Thursday, December 23, 2010

She wanted snow, but settled for sun.

Behind, 2010

It was three days before Christmas. She wanted snow, but settled for sun. The weather had been gloomy and grey for so long. It was mid-morning when it arrived. She wondered if there'd ever been a sun so welcome, so comforting. It lulled her to sleep, almost instantly.

She woke to see the moon smiling brightly against the dark sky. It was stunning. Each evening she'd shut her blinds as darkness began to descend, but this moon had her rethinking her ways. What one does mustn't be what one does, forever.

The world felt light. She was floating, an absent minded bliss. It went on. Time was not of the essence, so she lost track of it. Why bother.

She'd filled the bathtub hours ago and forgotten about it, completely. So she drained the cool water, and filled it again with hot. It was wasteful, yet gratifying.

She eased into the hot water, wincing a bit, and then settling. Clear hot water -- no bubbles, oils, or salts. The heat made her feel slightly dizzy, so she maneuvered the oblong trip lever with her toe and the waterline began to recede.

Soon the tub was empty. She remained still. The trip lever resembled a long nose, the round metal plate behind it, a face, and the two screws, eyes. The nose was crooked and the expression aloof. It looked at her, mockingly. Still, she did not move until the heat evaporated from her skin and she began to cool.

Finally she stood, slipped into a large men's oxford shirt, and moved toward the kitchen. She poured herself a tall glass of water and drank half of it in a single gulp. It was 2am.

She'd slept most of the day and now felt wide awake and ready to begin, something. Seated upright at the kitchen table, she looked down at the blank page and watched the landscape begin to take shape.

Monday, December 20, 2010

what we do when we're alone

November, 2010

You know her novels, but do you know her poetry?
It’s necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You’d be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.

- excerpt from Margaret Atwood's In the Secular Night

Malt-O-Meal is still good.

Breakfast with Rooster Sauce, 2010

Visiting my old friend, Malt-O-Meal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Breakfast, December 15, 2010

Denise | Chez Danisse said...
Just pulled it from the oven. It smells absolutely heavenly in here! I think I'll have to take up doing something with fresh ground cinnamon and nutmeg every morning.
December 13, 2010

That was Monday. The photograph above is the last serving. Jane inspired me with her post about baked oatmeal. I just had to make my own. Jane, I cannot thank you enough. I was somehow imagining granola bars, but no no no, not even close. So much better. Imagine combing the tastes of bread pudding, rice pudding, and oatmeal cookie dough, yes, that about sums it up. I ate two servings warm from the oven. We also ate some for dessert (the same day). If I'd had a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, well, I don't know what I would have done with myself. Perhaps its best I do not keep cream on hand. This recipe is delicious warm and it is delicious cold. Make some for yourself. Share it with someone, if you are in the mood.

Baked Oatmeal
(serves 2 for a few days)

2 tablespoons butter (plus a little extra for buttering your baking dish)
2 cups fruit and nut müesli (uncooked rolled oats, fruit and nuts)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (yes, there are nuts in the müesli, but I love almonds)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (mine was sweetened)
1/4 cup seeds (I used toasted pumpkin, sunflower, and flax)
1 teaspoon baking powder
fresh ground cinnamon (I like just a pinch)
fresh ground nutmeg (I like several pinches)
between 1/4 and 1/2 cup raw sugar (depends how sweet you like such things)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups skim milk
6 ounce container of vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 375°

Melt butter and set aside to cool. Measure müesli, almonds, coconut, seeds, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar into a medium bowl, stir, and set aside. Whisk egg in a separate medium bowl. Add milk, yogurt, and cooled butter to bowl with egg and whisk it all together. Add bowl of dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients and stir to combine. Butter a small baking dish (mine was a rectangular 11 cup glass baking dish) and pour in combined ingredients.
Bake 20 minutes.

Oh, you are going to be so pleased.

And no, I still haven't put that plant in soil. Mind your own business.

Monday, December 13, 2010

She always had that same look in her eyes.

Ladies, 2010

I had fallen deeply into another of her books. Her writing was not what I usually gravitated toward, yet each of her novels had grabbed hold of me and would not let me go. They haunted me more than I looked forward to them.

I woke thinking of the current novel and knew I'd begin reading it before coffee or breakfast. It rested upside down, on the top of the stack beside my bed, her small passport sized author photograph looking up at me. She always had that same look in her eyes. In each photograph I'd seen of her -- similarly placed on her other books, on her publisher's website, and accompanying articles about her and her writing -- she always looked out with that same sexy squint. It looked good on her. I stood and looked into the mirror. My eyes were effortlessly wide open, even when I was tired. I tried her squint. I looked as if I'd been pinched.

She seemed one of those pretty girls who do not know they are pretty, but really do. Not unlike the main characters in her novels, but she was more sophisticated, more poised.

Now gripped by her third novel, I started to want to know more about her. How was she able to exert this power over me? I wanted to exert some power. I found video and written interviews, reviews of her books, and read her biography on the site linked to her teaching. I learned a little bit about her process and confirmed her sexy squint was de rigueur, at least it seemed so.

I resolved to try writing more like her -- to create characters removed from my own experiences, their emotions imagined versus linked to something I'd felt. There would be less weight attached to the work. Less worry about exposing myself or someone in my past or present. No fear of the moment so and so will approach me and ask "Is so and so character based on me?" I could stand taller, shoulders back, because there would be no secrets to cradle. So I tried.

It wasn't me. I knew after one page. I decided it wasn't her either. Her characters were not solely imagined. They were various incarnations of herself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

December 10, 2010

I would like to share with you a glimpse of my one and only Christmas decoration, so far. There might be more, there might not. I do not feel deprived. Quite pleased, actually.

All that's needed now, to really get into the spirit of the season, is my holiday trilogy: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and Love Actually. I know, so pedestrian, but they make me happy.

