Wednesday, December 31, 2008


In the new year I plan to fret less, walk the dog lots, make some music, hear more live music, read for pleasure, write lots, and in general value what is wonderful about my life:  family, friends, a creative life.  Thanks to all of you who read this from time to time for being a part of it. Happy New Year to you all. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We baked, we cooked, we plotzed.

I have cooked and/or baked the following over the last week or so:
  • butterscotch crescent rolls,
  • almond cardamom bread,
  • cookies galore,
  • almond, pumpkin seed, and cashew brittle,
  • caramels,
  • spicy cashews with wasabi peas,
  • a chocolate souffle cake,
  • coconut cupcakes,
  • roasted potatoes,
  • maple roasted yams,
  • roast rosemary pork,
  • cauliflower au gratin, twice,
  • salads galore,
  • steamed broccoli,
  • baguette,
  • white bean soup with leftover roast pork,
  • roasted pumpkin soup, thai-spiced,
  • corn muffins,
  • more roasted potatoes.
Also, I have cut up
  • four pineapples.
Tonight, we had leftovers and may I say,  I could barely heat them up in the microwave properly.  My own soup was a teeny bit on the lukewarm side. I think it's possible I have cooked myself into a corner that I can't even punch my way out of.  (Am I a fighter now? an aging prize fighter/cook that has been cornered by the food itself, and is this an appropriate metaphor? I am so tired I can't even tell. You be the judge.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best of 2008, series three.


1.  Sabbatical.
2. New manuscript coming along nicely.


1.  The Band's Visit.
2.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
3.  The Edge of Heaven.
4.  Encounters at the End of the World.
5.  Damages.
6.  Mad Men.
7.  The Fall.
8.  Who are we kidding here?  Too many to name.


1.  This American Life.
2.  Regina Spektor
3.  Gillian Welch.
4.  The Fleet Foxes.
5.  M.I.A.


1.  No more horrible panelling downstairs; new retrotastic blue couch.
2.  Outside room in my backyard.


1.  My oldest friend--her style, her spirit, her insouciance.
2.  All my friends, who press forward regardless, quirky, geniuses at being their extremely valuable selves.
3.  My mom and dad.  Just because they are.
4.  My sisters and brother.  Better and better every year.
5.  My beautiful, excellent, brilliant, compassionate, hilarious, wonderful children, for being everything they are, every little thing.
6.  The historian.  There are no words.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best of 2008, series two.


1.  TRAX and bus pass.
2.  awesome bike.


1.  (books) the library, the library's robot, self-checkout.
2.  (books) Google Book.
3.  (music) e-music.


1.  web cam.
2.  the hope of a Mac in 2009.
3.  iPod shuffle (for walking).

Awesome songs for walking.

1.  "Paper Planes," M.I.A.
2.  "Gamma Ray," Beck.
3.  "You're Supposed to Be My Friend," the 1990s.


1.  Seattle (Koolhaas library, Olympic Sculpture Park, the historian's daughter and partner, rain rain rain).
2.  Dublin (Ireland, come on! and, of course, the Scotlands).
3.  Boston/Maine/Provincetown (wild ocean, college daughter, rain rain rain).
4.  NYC (NYC, come on!)!


1.  two conversations with Running Son in Malaysia.
2.  weekly conversations with the Scotlands (now, with video chat!).
3.  my cell phone, which I value far more than I ever thought I would.
4.  Google chats with my brother.
5.  blogs (almost all of my kids have 'em).

Family life.

1.  evenings at home with the historian.
2.  frequent breakfasts and lunches and occasional dinners and movies with my daughter the make-up artist and her darling boy.
3.  hanging out with singing son's family--they live right around the corner.  Now, with darling baby!
4.  Trips with all and sundry to the holy land (Idaho).


1.  Visiting the MOMA (bonus: with Dr. Write!).
2.  Getting to work on my manuscript(s) in Idaho and at an undisclosed location downtown.
3.  Seeing Yeats' papers.
4.  Seeing Francis Bacon's studio.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Best of 2008, series one.

Culinary breakthroughs.

1.  using coconut milk in both the cake and the icing for a coconut cake (or cupcakes).
2.  brittle.  
3.  the multiple desserts dessert course.

Life-altering practices.

1.  daily walk with the dog.
2.  reading more books of all kinds.
3.  foreign detective novels.


1.  visiting grandchildren Christmas morning.
2.  making peace with my cooking/baking overkill.
3.  candles everywheres.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day in review.

1.  We arose danged early.  7:30 a.m., with no kids in sight.  That's because (a) it was snowing and (b) we were going to visit three households with grandchildren in them by noon or know the reason why.  

2.  I needed a shower, but I also needed breakfast.  It turns out that a morning containing both was infeasible (see 1 (a) and (b) above).  I showered and wolfed down a banana, which does not by any stretch of the imagination comprise a proper breakfast, in my opinion.  Did I say "wolfed"? I wolverined it.  

3.  Watching kids open presents and get excited about the tiniest little things (marshmallow Santa, tiny colored pencils, Groucho glasses, Slinky) is too fun to describe in words.

4.  The Salt Lake Valley was a weird patchy grid of micro-climates today--my environs was blizzardy, whereas on the bench, at least all the way till noon, it was merely cold and windy.  

5.  At home we had a packed agenda:  give presents to each other, call the Scotlands, cook food to take to the family dinner, shovel the walks, collapse.  Write some cards.  Collapse.  I had to delete the collapsing, though, because of the snow!  We needed to leave plenty of time to drive down to Utah Valley, because of the snow!  I'll collapse when I'm dead.

6.  Drove down on mostly not-too-bad roads, made good time, stuck cauliflower gratin (now, with chevre!) in oven, visited.  It was a great group--both my sisters, my kids and spouses and babies, my nephew and his lovely bride, my darling auntie and her son, my cousin.  My folks, the hosts.  Fabulous dinner.

7.  We waited for running son to call from exotic lands.  He called.  We all talked forever.  I got to go last. It was a wonderful conversation which I found very, very hard to end.  

