uniquely his own. He seemed a gentle, proud, and happy man.

There's more than one path to the Promised Land (or Lake)...

I admired his simple life, his focused goals, and his humble demeanor.

He made me think about my lifestyle, my goals, my demeanor. Were they uniquely my own? Did I need to refine things a bit, clear some clutter, polish up my list of priorities so I could see them--clean and clear? Most importantly, could I be completely open as I walk through this world?

Who knows how many options I've never even considered? I guess I'll never know the answer to that question, but I do know my opportunities are endless.

I sleep all day and and fish all night

Thursday, December 3, 2009

While you are in the neighborhood...

pinch pot, 2009 (1 of 3 (update, now 1 of 2) currently available in my etsy shop)

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the wide variety of items available on Etsy? It happens. There is a lot of good stuff going on over there.

Fear not. The wise folks at Etsy have created a solution.

I'm fairly new to Etsy, but thanks to Tracy over at New Dominion Blues Studios I
just learned that Etsy creates gift guides. gets better. Tracy and I were both featured in Etsy's Gift Guide for the Home Chef.
They chose one of my little pinch pots. It's a lovely selection and I'm honored to have been included.
update--good news and bad news: 
It seems when my featured bowl sold I was replaced in the guide by another Etsy seller.  I'm glad the bowl sold so quickly, but it would have been fun to stay in the guide a little longer.

It is that gift giving time of year... Forget the malls, they haven't been fun since Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Pop on over and take a look at all of the wonderful handmade and vintage items available on Etsy. Wander through the array of Etsy Gift Guides and stop by and visit my shop while you are in the neighborhood. I've just added 3 new "ruffle bowls".

Have fun!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Now I unravel.

To begin again.
To devour monotony.

Back then I struggled --
needy, clumsy,

Longing to be dependent.

He, in the hospital.
She, the instructor.

Stiff with worry.
The world draped heavily over my shoulders.

Resting in the repetition.

No variation,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rotten Apples

My Corner, 2008

I wanted to smash them,
like rotten apples.

with a mallet.

Because I,
I was a ripe tangerine,
with a bright orange peel.


And they,
they reminded me of
mushy and mealy things.

like God.
They were all knowing.

It must have been wonderful
to embody such wisdom.

Like Maman,
Louise’s giant spider.

But I didn’t care,
I doubted them.

And like a nasty little crab,
backed quietly into my corner.

It Was a Very Good Year

Outside the Morning Glory Cottage, November 2009

Looking back... It was a very good year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cotton Candy & Thundercloud

Cotton Candy, 2009

Thundercloud, 2009

A couple new shop items... That's all. Enjoy your evening.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Unfinished, 2009

Truth be told, I've been feeling a little sorry for myself this morning.

It seems so much is unfinished and I'm craving completion. I have so many projects that are in-the-works.

For instance, I finished the scarf above yesterday evening. Well, I thought I'd finished it. It's not finished. You see, I have this trait. I like doing things my own way and that often includes not following instructions and reinventing the wheel. This rebelliousness takes time, but it makes me happy, or so I thought.

It all began quite some time ago, it's been so long I'm not really sure how long, exactly. Chris really wanted a striped scarf and I decided I'd attempt it without seeking any true knitting advice. I could figure this out on my own. Right? Sort of.

First, I knit three stripes (very thin yarn, very slim needles) the same length, but they weren't. Maybe it was the shift in yarn, some cotton and some a blend. So I unraveled, bound off again, and blocked. All set, but not. I looked up some means of attaching knit pieces and didn't really feel a bond with any of them, so I created my own method. I stitched my stripes together and somewhere along the line they became uneven again.

Anyway...the story goes on like this for a while. I saw it as a learning experience. I felt myself expanding (in a good way).

Yesterday, just before midnight, I proudly completed (but not) the scarf. Chris tried it on this morning and it's not right. It's too short. I might add a large block of a solid color to the end (pale green? orange?), sort of Mondrianesque.

It just might end up being really cool (please), but I thought it was complete...sigh.

I was sad and it wasn't just the scarf. You see, there is construction in front of AND beside my apartment and it is extraordinarily loud, seriously, it's so loud. My local library is closed for renovation. Chris is working so many hours. ...and I'm really sick of having cigarette smoke blown in my face on the street!