(serves one or more)

Cut ring of desired size from piece of cardboard you were just about to recycle. Find beautiful and sadly unused ball of red yarn in knitting stash. Wrap red yarn around entire cardboard wreath. Be patient, it takes a little while, but not too long. Tie desired length of red yarn to back of wreath for hanging wreath. Hang wreath from window lock in front window after you decide you don't like it on the mirror in the entryway. Now all passersby will be able to view your fine craftsmanship. Admire your little creation and feel pleased with yourself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

With and Without My Camera

First Satsuma of the Season, 2010

Walking home today, a little lost in thought, nothing organized, not terribly focused on any one thing, I had a general feeling of happiness surrounding me, kind of like the cloud of dust and debris that floats around Pig-Pen in the Peanuts cartoons. The rain had stopped and bits of blue were starting to show through the clouds. It was nice to have dry pant legs. I really dislike wet pant legs, especially when they are my own.

This walk is a walk I take often. It is a walk I know well. Most of the trees I pass are green, yes, even in December. I feel lucky when I spot a few sidewalk squares covered with wet yellow leaves. It's been very wet lately.

Well, today when I was strolling along, I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of red. It slipped into my distant peripheral vision. I'd walked this way so many times, never noticing any red, but there it was. Just beyond a quiet white painted brick entry way, chipped, a little faded, nothing special, and a long concrete courtyard. The bricks, bushes, and green trees faded into the background when this tall stunning tree at the far end of the courtyard came into focus. It was absolutely covered in what seemed millions of small red leaves. It was grand. It commanded respect.

Then I realized I was not toting my camera. Maybe it was better this way. I simply stopped and stared, smiling. It wasn't a moment meant to be captured on film. It will remain wild in my memory and will stretch and slip this way and that each time I recall the moment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nadja à Paris

I found the short film Nadja in Paris several years ago, after watching The Criterion Collection version of Eric Rohmer's Suzanne's Career. It just happened to be an extra on the disc. For some reason I thought of Nadja this morning. I sometimes think of Charlotte, too. Charlotte and Her Steak is another excellent Rohmer short film Criterion included in their Six Moral Tales set. Nadja remains my favorite.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So Much to Carry Home

Morning with Mom, 2010

Spending time with my mom and dad, in their spaces, away from most of my belongings and habits -- it always changes something in me. I watch them move through the world, these two people who created me. I interact with them, as an adult, but still their child. I thought of these things as I watched the sun set outside a small airplane window yesterday evening. There is always so much to carry home.

I watched Bridget Jones's Diary and rode my new green bicycle with my father. The pomegranates in his yard were heavy and ripe. The oranges were not, but we ate them anyway. My mother and I listened to Aerosmith, loudly, while baking biscotti we later dipped in dark chocolate. We shared soup (lentil and lemon rice) and drank tea, both Arabic and green. The air was cool. I planted a winter garden. The sky seemed to stretch forever. I finished reading Tinkers. My favorite line was We saw beaches of snow and blizzards of sand. So beautiful... When I woke in the twin bed, my dreams stayed with me. My fingertips were cold when I wrote this. Now it's my toes.

Today I walked past City Lights Books and read the large hand painted banners in the windows above the store OPEN DOOR, OPEN BOOKS, OPEN MIND, OPEN HEART, TURN LEFT and I sent good thoughts to my mom. She's beginning a new chapter in her life. There is space for new beginnings in all of our lives. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I don't recall where I first heard this, but I like it. Have you ever thought of it that way? It's kind of exciting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What would you know about Cee Lo? Cause you're like 40.

As I'm about to turn like 40 this week, I found this scene especially fun.
Go Gwyneth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Painted by Hand

There, 2010

The city was silent in the distance. Each building oddly outlined in white. The sky a vacuous black. Stars formed thick amoeba-like clusters, none stood alone. It was time to go. I drove through the deep night and emerged on the other side, continuing until the roads grew narrow and all of the signs were painted by hand. I made my own shoulder, as large as the road, so others could pass, and continued on foot. I discovered a bed made of pine with a mattress of fallen leaves bound by a white cotton quilt. My pillow, it did feel it was mine, was crisp and clean and scattered with wild strawberry cross stitch. Beside the bed stood the stump of a tree, on it a hollowed apple filled with fresh cider. It fit my palms perfectly. I lifted it to my lips. I slept until I woke, unsure if hours or days had passed. My apple was full, again. I sat up and sipped, looking out the lace curtains and across the prairie, prepared for the unknown.


possibilities, 2010

Can a plant grow too many roots?
What if I don't anchor these roots into soil?
Will they spiral out of control?
Am I really seeking the answer to another question?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And the winner is (drum roll...)

got it, 2010

Someone in Norway is going to be sporting some Brooklyn Tweed SHELTER this winter. Anne Marie from Life in Yonder, you are the chosen one.

Per Anne Marie's request, I will surprise her with one of her two color choices (Homemade Jam or Soot). I'll be visiting Bainbridge Island and making the big decision soon.

I'm sending a big thank you to all of you who joined in on the fun with your kind comments. You make me smile.

Congrats Anne Marie!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Summertime Olives

Fresh & Bitter, 2010

A friend of a friend has a grandfather who is a farmer and now this mountain of olives is mine. Beautiful fat green California olives grown on trees that have been around for 125 years. It's all very grand. They were delivered to me last night. I've been looking at them today, for a while now. I'm feeling a little intimidated.

I've done some research. This gentleman says Brine-curing is stupid easy, but takes FOREVER. Somehow this appeals to me. The intimidation is fading. This is the path I will follow.

It seems we are entering a long-term relationship. We'll begin today, but they won't be ready until June or July. I bought a nice large glass jar. I have a box of salt. All I need is some white wine vinegar. The Moroccan spices will be added later...

I'm going to have my own homemade olives, eventually. This is kind of exciting. Summertime Olives.

Thanks, Susan.

Last chance...

