Friday, March 30, 2012

Today in pictures.

this is the test print. it worked.
we will have a chapbook.
Today began with struggle: to get up, to get motivated for the day, to fit in all the things that needed to happen in class. When you meet just one day a way, and you're in the thick of a project, sometimes your so-called "lesson plan" is as grass, in the Biblical sense, i.e., it is toast.

But then, sometimes good things come of the lesson plan
that came to naught. For instance, the layout works and the students talking to the printer make the transition from layout to document that will print the way it's supposed to. Which means that we have a go on our thick project, i.e., we have a chapbook.
"I triumphed over Adobe."

This is the person who made the layout work. She is a student and she has a bright future ahead of her.
The bright sun signifies that things
got a little hazy. You can see that, right?

Now, after that triumph, things get hazy. I know I ate a sandwich, and I know I went to a meeting, and then another meeting. I also know that I went to Tulie and had a cookie with an old friend, and then I drove downtown to have dinner with the historian. And then: a movie.

We saw Salmon Fishing on the Yemen. It was basically Big Miracle, but on the Yemen. With salmon instead of whales. Frankly, I loved it. Don't judge. Ewan MacGregor = good.

who knows what manner of false blossom? 

Also, it is spring. Which makes all of the above feel a little more blissful.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Delicate tracery.

Go here to see a map of wind patterns (via kottke).

If you click on the link above, you'll see the
whole U.S. And the wind patterns are moving.

Go here to see geotagged maps of photographs taken by locals and tourists in various cities (Eric Fischer on flickr).

Locals and Tourists #5 (GTWA #20): Tokyo
Satellite images culled from Google Maps.

Genghis Khan, in Mongolia.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I really, really want.

Today, after rummaging in my purse for this and that and the other thing, I obtained my two (2!) notebooks and maybe a pen, and then, while rummaging in one or the other of the notebooks for some, you know, notes, I found this list:

The above says WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT (sorry for the reverse view), and the rest of the list goes like this:

  • a new car--My New Camry. [< this was in the dark days (after the carwreck, before the purchase of MNC).] 
  • plant tulips. [< done.]
  • go to Venice in the wintertime 
  • desert
  • house/yard in order for winter
  • cooler cover
  • lightbulbs
  • tulips
  • another lamp in BR
vacuum cleaner
sweep in BR
wash couch covers once a week

[ goes on like this for quite awhile. Can it be that what I really really want is lightbulbs? a cooler cover? to sweep in BR? what madness is this? ...]

oven--other stove element
4 burner tops
light over stove?

[SRSLY. ...but wait, new category:]

desert house
Anasazi trip
Mississippi River

Thank goodness for that second list! 

Apparently, what I really really want on the one hand is an orderly house, with a stove with four burners and a light over it, and on the other hand, I really really want to gallivant, but mainly in America.

But today what I really really really wanted was this:
  • to go home and take off my shoes.
  • to have my grading be done.
  • to have Mexican food show up at my doorstep.
  • to have one magical day appear between Wednesday and Thursday, a day that no one knows about, a day that is not on any calendars.
  • and come to think about it, to have a stove with four burners and a light over it.
Also, probably,
  • an iPad.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Megastore recommends.

Órale, epazote.
1. Ingredients. When you're searching for a thing to cook--a lovely dish, a delicious dish, a scintillating dish that will reinvent eating--do not be turned away by the exotic ingredient. In fact, the dish with the odd ingredient, the thing you have never heard of, that is the very dish you should try. At Christmas time, I constructed a whole meal out of stuff I hadn't made before--it's my thing, as I like to live dangerously when I've invited 20 kajillion people over, to make an enchilada sauce previously unknown to man and guava cherry crisp and corn with epazote. What is epazote, I asked myself? An herb? a vegetable? a spice?  I looked very carefully in the shelves of the Latino foods at my local supermarket. I examined all the stuff at Whole Foods. Denied. So I went to the Latino supermarket, a woman on the prowl, but one who was too proud to consult with the people about epazote. I found it in the produce section, in a bunch, dark green and smelling faintly like gasoline. I chopped it up, as my recipe told me to, and put it in with the corn, and that corn was just about the most delicious corn known to man. See? the power of ingredients.

2. Staying in. When it's blustery outside, and you could go out to get the work done, but you could also stay in to get the work done, why not stay in? Why not turn the heat up a little, and cozy up in a chair, and work where it's warm?