So, needless to say, I was really going down, down in a depressed poet sort of way. Then I saw some nice light filtering in through my bay window (I love good light) and I found this gentleman's sweet blog and his link to this dancing that looks like so much fun.

I smiled.

As I watched the video clip I started dancing a little bit, with myself, on my couch, in the sun.

Then I finished this post.

Life isn't so bad.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Christopher in Waitsfield, Vermont
Summer 2006

Curious and warm.
Growing uninhibitedly,
as a seed emerges from the earth.
Smiling at the sun.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On Perfectly Buttered Toast and other things

book, window, and wine glass of water, 2009

I've been away. I've taken a solo trip to the country to regroup, refuel, recharge, and all other such res. An early birthday gift to myself (along with A Platter of Figs and other recipes by David Tanis). No telephone, no computer, no one, but me.

written earlier...

It's about 9 o'clock in the morning. I'm looking out the large paned window which takes up most of the east wall of my petite one-room cottage. The sky is white and the sun is shining. I see a small dark bird with a white belly perched upon the old white fence that protects the sheep while they graze. Although it is November, the grass is bright green and wet with dew. The West Marin landscape drinks in the rain after a long dry summer and makes autumn look like spring.

I'm nestled in with a generous slice of sweet sticky Morning Bun Coffee Cake from Bovine Bakery. When I entered the bakery, just about 15 minutes ago, I was convinced my drive into town had been a waste of time. I saw just about everything but my favorite coffee cake inside the glass case. My heart sunk. I wasn't feeling hopeful at all when I hesitantly asked ...any chance you have Morning Bun Coffee Cake back there? The owner replied with It's just come out of the oven. We're about to slice it. Music to my ears.

This slice is so large it requires a sturdy fork and knife. As I savor my first bite, sip my tea, and read David's seemingly effortless guidelines for preparing Lobster Risotto I have to pause for a moment, a long moment, and take in the utter beauty of it all. Nothing going on here is expensive or at all difficult to arrange, yet it's exquisite. It's worth planning this sort of solo time, what I've been calling my retreat. It is this uninterrupted time alone that offers me the time and space to reflect on my life and appreciate others. Which brings me back to yesterday, my first morning alone.

It was a quiet day. I watched a little black sheep nibble on grasses beneath the apple trees. KWMR hummed in the background. As I wrapped yarn around my needles to and fro, knit, purl, knit, purl, I heard Reading to John announced. Reading to John is a radio show. Neshama Franklin read to her husband John for many years before he died and now she reads to her radio audience. Such a beautiful idea, yet also so sad. An experience once shared with a loved one is now read into a microphone from The Creamery Building in downtown Point Reyes Station. Where it goes nobody knows.

I love the indulgence of having a book read to me or having someone serve me a simple meal. Why do these things feel so indulgent? Perhaps it is because I'm an adult and such offerings are typically reserved for children. John was lucky. I'm lucky.

No one can prepare perfectly buttered slices of toast like my mother. I have bitten into many fine slices of buttered toast, but Mom's, it has some indescribable quality that cannot be duplicated. I believe this is the type of feeling we all long to conjure up again, those good ol' days when we were fragile and small, served nice slices of toast, and loved unconditionally.

Chris has prepared elaborate meals for me and surprised me with interesting new ingredients, but it's those little things (those things along the lines of buttered toast) that really make me happy. There's nothing that makes me love a man more than his placing a cutting board decorated with apple and cheese slices in front of me while I'm reading a nice book on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Oh, yes. That's what I'm talking about.

Reading a book to me works well too. I recall lounging in a little cottage on Block Island, watching the sun set, as Chris read from Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero. I also have some beautiful memories of listening to Chris read John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley to me while we camped in Yosemite. There were moments in the sun, sprawled out on mats beside our tent, late nights inside our tent when Chris read with a headlamp, and one day that is so clear in my memory, Chris reading as we both relaxed and dangled our feet from a bridge near Glen Aulin Falls. The light was so beautiful that day.

Why were these moments so special? Is it because I'm in love, because Chris is such a great guy, or is it because these moments take me back to the comfortable feeling of being a child--fine toast, bedtime stories...