Noro at Trinka's, 2010

Tomorrow I will select the handmade scarf recipient. Would you like to toss your hat into the ring? Do so here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

as my father does

salt, pepper, egg, 2010

November 2, 2010
5:37 pm

The sky is fading and the sounds of the landscape have shifted. Most of the birds have gone inside. They sit at their small tables, plates of worms before them. Something croaks, a frog or toad, I imagine. I've never known the difference. The clock ticks, loudly. Strong, secure. It will go on long after I've stopped. Tonight, I will eat a hard cooked egg, just as my father does, or as he did, the morning of my wedding. I will pinch salt onto a plate, grind pepper over the salt, and tap my egg into the mixture before each bite. I will eat an apple pulled from the tree just outside my window. The sheep will watch. And I will drink water from a wine glass because the night is special. Later, I will wake and stumble to see stars so strikingly bright I will be afraid to return to sleep. I won't want to let them go.

Monday, November 1, 2010

+issue forty-seven+

I am honored to join a group of such talented and creative individuals.

Friday, October 29, 2010

And then it was gone

Look Up, 2010

The bus was quiet and after several minutes of fidgeting and arranging myself I settled in. I looked out the window and my mind drifted back to song lyrics I'd heard earlier in the day. Inside the bus, in the stillness, the lyrics felt more real. I heard each word distinctly. Each line spoke to me so clearly. And then that tightening in the back of my throat and the tears welling up. One fell from the outer corner of my right eye as I pushed the orange button to request my stop. I stepped off the bus, exposed, nowhere to hide, and the chaos of Chinatown whisked it all away.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Of Parks and Trailers

Confined Desertscape, 2010

I wore glasses to my first real job interview, non-prescription glasses. They fit the character I was creating. I found myself quite cunning. She was from old money. Very smart, but not at all pretentious. Driven, but never aggressive. Poised and sophisticated by day and slightly rebellious after hours. My model of the perfect young professional female. Some of it was true, most of it wasn’t, not yet, but it would be. It’s amazing how focused I was on branding and marketing before truly understanding either concept. I was very determined, but my character was only a shell. Truth is more complex, layered, murky, especially when it is seen through the lens of memory. Once in a while we retrieve a slice that is crystal clear and undeniably accurate. A mix of the two is most likely.

My parents never hovered. There were rules, but personal space was rarely an issue for me. It was mine for the taking, perhaps too much so at times. When we moved to Arizona and my father became a single parent, he played the role of the strict authoritarian. Do as I say, not as I do, articulated through the mouth of a grin, was one of his favorite lines. He talked a good game, but like most parents, once I was out of sight, he rarely knew what I was up to.

I was transacting my own business at about 12 years old. I babysat a little girl named Jillene. Although I quickly learned she was a 4 year old terror, I liked the independence of it all, and chose to soldier on. Her parents sold pot and lived in the trailer across from ours. I was always a little nervous about who might stop by when they weren’t home, but I liked them. They were nice people and they always had Doritos.

Katy and Tony lived beside Jillene’s family. They liked to laugh and told the types of jokes children were not meant to hear. They drank a lot of wine and on occasion my father and his far too young girlfriend hung out with them. I’ve never seen my father drunk, so I’m not sure what they had in common. It must have been the jokes.

The park was a place that pretty much fit the stereotype. Poorly landscaped lots, large aluminum boxes posing as homes, parents acting inappropriately, and kids hanging out by the public pool, at night, not swimming. My sister and I were strictly forbidden from hanging out, anywhere. This had always been the rule.

It’s difficult to describe what Dad seemed to believe during our trailer park period. I don’t think he understood that we were too young to choose our own influences. He always saw the best in us and believed we were capable of great things, including immunity to our own environment. We were constantly reminded that we weren’t like the rest of these, I believe his exact words were, goddamned punks. We were not to step anywhere near the flickering lights of that pool after dark, but I’d always stare curiously from the back seat of our car when we’d drive past at night. To me, they seemed to be the lucky ones.

Dad tore out the shiny new manufacturer’s countertops in our kitchen and installed quality butcher block. He built a well-crafted wooden fence around our lot and landscaped Southwestern style with fine gravel and a cactus or two. He made dinner every night.

I had a crush on a boy with long wavy dirty blonde hair that had been highlighted by the hot Arizona sun. I admired him from afar. He was one of the lucky ones who hung out late by the pool. I guess his parents didn’t mind. He wore faded jeans, untucked shirts, and had beautiful green eyes. I found him dangerous, in a good way. I never knew his name.

The Mexican population ruled the roost in our neighborhood. There was no talk of protecting the kind good-hearted immigrants. No. They would have cringed. These people were proud, territorial, and the only people requiring protection were those they didn’t like. I tried to fit in quietly and play by their rules. It seemed the safest path.

I can still hear the metal vacuum cleaner pipes beating against our doors and the aluminum siding of our trailer after the one time I wasn’t so quiet and decided to stand up for my little sister. They never made it inside. Perhaps it wasn’t their goal. Maybe they just wanted to scare us. I recall little more of the situation. I’m not even sure why I was originally protecting my sister. I have no idea what happened the next day or the day after. Could their anger have just fizzled out? I wish there was more to tell, but there isn’t. It’s just the echo of those pipes connecting with the aluminum that has stayed with me.

I don’t know where Dad was that day, but I know I didn’t tell him what happened, not until years later. I was too afraid of what his response might fuel.

It wasn’t all bad. A girl named Gloria lived next door and we became good friends. We saw each other daily. I realize now that her mother’s to-die-for watermelon juice must have been my introduction to aguas frescas.

And then there was Martha. Martha was a big tough Mexican girl with long black hair who attended my Junior High School. She was a powerful force. For some strange reason she liked me and became my protector. I was friends with Martha, so hands off. She taught me how to wear mascara and look tough by wearing untucked flannel shirts, over my pretty peach and pink tee-shirts, cardigan style.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I know it's autumn, but...

I just played this song and the sun came out. It's nice, isn't it? I'm going to play it again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'd like to knit a scarf for you.

As you might have noticed, I like to knit. Knitting is a meditation of sorts for me, so I like to keep it simple. Knitting scarves is the perfect solution. I was thinking about how good you all are to me and decided I'd like to knit a scarf for you, well, one of you. I'd love to knit a scarf for each and every one of you, but I don't think my wrists would be quite as willing.

