Monday, January 20, 2014

Scratching an Itch

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.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

A Short, Incomplete List of Books Read in 2013

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?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Big Haul, Big Pumpkin in 3 Acts

The Opening Scene:  In the morning, in the car, on our way from dropping the children off at school, and on our way to work, my driver husband had his eyes on the road, and from the passenger seat, my little dumpster eyes glanced side wise and spied a big round pumpkin on the neatly placed on the black lid of a garbage can.  Someone had lovingly discarded their autumnal decor.  It sat waiting for its second chance, perhaps as pies, cookies, or quick breads.  Certainly looked luscious to be enough for all 3 kinds of baked goods. Practical as I am, and as my husband much as appreciates my finds (sometimes), I felt I couldn't ask him to pull over. Previously I experienced his irritation at the possibility of being late. He is as punctual as he is kind.  I didn't want to break one sterling quality and test another. I took note of the pumpkin's location about a half block south of my mother's house.

In the Work Place:  Long story short: I applied myself 110%.  As I was preparing to leave, I took stock of various plastic bags.  I took a selection of medium and large, the largest being a new, thick, black contractor's garbage bag with handles. Overkill? or just the ticket?

In the Alley: Yay! The Pumpkin was still there--perfect in every way. A light dusting of snow set off its rotund beauty.  It was Big, possibly Great, and definitely Heavy, yes, Heavier than I imagined.  I opened up the black bag, enveloped the sides, lifted left and right to heft it in, drew the strings closed shut.  I picked it up, oh, man, by the strings in my left hand, by the curved stump/handle in my right.  The weight of it drew me down, down, down.  I tried cradling the left side, but the girth taxed my arm.  I struggled along, stepping up onto the steep sidewalk, past the house that set out its offering, across the seemingly, endless street to the next corner.  Arms trembling, I set my burden down on the thinly snow covered sidewalk, so close and yet so far.  I could see my mother's house from here 10? 15? houses away.

The snow cover seemed to be pretty consistent.  I decided to pull along my sweet burden along, still heavy, but gliding, well, except for another alley that was a little dry, and a sidewalk not swept of leaves, but still gliding most of the way. No known witnesses. I carried the pumpkin down one flight of steps one or 2 steps at a time, and glided for a stretch through the gangway, up another flight of stairs.  At the side door I saw the bag had abraded away, the skin was intact.  My mother brought a giant stainless steel bowl and she pulled it the rest of the way in.

Epilogue:  Yet to come.  I imagine cutting and freezing is in store for at least part of the pumpkin and cooking and baking for another subsection.

A pumpkin cookie recipe written by an ex-boyfriend on the yellowed inside of the back cover of my copy of the Joy of Cooking. I don't know his source.  His mother made excellent sweet potato pies.  One Thanksgiving, she brought 2, over the weekend she made 4 more and we ate them all.  If I had the recipe for those I would share it.  Pumpkin would make a good stand in I suppose.  But her recipe, like its talented maker, is long lost.  In any case, her son's cookies were yummy:

Pumpkin Walnut Cookies

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream together 1 c butter, 1 c sugar;
add  1 c cooked pumpkin, 1 egg, 1 t vanilla;
sift and add 2 c all-purpose flour, 1 t double-acting baking powder,
1/2 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt, 1 t cinnamon, 1/2 t allspice;
stir in 1 c chopped nuts;
drop on well-greased sheet for 15 min (that seems a little long?)


Also for your enjoyment a pumpkin variation on turnip pulling folktale:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHkuZKAW7bs

and a zillion other pumpkin recipes
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pumpkin+recipes&sm=1

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Recollections from the basement

Skinny skeleton keys taken away by the sellers, needed for sentimental reasons?
Comics stored away, forgotten, then re found. 
Doorknobs and old hardware tossed by my mother to make room,
scavenged by a passerby in the alley. Metal and fabric blinds tossed.
She thought them useless and old.
Steep stairs going down, the last one a doozy.