It was a warm summer night. Our exhausted voices pleaded One more story, Mom! Just one more! One more! Please... Mom looked down at us, dressed in our cotton nighties and tucked beneath our cool sheets as she, tired from a day filled with two rambunctious little girls, gave in and said Okay...

Once upon a time there was a butterfly.
The butterfly flew away.
The end.

morning bun coffee cake, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My plum (scarf), it's done!

My new plum scarf. Completed November 3, 2009.

I have been putting this poor scarf on hold for what seems an eternity. First it was tabled so I could knit a hat for Chris (my first circular needle project). I used an interesting blue and grey yarn he selected from Art Fibers. The hat ended up being several sizes too large, but that's beside the point. It was still a fine hat, albeit rather large. Then I put my scarf on hold again to knit little Hadley a sweet peanut-sized cotton scarf. I used another lovely Art Fibers yarn, it looked like the sky on a near-clear day. Next, I knit a scarf for Mom. I used a beautiful cream-colored Be Sweet yarn that I bought during a "yarn tasting" at Bluebird Yarn in Sausalito. There was also the scarf I knit for myself with large needles and a wonderful Japanese yarn I found at Greenwich Yarn. The needles were very big, so I could knit it quickly and get back to my delicate little plum scarf, but then I started a striped scarf for Chris... Finally, I put the striped scarf on hold to work on my very own plum scarf.

Today I completed my plum scarf. I am so pleased! It is made from a gorgeous 76% silk 19% superkid mohair 5% wool yarn I selected from Art Fibers before they left their San Francisco location. It's beautiful and it feels fantastic.

But why is the sun shining so brightly and why is the forecast showing a high of 78 degrees in San Francisco today? Sigh...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Like a Lullaby

Tulips, 2006

It was a dark day.
So much cold, so little light.
It had disappeared quickly.
A piece of my soul  
wrapped neatly, in plain
white paper,
was sent off,
and cradled close 
to the buyer's chest.
Leaving me incomplete, 
as if I’d never been finished. 
But I had--I’d been finished
and even rebuilt.
I didn’t want to go, but they arrived
in the midst of my darkness
and brought a ball of bright. 
So warm, so nice.
And they carried me away, 
softly, quietly, like a lullaby.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I prefer men to cauliflowers.

Lounging Cauliflower, 2009

Like Ms Woolf, I too prefer men to cauliflowers, but when it's roasted cauliflowers we are discussing, well, the competition stiffens. I've been meaning to roast cauliflower for quite some time now. Yesterday, I decided it was an activity that could no longer be delayed.

The Tuesday Market didn't have any cauliflower, but Farm Fresh to You, inside the Ferry Building, had two choices: 1) A nice traditional white head of cauliflower wrapped in plastic 2) An uninhibited green head, no plastic jacket. I chose the green. There's just something I find off-putting about plastic-wrapped produce. This distaste for plastic-wrapped produce is one of the main reasons I haven't visited Trader Joe's in a while. The Tuesday Market did supply me with an inspirational bunch of young leeks. With cauliflower and leeks in hand, and a few other items I knew I had in my kitchen, I decided to construct a pizza.

Roasted Cauliflower, Caramelized Leek, and Crispy Pancetta Pizza
(serves 2)
  • 1/2 recipe of this pizza dough, or enough for a rectangular pizza the size of a small cookie sheet (Store the other half in the refrigerator for your next pizza.)
  • One small head of cauliflower (Any color will do.) sliced lengthwise into 3/4 inch slices
  • 3 thin slices of pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 head roasted garlic
  • 4 small leeks, sliced thin and slowly caramelized in generous amount of olive oil
  • A very small amount of cheese (I used a few curls pulled with a vegetable peeler from a block of Marin Cheese sharp white cheddar. No one ever uses cheddar on pizza and I wanted to give it a go. Chris agreed.)
  • Olive oil (Keep bottle on counter, you'll need it.)
  • Salt & Pepper (I happened to have Fleur de Sel and freshly ground black pepper.)

Roast a head of garlic if you don't have one on hand, actually, roast two and save one for later.

Read your dough recipe and allow yourself some leisurely time to prepare. It's quite simple, but it takes a while.

You can pre-cook the rest of the ingredients ahead of time or wait until your last dough rising cycle and begin then.