So here's the plan. I like the look of and the story behind the new Shelter yarn, conceived and developed by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. One of my favorite knitting shops, Churchmouse Yarn & Teas, just happens to be a flagship location for Brooklyn Tweed. Isn't this perfect? I'll be in Seattle in November and will ride the ferry to Bainbridge Island to purchase your yarn.

If you'd like a simple scarf to keep you warm this winter just take a peek at Brooklyn Tweed's palette and leave me a comment below with your color choice. The color names are pretty fabulous. I'm especially fond of Homemade Jam, Sap, and Pumpernickel.

I will select the winner on November 10th via a nifty random number generator I've found.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sometimes it's just one sentence.

Monday Morning, 2010

Today I woke and read. All was calm and peaceful before I was halted by this sentence.

They might have been robots, so mechanical was their performance, and I asked myself if it was possible that at one time, when they were setting out, they had thought they might be musicians whom people would come from far to hear and to applaud.

Sometimes it's just one sentence. I absently replaced the bookmark and decided to visit the bay.

Quote: W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One of those people...

My Lunch (yesterday and possibly today), 2010

You know those annoying people who post such frivolity as what they've eaten for lunch? I'm one of those people.

Tomato Sandwich
serves 1

2 slices of homemade whole wheat bread (w/ sesame, sunflower, flax, and pumpkin seeds)
mayo (it wasn't homemade, but it was organic and made with cage free eggs--perhaps this is also annoying)
extra sharp cheddar cheese
handful of clover sprouts
1 small ripe heirloom tomato
fleur de sel

large glass of cold milk

Slice tomato and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Reserve enough tomato to cover one slice of bread and eat the rest. Slice enough cheddar to cover one slice of bread. Toast bread. Generously smear one slice of bread with mayo. Place a nice mound of sprouts over mayo. Arrange tomato slices over sprouts. Place another mound of sprouts on top of tomato slices. Arrange cheese slices over new mound of sprouts. Top with second slice of toast. Serve with a large glass of cold milk. Eat slowly. Repeat as needed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Before Sunrise

Fort Mason, 2010

The sun is sleeping much later these days, but I am not. Inspired by Alexandria, I've decided to venture out before the sun rises. One benefit of the days growing shorter is that the sun rises later and waking up to catch a glimpse of this beautiful part of the day becomes a little easier. I better scoot. I'll continue when I return.

I'm back. It was worth it. I strongly recommend giving it a try.

What I love most about sunrise and sunset is the way the light changes so rapidly and therefore changes the look of all that surrounds you just as rapidly. It's pretty amazing.

Today was overcast and it appeared all I'd see as the sun changed position was a shift from a dirty white sky to a dirty white sky that was slightly brighter, but then the sun started to break through and backlight the clouds, adding depth to the sky.

Looking into the bay from Fort Mason I saw small shimmering plates of silver just beneath the surface of the water. At first I thought they were reflections, but then I realized they were fish darting about. What I was seeing was the sun catching their scales at just the right angle. The fish shared this part of the bay with some hungry gulls, long strands of glistening seaweed lazily swaying, and a few giant orange starfish hugging the legs of the pier.

I ended the morning inside Greens. This is a well kept secret, so try and keep it to yourself. Greens Restaurant does not officially open until lunchtime, but they have a small to-go counter that is open in the morning. Purchase of a simple muffin or cup of tea at the to-go counter allows you access into the closed restaurant and your choice of a large selection of tables, each with a spectacular view. As if this were not enough, there are also several Annie Somerville cookbooks marked sample at the counter along with a couple copies of The Tassajara Bread Book that you are free to peruse while sitting at your table beside the bay.

I learned that Annie Somerville uses her chard stems. She simply slices them thin and combines them with the leaves. I checked The Art of Simple Food when I returned home and Alice Waters does the same. Why haven't I been doing this?

Starting my days by strolling into North Beach with Chris and conversing while sipping coffee is a beautiful thing, but this was a nice shift in perspective.

Okay, enough about me. How do you start your day? Do you love your morning routine or do you switch it up sometimes?

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Trump, 2010

al·ter verb \ˈol-tər\

al·tered | al·ter·ing

Definition of ALTER

transitive verb
1 : to make different without changing into something else


You know how having a cold can alter your existence? Suddenly the clear headed you is viewing your days through a fog or murkiness of some sort. Basically, everything looks a little blurry. This is not always a bad thing. It's a new perspective, like squinting while looking at a painting or photograph to see the composition without the details. I've been squinting these last few days. I've also been away from home.

I had the surreal experience of reading Annie Dillard's Aces and Eights with a view of the manufactured landscape above, my hotel chair positioned in front of this odd frame. Bizarre. By the way, Aces and Eights is excellent. Thanks, Shari. But I really didn't like staying in the room.

I probably should have been in bed, beneath the covers, but something about this particular room, most hotel rooms really, made me antsy. I need functional windows. I need fresh air, sort of desperately.

So I'd wake up early while the rest of the city was sleeping off the night before and I'd sit at the pool, fully dressed, in the shade. The weather was perfect. I could sit for hours and I'd only see two or three other people, at the most. It was just a sea of empty chairs and quiet.

I cultivated a routine: flip through magazine, watch window washers scale giant hotel before me, look at sky, and then back to magazine. Lots of sniffles in between. The window washers and the sky were most interesting.

Out of my entire thick glossy magazine I only tore a photo of a woman with bangs I liked, someone's dream holiday that appealed to me, and a little blurb about custom fit Levi's. I haven't worn Levi's in a long time. They bring back good memories. That's it.

It's been a strange few days, but I'm confident that there is something of substance percolating in my subconscious. I have three library books on crochet and am contemplating teaching myself some basics if I can slow down my incessant need for a tissue. It's really getting old.

