Sunday, December 13, 2009

the importance of talking out your dreams.

I have been dreaming of bears, lately. I have had two dreams with very similar situations, and it intrigues me. I rarely have recurring themes in my dreams, so that alone is intriguing, but even more so is just how afraid I was in the dreams.

The first dream featured a large Kodiak male that was something like a ghost, and was at times invisible. It was inside a house I was staying in for the night, and even worse, Tristan was with me. He was oblivious to the bear, but I was terrified, because it had the ability to hurt us, and I knew it. Twice we were trapped in a room by the bear, and in the end I was holding a flimsy bedroom door shut, listening as the bear snuffed us out. I woke just before the bear tried to open the door. I was terrified, absolutely terrified. Scared enough to wake Kevin up and ask him to hold me.

The second dream involved my grandparents' farm. A mother bear went into the sheep pen, and I was worried that she would hurt them, but then discovered she was gathering her cubs.
It ended up where I was pressed up against a flimsy door, looking through the peephole, aware that should she want to, she could break the door down. I had further to travel, and my trip was being held up by her and her cubs on the front porch. I was afraid of her in a different way.

Both dreams featured a bear on the other side of a door that offered no real protection, and that bear was keeping me from completing the trip I had planned. But there was a difference, in that the first bear was intentional about hunting me out. It was also very unnatural- able to become invisible, haunting a house's upper levels, etc. The second was obviously very natural, and did no harm to the defenseless animals around it, but still barred me from continuing my journey.

From the dream dictionary:
Attic (the ghost-y bear came from the attic)

To see an attic in your dream, represents hidden memories or repressed thoughts that is being revealed. Alternatively, it signifies difficulties in your life that will hinder you from attaining your goals and aspirations.

Bathroom (the first room I was trapped in was the bathroom)

To dream that you are in the bathroom, relates to your instinctual urges. You may be experiencing some burdens/feelings and need to "relieve yourself". Alternatively, it may symbolize purification and self-renewal. You need to cleanse yourself, both emotionally and psychologically.


To dream that you are being pursued or attacked by a bear, denotes aggression, overwhelming obstacles and competition. You may find yourself in a threatening situation.

alternatively, from this site:


A bear in a dream is a very rich and complicated dream symbol In order to understand it, objective association need to be made. Bears are solitary animals and the females are solitary mothers. They hibernate in a cave and they are generally not predatory animals. A bear is only aggressive when provoked, and as such times he is dangerous and deadly. Bears in dreams may represent a period of introspection and depression. However, this may be a part of a healing cycle, where the dreamer has retreated into himself in order to regenerate and in order to create something new and valuable in his life.


a door that opens into the inside, denotes your desire for inner exploration and self-discovery.

To dream that the doors are closed or locked, signify opportunities that are denied and not available to you or that you have missed out on. Something or someone is blocking your progress. It also symbolizes the ending of a phase or project. In particular if you are inside the locked door, then it represents harsh lessons that need to be learned.


To dream that you are traveling, represents the path toward your life goals. It also parallels your daily routine and how you are progressing along.

So if we put that all together, in my dreams I am traveling, so it's about my life's progress towards goals. The traveling is put on hold by a bear, which could be a symbol of depression, and it certainly makes itself an obstacle in my dream.

I think the door definition just isn't right- I am relying on it in the dram, but I know it is merely an appearance of protection, not actual. In both dreams the door can be broken down by the bear, and it is only by some miracle that the bear does not break in.

But there is good news. In the first dream, the bear was breaking in, and I knew that I would have to take Tristan and go out the window. In the second dream, the mother bear didn't want to come in. She was just doing her job as a mama. I believe that this bear was more about a healing cycle.

I was afraid, but in the end, I was overwhelmingly impatient. I wanted to distract her and get on with the journey. I even thought about this in the dream- I realized that if I just relaxed and waited, she would eventually head off, and we could continue. But my fear at her presence and my desire to just go already was overwhelming.

So what do you guys think? I'm now much more interested in your comments and readings, since I think I got what I needed to out of it. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Best Beef Stew, ala Cook's magazine, part deux!

Ok, ok, so the first one was really about how I got a new camera. And how it takes good pictures. You got me.

But this one will be about beef stew AND pictures. It'll be great.
So, the article in Cook's Illustrated begins with the premise that after simmering for hours, beef stew smells amazing- complex and rich and beefy- but doesn't really live up to it on the spoon. I could recall times when I felt the very same, but until I read the article, I hadn't paid much attention. So I can't say that in my heart of hearts was the longing for beefier beef stew...but I had run out of interesting meal ideas, and beef stew is always a nice winter option.

Apparently, after trying many many recipes, the article's author experienced beef stew nirvana with Thomas Keller's recipe, which as she put it "took four days, a dozen dirty pots and pans, and nearly fifty ingredients to make. Sure, it was fit for royalty..." (page 8 of the #102 issue of Cook's Illustrated.)

So what we end up with is a brilliant breakdown of why certain ingredients work well, and the best ways to adapt such a gorgeous professional recipe into something that can be done in four hours as opposed to four days.

My personal favorite was the addition of anchovies to the stew. Why? Well, Glutamate ( G in MSG) occurs naturally in certain foods. These foods serve to boost the beefiness of your beefy flavors, thereby deepening your stew's flavors. One of these is anchovies, but they have even more going for them than glutamate- they have the compound inosinate, which apparently is to glutamate what gas is to an open flame.