Rub both sides of your cauliflower slices with olive oil, place on cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning once. If you end up with some smallish pieces of cauliflower, wait about 10 minutes to add them to the cookie sheet. This will avoid burning. Your cauliflower should brown a bit on both sides. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Saute pancetta in a little olive oil until lightly crisped. Don't overcook because it will crisp up a bit more on the pizza. Move pancetta from pan to a small bowl or plate. Do not drain on paper. Do not wash pan.

Add a bit more olive oil to your saute pan (the same one you used for the pancetta) and add sliced leeks. Slowly caramelize your leeks and let them cool to room temperature in pan.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Break up roasted cauliflower and add to leeks in pan. Toss leeks and cauliflower and add additional salt and pepper to taste (remember...pancetta is salty).

Press dough into cookie sheet, out to the edges of the pan.

Smear cloves of soft roasted garlic onto the dough with your hands--a bit here, a bit there.

Evenly sprinkle leek and cauliflower mixture on top of garlic.

Scatter pancetta on top of leeks and cauliflower (don't wash the bowl).

Pull a few curls of cheese and place on top.

Dip your fingers into the pancetta bowl and rub on all of the exposed crust showing around the edges of the toppings.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until crust begins to turn light brown. If the toppings start looking too brown before the crust turns brown, cover them with a sheet of foil.

Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes, and EAT!

Use the other half of your dough later in the week for a roasted red pepper, feta, and chicken Italian sausage pizza. That's what I'll be doing...

Yes, this takes a little time, but it's fun, and remember--don't let your priorities get in the way of your priorities.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things I Learned Later

From Barbara Jean's Collection, 2009

The lost
of a nectarine
a smooth skinned peach.

His dancing
on Halloween
with her,
before Lisa was born.

at the sight
of his sister’s first needle,
before she was my godmother,
before she left us,

And the bridge
to the lighthouse
he could not cross.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Everything old is new again.

Late October, 2009

This new light, it makes everything feel so different.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pimp My Blog

preserve, 2009

blog·o·sphere / ˈblägəˌsfi(ə)r/ • n. the world of weblogs.

If you are here, you are probably a member, at least in some small way, of this club we call the blogosphere.

How is it working out for you?

I have had my ups and downs, but I think I might finally be adjusting to this new method of communication and idea sharing. My largest problem is a good one. It's you. Access to this international forum is enabling me to find too many thought provoking individuals sharing their ideas and images in blog format. I'm referring to those of you who post on your own blog and those of you who don't write your own blog, but participate by sharing your thoughts and ideas in comments sections.

I'm currently managing this forum via Google Reader and have recently implemented computer-free Saturday. As this forum of intriguing individuals grows I'm sure we will all be seeking new ways to adjust to the volume. I know that I don't want to spend so much time reading about the lives of others that the life I live begins to shrink. I want to focus on my priorities and preserve what is most important in my life. For me, spending hours per day in front of any magic screen hinders this pursuit. As beautiful as this blogosphere may be, it also has its beast of burden qualities (...thinking Oh, what about breakfast? at 11 o'clock).

I just read some interesting statistics, a sneak preview of Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2009 report. For instance, 2/3 of professional bloggers are male. Really? This surprised me. Professional bloggers are a well-educated bunch, 75% have college degrees and 40% have graduate degrees. 72% of the 2900 surveyed blog for hobby/fun and don't make money. Optimistically, 63% say they have become more involved with what they are passionate about as a result of blogging and only a tiny 6% say relationships with family or friends are suffering.

Of course, Twitter was also mentioned. 73% of bloggers surveyed use Twitter versus 14% of the general population. I'm sure you've heard or read that microblogging services such as Twitter are replacing traditional blogging. This might be true for a few, but this article claims that statistically, it just isn't so. They say the #1 reason bloggers are on Twitter is to promote their blogs, or "to pimp their blogs" as one audience member comically stated. I still haven't really wrapped my arms around Twitter and I'm not entirely sure how it fits into my life. Am I just using it to pimp my blog? Maybe.

So...I have a few questions pertaining to how you are managing the world of weblogs.

What technology are you using?
How are you managing your time?
Do you feel you are able to comfortably participate in the blogosphere and preserve what is most important in your life?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

For myself, for me.

Seattle, WA - October 2009

and expanded,
with nothing at all.

Is there still
a glimmer,
no matter how small?