Remember this scene from When Harry Met Sally? No, no, not that fake orgasm in the deli scene. This one was much better, I think.
(Casablanca ends with "I think this is the beginning of a
beautiful friendship.")
Harry: Mmm, best last line of a movie ever.
Sally: Hmm....
Harry: I'm definitely coming down with something.
Probably a twenty four hour tumor. They're going around.
Sally: You don't have a tumor.
Harry: How do you know?
Sally: If you're so worried go see a doctor.
Harry: No, he'll just tell me it's nothing.
Sally: Will you be able to sleep?
Harry: If not I'll be OK.
Sally: What will you do?
Harry: I'll stay up and moan. May be I should practice
Sally: Goodnight Harry.
Harry: Goodnight.
(Both hang up the phone)
(Sally's light is out)
(Harry keeps moaning...and eventually lights out)
I kind of feel like Harry. Maybe I should forget crochet and just crawl into bed and watch Enchanted April. This is always helpful. Lottie makes me happy.
(Denise moans, sniffles, continues moaning...and
eventually you move on to read another blog)
Results, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Or maybe I was just lucky.

A Sunday in September, 2010

The details of the world seem magnified when I am alone. I experience the world differently than I would if I were with someone else, and I feel the world experiences me differently as well. Today, a young man sat on the sidewalk rattling change in a can outside the entrance of my local drug store. I took particular note of him as I walked into the store. What happened? crossed my mind. When I exited, he said have a nice day. I stood close to him, unwrapping my new package of gum, and depositing the wrapper into a trash can. I looked him in the eye and asked would you like a piece of gum? A bright eyed oh, yeah followed. As I handed him the gum I noticed how dirty his hands were and the fine dark debris beneath his fingernails and I took care not to touch his hand while very consciously trying to play it cool and pretend I took no notice of the dirt or debris. As I walked away I felt sort of ill, completely disoriented. Why did I have to avoid his hand? This certainly wasn't the most pleasant part of my personality on display, sort of shallow really. The worst part is that I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same way if I found myself in front of that store tomorrow. Who was this guy? Why was he on the street with that can? When he accepted my offer of gum he answered identically in voice and manner to someone who could run in my socioeconomic circle, but then his hands. They seemed out of context. A block or so from the drugstore a slow moving older man wearing a straw Panama hat and a loose cardigan bent over toward the sidewalk. As I drew closer I noticed he was picking up a penny. I smiled and wished him luck, took two steps, and saw another penny. I picked up mine and he smiled and said good luck to you too. We both chuckled and I was on my way, thinking of my grandfather, and the good luck I'd always had when we'd walk together. Every time we went out for a stroll I'd find coins on the ground, often half dollar coins and silver dollars. It wasn't until Grandpa had passed away and I was much older that I realized he must have been tossing those coins on the ground when I wasn't looking. He liked making me happy. Or maybe I was just lucky.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homage to Mr. Williams and Apology to Chris

There Was Only One

I have eaten
the Early Girl
that was on
the counter

and which
you were probably
for pleasure

Forgive me
it was delicious
so juicy
dripping sweet

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

Monday, September 20, 2010

while looking back

The Gulf of Poets, 2010
Image courtesy of Christopher Parsons

I wanted to feel new. I wasn't seeking a complete transformation, but a way to combine the me from before with what I'd learned. I didn't want to settle back into what was and allow the new pieces of me to become submerged.

I woke quickly and easily yesterday at 3:44 am, something I did not know at the time, thoughts whirling, and immediately wanting to walk in the fresh morning air. I brushed my teeth and placed a small lens on each eye. I splashed some water on my face and then looked at the clock. Oh I thought it seems a little more like middle of the night than first thing in the morning, although not technically, but still. I placed the lenses back in their case and crawled back into bed. Today I woke at 4:15.

It started in Liguria. I usually sleep through the night and become very unfriendly when my sleep is disrupted, but something changed while I was there.

I never checked the clock, but my waking was always in the shapeless black of night. Suspended it darkness I would contemplate farmers, nomads, and men who fish with light.

I'd ponder how to recount my journey. There were so many ways to begin, none of them right. To describe the stone walls and terraced hillsides, the grapevines, olive groves, and lemon trees, or the immaculate beauty of fresh anchovies with nothing more than lemon and olive oil, it all seemed to echo some sort of Disney narration.

It's not so much the physical aspects of a place that seep into who we are, although they do factor into the equation, at least in part. There are also the invisible traces of those who have walked, fished, farmed, wrote, and simply thought in the space. And for me, there are also the books I read while I am there. Claudia Emerson's Late Wife is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Hemingway's The Garden of Eden circled a love triangle I found difficult to tolerate, but the way his main character structured his days around his writing and respected his craft were unforgettable.

I was different there. I knew I couldn't take it all home with me, but I also knew I was not the same.

There is a wrinkled scrap of paper tucked into my small and most often used piece of luggage. Each time I travel I stumble upon this scrap of paper and smile as I read the words. I originally read them during a solo trip to Italy, about ten years ago. I jotted them down and placed them in my suitcase when I returned home.

No matter how you travel, how ‘successful’ your tour, or how foreshortened, you always learn something and learn to change your thoughts.”
Jack Kerouac, Satori in Paris

I still love it.
I've found that those changes are near impossible to see as they occur. Patterns, threads, and shifts in a life are revealed later, while looking back. Taking steps to feel new or transformed in some way, trying to restructure my days to retrieve what I experienced, or attempting to analyze what has occurred is futile at this juncture, delineating space for change is not.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

All I need...

Complete, 2010

A good man, fresh bread, and pesto.

View of the Ligurian Sea optional

Saturday, August 28, 2010

a day without plans

It's a good sky today, 2010

Sometimes the forecast is just the forecast. The predicted high today is 56°. It is currently 63°. We made it to the park with our coffee, before he had to go. It seemed we landed in the only place in the city free from wind, and we just sat, calm and content. Sadly, it wasn't long before he had to hop in a cab. But the sky is perfectly balanced, tomatoes are slowly roasting, and the few shadows on the bench beneath my bay window are crisply defined. I feel the wild parts creeping in and overshadowing the responsible and efficient. Which are more wise?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Almond Soda

happy hour, 2010

I wasn't sure where to buy such an ingredient, so I asked the owner of our favorite cafe if she carried almond syrup. My plan was to ask her where she bought hers, but before I could say another word she said "Oh, Orgeat, you want a bottle?" I think she gave me the wholesale price. We are regulars. North Beach likes regulars.