(Not my vegetarian chili.)
3.  Leftovers. Last night we had baked potatoes with vegetarian chili and steamed broccoli and fattoush for the zillionth time. Also purchased baguette. And purchased tiny little ice cream sandwiches, because: tiny, delicious, and why not? Today, there were: leftover baked potatoes, leftover vegetarian chili, leftover steamed broccoli. (I ate the leftover fattoush for lunch. Perfect.) So we had dinner the second time, reheating as we went, and it was easy and thus fantastic after a long day of work and not enough sleep the night before. I cannot recommend enough the having of leftovers. It makes life much, much better. The only problem with leftovers is, once they've been eaten, you have to cook again. Who has the energy for that, after a long day of work and not enough sleep. It's a puzzler, to be sure.

good mother stallard beans, and don't
you forget it.
4. And speaking of chili, and ingredients, may I recommend Fancy heirloom dried beans? I have purchased Rancho Gordo beans two different times when I was in NoCal, Sonoma County and/or Napa County. Each time I have been extra delighted with them. Beans, yo: perhaps the humblest ingredient of all, but good ones make a difference. Treat yo' self to the Cadillac of legumes, the people, and you will not regret it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Birds of America.

When I look at all the pictures I've taken over the last few years, they fall into the following categories:

  1. grandchildren
  2. children
  3. the historian
  4. flowers
  5. the sky
  6. birds
  7. graffiti and street signs
  8. art
I'm not sure I have any explanation for these categories, or if I need one. I love these pictures, in all the categories, and looking through them is a window into what that day was like--that particular sky, the light, the location, the specific birds. I also feel a certain exhilaration in capturing a bird, any bird, in the frame. Even if the capture is blurry--it conveys speed. 

Palm Canyon

Tanager (Idaho)

Tanager (Idaho)

L.A. River, Glendale Narrows

Palm Canyon 

Along the river walk, L.A. River, Glendale Narrows

Palm Canyon

L.A. River, Glendale Narrows

L.A. River, Glendale Narrows

Island Park, Idaho

Harriman State Park, Railroad Ranch Bridge

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Over spring break, I

cooked 3 fancy meals for people other than my immediate family
ate Mexican food 3 times (at least--this statistic seems a little low)
read 3 novels
revised 2 manuscripts
removed 8 poems from one or the other of these manuscripts
attended 1 literary event
saw 4 movies
ate fattoush 2 times
not uncoincidentally, ate at Mazza 2 times
saw 12 different friends in various configurations
ate 1 pain au chocolat at Tulie--sublime!
bought 1 pair of shoes
cleared 2 sacksful of clothes/shoes out of my closet
graded a very tiny amount
thought about school many times
did almost nothing concrete re school
currently experiencing massive anxiety about what I have to do before the semester ends.

(thx Middlebrow for the idea)

Mad Men YES.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear after the retreat,

I am feeling a little blue. It's to be expected, after a retreat, but somehow I never do expect it--after this kind of intense, focused experience, a little exhilarating, I come back to my life and I have questions like these to answer:

  • what kind of writer am I, anyway?
  • have I squandered all or just most of my opportunities?
  • will I ever make anything worthwhile?
etcetera, questions I think we can agree are not particularly productive when asked in an after-the-retreat blue period.

So I did the sensible thing: I carried out a crafts-imperative. And no, I am not speaking of my writing craft, I am speaking of going to Michael's to buy gesso, acrylic paints, and a fixative so that I could turn a pair of uninspiring loafers into gold loafers. As in: I painted my shoes.

I bought the shoes below online. They are perfect in every way except the color which I somehow thought would be creamier, more delicious, more go-with-everything. Instead they were simultaneously mobster-in-Miami and grungy:

Practically, this means that I almost never wore these shoes. Yet I hesitated to give them away. They were--and this is meaningful in my shoe wardrobe--comfortable. Would the color grow on me? Would I fall in love with them over time? Could I somehow change their color? Could I paint them?

I looked it up on the internet, after having inquired of my daughter (who had spray painted some pumpkins in a brilliant and very shiny fashion at Halloween) as to whether she advised spray paint for shoes. She said I should look it up on the internet, which I did (see above). I found these instructions, which is what sent me up to Michael's.

Before I started, though, the historian called me out to see this in the front garden:

"I think it might be safer in the other flower bed," he said.

"I don't know if I like being married to a snake handler," I said, as he picked the snake up and put it in the ivy, where it flipped its tail in an insouciant manner as it disappeared.

Back to the shoes:

These (above) are gessoed. Gesso prepares the surface so it will take the paint.

I was going for a rose gold thing, so I bought bronze paint (iridescent) and some pink paint. No dice. This led to a dull bronze color. Lovely, but not quite gleam-y enough. So I added another coat of bronze:

I let it dry. Then I sprayed it with a fixative:

I know. I had mobster-in-Miami, now I have whatever this is. Which I am, honestly, in love with. Gold shoes! The best! 