A light floating fragment,
a ghost of the old you.

A tiny
yellow leaf.

Should I capture it?

That one last
piece, all that remains.

And keep it,
for myself.

Should I take it?

And press it,
hot with an iron,

between two sheets of wax.

So I can hold it,
preciously in my palm.

And cry.

For me,
just selfishly for me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pinch Pots

A few new items in the shop. These little guys + one bottle vase.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


photograph by Dad

I once dated a bartender.
We met when I tried to play football.
He drove a jeep, called me a suit,
and bought me white chocolate chapstick
from the Gap.
He'd needed a clean shirt for work
and believed laundry to be a waste of time.
I knew it was all temporary.
I never even met his roommate, the actuary.
He wanted to be a cop,
like my dad,
and he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend.
She didn't bother with manicures.
He introduced me to
and Aurora.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good Poem Hunting

My best friend's breakfast. September, 2009

Do you have a favorite poem?

Whenever I'm asked this question I think of a very early work of Sylvia Plath's, Jilted. It reminds me of so many of the thoughts I had during my adolescent years. Looking back, those thoughts seem sweet and cute, but back then it was all very serious.

Would you share your favorite poem with me (just post it in the comments section)?

Side note:
Here's wishing you find the perfect light, and when you do, that you happen to be with someone who will pause, put down his fork and knife, and be patient while you work.

But is it work? No, not really.

Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This is not my Chicago.

On my way home after visiting with my Aunt Barb,
shot from the train, somewhere near La Grange, IL.
Autumn 2009

...but maybe it's better. Oh, I'm just not sure.

There is often a struggle between my adventurous side and my sentimental side. For instance, the new Millennium Park is great, but I miss the original Petrillo Band Shell and the old Grant Park of my childhood. I'm sure most would disagree, Millennium Park is a big hit, but my Chicago past holds a very special place in my heart and the old run down Grant Park is part of that past.

That being said, my trip "back home" did not include one Chicago-style hot dog. There was not a poppy seed bun in sight. Those delicious Italian beef sandwiches, the type they used to sell in the shop below my grandmother's apartment, the tasty treat I used to earn by peeling potatoes for the owner's french fries. Nope. I didn't eat one. Chris took our new friend from London to Pizzeria Uno for a deep dish pie, but me, I was not along for that ride.

These were the Chicago standards I grew up adoring, but during this trip I focused in on some new favorites.

The Publican. It's a great place. If you visit Chicago, go. If you live in Chicago, why am I telling you about this place? Although I was incredibly fond of the pig paintings on the walls, I loved their housemade pickles, the pork rinds were out of this world, and the beer selection was spectacular--it was the suckling pig, yes, that Fairbury, IL pig from Slagel Family Farm that truly won my heart. When we quickly perused the menu and ordered suckling pig as one of our many shared dishes, we'd imagined a large and somewhat messy platter piled high with rough chopped pork. This was not the case. I don't know where I came up with this idea, I've never eaten suckling pig. When it arrived, well, we all frowned a bit. That's it? It was a tastefully arranged dish (broccoli, delicate little grapes, and almonds--plated upon a small serving of creamy grits) , quite beautiful really, but we'd anticipated that messy overflowing platter... We were sitting in this enormous beer hall filled with long communal tables, pork rinds as big as your head, and grand pig portraits decorating the place. We were thinking BIG. Long story short, the suckling pig was exquisite and my favorite dish of the trip. Order it.

Next on my list is the best almond croissant I have ever tasted. It was made at Vanille Patisserie, a small unassuming storefront off of Clybourn Avenue, just north of Webster. Vanille seems to be more about wedding cakes, chocolates, and beautiful little cakes and tarts. The croissants appeared to be second class citizens, but don't be fooled. This croissant was perfectly crisp on the outside and had I've-died-and-gone-to-heaven layers of pastry and almond goodness on the inside. It was fabulous. Try the chocolates and cakes if you like, but please, indulge in at least one of these almond croissants.