The other wacky ingredient is gelatin. Unflavored gelatin. Why? Well, Keller (the amazing) starts his stew out with homemade veal stock, which is rich in collagen that breaks down as the stew cooks, "giving the final stew a luxurious, mouth-coating texture." Something that flour or corn starch just ain't gonna give you. So the author rightly surmised that by adding unflavored gelatin, you could get the right texture without the labor intensive veal stock. ( I have a feeling that the biggest part of the four days is the making of the stock.)

Depending on the pot you have, the beef will take a bunch of batches. I did four batches? Five? I dunno, but my stove got DIIIIIRRRTY.
Begin with 4-5 pounds of chuck steak. It's cheap, it's beefy. What more could you want?
Cut this up into 1.5 inch cubes. I eyeball it, and sometimes I make rhombuses. I am not, nor have I ever been this guy.


2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 anchovy fillets, finely minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 boneless chuck-eye roast, trimmed of fat and cubed. squared? no, cubed. ( about 4 lbs)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced.
4 medium carrots, sliced as well.
1/4 cup flour
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 ounces salt pork, rinsed.
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces (I used Russet, and they were fine)
1.5 cups frozen pearl onions
2 teaspoons (1 packet) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen peas.

These are the ingredients in the paste that is going to punch up your beef stew so it will no longer be a girly-man stew. And if you are somehow self-identifying as a girly-man and reading this, that's fine, but you don't want your stew to be wimpy, do you? Do you?

After chopping and mincing and mashing, I realized I probably could have used my food processor ( my little one) for this, but it was kind of fun to mince garlic mired in fish mash. And then pound it all into tomato paste.

My fingers smelled funny, though.
But my apartment smelled AMAZINGLY delicious, and all I did was make that paste!

Like I said before, it took a couple of batches, but eventually all my beef went from this,

to this:

From here it gets a bit more complex. After the beef is browned, the sliced onions and carrots hit the pot, and once the onions are softened, you're supposed to throw the rest of the beef in with it, but my Dutch oven wasn't that big.

Then, you're supposed to stir the flavorful paste in, and then the flour, and stir like mad. If you have a small pot like me, this will be alot of work.

And THEN you add the wine, and scrape at the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. I've always done the de-glazing right after the meat, but whatever.

After the wine has settled down, you add the bay leaves, thyme, broth and salt pork.

This is the stuff that Ma and Pa in the Little House on the Prairie Series always cooked stuff up in. Seriously, like thick slabs of pig fat.

I sliced it like thick bacon, trimmed off most of the fat, and then sliced that into bits.

After you add the ssalt pork, you stir it all in, and put your pot into the oven, at 300 degrees for and hour and a half.

After that, you add the potatoes ( my pot wasn't big enough to hold the whole pound, so I just added what would fit.)

Another 45 minutes, and you take it out, remove the thyme and bay. The directions told me to remove the salt pork, but I didn't. I left those porky bits in there, and enjoyed the textures present.

THEN, you soften the gelatin in a half a cup of water, and when that's ready, keep the stew simmering on the stove top and add the gelatin. Simmer for another three minutes while stirring, and what you end up with is this:It's thick and smooth, and sooo beefy. Almost too beefy, to be honest. In my opinion, the texture is the very best thing I got from this whole experiment. That, and the time in the oven. The oven cooking was wonderful, because of the well distributed heat.

We ate this with a slice of crusty white bread each. Ok, like four slices of bread. It was utterly delicious on the first night, and I think I haven't quite got the hang of reheating. The microwave just wasn't the way to do it. The sweet meaty complexity became garish upon reheating, and I just don't want to eat it anymore. But Kevin is satisfied, so hey.

Maybe scale it down, or maybe reheat it in the oven. Either way, the thing I'm going to definitely do from here on out is use fresh thyme, add mushrooms, bake it in the oven, and add gelatin.

And you know what? That makes this experiment a success.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best Beef Stew, ala Cook's magazine

Ok, so I got a new camera. It's the hottest thing ever, in my humble opinion, and I got it in part so that I could post pictures of my cooking. I know that some of you are on Facebook with me, and seeing my status updates has become a favorite portion of some people's days.

Well, we got the camera, partly because of this very issue. How can I take great pictures of my yummy food if I have a less than great camera? Every time I tried, everything came out just...blah. And you know, the camera really does make a difference. So, I decided that Best Beef Stew was a great chance for food porn blogging!

Recipe will follow, with more pictures!

Friday, December 4, 2009


I need you to pay attention

Lean in close and examine every word. The letters

have been sewn with thread.

Follow the thread, it leads you

deeper to a cold and frightening place

but do not stop. Crawl, if you must

Face to the floor, listening to things flapping overhead,

searching for you.

They are the guardians of this room

but you must not stop.

Crawl. Keep the thread between your fingers and scrub

your flesh against the stone

you will shiver

you will cry.

Keep going.

In the labyrinth, they say, there is a Minotaur.

Do not stop.

They say that it was once a man, or maybe it is only part of one.

You don’t know, you’ve never seen it.

But the villagers whispered of it.

Inch by inch you will shiver and mewl along the path

The threads will take you deeper.

