Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Kittehs to You

Merry Christmas

love to all,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What? It's December already?

For Halloween the Girl was a Sage, or Shaman. She made the mask with plaster, molding it to her face.

The Boy is a pirate, or a pirate/viking (he has a viking hat, not shown here). With identities obscured to protect the innocent, we have (from left to right) a beauty queen, football player, Bill the Prince of Insufficient Light (from Dilbert), pirate, grim reaper, Sage, Roman centurion or knight, and Oracle.

Blame Montessori education for the weird/awesome costume choices.

Monday, September 15, 2008

a wee sewing project

Yesterday my daughter handed me a little blue stuffed animal with one arm off. It belongs to her American history teacher, who uses this stuffed animal instead of the usual card or key as a "get out of the classroom free" token.

The teacher knows I sew, which is why she sent the stuffed animal home with my daughter for repair.

Sewing the arm back on was the work of a moment. I couldn't help adding a little shirt to keep the wee beastie warm.

And I couldn't help injecting a wee bit of political commentary. I do hope the teacher takes it in the gentle spirit in which it was given.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Stirring the Pot

Isn't there something magic about old, stained recipe cards? The worse the condition, the more they were used, I'd guess. 

When my grandmother moved into a nursing home, my mom went through all her stuff, giving much of it away and keeping only the treasures. Bless her, she deemed the recipe box a treasure. 

A couple visits ago, I had a good long sit at the scanner and made copies of some of the recipes. Grandma was a good, utilitarian cook, content to work from printed recipes, mostly from women's magazines and the sides of processed food boxes. I don't know how many copies she had of the same bran muffin recipe, but there were a lot. It probably made finding it in the thick box of recipes an easier task if there were ten or fifteen copies of it seeded around.

I most associate Grandma with two recipes: a fussy and time-consuming but delicious nut torte, and peanut butter cookies. The nut torte is (I assume) a family heirloom and was made only on special occasions. I think I tasted it only once, but I'll never forget the rich, dense cake and buttery frosting. Mmmm, nut torte. The peanut butter cookies were, as most peanut butter cookies are, delicious. What made them special was the addition of orange juice to the recipe. I baked them many times as a kid and grew up assuming that all peanut butter cookies had orange juice in them. Since then, however, I've never come across another. (I should probably write to Cook's Illustrated and ask if they found this odd ingredient in their research on peanut butter cookies.) 

When I discovered the recipe card for the cookies, I was thrilled -- and disconcerted. I'd come to the conclusion, over the years, that the orange juice must have been Grandma's secret addition. But the recipe card was not written in her hand; it was clipped from a magazine. If you'd like to try them, have a go:

Grandpa was a Renaissance man of sorts, interested in every possible subject and probably (he was a man, after all) an authority on them all. (I say that with great fondness, just so you know.) He must have driven Grandma nuts. In Grandma's collection of recipes, I found many that he typed out. (Grandma had a beautiful flowing longhand.) I wonder if he cooked these recipes, too, or gave them to Grandma to make. 

I don't remember much about Grandpa, but I'm willing to bet he cooked Fidel Castro's Black Beans. As a Socialist, how could he not? I can imagine him stirring the pot and discoursing on leftist politics with his dinner guests. Stirring the pot in different ways, now that I think about it.

I did a quick internet search for the origin of this recipe, but I haven't found it yet. Until I do, I'm going to picture Mr. Castro shaking my Grandpa's hand at a political rally and laughing at his jokes. They stand a bit apart from the crowd, smoking cigars, and Fidel gets a secretive look in his eyes. He motions Grandpa closer, then surreptitiously whispers his favorite recipe, handed down through generations of Cuban laborers.

So make some Fidel Castro Black Beans for your next supper, and talk politics (any sort you like) with your dinner guests. And Fidel, if you're reading this, thank you for the marvelous recipe. I hope you don't mind that I'm passing it on.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

crafty bits

These were some of the Christmas gifts I made last year. The patterns were gathered from a month-long feature of quick and clever craft tutorials on the fabulous Sew, Mama, Sew! blog.