Last, I will talk briefly about Intelligentsia. I'm a little uncomfortable with this one (the sentimental thing again...). I'm confused. Intelligentsia has been around. It was there, on Broadway, when I left Chicago in 2000. It had been there for about 5 years. I really liked the place. Back then, it was just a place, not a brand. They made great coffee. I loved to camp out at a table with a book and sip my cappuccino. It was quiet. It was cozy. Honestly, no one besides the loyal locals seemed to really care that it existed. I never knew anyone outside of the neighborhood who had even heard of the place. Now Intelligentsia is a brand. They have a detailed website and a definite look. They've opened locations in Silver Lake and Venice (CA), New York, and the guy at the counter told us they'd recently purchased a struggling brand in San Francisco. When I rode the train to the suburbs to see my Aunt, they were selling Intelligentsia coffee inside the tiny train station--they are everywhere. They look good, the coffee is still great, the owners will surely retire happier, but I miss that unpretentious and independent little coffee place on Broadway.

Before we departed, after all of the food and drink, we visited my favorite place to find peace in Chicago. My beautiful escape. A place I've gone to find solace more times than I can count. A seemingly never ending body of water that touches Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Probably the first body of water I ever observed, the same one I watched as I rode in the little bike seat on the front of my father's bike when he used to take me along with him on his lakefront bike rides. Just past the Lincoln Park Zoo (my first zoo, the only FREE zoo I've ever visited, the place my parents took me when I was a tot), right where Fullerton hits Lake Michigan. Beside Theater on the Lake. One of the best spots in Chicago. It hasn't really changed at all. When I arrive I see standing in this spot still overwhelms me with peace. It is still my Chicago.

Lake Michigan at sunset.
Autumn 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

My new shop is open.

Handmade Dish, 2009

There is a link, right over there, yes, right there, in the right margin.

It's a very small and unobtrusive shop at this point, so go ahead and do a little window shopping, at minimum, it won't take long. Better yet, buy yourself something nice. You deserve it.

Chez Danisse Shop

But is it a poem?

The Noftsger Hill Inn, 2009

Let this keep you company during the next two Sundays.

Never Look Down

You are somewhere on the silk, between the spider and the web. Taken away, up high, on a slow moving gondola, suspended, with only a slight provocation of thought. Drifting down a cool shallow river, feet first, looking straight up at the partly cloudy sky, moss tickling the backs of your thighs. The irresistible urge to touch a cholla, just to see if it will really jump, takes you over, and you watch the tiny droplets of blood pool up on your finger. There is no pain. All else moves past you at an incomprehensible pace, the day pressed down a bit and smeared with a thumb. Just left of center a viewfinder floats and you move as close to it as you can and look inside, your right eye opened wide and your left eye squinting tightly shut. There you are, on the bus. You back up, a little light headed, and inhale a tennis ball shaped gulp of air, tiny stars appearing and disappearing in front of you. Swallow your disbelief. Continue slowly and enter through the center of the web. Don’t pause to think. Don’t look down. Never look down. Move swiftly, surely, and don’t doubt yourself. Not too fast. I’ll wait for you. We knew each other a long time ago, but not so far back. I’m afraid you don’t remember. Keep walking. Rest on the bench that is not your size, allow your feet to dangle. Look out across the large dry meadow, straw-colored because of the drought. There is just one tree, bright green leaves. How, in this drought? You are suddenly small, shrunken, the size of a bean. You are beneath the tree, on a long pier, kicking water in the tiny lake with your toes. Now you know. Don’t try to explain.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm building a book.

Dorothy Dale and Her Chums by Margaret Penrose
Copyright, 1909

I found this book at a sale that took place a few years ago at the Joslin Memorial Library in Waitsfield, Vermont. Attached was a note that read This book was just returned to us. It was purchased in 1911. This gem from 1909 was not only fun to read, it is a beautiful object.

I love books. My attraction to the written word began very early in my life. I recall my parents finding a book on cursive writing at a school book sale and bringing it home to me. I diligently sat at our kitchen table and taught myself how to write in cursive the year before the rest of the children in my grade learned the skill. I was pleased as punch. I did it all by myself, with a book as my guide. It might have been the first time I realized the power of books.

I don't know where my life would be without the stacks and stacks of wonderful and even not-so-wonderful books I've read throughout the years. So many memories, so many lessons learned, so many peaceful hours spent reading.

One of my latest projects is building a book. And yes, that includes physically building the book. In the end, I might find that locating a professional printer makes the most sense, but first I'd like to work through the steps of building at least one humble book, from beginning to end, on my own.