Almond Soda

2 tablespoons orgeat (almond) syrup
10 ounces sparkling water

Measure syrup into a pint Mason jar. Add sparkling water. Stir.

9/25/2010 Just tried adding a splash of cream. Tasty!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The lipstick is off the pig.

Suddenly it was summer, 2010

Above you will see a glimpse of my lunch. A raw salad. The perfect solution when you are just too hot and tired to consider anything else. San Francisco is freaking out a little. We've all come to expect the cool grey days we've been living with for the last, I'm not even sure how long, months? And suddenly, it's summer. Today should reach 94 degrees. This is such an unbelievable change. We even had mosquitoes buzzing in our ears last night. This never happens. Yesterday, I ventured out into the early evening air without a jacket. It seemed a miracle. It was amazing, wonderful, absolutely fantastic. This morning, I glided through the new warm air with bare arms and flip-flops and drank my cappuccino on a park bench. A few hours later, close to noon, I left a very challenging yoga class and wasn't feeling so lovely. I was seriously wiped out and ready to walk outside into the fresh cool air. No cool air today. I was immediately craving Shari's grandfather's spring water and cool raw vegetables. On my way home, I stopped at the market and bought these little tomatoes. Someone said they were so good and I was in the mood to believe good things. I picked up a variety of other light items that wouldn't require much heat or effort and was on my way, back into the not-at-all-cool air. Once I made it up the hill and into my apartment my mood had shifted from not-so-lovely to downright hot-and-grumpy. The honeymoon over. The lipstick off the pig. Be careful what you wish for is what I'm saying. I made this salad because I was just too hot and tired to consider anything else. I was not feeling the slightest bit patient or tolerant. Luckily, it was really good.

raw too-hot-and-tired-to-consider-anything-else salad

1 fresh ear of corn
1 generous handful of small highly-recommended tomatoes
1 glug of good olive oil (I used Bariani)
a few grinds of black pepper (I like my pepper ground coarse)
2 pinches of good fleur de sel
1 splash of red wine vinegar

Slice corn kernels from cob* and place in bowl. Rinse and stem tomatoes and add to bowl. Add olive oil, pepper, fleur de sel, and vinegar. Toss together. Eat.

*Today I discovered that slicing the kernels off the cob on the lid (placed upside down) for my 9x13 Pyrex pan keeps the kernels from scattering all over the counter and floor.

What did you eat for lunch today?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


last slice of bread, 2010

The morning tastes of preserved blackberries and peanuts melting on toast. The thickness cut by the chill and harsh bubbles in my frosted glass. No coffee. My vegetables and plans crowd the table around my plate. Anaheims, Early Girls, avocado, my notebook and pencil. I look up through the slats to an opening in the dull grey, a patch of hopeful blue. It shrinks all too quickly and then disappears. The window breeze raises tiny bumps on the skin of my left arm. I'm too close. My feet, both of them, are cold. I shrug my shoulders near to my ears, a tense comfort, a reflex. This is August.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What is wonderful?

I love these bottles, 2010

I just spent $3.99 on a fancy Icelandic style grapefruit yogurt with a pretty label. I'm rationalizing my purchase. I'm focusing on the fact that I've never tasted a grapefruit yogurt and better yet, this one tiny container houses 16g of protein. And I walked home instead of taking the bus. You might wonder how my cardiovascular output compensates for the $3.99. I'm not sure I can explain, but it somehow works for me. Okay...I just had my first taste. I don't love it. Hmmm. This texture is not for me. Damn.

The milk bottles above are from the milk I started buying when I lived right beside the town of Marshall, CA, home of Straus Family Creamery. It felt good to support a neighbor, but I must admit that I adore these beautiful glass bottles. How much did the glass bottles factor in to my buying decision? I'll never know for sure. But I don't live beside Marshall any longer and I still love this milk, and the bottles.

These thoughts about why we buy lead me to some other feelings I've been having lately. I always seem to fly into a frivolous buying frenzy when I'm nearing an upcoming trip. I begin to think of all of the things I need for the trip and wonder how I've lived this long without owning such things. It's typically a list of odd little things. Nothing major, but all seemingly very important.

An eye mask is on my list. I've always thought an eye mask and ear plugs would be wise for travel, but have not yet traveled with either item. My ears are very small. Not circus act small, but the smallest side of normal. My Apple earbuds are set on the smallest cap. Any ear plugs I've tried have been too large. How will I find some that fit? Are ear plugs made for children? There's an idea to explore...

When it comes to travel, there are always books to consider. Although I am a huge fan of our public library system, I just purchased 3 books from the used bookstore by the bay. Chris had a great idea. We purchase reasonably priced used books and leave them in a cafe or on the bookshelf in our vacation apartment. I love this idea. Come to think of it, this is how I found Chronicle of a Death Foretold when I was on the island of Salina. It had been left in our hotel lobby by a fellow traveler. It was not a book I would have purchased on my own and it was nice to stretch my boundaries a bit. Hopefully I'll be doing the same for someone else.

But why did I buy these three books? The first book follows a fascinating woman whose fevered quest for fulfillment drives her from lover to lover. The second shows the author's ability to conjure up very quickly the dark side of our emotions. And the third looks deeply and fearlessly into matters of profound human concern.