After the retreat, I think wearing gold shoes will put me in a better position for considering my artistic future.



Friday, March 23, 2012


I would like to complain about the movie we saw tonight, but the thought of complaining about it just makes me too tired. So much stuff  getting blown up. So many car chases. So much shooting. So much/little 'comedy.'

Instead, I am going to praise three things:

1. polka dot Converse sneakers. I bought them. For myself.
2. striped boat neck tee shirts. So colorful (the link is not to the actual shirts I want to praise, because there is, inexplicably, no link to those shirts. I'm blaming the movie.).
3. fattoush. I ate it for lunch.

That is all I've got, America. That is all. I am going to read the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy, which should be more uplifting.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I determined, a few weeks ago, that during spring break I would set aside two days/nights to work on my manuscripts. This determination survived my return from Philadelphia, which found me whiny and panicked about the work I had to do, and also fairly certain that I did not want to spend any more nights apart from the historian.

But as I looked around me at my house, and thought about how fun it would be to just putter around,  sorting through stuff, making toast, telling myself each morning how I would 'write' and 'grade,' I realized that if, indeed, I did want to work on those manuscripts, I would probably get more serious work done if I left. If I, in fact, retreated.

So I did. I took a room at a local motel and holed up in here like a poetry-writing motel-rat. Here's how it's gone:

  1. I am considering yet again another title change for my first manuscript. The title, which I have had for the longest, longest time, Hymn, has a religious connotation that I (a) mean, but (b) fear is shaping all my unknown readers' responses in the most simple-minded possible ways. Am I underestimating my readers? The reason this manuscript has not been published is the title, right? That's the only possible explanation. The last time I changed the title of this manuscript, I re-named it something so entirely abstruse that it got me absolutely no traction (again, assuming that it was the title that made the difference). Anyway, right now I am hovering on a title that I like, but am not sure about and I am certainly not going to jinx it by naming it on this blog, except to say that it can signify 'a wavering, unsteady flame' and 'a North American woodpecker.' If you can (a) guess this title, I would (b) be interested in hearing if you think it's any good, especially if you happen to be a person who has read this manuscript on one or another of its iterations.
  2. I rearranged the poems in this manuscript, creating new sequences and new threads of logic thereby.
  3. I awoke at 4:30 a.m. with the absolute certainty that that new arrangement was terrible.
  4. I could not sleep.
  5. I got up at 5:30 and restored the old arrangement, mostly, with several much subtler changes.  Phew.
  6. About 7:45 a.m., I thought, wow, I am tired because I woke up at 4:30 a.m. all anxious about my manuscript and my terrible revision. Maybe I will close my eyes for a few minutes.
  7. At noon, I awoke. Talk about your retreats.
  8. Breakfast at noon. The shame.
  9. I spent the afternoon going through that manuscript like a monkey grooms its mate.
  10. It is good. Except I'm not sure about the title.
  11. Manuscript 2: I have taken out weak poems, substituted more muscular, fresh poems. So far the title stays. I also know that I have plenty more revision and refining to do for this manuscript.
In the morning I will probably go print them both and take another look. Then I will go home and 'grade.'

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Open letter to talk radio.

Dear talk radio,

Today, as I was driving downtown, I tuned into you, as I often do. All the day long, when I'm in the car, listening to NPR wall-to-wall, because sometimes I like to hear news stories before I read about them on Facebook, as educated people are wont to want to do.

And, talk radio, I am grateful for the up-to-the-minute-ness of you, the way you let me hear a conversation between a usually-urbane and relatively sophisticated host and a guest of interest. I generally feel edified by these conversations. Today, in fact, your guest was talking away about old school computers and how new school computers basically have the same memory architecture and are, therefore, just about the most inefficient machines there are. What a provocative observation! As I pulled up to the stop light, I sat up a little, the better to pay attention.

But at that moment, talk radio, I--we all, in fact--experienced anew the fly in the ointment, the flaw in your design: it will never just be a gripping dialogue between the sophisticated and the interesting. No, no: just as the urbane and the fascinating really get going, really kick the conversation into high gear, the host utters these words: "Let's hear what our callers have to say."

Today, the first caller began by talking about the first computer she ever saw, back in the olden days of yore, when there were vacuum tubes and what not, and so she turned to her friend and said, "Well I never!" and that's when I turned off the radio. Because, talk radio, I just can't stand the voices of America when they want to weigh in like this, all waiting on the line for their chance to chat away to millions. I want to feel good about the voices of America, but it's tricky, talk radio: when they want to expostulate and anecdote-ate, when they never have a question but always have a story, that's when I just want to turn the voices of America off.