In the top picture are a tote bag, journal cover, lavender-and-rice heat pillow, zippered pouch, and placemats. They were so much fun to make, and working with fabrics I love made the process a pleasure, even through multiple gift sets under a wee bit of time pressure.

The pins are made with shrinky-dink plastic. I love this stuff, and can't even begin to think of all the things one could do with it. I mean, who would have thought of decorative heads for pins? Not me, that's for sure.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Click to embiggen. (It's worth it because it links you to a gallery of wordles.)

It proves I truly am nuts. What great poetry, though:

Repairs household,
Determinedly squishing parts.
Yell, "Sit!"

Or how about this one:

Leopard, turned dwarf,
Bespeaks tipped glauca.


Manual old world,
Surprisingly beautiful.

Many thanks to Bad Fortune Cookie for wordling so wonderfully, I had to try it myself.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Now this is a book.

This book bespeaks passion. Why in the world would one write a book about dyeing with lichens if passionate curiosity did not drive you to do it?

I can just picture the author with a still damp handful of lichens, comparing them to some dusty old manual with completely inadequate illustrations. Is it Ochrolechia tartarea? Or perhaps Ochrolechia parella? Would it impart a royal purple hue? The book remains mute, and the library yields no further clues. "But I want to know!" she wails, then sets out determinedly with pencil, sketchbook, and the completely inadequate dusty old manual to do the research herself. After months of tramping through woodlands and rocky shores, sketchbooks filled with such treasures as "Hypogymnia physodes, underside of lobe showing the lower skin ruptured," cooking pots permanently colored odd hues of brown and purple, and reams of notes ("Cetraria glauca has been included as it will give a yellow to the wool with boiling water," and ""Found in Scotland only on trees"), she settles at the typewriter to share what she has found.

I want to be this person.

p.s. Thank you, Lysne, for lending me this book. It is absolutely amazing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Talk About a Carbon-Based Life Form

This is what happens when you burn a cow.
Fortunately, I wasn't the culprit. Also fortunately, it was cooked outside on the grill, rather than in the house -- that would have smelled awful. Although that's also why it burned -- it's easy to forget there's a pan of hamburger cooking when it's outside on the grill.

Friday, July 11, 2008

we ran out of cat food this morning; or, the glories of a vegetable garden

Yes,  I actually sit in this chair and revel in the abundant greenness of the vegetable garden. I also weed. Check out that corn! Pole beans are climbing in the background, squash are squishing happily at center, and potatoes are rivaling the corn for Top Dog at the right. If I were sitting in that chair, I would have, from my left to my right, dwarf morning glories, zinnias, beets, carrots, and kale growing at my feet. You can't see the last three so you'll have to take my word for it. (And I'm sort of lying about the kale. A rainstorm scattered the seeds so they're growing scattershot up to four feet away from their row.)

In other news, I bring you the Apocalypse, or We Ran Out of Cat Food This Morning. It would not be overstating the case to say the cats are outraged. I am hiding from Spock because he will bite me. (Really.) They took out a bit of their frustration in thumpitting* around the house at high speed, hissing at each other. Now they are pretending to be tired, but I know I have to get to the store before noon or I will lose a couple toes.

*to thumpit: to run about the house at high speed, over furniture and through the fireplace, knocking over the garbage can in passing. "Thumpit" is onomatopoeic, being the surprisingly loud sound little cat feet make when thundering through the house. The fog creeps in on little cat feet, my Aunt Fanny.

Monday, June 30, 2008

safe in her hands

Question: Why does one have children?
Answer: Staff.

The Boy is power-washing the deck. Our house has miles and miles of deck, some of it wobbly, some of it tipped, all of it needing a good scrubbing. Several years ago, the menfolk shored up the weaker parts and fixed the loose boards. With other household repairs, however, and life being what it is, cleaning and staining the deck didn't happen.