It will be hard- your palms will sweat.

The cold damp dark does not end.

After a time, the flapping sounds may stop. Maybe they sleep,

Or maybe you’ve passed through their realms.

You will not be able to see, yet.

You may try to stand.

Maybe you will keep crawling, hands and knees,

afraid. You’ve been cold for so long.

Please do not stop.

You’ve never been this deep before.

It is too quiet. There is nothing to stop the memories.

This may be worse than the flapping sounds

of god-knows-what above you, seeking your flesh.

The voices you hear are cruel

whimpering lashing gnawing lies

But they feel so true.

You have been cold for so long.

The creatures sleeping behind you

were better than this,

you think. And maybe they were.

Do not stop. The threads are still there.

In the labyrinth is a minotaur,

it is huge and awful,

the way only fairy tales monsters are.

Once someone saw it, and lived.

But it was so long ago, that no one is sure

what is real, anymore.

How did you come to this place?

You listened and followed the threads

that slithered like snakes from the dark

and stitched you up like a patient

etherized upon a table

The threads you follow,

That hurt as you walk,

you realize they are wet and warm in your hand

But you have been cold for so long-

There are voices in your head,

the memories that hurt,

they are slopping out of you like guts

like a patient whose stitches have come loose.

You understand now why the threads are warm.

Pieces that were a part of you are falling out

splashing on the stones

Do not stop. Keep crawling.

You may be weeping

but you do not need to see

Follow the threads.

You feel it in your chest,

the bindings which kept you whole

are coming loose.

There is nothing to stop the voices.

There is nothing to hold you together.

Do not stop. The threads are still there.

You remember being wrapped tightly

and told that if you were,

the minotaur would not get you.

They lay you down and strapped you tight

and began to sew.

It was terrible. It hurts now like it did

that first aching hour of needles and threads,

no child should endure.

Everyone, they said, has been sewn together like this.

It will keep you safe.

When you walked with a limp,

They all wondered why. When you curled with a hunch,

they all wondered why,

out loud, to each other, the same hands

that held you down

and punched iron through flesh

the same hands that strung the needles with thread

They all wondered why.

You are afraid to move. You cannot stop sobbing.

The noise of it will draw down the monster,

you are sure. But you cannot stop weeping.

they never did give you anything

for the pain. Not at first.

And then all there was was numbing

against the hunch, against the limp,

the hobbled legs and crippled back

They told you there must be something wrong with you.

still, they slipped you herbal teas

and you slept.

How did you get here?

You followed the threads

Do not stop. They are still there. They will take you deeper.

You may not want to keep going.

You feel so raw. As if every needle hole was fresh

You may want to run, hobble tilt, towards the opening

but you cannot tell where it was.

Do not stop. There is more.

And that’s what frightens you most.

You could not see what fell out of you

when you pulled the stitches loose

but it sounded so wet. And you hurt so much.

Do not stop.

They all told you not to wander far

keep close to home and hearth

the fires will keep the monsters at bay

and they handed you another cup



You slept.

You may rest, there in the dark.

But do not linger. There is more. There is

So much


The threads tug a little at your hand,

As if there is something on the other end

drawing you in. You are so afraid.

But you have come this far

And if the minotaur were to eat you?

Well, that would be an end, wouldn’t it?

You stand.

The threads are dry and slip through your calloused hands easily.

There is tension at the other end, and you can walk now,

Quickly, even, towards it.

There is light curving around a stone bend. The threads lead you to the heart of the maze,

Where there is warmth, and light. You shiver

Some more, as you warm, and as you steady yourself

For death.

The heart of the labyrinth is round, circled by torches. In the center is a rug,

Hand woven

That looks familiar. There is no minotaur. That you can see.

There is only

a child.

A boy.

He is afraid of you. You are afraid of you

Covered in grime and tears and snot

But you will not look down to see what fell out of you

It would be too awful.

The boy holds the strings in his hands.

He is relieved to see you.

He weeps with the abandon of childhood.

You do, too.

You speak of many things with him. He is smart,

for a child.

There has been terrible pain

In getting here

But when you ask him about the minotaur

He is surprised

And tells you that it is he.

You laugh and say

The minotaur is a monster

With iron teeth

And a voice so loud you can’t think

Arms so strong they crunch your bones

So you can’t walk

Breath like a sleeping poison,

So you can’t get away.

The boy laughs and says he ran away to hide from that monster. Here,

In the labyrinth. Where it is safe.

But he couldn’t go too far

Because of the threads

What threads?

The ones they used to sew me up. I couldn’t go away, he said,

So I went in. And then the cave got longer and longer

Until it was a maze. And I was very lonely.

He puts the threads down, as if they were snakes, and walks to you.

When you look down at him, you cannot help

But see yourself.

There are no gaping wounds, nothing

Horrible to see. The holes where the threads once were are healing,

Even now.

You see that your legs are straight, and with one hand, you touch

Your back, unbowed.

You are whole.

The boy runs to a chest you did not see before

And opens it, and asks you

for your help. You are so much stronger than he.

Inside is a sword, blade unmarked and gleaming.

A hero’s sword,

You say.

The boy shrugs. You can take it if you’re going to leave.