One problem. I'm looking over my selections and having second thoughts. What exactly will I be passing on? The books do look good. I know that many wonderful novels, films, songs, visual art, and poems are soul searching and sad, but are my selections too depressing? Should I give them all back to the used book shop or just add something not so wonderful, but a little lighter? And what is wonderful anyway?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

first book: A Spy in the House of Love by Anaïs Nin
second book: A Sentimental Education by Joyce Carol Oates
third book: Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida

Sunday, August 15, 2010

book one & book two

Reading with grapes, 2010

Have you ever finished two books in one day? I did, yesterday. I am still feeling a little disoriented. That huge exhalation, the slow thoughtful looking back on all you've just experienced, and the tinge of sadness as you let go of the familiar characters. Yes, it is just a book, but if it is a good book you feel as if you were there, as if you were really experiencing every word that was written. I've never had this feeling twice in one day, and although I am an advocate for new experiences, I am not sure I recommend it. I'd been reading book one for a long comfortable while and just had a few pages to read before it was finished. Book two had only a few pages read, the first few. It had its grip on me from the start. When I picked it up from the library I could not wait to begin and just had to read those first pages. I am convinced the structure of book two, no chapters, had at least something to do with my wildly whipping through it as I did. Believe me, it was wild. I did not come up for air and this is not the way I read. I am a slow reader. I savor. I'm still marveling at the way the author was able to take control of me in this manner. Impressive, indeed.

book one: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
book two: The Lovers by Vendela Vida

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Mouse

Spider Art, 2008

I saw a mouse today. It was a small grey furry little thing just going about its business beside a curb, downtown, in the middle of rush hour. I don't know if he was blind, deaf, very old, or just a city mouse comfortable with the chaos of morning pedestrian traffic. I was in the middle of the street when I spotted him. I halted and cringed. A mouse! But he didn't seem nervous at all, so I felt a little silly, and I calmed down too. I watched him nibble on whatever little crumbs he had found down there. He was kind of sweet. I wonder when I learned to fear the little mouse and the spider and love the puppy and the kitten. It's odd.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who is she?

Self, 2010

We are constantly evolving. Everything we observe, create, and think adds another layer to who we are. I often imagine that person I want to become, the little old me. Who is she? Are the decisions I'm making helping me become her? All of the books I read, films I watch, people with whom I share my time, even meals I prepare--all of these things are shaping who she will be. It's nice to think about having so much control. I'm really shaping her. It's not just fate.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nothing stays the same.

Can't seem to let them go, 2010

The little gallery is gone. The space on Columbus Street, near the truffle shop. The truffle shop owned by the proud Frenchman with funny shoes. He is abrupt and kind. The shop where my little brothers ate their first truffles and drank their first espressos. They wanted to know why the cups and chocolates were so small. Because when things are wonderful you only need a small amount, I told them. They nodded and sipped. It was the same day my dad drank a macchiato and kept saying it over and over again. He loved the word and saying it made him feel like Dean Martin. We saw Thiebaud's sweets in this gallery. His son might have owned it. We also saw the work of a sculptor who shapes figures in bronze. I never remember his name, and when I do, I spell it incorrectly. He makes us think of Giacometti. The blinds are drawn. A for lease sign with a black & white photograph of a real estate agent hangs in the front window. The truffle shop is still there. I saw the Frenchman today. He was behind the counter. I could not see his shoes.

Monday, August 2, 2010

public service announcement (about lunch)

Lunch on the 2nd day of August, 2010

According to Wikipedia, a public service announcement is a type of advertisement intended to benefit public interest, by raising awareness of an issue, affecting public attitudes, and potentially stimulating action.

Eat toasts with mustard mayonnaise and mashed avocado.

This ad was inspired by The Wednesday Chef and food52.

*I added coarse ground black pepper.

Friday, July 30, 2010

On Comfort

Lace, 2010

Shopgirl. I like this film. It brings me comfort, Mirabelle Buttersfield in particular. Her quiet sadness and ability to carry on feel like an old friend when I am craving something familiar. The actual story leaves me feeling sort of lukewarm, yet I find myself watching this film again, for the third time. Maybe lukewarm is exactly what I want sometimes, and Shopgirl does lukewarm just right. There is something about the pace, mood, and the way it looks on screen, the stripped down beauty of Mirabelle's life. Her apartment is spare, but the vintage items she has collected suit her perfectly, and she has a nice bathtub. The evening gloves counter where she spends her days is surrounded by open space filled with soft light and dotted with objects of sadly dated beauty. She drives a bland little pick-up truck, serves cheap wine past its prime, and does it all with a gentle melancholic grace. She is an artist who follows her instincts and does not apologize for creating just one drawing every six months or so. I love her self-portraiture scenes. The men in her life disappoint, but she is hopeful. She tries to see the best in them. The ending isn't shocking or dramatic. It is calm and true.

What brings you comfort?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dene & Lisa (& Lion)

Dene & Lisa, 1971
Image courtesy of Aunt Barbara
Photographer: Mom or Dad (?)

Thinking about my little sis today... I'm not sure what was happening in most of our childhood photographs, but she's always smiling and I'm always looking a bit put-upon. Mom tells me the studious stuffed lion was the free gift that accompanied my parent's new checking account. Lisa seems to like it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

From 1746 to Lady Pickles

A Pint, 2010

It does not seem to be the place to procure the perfect bowl of ramen, but isn't ramen becoming a little overrated these days? If you would like to sit in a sun filled cafe and drink a creamy delicious matcha latte, browse bonsai, or shop in a market that sells fresh shishito peppers, nifty little Japanese white cucumbers, and bitter almond Kit Kats, San Francisco's Japantown is your place.

1746 Post Street is where to begin. Cinema Cafe serves a fine matcha latte. I always order mine in a small cup. The large is just too large, but they only have one button on the cash register for this beverage, so you'll have to pay for a large. It's worth it. It is the most beautiful latte I've ever seen, a calming pale green.

Bring a book or browse the Kinokuniya Bookstore (1581 Webster Street) before you head to the cafe. Kinokuniya has the most inspiring collection of Japanese books. I'm always drawn to their various craft and design books. Don't worry if you don't read Japanese, it is the imagery that will capture your attention. They carry some English books as well.

Currently, Kinokuniya has some darling little tote bags in stock. The bags are printed by a local artist, and selling for only $4.95. They come in a variety of colors and I really have to practice restraint to keep myself from purchasing a new tote each time I enter the store.