Talk radio, I can't exactly blame you. I know the callers just want to be a part of the conversation. But can't they just talk back to the radio, like a normal person?



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Re-views: a review.

Today I saw The Descendants with Dr. Write, the second time I've seen it (the first viewing was with the Historian). I thought it was every bit as good the second time, and that got me thinking about how many movies I see more than once, and why, and also what movies I deliberately seek out to re-view. And why. This may be a reflective post, so hang on.

My movie-going partners are a somewhat fractured bunch. I like, as readers of this blog well know, to see at least two movies a week--I feel robbed of something essential in my life if I don't. "I want to see all the movies," I declared to the historian while he was reading the paper, sometime during Christmas break. But the fact is, I don't want to subject him to some of the movies I want to see, or would enjoy seeing, or frankly would feel more complete if I had seen. He doesn't enjoy superhero movies or most action movies or sci fi or fantasy. I used to see movies with my kids quite a bit, but they've scattered. I typically see kid-oriented movies with them and the grandkids, with an occasional other movie thrown in for good measure. Sometimes that's a re-view. And finally, I see movies, here and there, with friends--trashy dance movies or romantic comedies or (sometimes) vulgar comedies.

If I were to draw a picture of my movie-going, it would look a little something like this:

In those overlapping areas, that's where a lot of the re-viewing happens.

Some movies I have re-viewed in the past year:

  • Bridesmaids--once with the historian, once with my oldest darling friend, once with a new friend (at Brewvies--actually, "at Brewvies" is a tag that often goes with re-viewing).
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--once with the historian, once with that same new friend (at Brewvies).
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love--once with the historian, once with my daughter.
  • Midnight in Paris--once with my oldest darling friend, once with the historian and friends.
  • Morning Glory--once with the historian, once with my daughter.
  • Horrible Bosses--funny both times, once with the historian, once with...?
  • The Guard--both times with the historian, that's how much we liked it.
  • Our Idiot Brother--once with the historian, once with friends, though I can't remember exactly which viewing came first.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows--once with historian, once with kids.
  • We Bought a Zoo--once with daughter, once with historian.
That is a lot of re-viewing, honestly, but it leaves aside entirely the movies that I've seen over and over again, deliberately, because they are my favorites and because they give me endless pleasure and/or in some way formed me, or because watching them is a family ritual:
  • from when I was a child: The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins--in fact, I had a great big Julie Andrews thing, i.e. crush. 
  • I adored Cabaret when I was in high school, a love which carried over into forever. I have the soundtrack on LP. I also loved Annie Hall and A Touch of Class (George Segal and Glenda Jackson).
  • I re-watched The Last Waltz in a theater on University Avenue, showing upon showing, in downtown Provo.
  • With my children and nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters I have watched What About Bob?, Groundhog Day, Raising Arizona, and Home Alone more times than I can mention.
  • I went back to the theater by myself to see Mrs. Soffel (tragic Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson, directed by Gillian Armstrong omg the humanity!) and Jerry Maguire, yes, I admit it.
  • The historian and I will stop what we are doing and watch for minutes or, you know, the rest of the movie, when The Station Agent, A Few Good Men, and You've Got Mail (which--underappreciated!--has killer little Dave Chappelle segments that are entirely worth showing up for) come on cable.
There are times when I would rather go back to the theater to watch a movie a second time than see something new, even if it's worthy.

The other night, we re-viewed a movie from the 90s that Bill Murray directed, Quick Change. My kids had watched it the previous evening, and one of them remembered that I'd loved it all those many years ago. So we pulled it up and watched it. It wasn't great, really, but the parts that were very funny from back then were still funny now, and it gave me great pleasure to see them again. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring light and dark and snow.

Bruiser is fascinating, just fascinating. 
two noble profiles.


what do these tags say, exactly? 
spring snow. 
spring snow, some more.

I love spring snow, I just love it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


For brunch, Saturday morning:

  • decide, finally, that I'm going to make orange rolls. So,
  • at 11 p.m., I get up and make the dough.
  • I soften the yeast in a small bowl and set aside. Meanwhile
  • I melt some butter and heat some milk and whip some eggs, then
  • add the required flour, beat, and add flour a little at a time.
  • Wonder if the dough doesn't seem a little stiff.
  • I notice the yeast sitting in its little bowl to the side, just as you're adding the last cup of flour.
  • So I pour that softened yeast over the dough that will never rise unless I can make the yeast, somehow, incorporate.
  • Work that yeast in like it's my job. With my hands. Gently, so I don't make the dough too gluten-y.
  • Success! I hope. Put the dough in the refrigerator and say a small prayer to the gods of yeast.
  • Make the orange filling.
Get up the next morning and roll out/shape the rolls. Perhaps the dough is a little...funny. But with great faith, slice the rolls and put them in muffin tins and go to the store for other stuff.