There are monsters along the way. He says, and points to the door

Of the heart of the labyrinth

Where you suffered and wept and fell open

And instead of darkness

You see the doors of all the villagers standing open

And they are afraid.

The maze is gone, and there is sunlight on the boy’s face

For the first time

In many many years.

On the wall, where you never noticed it before,

Is a glass, and in it you see

A man

He is tall, and strong looking,

You think he must be quite a hero

A real slayer of monsters,

But when you ask the boy about it

He looks into the glass, and says

I see myself.

You ask if there’s a shield for this sword

And he shakes his head.

You don’t need it anymore.

You tell the boy he should come with you

And he says he can’t

Because the monsters will eat him. When

They are all gone

He says, I will be able to visit you.

Outside the heart of the labyrinth,

You see the doors of all the villagers standing open

And they are very afraid.

The sunlight is blinding after all this time in the dark.

You go towards it.

You can hear the villagers screaming.

They will stop, soon.

Very soon.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Life, or something like it.

I could talk about the beautiful eggplant Parmesan I made tonight- the custardy slabs of eggplant, the salty acidity of the fresh tomato sauce, the meaty hot mozzarella, and sopping up its juices with crusty Italian bread.

I could tell you about the sexiest jelly I've ever eaten in my life, the Concord Grape and Walnut Conserve that I made myself and canned myself, or the thick buttery lemon curd I made.

I could tell you about all the lovely foods I've made, lingered over, planned, crafted and devoured. The pear jelly that burbles even now on the stove.

Or the way Tristan is growing, the physical and emotional and psychological leaps and bounds. How he is emerging from those chubby little baby parts into a sweet, giving little toddler who likes to help mommy clean up ( ha ha!) and who LOVES throwing everything into the garbage pail or the toilet bowl. Somewhere in my tiny apartment is a toilet lock that I desperately need.

Tristan is teething, so gobs of pale green snot are flubbering out of his cute nose. He blows his nose, now, too, which is pretty funny. Today, while cooking, he asked to be picked up, watched me and then swooped low to kiss me on the mouth! Whoa! talk about a sweet little surprise!

A woman from Persia once said, in an exquisite voice, "His skin is like milk." and she is very right. I like to think that she meant more than it's color or creaminess. I like to think that if milk could become flesh, Tristan is what it would be like. Sigh.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

evidence of a smart boy

This is Kevin...first time I'm on here to give actual life details.

I'm frequently impressed by Tristan's developing abilities. From squirming to crawling and now walking, from 'gu-gu' to 'hi da-di' and "dattt!" (used to indicate any source of light), every couple of days he's made obvious advancements.

Today he had two that wowed me so much I just had to come and tell everyone. First, while I held him with Brig standing next to me, he, with a grand smile, gripped my nose, then hers, then mine, then hers, with clear recognition of the similarity. Then, just now, I gave him his little set of keys for an old combination lock, and set him down on the floor. He walked directly to the front door and held the keys up to the doorknob...this kid is putting it all together pretty fast!

Anyway, I love being a dad, very proud that my boy is now a whole year old. I usually get annoyed at the inevitable refrain of "Doesn't it go so fast?!" and usually I acquiesce with a "Yep, yeah it does!" just because I'd rather not delve into details with most people. But here, let me say - I believe that if you're paying attention every day to how your children are growing and changing, it will seem less fast. So because I'm spending the time I want to with my son and experiencing him a lot, I will say the time is going at a normal pace, and as to where it all went, well, it went where all time goes, and I'm ok with that.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Oh, where to begin?

I have been going through so much- our family has been growing in leaps and emotional bounds...

All the small things, the things with which I pass my time- the house plan browsing, the recipe hunting ( too many things to link to, so I can't pick just one. Sorry.) the constant reading I have been doing lately-

But there are a few big things, such as Tristan's first birthday (!). On Wednesday, our son will be a full year in existence, and what a delight he has been! I find myself saying constantly "He's such a good boy." He is behaving as a child who is thoroughly assured of love. I am amazed at his growing personality- how cheerful he is, and how serious.

When he was six months old, he started crawling, and the world was wide and exciting. There was little interest in sitting still those days. Now, my son is walking, and he has started choosing to show me affection, to reach out and be touched, to be loved in a tangible way, and his choosing is what delights me most. I know that by seeking to sit in my lap, he is looking for affirmation himself, but I cannot help being thrilled because he knows that he can get it.

What great satisfaction in being the kind of person others go to for love and affirmation- to be a person who is so safe. I am not yet this safe in all my relationships (ask my husband) but I am growing in that direction.

Some of my reading has led me to a resource that describes healthy parenting as a "one-way valve" where resources flow from the parent to the child, but not the other way around. I have come to thoroughly agree with this. I can affirm my son, but I must never look to my son for affirmation. At least not directly, and certainly not as a goal in our interactions. My son will love me, but I must never depend on his love- for he is small, and he is very vulnerable.

The healthy flow chart of love- from God to me, from God to my husband. From my husband to me, and me to my husband, and then from us to our son (and possible future children). Just as God does not depend on my love to be who He is, so I must not depend on my child's love for me.

This is in no way saying that my son's love for me is unwelcome or unwanted- but I am saying that I must not lean on my son's love for me. Do you understand the difference? I am starting to.

