"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry Friday: Baking + Stress

 Happy Poetry Friday to you all! Today I am sharing a poem about catastrophe. Not all poetry is about the pretty. Sometimes there is panic and mania and life feels all at ends. It's hard to share this kind of poem. I done one other, about my sister that was this shade of vulnerable but still every little bit of open and honest about faults and weakness feels like another level of nail-biting nervous. That said, I truly believe in the feelings and the honesty that writing can bring to the world and in the bits embedded in this poem. I hope you are able to use it in small small way. 

Blueberry Papaya Cucumber Juice and Chocolate ...Image by Food Thinkers via Flickr
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Metro: Don't PanicImage by nevermindtheend via Flickr

Chocolate Cake, Balm for All Ills

It is a small private emergency, I have forgotten that I told our hostess
I will bring dessert and there is so much to do and so, so little time.
In short: the normal harried crush of motherhood.
I am having the panicky, slo-mo meltdown that I have on these occasions,
When I am asked to be a She-Atlas and also look graceful to boot.
I feel like my spleen might suddenly leave my body without my permission.
I alternately cry and curse and do a few harried circles in the kitchen.
There is no time and I promised to arrive, grinning at her front door
The diaper bag, purse and baby on one arm and a laden plate in the other
With moth-wing flutters pantry to counter, I assemble ingredients for,
What else? Chocolate cake, balm for all ills.
I don’t take the time to level the cups or even measure some items.
I sprinkle and drizzle and let powders fly in fevered tempo.
The counter, my chest and the nearby wall are bathed in cocoa dust.
The oven has somehow magically heated while I pour and mix and fling,
And yet now, the countertop is littered with dirty dishes in uneven, teetering stacks.
So, at the last, I end up on the very tile below the sink, a portrait of desperation
Holding the shining bowl between my ardent hands, I lean over the cake pan
And have my own silent confessional about housewifery, stress and other
Desperate, laden topics; principly, my urgent need for this cake to work.
Kneeling on the kitchen floor, I pour my fragrant prayer out in swirling brown eddies
Into the buttered pan, every scrape of the spatula says: ”Please. Please. Please.”
I have whirled into 5,000 Our Fathers and done all other manner of penance once
I manage to nudge the dripped upon pan into the yawning mouth of the oven.
I stay there on the floor a moment, forehead on my smudged fingers.
And I leave my prayer baking in the mercy of the God who understands the private 
Emergencies of all manner of people, even small somewhat harried housewives

If you'd like to read previous Friday creations, feel free to click on the poetry tab at the top of the page labeled "Original Verse." You can sit reading for a good while if you have a mind, the collection is ever swelling.

If you'd like to participate in Poetry Friday yourself or read a cross section of poetic inspiration please step on over to our hostess Tabatha's blog, The Opposite Of Indifference.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pizza Season

Made pizza the other night. I know that pizza is baking and that baking feels like the sort of thing one does in cold weather when the leaves are all blustering and we're battening down the hinges and making ourselves as cozy as possible. Pizza however, is different. Pizza and lemon meringue pie (although that's another blog post) are meant to be made in warm weather. I do bake pizzas on occasion in the winter but it really feels like spring and summer food for me. I think this largely has to do with the sort of things I like on pizzas.

I'm partial to asparagus tips, fresh mushrooms, crumbled goat cheeses, wilted spinach, ripe tomatoes, glowing olives and no matter what the toppings a snipping of fresh herbs is mandatory. I know that there are lots of things you can use on pizza but I can't wait to troll the farmer's markets to find the best, most gleaming produce to use. I think real pizza season begins when there are finally enough fresh herbs to snip them over the top of the pie before the wheeled cutter has it's run.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring, When the Livin' is Easy!

Today the air is heavy with suppressed humidity, the kind of weather makes the sky feel like it is hanging low and as though all the clouds are some heavy swooping blanket muffling over everything. I make it sound so grey and oppressive. Truth is that the air feels moist and swirly, there's a gentle breeze occasionally that keeps the maple branches outside all tipped with little bouquets of bright green blossoms, bowing and nodding  surprisingly at odd moments.
blooming mapleImage by ~ Martin ~ via Flickr
Maple Blossoms.
There is a kind of dark intensity to the light on this kind of a day too. Colors seem richer and more saturated without the sunlight there to wash them out into pastel versions of themselves. The air is laden with water which (scientific fact!) makes all perfumed scent from the neighborhood flowers more deep and rich, a heavy trail of sweetness sometimes whirls inexplicably in through the open window when a gust of wind hits the poet's narcissus or the pansies just the right way.