But the Boy is now 15 and full of energy. I finally have Staff.

Question: Why does one have children?
Answer: Because they continue to astound you.

A yell from the Boy brought me running to the deck, where he stood with the dripping washer turned off. "What?" I asked. "Did it break? Did you get hurt?" (Gotta love my priorities.)

He had found a beautiful leopard moth. And when my daughter rescued it, cradling it in her hands, her gentle touch and exquisite care with the fragile moth brought one of those rare moments when the world simply stops, and we revel in its beauty.

"Get me the camera!" I yelled. "Hurry! Faster!"

When the Boy resumed power-washing, the hose sprung a leak.

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Are Clotheslines Retro?

photo by tobyleah on flickr under a Creative Commons license

I hope not. I think they're the Next Big Thing.

My mom used to hang out the sheets when I was little. I remember the fresh, clean scent of the fabric and its crisp hand. Why has it taken me so long to put up my own clothesline?

Years ago I took my laundry to the local and extremely crowded laundromat. One had to keep a hawk eye out for machines about to be emptied or for a folding table with an efficient folder. There were lots of dirty looks and pointy elbows at that laundromat.

This was before laundromats began having amenities like a television (although watching Jerry Springer would have made the experience worse), and wi-fi access was probably just a gleam in some engineer's eye. For that matter, so was the internet. I didn't own a Walkman. I didn't know how to sew or knit. Reading a book meant missing out on newly empty machines, which wasn't worth the time lost. I believe I graded papers to pass the time, which made the experience even more dismal.

Those details came back to me only at this writing. What I have always remembered about that laundromat is the sign on the wall extolling the virtues of electric dryers. Dryers are more hygienic -- no more dust, dirt, or (horrors) bird droppings on your clothes. No more clothing faded from the sun. And the heat of the dryer magically eliminates wrinkles, so there is no more ironing. A happy housewife in dress and heels smiled at the shiny appliance. Didn't I want to be like her?

Lord, no. Even though I smirked at the sign and lamented the lost clothesline, it sadly never occurred to me to use one. I want to go back in time and beat myself about the head and shoulders. (And hand myself a sewing needle, thread, and a bit of cloth.)

There is an art to clotheslines. A bit of experimentation, and sneaky looks at other people's clotheslines, taught me to hang shirts from the bottom and pants from the top, unzipped and with pockets pulled out to allow air to circulate inside. Towels and sheets need extra clothespins or you will find them in the perennial garden. (It took me a week to find one of my son's shirts behind the daylilies.) On sunny, breezy days I can put out two loads, but when it's still or humid, there will be damp towels and wet waistbands at the end of the day.

And how on earth does one manage the clothespins? Take a shirt. I pin one side, which twists under the weight of the rest of the shirt, and try to get a clothespin out of my mouth and onto the other edge of the shirt. Then I have to re-pin the first side, which has wrinkled under the pin. Then back to the laundry basket for more pins before wrestling with a towel. The kids have a good laugh when they see me trying to hold the towel to the line with my head while reaching for a clothespin.

Thank heaven for free patterns on the internet. Life is now a bit easier, with a retro-styled clothespin apron:
Tied in with bow:

In keeping with the ideals of conserving time and energy, I tried to make the apron entirely from materials I already had. In the end I did have to buy two dollars' worth of brown fabric at Wal-Mart (I know, I know) for the binding.

The pattern is from Lucy at My Byrd House and I love it. The only changes I made were to simplify the waistband and change fabrics at the bow-end of the ties.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Warning: Cat Butt, Possibly NSFW

We start with flowers because they are beautiful to look at, unlike cat butts.

(Apologies for the lousy picture quality.) Look at how flat Summer is. She melts into the table.

She melts into the table because her legs are not properly tucked under. Summer never tucks anything under. Weren't we all specifically taught not to sit like this?