Recently, my husband and I discussed a passage in a book that read "Whenever I hear a client say that they 'love being a parent' I get suspicious and start looking for clues that they are using their children to meet their own needs."

While Kevin said he disagreed, I had to admit something that had caused me some source of black shame-

I do not love being a parent.

Hear me out- I love being Tristan's mother, and I love Tristan, and I love my family. But being a parent is the very reason I stopped my schooling, stopped working, and live a somewhat rigorously scheduled existence that has very little to do with my own gratification. I do not write that way I used to.

Oh, the hours spent at coffee houses, journaling, writing poems and drinking coffee! Spending money on frivolities! The road trips, the nights out at parties, at clubs, the life that then seemed a bit solitary now seems utterly hedonistic!

So when I am asked if I love being a parent, I am liable to say yes, but the truth is a little more complicated. Do I love sacrificing everything for the first three years of my son's life, focusing my energy on others?

No. Yes. No- er...Am I a masochist? No. Am I a human being, selfish mostly? Yes.
But am I also a mother? A principled woman who believes strongly in causes bigger than me? Yes. Do I believe that while I may never get a return on my investment into my son, it is still worthwhile?


All this ferocious rhetoric to justify the simple thought that I am not such a fan of self-sacrifice. But you see, to be a mother in this culture is to be riddled with guilt, any way you turn. How can I say that I do not want to live for my children? ( inner guilt brigade gasps at even uttering such a statement.) Ah, but I can. I can say that I refuse to live for my children. I can say it and accept it as a healthy statement.

Because, let's be honest, a one year old sure ain't a conversationalist. He cannot sustain me, and I will never ask him to. I look forward to my husband's arrival home like a thirsty woman leans towards a glass of water. I eagerly await my emails from friends, my rare and oh-so-thrilling girl's nights out, when I am not a mommy.

Here is the main lesson I want to really learn, to suck the marrow from its bones: I and my children are seperate beings at very different stages of development, and as such, we will not be friends for a very long time. I have been entrusted with this one young life, and I am not here to be his friend. I am here to be his mother, to train him up, to direct him, to lovingly tend him, and to teach him how to be on his own. I will respect him as a seperate person, even as that personhood is growing, even as he is not sure who he is.

This, I am coming ot understand, is a healthy place to be. I will not be consumed by my role as mother- I would rather be consumed by my role as human being. Complex, maturing, growing, encouraging. Supported and loved by husband and friends, so that I can then support and encourage my son with all my needs already met. We should never burden our children with our needs, or our desires, or our longing for companionship. My children are not here for me.

My children are not here for me.

Free at last, free at last, I thank God I'm free at last.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I am clearing up today, running around, bending, heaving, shoving...yes, just some lite cleaning. I'm preparing for a visit by Kevin's mother and grandparents, just trying to get some last minute decor done.
When people visit, it gives me great motivation to clean up. And to finish those decorating projects I've just lacked the energy to do without a deadline.

Other than that, life has been ticking along with regularity. I have always been one who revels in the comfort of a routine, like cats roll in the sun.

Kevin and I recently celebrated our two year anniversary of marriage, by meandering around on Elmwood and picking up our gifts for one another, and going out for Mexican. A vastly better Mexican experience this time than last time- but I think that might be another post. I should start a resteraunt review series. I should review a whole bunch of things, like movies and recipes. Oh well.

But, of all the things I'd love to talk about, there is one for sure I'd like to throw out, test the waters, run up the flagpole see who salutes it...Whatever metaphor you want.

Of late, I have been thinking over the concept of generational sin. I was raised with the idea that generational sin was some kind of poorly defined largely mystical sense of sins in your family that seem to run in your blood. In my family, it was always lust. People just couldn't seem to keep their pants on, despite the hurt they did to themselves. (Interestingly, no one committed adultery that I know of. Considering how easily they told me about bed-hopping, I doubt they'd leave out wife-stealing.) This idea was that in my blood was a ferocious predilection towards lust.

I have come to decide that this is not true. The article listed above does justify me in this. You know what I think generational sin REALLY is? I think Philip Larkin said it best.

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Whike I thoroughly disagree with the last two lines, I think the man had a better concept of generational sin than most pastors today.

So the question is, how to two very damaged people raise a child without their particular brand of damage?

I think I know- do you?

Friday, May 8, 2009

home decor, on a dental floss budget

So, of late, I have been performing my own version of self-help reading, which is to say I have been going to the library and getting out gardening and decorating books. And cook books, which hopefully each of these topics will get it's own post.

As you all know, we are a young couple with little money (mostly used for living on) and a budding little toddler. We are both pretty fresh out of college, and have the furniture to reflect that. Oh, the joys of Ikea and the metal frame futon. Our art is mostly posters stabbed through at the corners by multiple years of thumbtacks. Everything else is either loaned to us or bought at discount stores. When we are actually able to purchase our own furniture, it will probably come from Wal-mart. Not saying this is necessarily bad or intolerable....

It's just that when you take out books by Better Homes and Gardens, also known as We have crap loads of money and time to decorate our homes and gardens....Well, if you followed the link, you get the idea. I love the sample rooms they show you to give you ideas, like this bedroom, for instance. Or these living rooms.

Honestly, when your home looks like this, is it so hard to make it look good? Frankly, I want a decor book that's the equivalent of starting with a toad and turning it into Kate Moss. Show me that book, and I'll buy that sucker, not just take it out of the library!