I'm currently in the brainstorming and research stage. I have all sorts of ideas whirling around in my head and I'll try and articulate some of them and share them with you as I move through my process.

Like the tortoise, I'll be plodding along, slowly but surely. Please be patient.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Lady from the Kitchen Shop

September 2005

So changed,
yet so familiar, so close to the same.

Her stride, a bit slower.
Her eyes, slightly glazed.

What was silk is now sagging cotton.
The glimmer has gone dim.

But I still remember,
way back when,
how she'd make him nervous,
when she winked at him.

Their space, it gave her life.
It brightened her eyes.

When they left, she just smiled,
and waved goodbye.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Tub of Mud

Just before sunrise in Calistoga, CA
September 15, 2009

From the moment we turned onto historic Lincoln Avenue (Calistoga's Main Street), I knew we were going to have a wonderful trip. Surprisingly, it turned out to be our last day, September 15, 2009, the day I woke before sunrise that was the best day of all.

Combine Lincoln Avenue's charm of yesteryear with Indian Springs and its simple white cottages, croquet, and shuffle board courts and you will soon feel transported back in time. This is precisely what happened to us.

After being lost in the past for a couple of days, we left our room and strolled along the palm tree lined drive toward the large white California mission style spa building. We scheduled mud baths and 1/2 massages and then walked across the drive to lounge in the giant geyser-fed Mineral Pool and enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains. The Mineral Pool is kept at a temperature of about 90 degrees and is one of the best parts of the resort.

The reason the place feels so nostalgic is because it's been around
close to forever and has quite a history. The original spa, mud baths, and water plunge (now the Olympic-size Mineral Pool) were built on the property in 1861. Also noteworthy, Leland Stanford purchased the resort in 1880 with the intent of locating Stanford University on the property (he obviously changed his mind).

So let's get to the good part, the tub of mud. I was originally a bit skeptical about immersing myself in mud. Chris was intrigued enough for both of us. This is often our story. I'm lucky to have him around, gently nudging me into the great unknown.

We begin our experience in the spa lobby. After a very short wait, my name is called. I wave goodbye to Chris, and I, along with another guest whose name has been called, follow a pleasant attendant back to a quiet white room. She hands us our locker keys and explains next steps while my eyes wander over to the beautiful bowl of fresh orange slices, the lemon & cucumber water, and a wooden crate filled with bright white hand towels tightly rolled and arranged perfectly. I undress and wrap myself in a green & white seersucker robe
(love the robe!) and slip into my spa sandals. I eat a juicy orange slice, rinse the sweet stickiness off of my hands, dry them on one of the neatly rolled towels, and relax for a bit on a cushioned bench. I lean back against the wall and exhale with a quiet and comfortable sigh. It is a peaceful place.

Soon a new attendant greets me and the woman from the lobby
(it seems the spa has guests travel in twos) and guides us to the mud room. The mud room is all-business. Concrete tubs filled with shiny black mud (volcanic ash mixed with mineral water), exposed pipes, industrial faucets. The room is functional and solid as a rock. We are asked to get wet beneath a shower head and are then given directions to enter our tubs by yet another attendant sit down on the edge of the tub, place your left hand... Soon I am suspended in mud. It's amazing, really. I don't sink at all. I float on top. The attendant pushes mud onto all parts of my body that weren't covered during my entry and asks if I'd like mud on my face. I say I don't know, do I want mud on my face? She says Oh, yes. It is very good for your skin. It will make you beautiful. So of course I say yes. I'm told I'll be resting in my mud for 12-15 minutes.

My body heats up and my mind drifts into a dreamlike state. I keep looking above my tub at the three dimensional representation of some sort of goddess-like figure, just a head. A woman with long flowing brown hair decorated with apples, or perhaps peaches. She looks down at me. I can not wait to ask who she is. I'm starting to feel a little lightheaded when an attendant begins stirring the mud in the tub beside my tub with a giant pitchfork
(or was I really lightheaded?). I wiggle my fingers and toes and begin looking out the open window high above me, palm fronds blowing in the breeze, trying to cool myself down. I squish the mud between my fingers and try to think of words that accurately describe the texture. Dark chocolate pot de creme mixed with finely ground almonds. It was hot... I start getting that heartbeat feeling throughout my body, you know, when it feels like your entire body is a beating heart. Luckily the attendant returns and asks if I'd like to stay for a few more minutes or get out. I look over at my Swedish traveling companion (I later learned she was Swedish) and she doesn't look like a beating heart. She looks completely content, the picture of serenity. Grudgingly I say Yes, I'm ready and the attendant carefully removes my top layer of mud and helps me out of the tub. I rest on the edge and she asks if I'm okay, several times. I say I'm okay, but I actually feel a little woozy. She sees through me and we wait a bit before she helps me rinse off beneath a cool shower.