If you are scarred by the Cat Butt, take another look at the flowers. They are my Unicorn Chaser for you.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Twelve pictures describe me

Twelve pictures describe me, originally uploaded by normanack.

1. Queen Anne's Lace - Retro, 2. TV Dinner, 3. Memory Map: Farmington Hills, MI, 4. Dissocactus phylanthoides, 5. peter_weller, 6. Jasmine Tea Jelly, 7. 'So what are you doing this Australia Day ?', 8. three is not a crowd, 9. "Timemachines", 10. Prenent un Bany. Taking a Bath., 11. my private portico, 12. Miss Em leads the pack

I found this exercise on poppalina's blog and just had to give it a whirl. Enter your answers to the following questions in flickr's search box, then choose an image from the first page of results.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

Hey Mom, can you figure out my answers from the pictures? Then you try it!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

You Probably Don't Want Pictures of Dirt

So here's a flower on my golden chain tree.

The aforementioned dirt is the vegetable garden, which is tremendously exciting but currently not much to look at. The sorry little rags of green are the beans, squash, and tomatoes, newly transplanted from their pots. They weren't real happy about the transition and are currently sulking. To add insult to injury I planted a seed next to each plant just in case it croaks.

Four rows of corn and three of potatoes still look like plain dirt. Where's the excitement? I pre-sprouted the corn seeds and let the potatoes develop leafy little eyes before planting. (That counts as excitement to me.)

I had near zero germination on my basil seeds. Four packets, four different types of basil (and not that weird cinnamon or lemon basil, or -- heaven forbid -- purple ruffles, but good green cooking basil) and I got two measly seedlings. We had to go to four different stores and nurseries today to find sufficient basil, and a sorry lot it was, probably because of the frost earlier this week.

Despite how grumpy this all sounds, I am thrilled. It's not just that I'm nuts, although if you saw me printing out labels for each plant (Which font? That required thought. I chose Verdana because it sounds green.), cutting them out with a rotary cutter and ruler, and taping them onto the blank metal markers (with exactly six pieces of tape on each) you'd know that one of my oars is not fully in the water.

I've been trying to put my finger on what makes this garden so exciting and important to me, and it isn't the garden. It's that the whole family is working together on it. Although we all took a part in each task, my daughter and I did most of the planting, and my husband and son did the much of the grunt work on the fence.

And we all had fun with the tools. Red Green had it right:
If at first it doesn't work, force it. If it still doesn't work, switch to power tools.
You should have seen my son with the electric drill. He got to drill through metal, which made loud and horrible and terribly exciting sounds. I, in contrast, like hanging the tools on the pegboard in the garage, each in its own assigned space. My daughter and husband take a more practical approach: tools exist to get the job done. They don't care if they're excitingly sharp or noisy or otherwise of note, they just use them. Weird.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And Now, A Cat.

Here is Summer, sleeping on the piano. She likes to lie down on the piano, on her feeding table, on the counter, on the floor in the middle of the hall. She has perfected the lie-down.

Note, however, that she is not lying down gracefully. She is sprawling. Summer is not a graceful cat. In fact, she is the only clumsy cat I have ever known. In the early days, I wondered why she never jumped onto any surface. After a few crashes, it became clear. It is much safer to claw one's way up to the counter or lap than to risk a spectacular fall.

I had already become accustomed to random crashing noises around the house, as Spock, her partner-in-crime, loves to push things, ever so delicately, with his paws. Lego creation? Crash! Pile of papers? Crash! Box of screws? Crash!

With Summer, the sound is the same but the reason is different. After clawing her way to the top of the bookshelf, she steps on the pile of papers and CRASH! There goes the pile. And there goes the cat.

She gets onto her feeding table in a two-step process: onto the garbage can, then onto her table. Except when the garbage can is empty, and tips over as she climbs onto it. CRASH!