8.  We drove home in cartoonish amounts of snow.  Great billowing gusts of snow.  Sheets of sideways-slanting, light-beguiling, blinding snow.  What is the deal about the point of the mountain, you people who know stuff about Utah?  Why is it so very horrible, snow-wise?  

9.  And now, I am collapsing, even as we speak, so to speak, if you know what I mean.  What a wonderful, mad, crowded, over-packed, portmanteau of a day.  Very, very merry.     

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baking: an essay.

Today I made panettone and baked and iced sugar cookies (I had help from singing son, soccer coach son, and the historian on the icing and sprinkling).  Here are some facts:  
  1. yeast does not last forever, even when it is refrigerated.  Shall I buy another economy size package of yeast?  I believe I shall, but after two years, I will consider it spent.
  2. farmer eggs are the best eggs.
  3. currants are cuter than raisins.  
  4. golden raisins are shinier and more glamorous than your usual raisin.
  5. gel-based food coloring makes very very very vivid icing.
  6. no matter how many kinds of sprinkles and sanding sugar and nonpareils and other assorted decorating doodads you happen to have in your pantry, you will always be missing some or another kind of doodad that would make a more perfect cookie.
  7. panettone is delicious, especially when the lemon zest you use in the dough is from a Meyer lemon.
  8. a pair of cookie cutters, a pear with a teeny partridge to sit atop it, bears only a metonymic, and yet still incoherent, relation to the partridge-in-a-pear-tree narrative. 
  9. at Christmastime, there is an ancient cookie economy that reasserts itself in seasonal fashion.
  10. some people would have it that one can substitute a candle, an ornament, even a Christmas cd for the traditional plate of cookies in the cookie economy.  This is a falsehood.  Nonetheless, there is a new and competing ancillary-Christmas-goods economy vying against the cookie economy.  
I fear for the cookie economy.  But I will be distributing plates of cookies, augmented by judicious scatterings of caramels, in my neighborhood tomorrow.  Also, the traditional almond-cardamom bread and butterscotch crescent rolls, but only to the very favored few.  Never let it be said that the circulation of baked goods faltered upon my watch.  Never!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Messages from another universe.

Running Son sent some pictures today.

"An Indian family treated us to some delicious chicken curry . . . you eat with your hands and it is served on a giant leaf."

"Me chilling at a member's bookstore."

"Me and my companion got lost in the jungle for 2 1/2 hours.  We also got very dirty."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brittle heaven.

I have learned a new candy trick:  I can make brittle!  I got the notion from this feature on The Daily Beast, a little Thanksgiving panoply of not-so-traditional takes on the classic components. Nigella Lawson offered the idea of pumpkinseed brittle, which I made earlier this week, and which is every bit as beautiful and delicious as advertised.

It is so not hard at all.  The only thing you have to do is pay attention when the sugar is boiling away, because when it decides to caramelize, it does so very very quickly, so you don't want to be off removing dog hair from your couch or ironing hankies or polishing your silver (only joking about the last two!  I have dog hair but hardly any hankies and no silver) when that happens.  But so long as you're riveted to the candy miracle happening on your stove, you are going to have brittle, and you will feel like a genius.

This experience has led me to believe that I can make brittle out of anything, a belief that underwrote yesterday's almond brittle, also attractive and delicious.  It reminds me of something my son-in-law once said with respect to his Fry-Baby deep fat fryer:  "You could deep fry a roll of quarters and it would come out full of golden deliciousness."  I'm kind of feeling the same way about anything in brittle form:  paper clips?  potato chips?  Capture anything in hard-caramelized amber and it is transformed: gorgeous, tooth-wreckingly crunchy, irresistible.  By which I mean, at the moment I am finding it hard to resist seeing everything--okay, every nut--as a fantastic opportunity for brittle.    

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Historian:  [seeing a corner house with only the front walk shoveled]:  Huh. They only shoveled the front walk.  I know, a corner lot, that’s a lot of shoveling, but still--I lived on a corner lot for twenty years and I always shoveled both sides.  By hand, no snow blower, which is probably why I’m in such good shape for my age.

Me:  That, and your pure heart.

Historian: Yes, well, I think both are necessary.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Today, I went to the headquarters of Short Stuff, aka, an elementary school.  Singing Son asked me to accompany his Honor Choir at the holiday assembly.  

The whole event was the kind of thing that could cheer a person up immensely, even on a morning when a massive winter storm was a-brewin'.  Here are some of the reasons:
  • The kids, of all ages, are pretty cute when they sing, even the ones that think singing isn't cool.
  • A mix of holiday and world and popular music.
  • One of the best set of actions to go with "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that I have ever seen.
  • The principal wore both a Santa hat and a red Hawaiian shirt.
  • Way fun to see Singing Son in action:

Greeting song from lisab on Vimeo.

[the first part is a Senegalese greeting song, from children to their elders; the second is a song from India.]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scouring the webbery with your interests at heart.

While compiling my annual list of music I want to hear, I got this hint from Ann Powers (on Slate, a conversation amongst Jody Rosen, herself, and Robert Christgau):  a master list of lists, collected from many print and online sources. Oh yeah.  It is list-o-rama, including a mother-lode of music lists.  

Also: lists of the 10 Worst Toys (two of them); Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords; Three Dumbest TV Moves; Most Popular Japanese Words and Phrases; and The Ten Worst Members of Congress. And, from Jezebel, Elizabeth Hasselbeck's 25 Most Annoying Moments.  Just 25!  Such restraint!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Today was one of those days when I could not get out of my own way.  I was reading in Anne Carson's new translations of Euripides; in one of her essays either introducing or concluding the book, she mentioned Renato Rosaldo's essay "Grief and a Headhunter's Rage," which has been kicking around in my brain ever since.  So this morning, after having made a note yesterday--about grief, willingness, rage, all of which are, I think, bound together in this poem I'm working on, and maybe the whole manuscript--I couldn't let the idea of finding a copy of this essay go.  Is it online? you ask.  No!  It isn't.  The whole project of being pissed off about that fact took a good hour of my morning.  So much so that I started to think Bruiser was trying to be the boss of me again, and I had to kick my own butt out the door, where I opened my eyes and saw this:

This afternoon, downtown to catch Slumdog Millionaire with Dr. Write, I saw this while I was waiting out in front of the Broadway:

Last Friday, when I was downtown because our car was being worked on, I saw this:

and this:

Something about the short days, the lessening by degrees of the light, the end of the year--it adds up to something I have to grapple with, something unwilling in me, resistant.  I don't love this about myself.  I think this is why it's so important to remember: go outside and breathe, take in some air, open my eyes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

All right, already.