So I decided to start getting things together for your basic Section 8 decorating plan. I'm learning basic principles, and trying to implement them. I went to Goodwill, and made some serious finds for picture frames, (because you cannot paint your apartment, thank you.) And I'm going to post on making your own canvas art. I heart Jo-Ann's fabrics!! Target is also my friend.

Here's to being poorer than dirt and struggling to be stylish. "Fashion for all" let's not forget.

a few photos

lots going on, lots of daily life. Will be updating very soon- be ready for terminal cuteness on my son's part.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

a home of our own...but for now, an apartment

Stephen King, in On Writing, talks about his periods of feverish work and then months of nothing...and I instantly felt justified. I, too, go through feast and famine of words, and of motivation to put those words to something.

For now, let us be content with an update on our little family status.
We have finally made good on all our applications to apartments, and have our very own little basement home. There in the picture, if you follow the line of the sidewalk you can see our dark little window at the bottom floor of the house. That's us.
It's section 8 since we are not making enough money to rent without assistance, and I mention this only to say that I was very nervous about what I might find here. I have lived in apartments my whole life- and assisted housing for the largest part of that chunk of time. My mother worked very hard to make sure our Brooklyn apartment had none of the usual roaches and mice, and I am very proud ot say that she succeeded. Occasionally a mouse would find it's way into our home, but my cat took care of them very kindly.

Ferdie, the orange tabby that loved me more loyally than most cat-non-enthusiasts would believe, would capture the mouse in his mouth, and sit at my mother's bedside, mewling with his mouth full. The mouse was still alive, and would remain so. When mom had gotten a tupperware to house the mouse, Ferdie would release it gently for re-capture. He was very proud of his ability to provide for us, even if we didn't eat his generous gifts.

There are many humurous tales of mice and my cat, and hamsters, and my cat, but for now, let's focus on our little apartment.

We have southern light, and Kevin and I are thrilled. The living room has sun all day long, and we wasted no time in getting herbs to grow on our windowsill. In seeing the place for the first time, I was surprised by the light, the clean bright light. In that moment, we both knew it would work out just fine.

Tristan adjusted brilliantly to his room (sleeping alone for the first time in his eight months of life.) and he started sleeping through the night without a hitch. The first morning that happened, I woke up startled and ready to check on the baby. All was well- It was six am, and I had slept for eight uninterrupted hours!!!! Praise GOD!!!!

And so, we have been living out from under the protective umbrella of living in my mother's house. It was very scary, at first, but after a month or so, we have enough money for living, I'm still sleeping well through the night, the baby is cheerful and exuberant, Kevin is working hard, and so am I... We cook dinner together and feed the baby, we drink wine sometimes while we watch a movie or talk, we ride through everyday sometimes without noticing the details in the scenery. We are learning, and that is a great luxury.

Friday, February 20, 2009

lentil stew, an outline

So two days ago I ran out of grocery funds and found myself face to face with my pantry, no clear idea of what to make in my head.

I had a bucket full of lentils, though, and my fridge was thankfully stocked with aromatics for the base of a soup( onions, carrots, celery two random red peppers). I had some frozen sausage, tucked away in my freezer, and since my husband was running errands, I asked him to pick up some greens for two dollars a bunch.

I love peasant food. I absolutely love the ingenuity, the creativity and the pride with which the Old World poor made their food. Give me a whole chicken, some vegetables, any dairy product, and a crusty bread, and I promise you a hearty feast. Every culture has that ingredient that they worked with the most.

I found a recipe for lentils sausage and greens stew, and improvised. It helps that I own several cookbooks, as well as an internet connection.

Here's some basics I figured out: Any grain paired with some kind of animal fat equals filling goodness. The fat pairs with the texture of the fiber provided by the grain, flavors it, and sort of lubricates it. The stew recipe called for bacon and sausage, a double dose of pork flavor.

The second lesson? Hot and sweet works well in this. I had leftover baked sweet potato pieces, red peppers, and jalapeno peppers. Along with the carrots from the maripois and the onions, this created a sweet and spicy partner for the pork fat.

The layers of flavor I found in this impromptu dish blew me away.

To make:

  • 1 lb of lentils, pre-soaked ( at least two hours, four is best)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery ( I substituted 1 red bell pepper)
  • 1 package of Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 1 large sweet potato, baked and chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • enough salt to cause a heart attack.
  • 4 cups of water ( I only had one can of broth, so I added water.)
  • 1 15oz can chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine (cooking wine)
  • 2 cups rice, pre-cooked.
  • 1 lb of sausage (Italian, mild)
  • 5 pieces of smoked bacon
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard
  • olive oil
Broil sausages to desired doneness.
Meanwhile, slowly cook the bacon to render the fat, remove from pan, add onions, carrots, celery/ red pepper, and mushrooms. Add at least two teaspoons of salt. ( This helps them let go of their liquids and break down. Saute till tender. Add water, white wine and broth, bring to a boil. Add lentils, sweet potato, bacon, and half the sausages, cut into slices. ( I add only half now so that the soup will absorb the flavor, but these pieces of sausage lose some of their texture, so I save the other half for the meaty texture and brighter flavor) Cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on preferred texture of lentils. I like them soft, but still discernible, so I cooked for 20 minutes.
Once 20 minutes have passed, add cleaned Swiss Chard and the rest of the sausage. Cook until Chard is wilted, about ten minutes more.