Yesterday she tried to bridge the gap between her table and the counter. Literally. She had her front paws on the counter's edge and her back paws on her table. Time seemed to stop as we watched her, stretched and suspended, try to figure out what to do. Can't go forward, can't go back. CRASH!

Summer is a pushy cat. Here is my current knitting project: a cat nest. Basically a flat-bottomed bowl, the knit and felted cat nest is a favorite with most cats. I will have to make two, of course, and had planned the first for Spock. Blue and brown are nice understated and masculine colors for my logical Spock. Summer was going to get something in a bright red. Summer, however, disagrees. The first bed is for her, and I'd better be quick about finishing it.

Here is Summer, sleeping. She sleeps a lot. (After all, she has to practice her lie-down positions.) She sleeps a lot because she is up all night scratching on my son's bedroom door and meowing for him to let her in. More precisely, she wants him to get up and feed her. Summer loves her food.

Summer will eat anything. Food left on the counter is fair game. Plate scrapings in the sink are fair game. Spock's food doesn't even bear mentioning; of course it is Summer's. Jamie, the golden retriever, cleans his bowl so quickly that she doesn't have a chance at it, but freakazoid Emily likes to eat her food in several go-rounds. Now, when she leaves her bowl, Summer is there to finish it off.

I'm glad Summer is our cat. Why anyone would have given her up is beyond me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earthy Not Earth Day

Well, it wasn't technically Earth Day, but on Sunday we made a vegetable garden.

We didn't plant seeds. We didn't buy seedlings. We took a hole in the earth and filled it with compost and dirt, with a little help from the neighbor's Bobcat.

The project began about four years ago when we chose the sunniest section of the yard for a vegetable patch. We live in mid-Michigan, which has hard-packed clay, nearly pure sand, and occasionally beautifully rich soil located seemingly at random. Our sunny patch turned out to be the first variety.

You can make pottery out of this soil. All spring it's gooshy; by summer it's rock hard. My husband painstakingly dug out a rectangle about 40 by 60 feet and two feet deep. We began to line it with rocks for drainage and about the time we contemplated adding pipes, the whole project got out of hand.

So for the next few years it was the Clay Pit, which is much more fun than a sand box because the things you build are nearly permanent. The kids would get out there with pickaxes and shovels and a hose, creating rivers and mountains and dams and whole undulating landscapes. They'd be at it for hours, returning to the house in shoes caked with inches of clay. I'd warn their friends' parents that their kids would come home really dirty but tired and happy, and they did. I highly recommend a Clay Pit in your yard if you have children.

This year, to my kids' dismay, I insisted on creating a garden. (Luckily the Clay Pit is so big that I only commandeered half of it.) We had some rock-hard clay mountains left from the original excavation and two big old compost piles to work with. It really did take a Bobcat to break apart the clay mountains, which we layered with more-or-less rotted compost in a giant brown lasagne. My husband operated the Bobcat; I loaded and unloaded the compost from the tractor's trailer; my daughter learned to drive said tractor. My son helped spread the clay, which was the most difficult job, disappearing at odd intervals to work on his own project, digging a drainage ditch and lining it with clay. He always has marched to a different drummer.

I became closely acquainted with the compost pile. We are lazy composters, taking grass clippings and weeds and waste from the perennial beds and dead leaves and, well, piling them up. That's it. We don't mix it or water it or maintain a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. Unsurprisingly, the result is not a homogenous mixture of soft, crumbly, dark brown soil. It's more like flattened mats of leaves, pockets of dry-as-dust grass, curiously wet and slimy areas, and poofs of white powder (mildew?) that rise in clouds when I forked into the pile. Compost has many faces, all wildly intriguing but none very pretty. Crawling through the whole mottled mess were lots and lots of fat earth worms, so something must be going right inside our Compost Failure.