Did you think this story wouldn't have a happy ending? Well, it did. I made precisely twice as many rolls as I actually needed, which meant I could send some home with both families who came to breakfast. Brunch, I mean.

For writing group, Sunday noon:
  • I decide to make an olive oil cake with grapefruit juice/zest. This recipe appealed...I'm not sure why. Olive oil cake? grapefruit? seemed a little unlikely, and therefore perhaps--piquant? 
  • It turns out this cake is easy, because you don't have to beat the butter to make it fluffy. You just 
  • zest two grapefruits, and rub the zest into the sugar,
  • then add eggs and olive oil and grapefruit juice (squeezed from the zested grapefruits) and buttermilk,
  • whip it with a whisk,
  • and add flour--white wheat flour and regular unbleached, along with leavenings.
Seriously, that's it.
  • You can bake it in a bundt pan,
  • but I thought it might be a tricky unmolding,
  • since the batter was a little thin. So:
  • loaf cake.
  • Its glaze is grapefruit juice and brown sugar and confectioners' sugar,
  • and I decided I'd also serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche, sweetened with a little brown sugar.
It was delicious, and we ate it with tea.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Time management.

Today, at 3:45 p.m., I said to my beloved, "Do you want to go to The King's English for Ann's thing?"

"Ann's thing" is a launch party for my friend Ann Cannon's new picture book Sophie's Fish. I thought I would buy a copy for each of the grandchild units and it would be a lovely thing altogether.

How did I know about Ann's book launch party? Why, I read about it on her blog. This is why I was so bemused by the event that was actually happening at The King's English, not a book launch party for Ann but an event with another writer entirely.

So I took out my smart phone and checked her blog, which assured me that the event would be next Saturday. Next.

"It's all because, when I bought my little agenda for 2012, I accidentally ordered the wrong size. It's too little." I went on to explain that, instead of getting another one, I basically made a Word document with all the dates of the semester on it, and events and what not, printed it out, and carried it in my purse. Except when I had it in my computer bag or somewhere else. And I think we can all agree that a list of dates, not a calendar, makes it harder to visualize a scheme of events, for instance, rather than just one damn day after another.

This may also explain how I mislaid two events that happened to coincide recently, so that when I was reminded by my daughter in one case, and my husband in another, I still didn't realize that the two events were happening on the same evening, at the same time.

"So what shall we do?" we asked ourselves, standing outside of The King's English. We considered going to a movie, but felt that our options were possibly too depressing (A Separation, Rampart) on the one hand, and too junky (21 Jump Street, Casa de mi Padre) on the other. (not that I am at all opposed to junk.) Also, we were tired. Or I was tired. But we needed dinner, probably, and maybe a little something to do beforehand?

We went to Weller's, i.e. Weller's Book Works. I'm not sure what that name signifies. It's hard not to feel like Weller's has taken a step down from former glory in its new space; yet we spent a happy hour there. I have a bunch of new books I would like to read, some of which I am drawn to because of their well-designed and/or attractive covers:

I, too, read books when I was a child,
Marilynne Robinson.

Gary Shteyngart said he lol'd at this book.
Good enough for me.
I have a little thing about the Roma.

possibly a little witchy? I certainly hope so.
Definitely witchy.

Not sure why this and the next two photos
have that weird disinformation on the right hand
side. But obviously I should read this.
She also wrote The Elegance of the
This book is supposed to have
lots of food in it. Yay!

That's The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine.
Doesn't that sound compelling? Yes, it does.

Maybe this is good, but this same author (according
to the cover) wrote another book called Looking
for Alaska
 which is right up my alley, I bet.

I found this and the previous book in the YA

I was looking for another poetry book which
I couldn't find, but this looks pretty good, frankly.

Who knows if this is any good? Maybe, though.

Michael Chabon, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to not only read but to have this book.

But at the end of the day, the book I bought was the actual size of agenda I should have bought in the first place, and when I ordered the wrong size, should have purchased in the second place, but failed to. And the good news was, because of my failures to buy the right thing in the first and second places, I bought this in mid-March, when it was 50% off. Score! 

I am hoping this will help me order my life. Just like everything else I buy.

See? elegant, and a bargain.

This is what the historian bought.

He is quite pleased with it.


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