Next, a new attendant and another white room. This room has two claw foot tubs
(white) filled to the brim with lukewarm mineral water. Each tub has a tray with a cup of drinking water & straw and an orange stick for removing any residual mud from beneath our nails. I later learned that the men had pumice stones, but no straws in their cups. I was a bit jealous about the pumice stone, but a straw is very helpful when reclining in a tub. I drink a lot of water during this stage, probably 4-5 cups of water. I keep drinking and my attendant keeps returning at the perfect moment to refill my cup. It is nice. No ladies with apples in their hair in this room, but it is peaceful and I cool down.

Once I am nice and cool it is time for a steam. I am handed a towel to sit upon and a cool washcloth for my face. I heat up again in the lavender and eucalyptus scented steam room and then it is time to cool down, again. I see a pattern emerging. I exit the steam room and am told to lift my arms. I am wrapped in a layer of cool soft flannel and taken down a hall to a small quiet room, shown where my seersucker robe is hanging in the corner, and told to lie down and rest on what is best described as a simple daybed. The attendant places a cold cucumber slice over each of my eyes and covers the cucumbers with a cool washcloth. Soft music plays, a gentle breeze blows, and I doze off.

I awaken to a kind massage therapist removing my cucumbers and telling me she'll meet me in the hall. She points to my robe (perhaps she thinks I'm so sleepy I'll wander into the hall nude). I follow her through what seems to be a maze of white and then outside to a small hut near the coveted Buddha Pond.

After a 30 minute massage I am told I can do whatever I want to do, go back inside, visit the Buddha Pond, return to the Mineral Pool. I decide on the pond and find that Chris has made the same choice. We sit side by side, drink fancy water, and watch the dragon flies dart about above the pond.

It was a complete experience. I glide through the rest of my day, but I never learn about the lady with the apples in her hair.

Thank you Christina & Charlie!

The most beautiful laundromat I've ever seen. Calistoga, CA
September 15, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

tossed salad and boiled eggs

Green Gulch Farm salad greens in my favorite wooden salad bowl

It is Sunday morning. I've woken without an alarm. I've posted my poem. I have a few eggs boiling on the stove. We will soon be eating those eggs with a green salad and slices of toast topped with homemade jam. Green Gulch Farm adds lovely little flowers to their salad greens mix, and for me, it makes all the difference. It is a good day. I'm happy. That's all...

And He Was

blue blazers
gold buttons
you did not fall in line

were the pool from which you drunk

you have
remained still
on the murky pond bottom

but have
rushed to the top
gasped for air


and on you have gone...

December 2007

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Launch into the deep,

gazing beyond
photograph by Christopher Parsons, 2000

Today I found an old file filled with various items I had saved from a basic bookmaking and letterpress course (circa 2003).

One of those items was a large sheet printed with an excerpt from a book I was reading at the time. Our group had selected the excerpt for one of our letterpress assignments.

I am as moved by these words today as I was back then, one fine day in August of 2003. I hope you can find a moment in your day to sit back and spend some time with them.

The world's spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. "Launch into the deep," says Jacques Ellul, "and you shall see."

excerpt from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Corner

Green & Jones

There he was,
pushing the stroller
of a crying child.

He wore such hatred,
a thick knit wool hatred
that made them both
wince and itch.

It was not fleeting,
based upon struggle,
or minor feud.

It began that way,
a starched and pinched pleat
that would never soften.

Father and child,
on their march to God knows where.
I could not look away.

Friday, September 4, 2009

playing along

Playing along with Abby...

A cool clay mug

A bowl of Malt-O-Meal


Looking through Lumie again

Norah Jones + traffic

If you decide to play along, leave a link to your post in the comments section.