Can be served with crusty bread, or rice, or alone. In these economic times (when both rice and bread ar emore expensive due to poor prioritizing...nevermind. The rice or bread helps spread the wealth, so to speak.)

This makes enough to feed a small army for a few days. In my house, that means the leftovers feed us for three or four dinners.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

As the earth remembers, so do I.

Warming weather is always exciting, thrilling in a way only the Northerners can understand. There is something tremendously special about the four season cycle- life death, rebirth, etc, etc. As Yul Brenner said, "Et ssssetera, et ssettera..." I really can't get those crisp T's across by typing, can I?

So, as the day creeps towards the sixties, I stand on my porch and look out on what is still a winter landscape- grey and brown and twiggy. No new leaves to soften the lines. But still, the air is redolent with moisture, wiht the smell of earth warming. Our creek is flooded, and this thaw may stay, or not. I know Buffalo well enough to know that this is only a glimpse of the spring that is to come. We may yet go into freezing temperatures, since we are in the beginning of February.

But still, the warm weather sings to us, doesn't it? The grey overcast is pregnant with wet.

Every spring my mind echoes the earth in its thaw. I am reminded of every spring since I can remember- being a teenager in Eldred, walking up to our modular buildings where we had drama. I recall my springs at UB, walking in the moist air smiling at the geese that flock the sidewalks and fields. The spongy feel of damp earth loosening, the promise in the air. For me, it is the spring and fall that are the most evocative.

My past rises again in the spring, and in the fall I feel the ancientness of the dying- the harvest that was celebrated by every culture since the beginning of time, and the last desperate dancing done around bonfires. The impending darkness compels us to frenetic motion. These are our human impulses, the body that we live in responding to the world wihtout our permission.

I think of my husband and my friends who experience S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder) and I think that I kind of envy them. I don't quite get into a funk in winter- I do not experience the sense of my body wanting to hibernate- and in this way I feel that my body is not so well-tuned to the earth. I do not see this as a "disorder" since I see this as an ancient way to be. I do feel bad for my friends, because we live in a culture that turns its back on the earth. Just the fact that we call it a disorder points out how far we are from our environment.

I do not long to hibernate- I long to migrate. In November, when the winds blow cold and bitter, and the leaves have left the trees bony and bare, I struggle not to follow the geese that fill the sky. I will be driving in my car, and a V of geese break from the tree line, and I feel my arms longing to turn the wheel to follow them, to simply drive in their wake, and meet them in their new summer lands. The fall excites me, and the spring saddens me. How strange. My husband feels more alive when the spring comes, and I waken to all my old seasons that stood frozen in me while the snow kept the flowers quiet.

By the summer I am bold and full in my skin, but in the spring I am as raw and tender as the shoots that emerge from the cold earth.

I think of the Industrial Age, when we turned our eyes from the sun and to the clock. When we moved from the land to the city, and our culture left the virtues of the farm behind. I dream of returning to a life that lets us obey our internal seasons. To rejoice in them, if not obey. For now, it is a disorder. How sad.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

fairy tale romance

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was desperately longing for love that did not stop to count the cost of loving. She had lived a long time with love doled out based on merit, and had learned that that kind of love never stayed, if it ever arrived. After this many years, she had learned to stop setting a place for love at her table, and then she stopped going to her own table. It had become such a lonely place, that it wasn't worth going there to wait for any visitors, and so she never ate there, herself.

She had once grown a garden, but since no one seemed to want to enjoy what she grew, she stopped tilling the soil, and stopped planting, or watering or tending at all. Her little cottage became very overgrown, and the dark forest that had long occupied her back acres encroached, and soon the sun barely touched her little roof. She had once thought that she would sing out in her front yard as she tended to her little plot, but the songs she had planned to sing became long and lonely, haunted verses that she barely recognized as her own.

This little home was so unsatisfying and unfulfilling without any Love visiting her, that she stopped going back. For many days at a time, she would wander in the woods, fascinated by the shadows and thick gnarled trees, scavenging whatever she could for sustenance. Sometimes she wondered when she would accidentally pick a poisonous mushroom or berry, and the thought never really frightened her as it should have. When she saw the quick moving shadows of wolves and strange lunatic birds, she contented herself with the thought that they were farther off than was dangerous. Sometimes she wondered how she would fare if they were close enough. In her heart, she knew that one day she would meet one face to face, and there would be no sunshine, no torch, to keep them at bay. The thought brought only vague curiousity, and the ebb of sadness that flowed in her would rise and wash over her.

There was a village of run-down sheds and cottages somewhere in the forest, that she sometimes stopped at and met and sang her lonely songs to the people that lived there. Sometimes they listened, and one or another villager would walk with her for a day or two. But they would always go back, because her little cottage was too far to walk to, and no one really wanted to do more than walk awhile, anyway.

One day, while walking along the outskirts of the village, she saw another lone figure along the path up ahead. This person was so bundled against the cold that she could not tell if it was a man or woman, old or young, dangerous or safe. It had been so long since she even thought of her little cottage, that she forgot that anyone might visit her at all. So when she saw this figure, all she thought was that it might be fun to walk with someone else for a time. She knew that just like every other villager, they would leave her to the dark woods.

