stories without a point, pointed sticks, jokes without punchlines, sputtering angry outbursts, ephemeral whatnots, wispy thoughts, sad regrets, dreams of spring, nostalgia for childhood lost, nosy neighbors, noisy neighbors, what the neighbors left behind when they moved, whiskers on kittens, stuff that was stolen, art that was found, misty water colored memories of the way things were, raindrops on eyelashes, foreign body lodged in lower eyelid, cluttered bookshelves, cabinet of curiosities
My dear daughter,Wisteria, came back from a summer camp field trip to an arcade--something along the lines of Enchanted Haunted Castle and Trails. She came back with a bulging sack of candy and trinkets, reporting a great time with her buddy Lexi. She said they after they spent up their designated tokens, they went a-scavenging in the dark corners and under machines for fallen tokens. She used her phone as a flashlight and he scooped up $20-30 dollars worth of tickets that they spent up on the objects of their desire.
You are wholly, merrily engaged, reading, drawing, (cough), engaged with the internet, when surprise, surprise, surprise, your Spidey sense tingles, a vague forboding, a slight discomfort, your vision dims, you look up and lo, the apartment is full of smoke. It may be that in baking a potato, you forgot a dish of chopped coconut in the broiler--what was it doing there? Good question Chumly. Explain that to the truck load of handsome firemen coming to the door you opened to let the smoke billow out. Thanks neighbors for watching out. Or maybe you thought you were turning on the fire under the hot water kettle looking forward to a nice cup of tea. Except you absentmindedly turned on the empty, buttery griddle that you made grilled cheese in for your eldest, cheese-loving child until said pan blackens. Will Bon Ami really help you out?
Oh, never, you say? Well, (cough), good for you. Don't let this happen to you in the future, yeah?
Several years ago in San Francisco, we missed seeing Robert Plant in a free concert in
Golden Gate (?) Park because we had to spend hours returning a rental car to the airport.
If we read the fine print we would have noticed the neighborhood drop off place was closed that day and would have arrange to drop it there the next day. I pined away thinking the closest I would come to the presence of Mr. Plant was a secondhand encounter. My coworker one day found herself walking behind a long-haired and very handsome man on a downtown street. Sometimes you can tell someone is gorgeous without even seeing his/her face. She enjoyed the moment all the more when he turned around. Sometimes you can feel someone eyes drinking you in.
My only encounter of walking behind a famous person and the faded, worn seat of his cotton pants happened near the Steppenwolf Theater, the known clotheshorse? John Malkovich.
Imagine my happiness and delight when we had an opportunity to attend a Robert Plant concert in our own hometown. Those emotions were tempered with cigarette and other smokes of the fellow attendees, the whooping of a nearby gentleman who was attempting to has his voice carry to the far off stage, and the misery of my 10-year-old daughter who thankfully went the distance. We heard all my favorite songs with the exception of "Stairway to Heaven" which he declined to perform.
This is not our tree. This is not our living room. This pretty tree appears momentarily in a free ad in our local Craigslist. Free listings like pine needles expire quickly.
One of my favorite heirlooms is a silvery aluminum table top tree from a great aunt and great uncle. It was a treat to visit their bungalow, feeling enveloped in their pink and black tiled kitchen and coordinating bathroom, their sun porch housed a collection of pinned butterflies under glass. Their home was a time capsule of the 1940 and 1950s in the 1960s when I was a little girl. I was fascinated, the only other kind of butterflies I had seen were the live ones that landed softly on me in the prairie grasses in countryside around St. Charles.
Where is that countryside now? Buried under concrete, asphalt, and malls. One statistic states that only 1/100 of 1 percent of the original prairie and oak savanna exist, that's like one penny out of 100 dollars. Mostly around railroad tracks and desolate Illinois cemeteries. Where are the butterflies? In my memory, and hopefully in the fringes. My aunt and uncle also live on in my memories. Also their nippy chihuahua, he does not rest so quietly. An annoyed and vengeful neighbor of my uncle's poisoned his dog in retribution for dog droppings in the alley.