There is always the option of forgetting books altogether and simply drinking your latte while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Cinema Cafe and people watching.

Before you go, visit the best ladies room in the city of San Francisco. I'm sure the men's room is nice too, but I cannot say for sure. The ladies room is located on the level beneath the cafe, near the small box office. Yes, they show films here--the focus is on "the latest and hottest films from Japan". Once inside the ladies room, you will find an array of tiny glass vases filled with fresh flowers. Best of all, you will sit on a high-tech heated toilet seat. The entire space is immaculate.


Even if you don't require any Japanese pantry items, the Nijiya Market is worth the trip (1737 Post Street). It's just across the street from the cafe. Peruse the aisles and note all of the interesting ingredients you will not likely find in an average American supermarket. Don't miss the Kewpie Mayonnaise.

If you are in the mood to wander, there's a cute little bonsai shop, Katsura Garden, just steps away (1825 Post Street). If you require rest, stop by Robert Redford's Sundance Kabuki Cinema (1881 Post Street). I'm sure there will be something that suits your mood.

I left Japantown with a new tote (I now own 2) and some nice pickle ingredients.

Once home, I made these deceptively feisty pickles. As I prepared the thinly sliced petite vegetables, all so delicate, and decided on the additional spicy and sweet ingredients, I thought...these are going to be called Lady Pickles.

Lady Pickles
1 pint

1 small chunk of ginger = to the top of your thumb, above the first knuckle
3 small carrots
3 shishito peppers
2 small Japanese white cucumbers
3 ooba (aojiso) leaves

1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1 star anise

3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel ginger and place in the bottom of a clean 1 pint jar. Top, tail, and slice carrots, peppers, and cucumbers very thin. I used a Kyocera adjustable mandoline slicer for the carrots and cucumbers and a knife for the peppers. Chiffonade the aojiso leaves. Toss together and add to jar. Over low heat, toast cinnamon, red pepper, mustard, and star anise in a small sauce pan for a few minutes. Add vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to sauce pan and simmer for a few minutes while gently stirring. Pour liquid into jar, over vegetables. Allow contents of jar to cool before sealing jar and placing it in the refrigerator. Wait 24 hours or so.

Eat Lady Pickles beside grilled sandwiches, grain salads, or platters of cured meats and cheeses.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back to Barbara (Pym)

Excellent Women with Almonds, 2010

Excellent women are women men take for granted. In a parish, they are there to help make the tea, arrange flowers in the church and provide companionship for the more boring members of the congregation with whom the priests can't be bothered.

Those women who are openly sexually alluring do not seem to be excellent, and do not need to bother themselves with such unselfish tasks as washing up or making curtains.

-Excerpt from A. N. Wilson's 2005 Introduction (Excellent Women by Barbara Pym)

Miss Mildred Lathbury is at the center of Barbara Pym's quietly comical and unpretentious story, Excellent Women. We are introduced to Mildred's way of thinking on the first page of the novel as she ponders her life at present.

I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people's business, and if she is also a clergyman's daughter then one might really say that there is no hope for her.

Later in the novel we accompany Mildred as she is lost in a crowd of busy women shopping. Soon she is looking at her reflection in a mirror and seeing herself as colourless and worried-looking, the eyes large and rather frightened, the lips too pale. An uncomfortable encounter with a sales clerk ends even more uncomfortably, but with her desired shade of lipstick in hand.

'Thank you, but I think I will have Hawaiian Fire,' I said obstinately, savouring the ludicrous words and the full depths of my shame.

I hurried away and found myself on an escalator. Hawaiian Fire, indeed! Nothing more unsuitable could possibly be imagined. I began to smile and only just stopped myself from laughing out loud...

Although we have very little in common, I am quite fond of Mildred. Seeing 1950s England through her eyes is a treat. Her observations of everyday life are subtle, yet crystal clear. Honestly, I really don't think she would have liked me very much, but she would have tolerated me, because that's what Mildred does, she tolerates people. She believes it is her duty. It would not be wise for me to hope for more. But like Mildred, I would adore Rockingham Napier before ever setting eyes on him. Rockingham is such a fabulously commanding name. And if I lived in 1950s England, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself sitting alone eating a very small chop followed by a little knitting with my radio tuned to Saturday Night Theatre. This does actually resemble a night I might have while Chris works late. My kind of adventure. Also, I find her idea for a novel exquisite. Perhaps Miss Lathbury and I have more in common than I originally thought.

Rockingham! I snatched at the name as if it had been a precious jewel in the dustbin. Mr. Napier was called Rockingham!
I dare say a clever person with a fantastic turn of mind could transform even a laundry list into a poem.
I hurried about the kitchen, eating the baked beans in ten minutes or less, quite without dignity, and then washing up.
I thought of my half-used tin of baked beans; no doubt I should be seeing them again tomorrow.
You know I'm not used to wine, particularly in the middle of the day, I said, but it's rather pleasant to be unlike oneself occasionally.
It was a sobering kind of place to be in and a glance at my face in the dusty ill-lit mirror was enough to discourage anybody's romantic thoughts.
It was a good thing he began talking, for I am not used to meeting handsome men and I am afraid that I must have been staring at him rather rudely.
So he did remember me like that after all -- a woman who was always making cups of tea. Well, there was nothing to be done about it now but to make one.
My thoughts went round and round and it occurred to me that if I ever wrote a novel it would be of the 'stream of consciousness' type and deal with an hour in the life of a woman at the sink.

-Miss Mildred Lathbury Excerpts
(Excellent Women by Barbara Pym 1952)

One more thing before I go. It's always interesting to see the way the British use English a bit differently than we do here in America. For instance, I was sent to the dictionary after feeling confused by a particular passage in Excellent Women and learned the following (note 1 chiefly British, not 2):

Main Entry: slut
Pronunciation: \ˈslət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English slutte
Date: 15th century
1 chiefly British : a slovenly woman
2 a : a promiscuous woman; especially : prostitute b : a saucy girl : minx

There, we've gotten that out of the way. Now new American readers of Excellent Women will not be confused.