Reprising my day:

This, this was my breakfast.

This is Bruiser, digging on the snow.

These are the horses in the back field.

And, oh yeah, we got a Christmas tree:

O Tannenbaum, by God. from lisab on Vimeo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Christmas Tree: Sentences & Moral Epigrams.

Those who apply themselves too closely to little things, such as purchasing Christmas candles, a Christmas wreath, and butter for all the Christmas baking-to-come, often become incapable of great things, such as buying an actual Christmas tree.

We have not enough strength to follow all our inclinations to buy a Christmas tree.

If we had a Christmas tree we should not complain of the Christmas fervor of others, including their Christmas trees.

If we had no faults, such as the procrastination of buying a Christmas tree, we should not take so much pleasure in noting the faults of others, such as, I don't know, what Christmas-related folly have you committed?

(via La Rochefoucauld)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who's listening to what?

Today I began listening to Christmas music, the commencement of which I think we can all agree is a bit tardy.  My favorite Christmas music, only some of which I have already listened to thus far:
  • The Roches, We Three Kings.
  • Benjamin Britten, Ceremony of Carols.
  • The Beach Boys, "Little Saint Nick" (come on, I went to high school in SoCal.  In the 70s.).
  • Shawn Colvin, Holiday Songs and Lullabyes.
  • a few no-name cds I bought that I really enjoy--New England Christmastide and some other ones (clearly I haven't yet busted these out).
  • some awesome choir cds--singing son's choir, the Salt Lake Men's Chorus cd my friend Jonathan gave me, a beautiful cd with the historian's daughter's partner's choir of old.
  • Stevie Wonder's Christmas cd.
  • George Winston, December (for the depressive that lives in all of us, a little, at Christmas, right?).
What are y'all listening to?  I really, really, really want to know--really.

Christmas tree watch:  no tree yet.  

Friday, December 12, 2008

A tiny dollop of joy.

My oldest and very dear friend sent me this link yesterday, from Jeanette Winterson, about making mince pies whilst listening to audiobooks:
If you want Poetic Pies, drop in a sensitive amount of mincemeat, then get a star-shaped cutter. Think pie in the sky - a little vision, like Dante gazing at Beatrice, (though I do not mean to compare Beatrice to a mince pie). If you want Post-Modern Pies, then dollop in quite a lot of mince-meat, perhaps audaciously slopping it over the edge of the case, and just cut out two provocative strips of pastry and cross them over the top – self-consciously artificial, but revealing all, like Michel Houllebeq. If you want a Bestseller Pie, then fill generously, but make a thick lid and seal the edges with fingertips of brandy. Dust with icing sugar.
I am not necessarily a fan of mince pies, but I am a fan of Jeanette Winterson, and her website is a treasure.  Roam around.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is your house too big? A very short quiz.

1. When you venture down the stairs into your basement, how long has it been since your previous visit?
(a) one week
(b) two weeks
(c) three weeks
(d) last Christmas?

2. Once you are down there, what do you find?
(a) the furniture has been rearranged.
(b) there's a retrotastic blue sectional sofa, perfect for Utah Jazz watching parties, should you ever get your act together and invite people over.
(c) your satellite dish, your television, and your other video implements are still in a tiff and therefore not speaking to one another.
(d) a small family of werewolves has moved in, and they've chosen bedrooms.

3. When you go into the room formerly known as college daughter's room when she was in 9th grade, what do you find?
(a) your friendly old Macintosh desktop, just waiting faithfully to be used.
(b) a petrified banana peel from the era of when the room (FKACDR) turned into the art room, thus people began making their film projects there (see (a) above).
(c) all sorts of paper and other project-oriented shenanigans piled everywhere.
(c) a Christmas bag from when soccer coach son slept there, filled with Christmas candy (gold foil coins, Kruggerands and pennies; foil covered chocolate balls), a lip balm (Burt's Bees), and a Santa Claus PEZ dispenser, complete with PEZ (raspberry flavored).

If you chose any of the answers to these questions, your house is almost certainly too big. Also, you almost certainly have too much stuff, and it's a fairly sure bet that you're a slob. And you may have raised a family with slobby tendencies. Some slobby tendencies. Finally, it's also possible that you may not follow through on projects and problems very well.

What is to be done? you ask. Why are you asking me? I live in a too-big house with too much stuff, and I am a slob with no follow-through.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The universe is sending me messages.

During the month of November, I kept a long list of stuff I'm grateful for (examples:  my poetry group, my health, Bruiser, the internet, the color yellow, my marriage, our grandchildren, chances to travel, weekly phone calls with Amelia, music, my cell phone, little rituals, daily walk, my crazy yard . . .).  

One thing for which I am very grateful is NPR, and recently I heard two amazing programs that completely got to me, though in different ways.  

One was a program called "Heretics" on This American Life.  (Here's the link for the program.)
The description: 
 "Reporter Russell Cobb takes us through the remarkable and meteoric rise of Carlton Pearson, Russell Cobb takes us through the remarkable and meteoric rise of Carlton Pearson from a young man to a Pentecostal Bishop: from the moment he first cast the devil out of his 17-year old boyfriend, to the days when he had a close, personal relationship with Oral Roberts, and had appearances on TV and at the White House.  Just as Reverend Pearson's career peaked, with more than 5000 members of his congregation coming every week, he started to think about hell, wondering if a loving God would really condemn most of the human race to burn and writhe in the fire of hell for eternity."
The other program was an interview I heard yesterday on Fresh Air, with Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, who were "who were instrumental in linking the evangelical community with the anti-abortion movement."  What makes him so interesting is his (can you see this coming?) crisis of faith:  "after coming of age as an evangelist and helping to organize religious fundamentalists politically, Schaeffer had a crisis of faith: Though he is pro-life, he decided that abortion should remain legal." This was an amazing and fascinating interview with a very thoughtful and extremely articulate person of faith. You can hear it here.  