Next weekend we'll dig into our older compost pile that lives in the woods on the other side of the yard. The innards of this pile actually look like compost should, nice and soft and rich and loamy, kind of like a great big brownie. If the weather is good, we should be able to put a nice layer of this stuff on the new vegetable bed and rake it smooth. We may even get out the electric fence kit I got for my birthday back when we first dreamed up the garden. (The deer here are satanic.)

Oh. What will we plant? I know it sounds nutty, but a part of me doesn't want to plant anything at all. I am so pleased with the building of it, with the dirt and rotted this-and-that, the layers of earth, that I don't want to mess up its simplicity and purity. Maybe I'll just have a dirt garden.

A gratuitous flower photo. After all, it's spring. :-)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

fingers crossed

already friends

She reached through the bars with her soft white paw and gently batted my daughter's hand. "I am a Good Kitty," she said. "Take me home!"

We made inquiries, visited her several times, and finally brought her home. The car trip elicited the most pathetic mewing. We promised her that it was a temporary arrangement.

Summer is a lovely cat, with soft and fluffy fur, double-toed paws, and a spot on her nose that makes her look silly. She took no notice of the dogs and soon made friends with Spock, neither cowering from nor resisting his curious overtures. She knows her litter box (a Most Important Feature in a cat) and arrived pre-spayed and with a full complement of shots. She may possibly have brought some tiny insectoid friends, but a trip to the vet after the weekend will put paid to those little interlopers.

Summer is in the house, and Spring is in the yard. We have crocuses, snowdrops, robins, red-winged blackbirds, and a bluebird. A few trees are lacy with buds. And there is sun!

Today we will rake the yard and set the gardens to rights. If we find garter snake babies, we will know spring has fully arrived.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Top 10 Lost Items

(click to view larger)

10. ruler
9. stitch markers
8. the right size needle
7. crochet hook
6. pattern
5. how-to book
4. pen
3. pencil
2. scissors
1. glasses!

Perhaps most important, on the other side of the chair, a clean table top waiting for my cup of tea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Spring!

Male Red-winged Blackbird, originally uploaded by Greg7 and shared under 
a Creative Commons license. Thanks, Greg7!

It's snowing today, and it snowed yesterday, and I'm still routinely wearing my winter coat inside the house to save on the heating bill. (I'm cheap.)

Today, however, I saw two red-winged blackbirds. The return of these lovely birds means spring to me, regardless of the ice in the forecast for this afternoon.

It's not the angle of the sun, or the lengthening days that brings this change in season. For me, it's the sunshine on these birds' wings.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, originally uploaded by tifotter under a Creative Commons license.

I wish you renewed spirit and a joyous sense of humor at this time of rebirth.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Popovers have always been a bit of a tricky wicket for me. Sometimes they pop; sometimes they don't. Sometimes they stick to the pan so tenaciously that I'm tempted to take an axe to them. Occasionally, when I'm counting on them most, they're hard little rocks.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, they rise gloriously, and when they do, popovers are sublime.

How to achieve the perfect popover? I'm convinced it has more to do with gremlins than science. Although the concept is simple -- flour, eggs, milk, butter, and salt -- the execution has a lot of variables. Must the ingredients be at room temperature? Do you mix the batter vigorously, or treat it tenderly as if it were muffins or biscuits? Do you let the batter rest? Do you pre-heat the pan? Change the temperature mid-bake? And what sort of pan do you use: a deep popover pan, a regular muffin tin, or (as I used above) a tin sized for jumbo muffins?

Recently and with great reluctance I further increased the variables by revising the popover to conform to a low-cholesterol and low-saturated fat diet (the reasons for which are tragic but boring). So, no egg yolks and no butter. I feared total, dismal failure.

Check it out. They popped! And the taste and texture were great. Sure, they're a little less eggy, and someone with taste buds more perceptive than mine would call out the missing butter. But for me, they're divine.