As they passed, she saw that this was a young man, whose face showed the same sadness that she lived with. He breifly glanced up, but neither spoke. She took comfort in the simple fact that she was not alone.

The woods were darker than ever over the next few days, and more and more she found herself travelling through dangerous territories. More and more she could glimpse the wolves darting between the trees, hear the flutter of the owls that took more than small rodents. She stumbled into an opening in the forest one night, tired from so long wihtout a roof. With great surprise she found it was her very own little cottage, nearly overtaken by the grasses and thorns. the paint was chipping and one shutter was hanging from one nail, but inside the table was set and there was everything she needed to host a lovely little party.

The supplies and the lovely table made her sadness harder to bear. She laughed at her own innocent hopefulness, and the laugh was so bitter it tasted foul in her mouth. It was too painful to stay, so she left her little house by the front door.

Out by her broken down little garden plot was the same young man she had passed by those few dark days ago. When he heard the door, he looked up, the remaining delight from the sight of her little garden plot still on his face. There was hope, and longing, and she recognized both because she had never been able to shed either from her lonely heart.

There had never been any fence around her cottage or her garden, because she had taken them down, believing that Love must have been convinced that the fence was there to keep it out. All that happened was strangers would come and take her fruit and flowers, and leave. That seemed so long ago, and so full of hope.

This young man apologized for trespassing, and complimented he ron her little plot, and she went out to him and they stood for a long time by her poor little garden plot. After awhile, he shuddered from the cold, even with all his layers. So she invited him in to sit by the fire, and he agreed, more delighted than she could ever fathom. Why would anyone want to sit in such a broken little home? She hoped she could get the fireplace to work. She didn't bother to warn him how mean and poor it was inside, because she was quite sure it all spoke for itself.

But it seemed the young man never noticed. His face registered such delight and wonder and pleasure at her dusty little rooms. The old curtains were still up, and the interior, which she had taken such care to furnish, were dirty, but unchanged. She looked around and began to see what she had once taken such care to create- a place where Love could live.

Sometimes they walked together in the woods, and mostly they shared the little dusty cottage. After awhile, she began to dust, and clean, and fluff out her table cloths, and curtains, and she began to clean out the flu, and prepare her table setting for a feast. After all, she had the supplies, and finally there was a guest who cared to stay and share the food with her.

She tended her garden, and pulled out the paint cans in the cellar. Just when spring was coming to her little cottage, her visitor came and spent the day with her, but he was preoccupied. He told her he wouldn't come to visit her anymore. The woman felt all her hopefulness like a dagger in her heart. She realized what a fool she had been, and turned her eyes to the beckoning night of the woods. Maybe if she let an owl tear her heart from her chest, it wouldn't hurt like this.

But before he left her yard, she called to him, and laid all her heartache on his shoulders. She pulled out all the feast plans she had made, and handed them to him, and when he left, at least he would know what he had cost her.

The trees were gnarled and ugly, and the wolves circled her from a distance, and she wandered so far, so long, that she stumbled and fell asleep on her feet. But it was never far enough, because she still felt that dagger in her heart. She went to the village, and took no company. There were nights she laid down in the woods and slept, dreaming frightening dreams, and woke shivering in the cold dawn. It was always a disappointment that she had not been devoured.

After days of sleeping in the woods and walking the windy paths of the village, her paths crossed with the young man once more. The sight of him was so comforting, that she thought maybe if they would only walk together, and no more hoping- then maybe she would be alright. There would be company but no hope. That, she thought, would be alright.

He agreed to this arrangement, but as they walked the dark cold paths, she found that he was leading them back towards the little warm cottage. He was shivering, and he smiled with great longing. When they came within sight of the tended plot, she stopped. "Please." he whispered. "I did not know how cold I was, until I sat by your fire. I did not know how dreary it was, until I saw the pretty curtains, and soft chairs. I did not know how hungry I was until I could not eat wiht you any more. I dis not know how terrible it was to wander until I had a home."

And in her heart, she knew she felt the same. There was no home without Love. "Please don't turn away." he pleaded, and reached out his arms. It was not her sadness, or her loneliness that moved her then- it was the greatest thing she feared and longed for. It was Love.

She went in wiht him, then. Laid out a hot feast and warming mugs of mulled wine, and they sat and ate and when they were done with all their fruit, they went out together and planted a garden full of seeds. During the day, they worked to bring the little cottage back to it's original state- bright and warm and cheery. He chopped down the trees that had come too close, and the sun shined on their little yard. Together they put up the fence that she ahd taken down, and she realized that it had never kept Love out, but kept out those who had the worng intentions.

After a time, they took in visitors who needed the warmth, and they saw many a traveler stop and take heart at the sight of their chimney puffing smoke and the windows lit with yellow glowing light.

There were days when she wondered if she would have met him if she had never wandered- if he would have come to stay when her garden was blooming and her fence was still up- but she knew that it was no matter, now. The old scars had healed, and she was cold no longer. The night outside was not hers, and she knew that it never had been. Wherever the villagers were, whatever they did, she could not find it in her heart to care. If there were wolves and the lunatic birds out there, she lived within strong walls that kept them out.

Love had finally come, and this Love stayed.