Finally, while I was working on a poem today, I found this, from Yeats:
I shall find the dark grow luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing bell. 

The last knowledge has often come most quickly to turbulent men, and for a season brought new turbulence.  When life puts away her conjuring tricks one by one, those that deceive us longest may well be the wine-cup and the sensual kiss, for our Chambers of Commerce and of Commons have not the divine architecture of the body, nor has their frenzy been ripened by the sun.  The poet, because he may not stand within the sacred house but lives amid the whirlwinds that beset its threshold, may find his pardon.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I was of three minds.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.  

1.  Today, I loved the way the morning light took its time.  I got up, I made my breakfast, I checked the internet in a desultory way, I articulated my plans to myself in long, slow, lazy, sentence fragments.  I noticed around ten that the light was still silvery.  I looked out to see it snowing.

2.  Bruiser did not rush into his let's take a walk dance.  He drowsed on the bed.  When it started to snow, I considered all the possibilities.  Snow means cold.  On the other hand, the snow was falling almost straight down, unhurried, airy.  Cold but not driving. Wet but not sodden.  Slippery, but only a little.  So we took our walk.  The world smells different when it's snowy.  Ask my dog.

3.  A snowy day is for projects, like soup, or making a little space in your study so you can actually work there, or hanging up all your clothes.  Working on your manuscript. Contemplating the weather.  Thinking about the dark part of the year and how it is so very lovely.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Craft Talk: Poetry, Revision & Research (in useful bullet points).

Today while revising my poem, I consulted
  • American Heritage's excellent list of Indo-European roots
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Sappho
  • Economy of the Unlost
  • Eros the Bittersweet
  • Ulysses
  • the mythology of the Lotos-eaters, aka the lotosphagi
  • a website about spiders
Also, I changed the title (from "little deaths" to the prosaic, and possibly Twilight-tinged, "Midnight."  Yes, it will likely change again.). Also, added a teeny epigraph (from the Lotos-eaters section of Ulysses).  

And now, I will watch some television.  And pet the dog.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Improve your life, immediately.

1.  Make this and eat it.  It might sound odd, but you'll have to trust me:  it is marvelous. (via Mighty Girl).  Do it today!
2.  See this.  Do not delay.  

In other news, here is the best correction I have ever read in any magazine.  This is Jason Killingsworth, Deputy Editor of Paste, on the Inbox pages of Issue 49:
I was just reading over proof pages--as I do every deadline--making sure that no embarrassing typos slip into print, and I came across this doozy of an error from Kelly Marages' review of The Killers' new album (p. 50).  In her reflections on "When You Were Young," easily one of my favorite songs of the last several years, Marages claims that "the heavy guitars and Springsteen style rang false." I immediately fact-checked this statement with Alan Greenspan, the Dalai Lama, Stephen Hawking, and Chuck Norris.  They all confirmed my belief that (a) the so-called "heavy guitars" are crunchy and epic and extremely awesome, and (b) the "Springsteen style ringing false" comment is ludicrous because there was a highly respected voodoo witch doctor in the studio helping Brandon Flowers channel Bruce's incendiary verve. I'll go ahead and mark the change here on the proof page, but I wanted you to be aware so you can make a special grouping in the editorial masthead called "Contributing Writers Who Are Mistaken," under which Marages' name will appear all by itself.
I'll tell you what this makes me want to do, and that is to go ahead and obtain the new Killers recording, that's what.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mad cheer.

Neighborhood lights from lisab on Vimeo.

This is my official nomination for the "Paragon of Excess" Christmas Lights Award for 2008. It's like a light-eating monster ate too many, and then threw up Christmas in this front yard.  It was a drive-by, so I'm sorry about the obstacles the car itself creates.  In particular, you cannot view the seriously undecorated aspens on the east side of the yard.  More's the pity.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

One thing I wish I had right now.

I wish I had The Sundance Channel, so I could watch that Elvis Costello show.  Also, I wish I had managed to watch this Elvis Mitchell interview series on TMC, which I have, so I wish I had had my priorities straight, or had sorted myself out--or something!--so I might have watched it.  

Also, I would like to have a new book successfully placed with an awesome press.  Or that my putative new book would win a book competition.  Or that I could stop whining about it and everything else, because frankly, I'm getting annoyed with my own self.

        The two Elvi.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Oh, SURELY. Absolutely! Surely!

Back when I proposed my sabbatical, I said this:

Because the process of submitting this manuscript [my other manuscript] has been lengthy—which is not unusual in the unfathomable world of poetry publishing—I have also been writing new work, which I now have compiled into a rough manuscript that I have been tentatively calling Surburban Ode or Suburban Elegy or Imploding Elegy.  I plan to use the time during the sabbatical to revise and shape this next manuscript.  The poet Jane Kenyon once said, “Poetry has an intensity about it, which is one of its loveliest qualities, but that’s also the thing that fatigues you when you’re working on it.  There’s a pitch of emotion in poems that you must rise to.  Every time you work on the poem you must rise to it again” (in The Language of Life, ed. Bill Moyers, 224).  The open space of a sabbatical surely offers a writer a wonderful circumstance in which to prepare to rise to that pitch of intensity.

May I just say that my new work, rough manuscript, big pile o' writing, whatever you want to call it--nightmare? arrgh?--is flummoxing me.  I need an extremely large table, and better judgment than I actually have, I think. Yes, a large table, exquisite judgment--or else a match.  A match! That's the ticket!

That "surely" in the last sentence of that proposal--that kind of sounds like bullshit to me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas oh my God.