One time in the dark, I fell into a half a pig that still needed to be cut up.
The pull light was on the far side of that pig. My mother bought and transported half a cow, later cut into unrecognizable sections not matching those on any chart, often boiled.  My favorite part was the soft gelatinous oxtail cooked in a barley soup.  An uncle broke the marble counter cutting up the cow. A tall freezer packed full with white papered bundles.  The abundance made me feel safe as far as knowing where our next meaty dinner was coming from.

My little brothers set a phone book on fire, thankfully on the concrete floors, the blaze not reaching the wooden walls.  My screams and a bucket of water doused their enthusiasm.

The laundry room painted in a deep, chalky turquoise.  Matchbox hanging on the wall, with a decal of a little housewife merrily sweeping. A white Styrofoam floaty with a red horse's head, worn on a day I saw a giant silver fish jump high over the water on Lake Michigan. A sled for going down the hill at Humboldt Park. Charming old decals on the windows, a Dutch girl, a wooden potty chair, dresser, jars on the shelves. 

Wringer washer for a time in our kitchen, floral cozy sewn to measure, then in the basement.  Filled with hot soapy water, whites washed first, wrung out through the rollers, placed in first of 2 rinse waters in 2 compartment cement sink, rinsed and wrung out by hand  twice, hung up to dry on clotheslines outside if the weather was fair, or on the clotheslines in the "big" room in the basement near the water heaters.  Sometimes, outside, then inside, then outside again as the weather changed.  Drove me batty. Subsequent loads of colors, socks, then the dirtiest work clothes, water darkened and blackened with each load.  Washer chugged.  My brothers threw out the old washer in the 1980s and bought my mother a new one.  She regretted losing the wringer washer and the ability to reuse the same water for multiple loads.

A couple years ago, a man whose family owned the building before my parents, returned to visit.  He asked for a purple brick with lettering from the patio for remembrance.  His older, very frail friend took pictures with his Leica.  I was worried for him on the uneven steps in leading to the alley. 

Another, earlier time, my mother spoke to a stranger by the viaduct north of her house.  Turn out that his family lived there.  He sent her a picture of the house as it was during the Depression years.  A long-haired boy in a white shirt riding a tricycle was our visitor.  Showed the same stained glass window on the second floor.  Storefront with big windows, display of apple bins.  Proprietress in an apron, sitting in front.  a child skipping rope.  Very few, very bulky cars parked in front.  Most jobs were walking distance in factories.
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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Childhood Regrets--Treasures Lost and Found

Most of my regrets stem from things that I remember that slipped away.

Starting in the attic:  My mother and father bought their house in the mid-1960s.  There was an old storefront with a 4-room apartment in the back, on the second floor there were two 4-room apartments, on the top and attic with a slanty roof and a mansard front.  The compartments under the eaves held treasures from the family who lived there previously.  One such object of wonder, multiples actually, were pink crepe party hats, tassel on the top, with gold paper trim around the rim, and a rubber band to fit under your chin.  Inside was a cardboard pull that popped a cap and revealed a riddle when you tugged the end.  Only a couple survive now.  Most were thrown away when my mother had a leaky roof replaced.

Also intriguing were packets of photography chemicals in packets.  Thankfully my brothers and I never ate them although it was certainly a consideration.  Postcards that would now been 100 years old with elegant, spidery handwriting, etched by fountain pens, teal stamps in the corner.  In a house my brother Iggy and I bought together, a man who lived there wrote multiple postcards home recording how many miles from home he was.  All gone.

Back at my parents, green plastic mermaid swizzle sticks or toothpicks? for olives?, "naughty" playing cards--red lipsticked girl in skimpy aqua nightie, a plaster statue of a ballerina.  Tenants left behind other things-- 2 lamps with plaster floral bases, each flower with a small light bulb, little shop of horrors-esque. My mother's books, my father's war medals in an altar like construction of his that I disassembled and couldn't put back together, a soft teal, leaf-patterned, wool tug underfoot.  Letters from relatives in Poland that took 2 weeks to arrive sections censored out, from an aunt in England asking many questions about grocery prices, daily activities as my dad's last brother and his family contemplated emigrating to the United States. Formal photographs of my father etched with the retouching notes from the photographer. what else?  Bow ties, one worn in the formal photo, blue tie with silver tread, the sheerest cotton voile shirt,  many of my father's clothes were given away--a navy overcoat remade to fit my tall, thin brother who had his same first name.