As for the tree is with us, quietly waiting in a large box, waiting for it's moment to shine. The silver branches push into a wooden pole with drilled angled holes. The stand is padded with paper to hold the thin stalk upright. Shiny deep blue and green balls sparkle, a rotating color wheel, prone to overheating, a gift from a coworker, shines up glowingly, alternately blue, green red.
My dear, unsentimental children sadly regard this little tree as second rate. They request a live tree. Stubbornly, I am loathe to purchase one. I silently begrudged the salesperson in the hardware store parking lot the $35 my husband paid one year. Since then we freecycled one away from a professor who was getting ready to travel home Christmas week, one Craigslist free section posting of freshly cut one in a nearby alley (it was inaccurately advertised as 10-feet tall, which probably discouraged others from investigating), one I dragged home a block or 2 a day or 2 before Christmas Eve sliding the bottom over a slippery layer of snow. It still had a personalized ornament dangling from its branches, ie, Joseph and Mary 2014, a clay couple holding hands. My husband recut the bottom, and it was fragrant and beautiful 'til I took it down after 3 Kings' Holiday.
Clement is "willing" to "compromise" with an artificial green tree, but I'll take a walk around again in our "urban forest" this weekend to see if any neighbors are divesting themselves of their trees early. I'll give a secondhand tree a second home and a place in our memories.
Addendum: Success! Midday walk to drop off coffee ground to community garden and finch food to their spot, found 3 bouquets worth of protea, hydrangea, palm fronds, purple liantris, and the highly sought after live Christmas tree, thank you neighbors ;-)
Some food-related habits/epiphanies make kitchen life more pleasant and organized. Habits like planning meals a week in advance and shopping for those ingredients. Like making 2 lasagnas and freezing one for next month. Like washing/prepping/peeling/cutting raw produce in advance so it's as easy to tuck into as junk food.
My new baking habit is about fleeting happiness in sweet, bite-sized morsels. With the cooler weather, I've been craving cookies and hot tea. I haven't had the time or inclination to bake full recipes which usually take a couple of hours and a couple of cookie sheets, and some juggling. Instead I've baked different, small batches of cookies (about 6-9) most every night.
I don't use the gas oven. The toaster oven with its little baking pan (about 8 by 10 inches) is just right.
White flour and white sugar, sweet or evil?
The glow of anticipation.
I use a loosey, goosey combination of ingredients with approximate proportions.
Different variations on different days depending on my mood.
The basic, inexact cookie "recipe":
I start with
one egg in a bowl,
add 4 pretty level tablespoons of sugar,
4 heaping tablespoons of flour,
a splash of corn oil
(it's what we happen to have, not going to play around with butter for this quickie deal).
3 variations: 1. Added clumsily chopped fresh ginger (about the size of my pinkie fingernail)
and a dash of harissa powder; 2. Added big splash of molasses and roughly chopped bar of dark chocolate (my favorite); 3. Added mashed up sweet potatoes (about 3 tiny ones and raisins), cinnamon, and nutmeg
(least favorite, I dislike overly "moist" baked goods like pumpkin pie or banana bread).
That's it, then onto parchment paper or greased foil on the little pan, 350 degrees, set timer for 10 minutes or so, add a few minutes if needed. It's pretty easy, fast, and gratifying.
Update: Sadly empty and shuttered, noticed 10/1/2014.
First the good news, American Thrift Store on Chicago Ave (1718 W.) in Chicago is having a sale on all clothes. $0.99 for each piece. I set out to look for a navy blue or black pea coat and a sweater cardigan for my 12-year-old son. Instead I found and bought a Bob Mackie 2-piece floaty, floral silk blouse and skirt set (so gorgeous, so not my size but will gift to a size 6 friend), linen pants, linen dress, merino wool sweaters this morning. My almost too heavy to carry bag was loaded up for $14.09. Outside the store perched on the edge of a garbage can was a pair of jeans, reader, I took them!