Today I went to my daughter's house, the impresaria of holiday spirit, to visit her and my darling grandson. She has her Christmas tree up already--that is her way.  And why not?  It is December and the season comes but once a year, etc.  As a side note, she and all of my other children have already begun the gentle chiding about my own propensity to delay the tree-trimming till Christmas is almost upon us.  I have made a plan to put up the tree on Dec. 13 or maybe 14--the day of, or the day after, running son's birthday.  So back off, you chiders. (See how many letters "chider" and "child" have in common?  Coincidence?  I think not.)

Anyway:  she had a splendid apple-green satin ribbon garlanded around her tree, which I admired.  I'm a little bit of a ribbon freak, actually. I'm pretty sure that my first membership to Costco was a direct result of their awesome ribbon--in large spools! for economical and super-stylish gift-wrapping!  It turns out, however, that she obtained the splendid ribbon from Taipan Trading Co.  So I thought perhaps I'd swing by.  

I said, "Well, it's the middle of a weekday--there probably won't be so many people."  

My daughter gave me a tiny look which, in retrospect, I think must have been a pitying one.  "It's not that the store is so crowded," she said.  "It's just that it's so overwhelming because it has so much stuff."  

Let me see by show of hands how many of you have been to Taipan Trading Co.  Still alive, are you?  That's nice.  In the case of my own visit today, however, you can probably guess that (a) the store was crawling with women--young, old, in-between, and bewildered out of their minds, clutching spools of shiny, shiny ribbon (that one was me); and that (b) the store has a powerful tendency to suck the brain clean out of your head, leaving the interior tastefully decorated with country knick knacks, large mirrors, vases full of potpourri, and, of course, festooned with lots and lots of ribbon.

I emerged with two rolls of brown kraft paper (the kind you used to wrap postal packages in), one of white paper with blue snowflakes, a roll of cello wrap (for all my food gifts!), five spools of ribbon, and sundry other items including a bag of caramel popcorn--why? But surely, surely, this season, my presents will be stylishly wrapped.  And I can just about guarantee that there will be a tree, bedecked with holiday cheer well before the holiday itself, to put them under.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Today's updates.

1.  Talk radio makes me crazy.  It doesn't matter if it's NPR talk radio or, say, Rush Limbaugh. As soon as the people of America start calling in, with their contexts and their analogies, I want to hit the radio.  

2.  My complete--some might say too complete--New England swing photos are here and here.

3.  Today is December 1.  That means I need to mail stuff, to Scotland and to Malaysia.  I hereby pledge that I am NOT going to wait until I need to pay the premium dollars to get stuff there on time.  In fact, I bought some presents today and I have a little mental list, if a vague one, of the stuff I still need to get, wrap, and send.  Watch me fly.

4.  Today, I found out that this photo, which I took with a funky little Lomo camera,

was picked by a group administrator in Flickr for the group "Other Ping Pong Ways."  At last, I have achieved fame.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

There will be singing.

Today was just about a perfect day, let me tell you.  It went a little bit like this:
  1. Awesome breakfast.  Omelet with Chad's dad's eggs, onions and mushrooms, with some ricotta cheese folded into the eggs, parmesan on top, and a little bit of a sliced tomato, also courtesy of Chad.  Cornmeal muffins.  Juice.  All eaten while reading the papers.
  2. Long chat with the Scotlands, extra delightful.
  3. Long walk with the historian and Bruiser.  A side of playing on the school playground (don't tell anyone, it's against school rules).
  4. Shower.  Reading Irish detective novel.  Nap.
  5. Modest dinner.
  6. Sang oratorio like it was my job.
I have always wanted to do a Messiah sing-in, but never got organized to do it.  But my niece sorted things out and got my mom, my aunt, myself, and herself tickets, so tonight we went downtown, settled ourselves into our excellent seats at Abravanel hall, and did a combination of listening to the soloists, and singing with the chorus/audience, that was pretty much the funnest thing ever.  Let me just say that there were pieces I remembered and did pretty well at executing, especially if no one was listening too closely; there were parts I remembered but could not pull off anymore (hello, long running passages!); there were songs I don't quite believe I have ever actually sung.  Or maybe even heard, come to think of it.  

But I did my best! I had fun doing it! I think there should be a lot more singing, possibly year-round but at least during the holidays.  I have a longterm goal that I'm moving up the priority list, to find a choir to sing with.  It would  be fun if it were with someone I know, like singing son, but that may not be possible.  Singing, however, is always possible.  Make more time for singing!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad development = awesome pictures.

My whole camera situation has been kind of an ordeal lately.  An ordeal, in the sense that I have three main cameras, so y'know, the ordeal of having too much stuff, which pretty much means, "quit whining, my God!"  Although, this is a blog, which means whining is the whole discourse, right?  Or at least it's totally allowed.  In point of fact, however, there is little actual whining in this post. Read on!

What I'm trying to say is, my Fuji had a zoom error message, which meant, when all was said and done, that I paid two-thirds of the value of the camera    --original value!--to fix it, because it made me sad to think of not fixing it, what with the beautiful pictures of Fourth of July fireworks I shot this summer. I had to send it to the manufacturer.  In New Jersey.  Using the actual, physical mail.  As in U.S. Mail.  It took forever (weeks) and I despaired that it would ever come back to me (I actually called them.  On the actual phone.).  Important fact:  the camera was not fixed and/or in my hands when I left for my New England swing trip.  Which meant:  the little hp camera with negative useable megapixels (exaggeration) and negligible zoom (true fact).  

Also, I took my splendid 35mm camera.  For an alternative.  My daughter and I took turns using it during the weekend.  

Back in Utah, at Target, I took my 8 rolls of 35mm film, half black and white, half color, to the one hour photo developing place.  We agreed I'd come back in a couple of hours, because that many rolls is plenty of film.  I'm pretty sure I'm one of only a handful of people still using film. Pretty soon you're going to have to pay a lot of money to develop film.  Actually, I paid quite a bit for these, but never mind.