Skipping over the middle and down the steep stairs into the basement:  A compound regret of mine, smashing an old, tin train with a brick until it was totally crushed looking, then curiosity satisfied, and guilt activated, sneaking out into the alley and throwing it into a metal garbage drum.  Regret averted:  Busting my brothers while they were playing with matches and setting phone books on fire.  I doused the flames and diverted them from further arsonist activity. 

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Selection of Misconceptions Held by Young Minds, A List

I used to think that every serious or dramatic film was essentially a documentary, ie, a film about Abraham Lincoln, someone was there at every dramatic turn film in events as they unfolded.  John Wayne had a busy life certainly.  Funny how he kept turning up. I think I must've felt cheated when I found out events were recreated. 

My fantasy life was richly fed by Grimm's fairy tales, Gilligan's Island, and I Dream of Jeannie.
I believed in magic, miracles that saved one from a dire situation at the last moment, happy endings.

I thought that adults would be uniformly kind.

My first boyfriend used to think that the dark brown rubber leg pads, put under furniture legs to protect the floor were made of chocolate.

My mother thought we would always be small.  I thought she would always stay the same age, but I was also wary, I thought she would die once she reached the same age my father was when he died.

I thought there would always be something to graduate from or to, that each year would repeat like a song on a record that skipped.  I liked the structure of school for that reason.

Another boyfriend believed that everyone would like him if he were thin.  One summer in high school he lost weight and was surprised his peers were still cruel to him.  These were the same kids in his rural community that tortured insects and animals for "fun."

Yet another boyfriend, when he was 3 years old, looked forward to the day he'd be a grown up.  He was under the impression that adults understood each others' intentions, motivations, and generally knew what was going on.  Disappointingly and in continued frustration, he found that it was not that the fellow travelers theory was not the case. 

He also thought having a girlfriend would mean he wasn't gay. When I met him, I thought he was gay.  Then I thought I must've been wrong because he was seeing 2 other girls.  His trademark signoff for ending a phone call was, " I don't want to be rude to my guest."  He said that to me on the phone and to others while I was visiting.  That engaged my competitive spirit and I became determined to "win."

I thought there would be a moment when I knew I was an adult.  I still feel every age I've ever been, 3, 9, 23, 32, yup all of those.  When I had my son, an aunt told me now you'll know what worry is. Curse? or Affirmation of adulthood?  I love in Harvey Pekar's Another Day when he declares as a middle-aged man who successfully unplugged a toilet, "Today I am a man!"  He couldn't bring himself to do it as a young teen-ager at his bar mitzah.

I also think of myself as every weight I ever was, or the potential to return to a certain weight, surprised when clothes not longer fit.

A male cousin thought girls wouldn't have cramps if they let themselves fart at will.




 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weird but good green smoothie

Pretty easy and good way of incorporating atypical organic ingredients.

We have a subscription for a weekly box of organic produce (mostly vegetables) from an organic farm about 2 hours away from our city.  This week we received a small yellow fleshed watermelon.  I sliced it up, but the flesh was a little bland and Clement put off by the yellow and the many seeds. 

So I put the
seedy watermelon flesh,
green rind,
golden silk tassels from corn (also from the farm),
2 heaping tablespoons of honey,
covered with water
in the Vitamix blender  and whirred away until everything was pulverized, 
I stopped once to push the tassels lower. 

The result was a light green frothy, foamy, pleasantly sweet concoction.





The ground seeds settled at the bottom and in the end I just decided to toss them, I suppose I could have saved to use in cookies instead of nuts.

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