Cross Your Fingers and Squint Popovers (to make them pop)

3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups half-percent milk
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I have not yet tried whole-wheat, but I will.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon zero-trans-fat butter substitute, melted (I used Smart Balance)

Whisk together the egg whites and milk. Stir in the flour and salt, then the melted non-butter. Let the bowl sit on top the stove while the oven pre-heats to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (If your stove is like mine, it has a warm spot, good for bread dough and popover batter.) Pour batter into a greased 6-hole jumbo muffin tin and put in oven. Immediately reduce heat to 400 degrees. Bake 25 minutes or until they're browning and smell good. Remove from pan and eat immediately with maple syrup or jam, burning your fingers and mouth but enjoying every single bite.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mmm Mmm Good. Sort of.

After reading selections from Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma, a new fervor for mostly-vegetarian cooking has assailed me. Helped along by the surprise gift of How To Cook Everything Vegetarian from my mom (thanks, Mom!!) I've had lots of fun planning out menus and serving simple, fresh, and delicious meals.

Well, not always simple. Yesterday I made homemade tomato soup. It sounds easy, but let me tell you, any soup recipe that involves roasting and straining and food processing in addition to stove-top cooking is not a simple recipe to me. And the clean-up was daunting for a simple bowl of soup. (Note: I probably used more pans than called for because I'm a lousy cook.) 

The result? It was . . . okay. Kinda like straight tomato sauce.  (Additional note: I should probably not expect gourmet taste from store-brand ingredients.)

It was perfectly good soup. It tasted like tomatoes. And I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I prefer the taste of Campbell's. To be perfectly fair, I should make the recipe again, using high-quality ingredients. But I'm not going to, at least not right now. One can, one pot, and one bowl. That's awfully hard to argue with.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Poetry in Honor of St. Brigid

photo by phirleh on flickr, shared

There is a tradition among bloggers to post a poem in honor of St. Brigid each February 2. I love poetry, and often read it to my children. While my son groans, he has written a poem or two himself; and my daughter loves to write poetry.

Back in the day I took many poetry courses and even taught a few as a graduate student. And yet the wonderful thing about poetry is that I am no more an authority than any other person. While poetry is sometimes accused of being obscure or accessible to only a rarified few, I think it exists for everybody. It is ours, and we don't need anyone to tell us what it means. If anything defines poetry, I think it's that it speaks directly to the reader. (My old professors would probably faint.)

Being a nosy person, I had to look up St. Brigid. She was Irish, perhaps the daughter of a pagan chieftain and a Christian Pictish slave. (Accounts vary.) According to this article, "Brigid was given the same name as one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion which her father Dubhthach practised; Brigid was the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge." Which is interesting, because before I looked up St. Brigid, I had chosen this poem by Anne Bradstreet.

Here followes some verses upon the burning of our house, July 10th, 1666. Copyed out of a loose paper.

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken'd was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.

I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
ffar be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall 'ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adeiu, Adeiu; All's vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram'd by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho: this bee fled.
'Its purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther's wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

It isn't the Christian sentiment that I find most striking about this poem -- it's the plaintive tone, and the story it tells. What did she lose in that house fire? Did she have a library of precious books? Did she lose her own poetry? Perhaps they were her store, her pleasant things. Maybe it was some jewelry brought from England, or letters from people she loved but would never see again.

I read, some time ago, about a brave soul who gave away nearly everything she had, keeping only forty things. I wonder what forty things I would keep, and what Anne Bradstreet would have kept. I wonder how close our lists would be.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It Snowed!

Dogs, particularly Golden Retrievers, truly understand snow. Snow is to be gloried in, running and digging and rolling in it. Snow smells good to me; I can't even imagine how intoxicating its scent must be to a dog.
Of course here in Michigan it snows a lot. And it has to be shoveled. (Snow is a lot heavier than one might think.) But Jamie reminds me that every snowfall must be savored.

If you have snow, enjoy it. And if you don't, enjoy the pictures, and be glad you're snow-shovel free.