When I came back to Target, the film developing person looked anxious and sweaty.  She'd tried to call me.  On my landline phone.  Something was up with the chemicals.  And their tech hadn't yet arrived.  So my photos were going to take a little longer.  Fine, I said.  No problem. I'll come back tomorrow.

When tomorrow arrived, I moseyed on up to Target, where they were still! not quite done, but they would be done in 45 minutes.  So I looked at stuff and bided my time and when 45 minutes had elapsed, I picked up my photos and guess what? The chemicals must still have been off and whatever that tech did, my photos were nonetheless a very odd mix of crazy weird bad development and pristine, mad gorgeous ones.

What's most interesting to me, however, is that the bad ones are in some ways the best ones. Ghostly, strange, off, eerie. Who knows if this is the development, or our picture-taking chops, or something crazy happening to the camera, or what.  But they're beautiful. See what I mean?

Friday, November 28, 2008

While out and about today, I saw

And now, I am watching the Jazz finish putting away the Sacramento Kings. Who loves the Ronnies, both Price and Brewer? Who loves C.J. "The Kid" Miles?  Who loves Paul "You better never underestimate me ever again" Millsap? I know I do.  

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Just a few things this day reminded me I'm thankful for:
  • my Mom and Dad.  We got to sit around after almost everyone was gone and talk about the cross-country trips we used to take, driving from Tucson to Georgia--what a treat!  
  • my sister and her family.  I always love a family party when I get to hang out with them--my nieces and my sister and her husband.  Peerless folks, all.
  • my own kids, who today were with other parts of their families and, in some cases, in other parts of the world.  They make my life sweet and they are each of them a great joy to me.
  • music.  My aunt Sal, niece Diane, and I played three hands at the piano, and then Sally and I played this Mozart four hands at the piano sonata we've been saying we'll learn--it was so much fun.
  • a house to live in.
  • food to eat.
  • a hive of family relationships that buoy me up and make me feel whole.
  • my beautiful, cherished husband.
  • wonderful friends, old and new.
. . . and much, much else that it's too late to post.  11:59!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eight of this, eight of that.

My friend Ann was tagged to do this and because it's kind of irresistible, I'm doing it too:

8 Shows I watch

  • 30 Rock
  • The Office
  • Mad Men
  • The Closer
  • Saving Grace
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent
  • Damages
  • Frasier

 8 Restaurants I love

8 Things I did yesterday

  • Worked on a poem
  • Took Bruiser for a walk
  • Picked stuff up and put it back at T.J. Maxx
  • Made hash out of roasted vegetables
  • Had a great conversation with a baby (Will)
  • Talked to several of my children
  • Drank a pot of tea
  • Blogged (of course!)

8 things I'm looking forward to

  • Christmas
  • Thanksgiving
  • The movies tonight with the historian
  • Seeing my missionary son again
  • AWP
  • Breakfast, tomorrow and every day
  • Jan. 20
  • Seeing my Scotland daughter again, whenever that may be!

8 Things on my wish list

  • Live in France for some unspecified period of time, but long enough that it’s “live” and not “visit”
  • All sorts of trips with the historian—the above France one, an Eastern swing (Montreal with a side of Ottawa maybe, Maine, etc), a Southern swing, down the Mississippi, an historic L.A. and environs trip, . . .
  • Better organizational abilities and less stuff, probably, although I kind of love my stuff
  • A Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, yellow, like Lis's
  • One of those crazy digital pens that takes a movie of when you’re writing
  • All sorts of awesome cameras, like the one Jeff Bridges uses, for instance.
  • Another book
  • Just a whiff of my youth back

8 things I love, in no particular order

  • My wonderful, adorable husband
  • My splendid, gorgeous, talented, hilarious children, each and every one of them
  • My darling grandchildren
  • My house
  • My crazy garden
  • My awesome dog
  • My fabulous parents
  • My amazing siblings
  • The movies (that’s nine!)

8 things I can’t stand, in no particular order

  • L.A. Lakers, doesn’t matter which era or the personnel
  • Pompous blowhards of any stripe (takes one to know one, though)
  • Being patronized.  I am positively allergic to this.
  • Bad restaurants.  There is just no reason.
  • Giving up hope
  • Movies where they blow stuff up while the hero walks away with cascading sheets of flame in the background with a hard rock musical background (more movies than any of us would care to admit)
  • That one Michael Haneke remake of his own sadistic movie.  Funny Games. Yeah. I can’t stand that, and I only saw the trailer.
  • People who think they’re the boss of me  

8 people I'm tagging:

I would love to hear these things, in whole or in part, from any of my blogging circle family and friends!

Emendation:  I tag theorris, my daughters, my son, dr. write, lis, and otterbutt!  Accept that, theorris.  I command it! (btw, I am thankful for all of you, which is why I am tagging you!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Because I spend almost every day alone, at least most of the day, I have lots of time, as you might imagine, for thinking about myself.  Myself and the future of democracy, but myself, certainly. This has yielded the following insight, which I'm sure you will find fascinating (me me me me me.  Me!) (and this is worthy of a block indent):
I have a powerful case of Don't-You-Tell-Me-What-to-Do syndrome, with ancillary symptoms of You're-Not-the-Boss-of-Me.
Today, as on most days, I got up, put on my take a walk clothes, made myself some breakfast while working out some of the kinks I worked up during the nighttime hours (also called "sleep"), read the paper, checked my e-mail and The Huffington Post in case democracy faltered during the night.  And so on.  Bruiser, who knows that mornings usually result in a walk for him, is very patient for about 75 percent of this, but about the time I've refreshed Huffington for the third time, he comes over and says, Hey!  and then Hey! again.  Because a dog has only so much patience, and then Hey! it's time for the walk already.

Today I decided I'd get everything ready without Bruiser noticing, so as to avoid the nudging and the standing in my way and the gaze boring into mine.  Because all that amounts to a dog telling me what to do and trying to be the boss of me.  A dog.  Bossing me around.  And by God, I just can't stand that.  Why, I'll show him.  I'll delay the walk until I dang well feel like taking a walk.  A walk that makes me feel good, invariably, that lifts my spirits and eases up the kinks and takes me out into God's own world, &c.  