The store had lots and lots of women's and kids' clothes. Highly recommend for anyone local to check out. For men, mostly tee shirts and light jackets. No winter coats or jackets. Big rack of jeans. Didn't have the fortitude to paw through those as the store was very hot and airless.
So some happy finds and will have to keep looking for Clement's requested cool weather items.
Summer bummer: The bad news is that the store will be closing soon. I hate when that happens to some of my favorite places. So get there and shop while you still can and let me know what you find.
Can't close on a sad note, can I? Enclosed are pictures of my favorite birds, taken in February of 2014, on the grounds of a resort, Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in the Dominican Republic.
This weekend I noticed a large blue piece of fabric flapping in the wind. It was waving "Hello, come on over," above a garbage can. As my husband pulled the car into the garage, I asked him to keep the door open as I wanted to investigate. Under it was a towel, and a sleeping bag, one can over was a large floral comforter. I returned thinking surely one of the canning alley scavengers would claim the useful bedding.
This afternoon I was disappointed as things looked untouched. I felt compelled to pull out the items for a good, hot wash and dry, to be followed by a donation to a nearby food pantry. Fridays they give away donated clothing and household goods. Also I found 2 stacking plastic drawer shelf things. Washed in hot soapy water and set out on porch to dry/freeze. Satisfied that I was able to rescue the goods and relieved that I didn't have to worry about them coming to a bad end.
When I was a little girl my mother had me keep a notebook with titles of books I read. At that age I read about 10 a week, that was very easy to do as I was a child who loved nothing more than holing up at home and reading. I may go back to keeping a running list as it is hard to recollect everything I read last year, here is what I remember in any case, yes, lots of graphic novels and memoirs, a picture is worth 1000 words, at least sometimes:
1. Bad Decline in CivilWarLand, George Saunders, loved!!!!
2. Pastorlia, George Saunders, also loved!!!
3. Grow Vegetables in Pots, DK
4. Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez
5. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, Frost and Steketee
6. The Rebellion of the Beasts Or the Ass is Dead! Long Live the Ass! Leigh Hunt, loved!!!
7. What I Hate from A to Z, Roz Chast, loved, so much anxiety in a slim little book
8. Homesweet, Homegrown, Robyn Briggs
9. Make Your Place, Robyn Briggs
10. Fix Your Clothes, Robyn Briggs
11. Garden of Revelation, Beardsley
12. Why be Happy When You Could be Normal, Jeannette Winterson
13. The Well Ordered Home, Kathleen Kendal-Tackett
14. Tales of Mystery and Terror, Edgar Allen Poe
15. Grimm's Fairy Tales, read out loud at bedtime to 11-year-old son, highlight of my day xox
16. Quiet: Power of Introverts, Susan Cain
17. Vivienne Westwood, Claire Wilson
18.The New American Splendor Anthology, Harvey Pekar, loved!!!
19. Living on the Earth, A. Bay Laurel, reread most years
20. American Dress Catalogues, 1873-1909
21. What It Is, Lynda Barry
22. Picture This, Lynda Barry
23. Street, Nylon
24. Ultra Mind Solution, Mark Hyman
25. Ultra Metabolism, Mark Hyman
26. and 27. Best American Comics 2012, and 2010
28. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris
29. Shopgirl, Steve Martin
30. Alma, Gorden Burn, excellent
31. Special Exits, Joyce Farmer, so moving and anxiety making
32. Fun Home, Allison Betchel
33. Are You My Mother, Allison Betchel
34. Book of Genesis Illustrated, R. Crumb
35. Dante's Divine Comedy, Chwast
36. Topsy Turvy World, Atak
37. Autograph Man, Zadie Smith, could not finish, had high hopes, oh well
38. Wild Things, Dave Eggers, read out loud to my daughter xox
39. Dark Life, Kat Falls, read out loud to my daughter xox
40. The Girl Without Anyone, Kelly Deeth
41. The Small Garden Handbook, Abbeydale Press
42. Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Happy New Year to my readers. Always on the look out for new to me authors, any suggestions?