I'd like to report that being aware of this absurd and yet apparently permanent state of teenage rebellion undoes its stubborn power.  I'd like to report that.  I really would. I would especially like to say that I realize that MY DOG IS NOT TRYING TO BOSS ME AROUND.  My solution, as of today, is to try to beat Bruiser at his own game, starting the walk before he expects it.  This will work for approximately one and a half days, because then he'll recalculate and start with the nudging at an earlier hour.  That dog! He needs to get over himself! I already HAVE a mom and dad! 

Monday, November 24, 2008


Today I heard about the death of a friend's son in a plane accident.  It's the devastating thing--this boy, full of life, just 25, gone just like that.  Even just hearing about it, it's the kind of thing that shakes you.  I sometimes have to talk myself down from the cliff of my fears for my kids, and now their kids--I think most parents do, at least sometimes.  It's a thought you barely allow to enter your mind, and then you have to glance off it.  It's unbearable.  I am thinking of his mother and that's another thought I have to glance off--it, too, is unbearable.

My folks asked me to send them some pictures of my kids for a project they're doing, so tonight I've been sifting through a million images of my beloveds (please, please be safe).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cooking: a mathematics lesson.

Story problem: You have invited your family to dinner. There will be a total of 10 adults, four kids (ages three to five), two toddlers, and two infants. Your menu includes baked pasta, two kinds; a salad of lettuce, persimmons, gorgonzola, and toasted pecans; fresh baguette; roasted broccoli and cauliflower; and deconstructed apple pie for dessert. Given these facts, solve for the following:
  • pounds of pasta 
  • quarts of tomato sauce
  • heads of lettuce
  • handsful of pecans to toast
  • heads of broccoli and cauliflower
  • pounds of apples
Extra credit question:  what is the area required in the refrigerator for the leftovers, even after you have packed up all of the remainder of one kind of baked pasta for the kids as they leave, if you overestimate each and every item on the menu? By a factor of two?  

I will say, in my defense, that (1) there will be no need to cook tomorrow, since there is plenty of food, including dessert, and (b) we had a swell time and everything tasted splendid.  Check with anyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together.

In Isaiah there are actually wolves and fatlings in this scripture, but anyway:  drunk on sunshine, Bruiser and the cat had nothing to say to each other except "[yawn]":

What a great day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Memorandum to my cable television.

TO:         The Downstairs DISH box and DVR

FROM:   Hightouchmegastore

RE:          Your failure to provide me with the television programming and digital video recording that I have paid for and is therefore rightfully mine to expect

DATE:     20 November 2008

It's been six months now since the Great Downstairs Renovation of 2008.  The panelling of death has been removed.  Paint has been applied to the walls.  A new-to-us retro-tastic sectional sofa, cobalt blue, has been purchased, delivered, and attractively arranged for socializing and, yes, let it be said, television watching.  But you, downstairs DISH box and DVR, are not even speaking to the television.  You and the television are not communicating.  The television gives me static.  You make spinning sounds in your self-contained universe.  What are you doing in there?  Working a treadle? Knitting a sweater? Running the dishwasher?

All I know is, they's no shows a-transmittin' on the T.V.  No pictures or banter or dvr'd episodes of Family Guy.  Nothing is what you are delivering.  Nothing.  

More, you act like there's nothing wrong.  I try to reset you, you make your obliging spinning sound. Like you're God, setting the gyroscope of the earth on its axis. Still nothing.  I check your cables and tighten them and still: nothing.   

The worst is calling the DISHOverlord at 1-888-FUT-ILE*.  Here's what the DISHOverlord Robot says to you:  "Did you know that many problems with your DISH television can be solved via your remote?  Are you in front of your television with your remote?  If not, hang up and call back later."  Try talking your way through this problem with the eventual human who shows up on the line:  "Uh, well, let me start about six months ago.  We were doing some work downstairs.  Well, actually, the problem is, well, when we got it going about a month ago, there was a message about a smart card?  But now I can't . . . I can't even get that message back.  It's like.  But. I can't." And so on &c.  It's a nightmare and I'm blaming it on you, downstairs DISH box and DVR.  The Overlord is just gratuitous humiliation.

Please organize yourself and take care of this situation; I'll expect a report when things are back to normal and order is restored.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Literary life.

It's been awhile since I whined about
--I mean updated you--on my literary exploits.  I know! What a terrible oversight!  Thank God I can't think of anything else to blog about.

May I just say that this narcissism--I mean navel-gazing--I mean self-reflection--is stimulated by the fact that I heard Dr. Write read tonight.  She was excellent--the idiosyncratic voices of her stories, read in her trademark unprepossessing and supercool style.  Her writing makes you glad there is such a thing as writing.  Which leads me to this point:  lately, I am writing but not finishing.  

Case in point, I have a piece of writing that I feel great confidence is going to be a terrific poem that will break your heart.  I'm pretty sure that it will break my own heart.  I feel this way especially when I just look at the piece of writing, but I am kind of terrified to press on, to try to find a form for it, to add things or take things out.  As long as I don't write it, I told my friend tonight after the reading, I haven't yet wrecked it.

Why does writing always make me feel like a rank beginner?  

I made a promise to myself that I would have this poem drafted by the next time there's a reading--two weeks from now--and I will read it at the open.  So I may have to break my heart a dozen times, or even more than that, within the next two weeks.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So, I mean, it's cool if you keep quiet, but I like singing.

Rolling Stone recently named its "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" (top 10: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown). Since they included Tom Waits and Lou Reed among this stellar company, I must conclude that pure vocal beauty is not the sole criterion for inclusion, and therefore, I offer the following as some of my favorite voices, many of which are beautiful but all of which are compelling to me--voices I'm never sorry to hear:
  • Annie Lennox
  • Brian Wilson
  • Regina Spektor
  • Bryan Ferry
  • Stephen Stills
  • that guy from Depeche Mode
  • Gillian Welch
  • Rufus Wainwright
  • Jeff Buckley
  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Kate Bush
  • Mavis Staples
  • Marianne Faithfull
  • Nellie McKay
  • Patty Scialfa
  • Peggy Lee
  • Chrissie Hynde
  • Michael Stipe
  • Richard Thompson
  • Rickie Lee Jones
  • Shawn Colvin
  • Prince
  • Sylvester Stone
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Taj Mahal
  • Al Green
  • Jim Kerr
  • Youssou N'Dour
and, frankly, Tori Amos, Bono, Van Morrison, and Eddie Vedder.

Who makes your heart sing?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Utah, I am home.

Why are you unseasonably warm, Utah? Why are you developing a bad case of the smogs? Why does airline travel make one feel as though the blood has thickened ever so fatally in one veins, and also, and curiously, sweaty?

Utah, I have stories to tell about the curious pleasures of airports: a reason to read Esquire, a moment or 200 to oneself, the chance to read a whole book at a time, time to contemplate one's next move, time to think about and feel everything about the trip--how much fun one had and how much one misses the daughter one visited--and about home. But I am glad not to be in an airport now, even giving the airports their props--the flights were on time, people were helpful, my bag made it with me despite having to change airlines and a stop in Denver, both ways.

Mainly, though, Utah, I am glad to reconnect to my own life and routine. I am very glad to be with my husband. Tomorrow, I will develop rolls and rolls of film. I will be glad to have the photos to remind me of my darling daughter and of the wonderful places we visited together. I will take Bruiser (I believe he was named State Dog in my absence) for a walk. I will go to the bank and write a poem and begin reading a new book. I will see loved ones and eat Utah vegetables. I need to be here, I am glad to be here, though my heart, it turns out, my heart is both here and also everywhere.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clam chowder: requiem for a dream.

Since today was the last day of running around New England, I determined that today would also be the day I had clam chowder for lunch. Driving from Maine to Provincetown? Surely there would be chowder opportunities aplenty. Alas, when college daughter and I left Maine, we neglected to calculate the effect that a breakfast beverage might have on, oh, say, when or where we might stop to pee.

Skip ahead to Hwy. 6, halfway between Boston and Provincetown. We were navigating by holding a spit-finger to the wind, and the wind was saying, "I don't know where in THE hell we are, and as for a clean public restroom? Beats the hell outta me." Also, one might consider the fact that many locations on the Cape are vacation-y and therefore--oh, and also, it's Sunday--closed for the season.

So, we're in thriving downtown Barnstable, made up, as far as we could tell, by equal parts Episcopal churches, fire stations, gorgeous picturesque houses, and closed antique stores. Our GPS robot was telling us about restaurants that may or may not have been in the area, in any direction from where we were driving. We chose a restaurant with Dolphin in the title. (Have you forgotten that we needed to pee? Don't forget this fact.) And lo! The Dolphin appeared before us, along with the Barnstable Tavern and the Village Cafe.

The Dolphin looked very swanky and also possibly only barely open, and very swanky seemed in excess of our needs, so we turned around and thought, Village Cafe, just a couple of locations back. We hopped out of the car, our bladders doing all the reasoning for us. We stepped into the cafe and lo! it had the smell of two decades' worth of deep-fried food, which my actual brain processed just as the proprietress said, "Sit anywhere you want," and my mouth said, "Mind if we use the restroom first?" and my soul screamed, "NO NO NO NO NO!"

I am an old-fashioned girl, and once you've decided to avail yourself--gratefully!--of an establishment's facilities, it is my view that you must buy something there. They don't just have a restroom so anyone in the world can just casually stop by to pee without also ordering up some fries or a sandwich or something. Or chowder.

And so, dear reader, I ordered the chowder. At the counter. And the waitress said, "Ohhhhh, chowder, right, it's on the menu but I don't think we have it on Sunday."

Deeply disappointing, right? But the cook, behind a fortress made of stainless steel that was probably coated with the grease of the ages, said: "We can heat some up."

"Are you sure?" I said, when a rational person would have said, "Umm, do you have like a bag of pretzels? and a Coke? or, like, maybe a Coke and a bottle of 409 spray and a roll of paper towels?" But no. No, I said, "Great!" And shortly after that, a plastic tub of chowder, labeled "CHOWDER," appeared from the walk-in and disappeared behind the stainless steel. And then, probably three minutes and thirty seconds later, the chowder appeared, in a shallow bowl, over the stainless steel barrier. With some steam wafting, a positive omen, I thought.

But I was wrong.

No, the chowder was lukewarm, or rather, of uneven heat, sort of how a big bowl of soup is when you microwave but do not stir. Moreover, the soup was extra salty, as if salt were the only possible seasoning ever to grace chowder. There it sat, looking like the paragon of chowder, clam-filled and potato-y and even a little creamy. Why was it so nasty? Why?

Here's what I did and did not do: I did not ask for more nuke to be applied to my soup. I did not not eat the soup. No, I sprinkled both packets of oyster crackers on the surface of the soup, and I ate each little cracker, lightly anointed with the soup, telling myself this: "Having made the deal to be polite and eating in a sorry place where even my low(ered) expectations were disappointed, I am not going to change the deal now. No, I will eat the misbegotten chowder and enough of it that I will not have to explain my not finishing it. I like oyster crackers. I like them!" I said this as the chowder cooled and got, yes, nastier.

My daughter asked me if perhaps I wanted to try to redeem my chowder luncheon by finding better chowder for dinner. No, no, I did not. The experience had embittered me. I may or may not eat chowder again, but it will be a cold day in hell before I order it again at a restaurant where the chowder has not been vetted by experts, aka, by me myself at a previous occasion. Even then. The whole concept seems fraught with peril. Milk, clams, potatoes, onions . . . I'm sure there is a long and storied history of how this came to be a beloved American dish, but I'm thinking that the real genius of the soup world is the inventor of the oyster cracker. Now there's a dish no one can screw up.


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