pink magnoliaImage by vinmar via Flickr

The magnolia at the end of our street is a gigantic cotton candy ball, all pink whirling petals and creamy undersides, a massive undulating mass of curve and shape and soft pastel joy. Last night when I was out running I avoided the tree until the very end of my run when I had finished pushing myself through the very last bits of reserve that I possessed. Only then did I let myself pant to a stop under the great pastel mass of a tree. I knew that if I let myself end up under those spreading baby pink branches before I was finished with my run that I would leave off, part way through, my face lifted not caring two sticks whether I finished the course or not. All else can dissolve in the presence of a tree in full bloom. What is running really when there are five thousand, thousand creamy petals littering the sidewalk and a host more poised in the air above you?

The magnolia is not the only focal point. Our apple tree opened it's first little wads of magenta, the verbena hedge between us and the neighbors is just beginning top open, our potted nectarine is an absurd stick with wads of bright tissue paper blossoms and all across our back lawn there is a rippling spill of violets, deep purple mixed with a purple veined white variety...so many more of them than I dared hope when I noticed their little rosettes of leaves in amongst the grass last fall.

Spring is my favorite. My very favorite. I feel hopeful that I can make it, that I can smell success on the wind. I know that it's supposed to be summer time "when the livin' is easy" because of the cotton being high and all but I have to say that it feels like a misdiagnosis to me, Spring is where it's at.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Muffin Love

I love muffins. I am not sure why they are such comfort food for me but they are. I know everything will be alright if I have a muffin. They can be sweet or savory, pretty much any flavor, homemade or bakery purchased, there's just something cozy and reassuring about them to me. I also love making muffins. Blueberry (wild if possible please!) and lemon poppyseed are my two deep favorites.

A thinks muffins are silly. A bizzare idea, little psuedo-cakes wrapped in annoying paper that you eat at breakfast and call appropriate. Such a waste of calories.

And yet I persist. Never one for rampant sensibility, I am not to be daunted by such views.(Doesn't this recipe look amazing?) Nothing makes me feel more surely that all is well with the world than a sizable pat of butter melting into the open halves of a warm muffin.

Dee has recently started telling me how much he loves muffins and begun not only asking for them to eat but me to make them for him from scratch. Makes a muffin loving mommy's heart bubble right over. Last night A took Ru for a Big Boys Only Outing to the local skateboard park and left me with the smallest littles. I asked Dee what he thought we should do while they were gone and his answer was, "Make muffins mommy!!!! Blueberry muffins, because those are my favorite!" And so I promptly kissed him.
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Pictoral Easter

Easter was lovely. The weather has been creeping along, painfully towards spring in centimeters but suddenly yesterday the sun was beaming all over the place, flowers opened in flocks and out of nowhere all the lawns were green and every tree seems to show tips of chartreuse. Amazing how the season can change on a dime. I feel like we have come, quite overnight, into spring for good. Boy is it nice to see it! I was so ready it was making me get a charley horse.

It was the perfect weather for a holiday. I had little baskets full of goodies for the boys, and more candy than I think I ever want to hand out again (note to self for next year)....and layers of evil, fancy clothes to trap my little men into wearing. I wish I had a picture of all of us in our Eastery outfits but unfortunately, I didn't get a good shot. The camera sometimes is not on my arm. :)

Our congregation hosted a beautiful Easter service, packed to the brim with eager parishioners, very vibrant with joy over the resurrection and the promise of life and the deep love of God. I love the times when a church service has moments that feel like you get in a stadium as everyone watches "our team" go for the touchdown; that unity and energy. I was also very proud of the boys for keeping all their ties on through the whole service. After the service finished we hustled the kids out to the car and jetted to my aunt's house for a really beyond delicious holiday meal and a little festive egg hunting.

A and I come from two different traditions regarding Easter gifts for children. He maintains that all treats should be hidden and found in the egg hunt along with the eggs that the children dyed. I was raised with the tradition of Easter baskets that were waiting on the breakfast table when we came down in the morning and then a little bit of candy and some plastic eggs that were used for a much less important Easter egg hunt held later in the day. We are still trying to figure out how to meld our two experiences into a pleasant something for our kids without going to over the top that everyone is sick of celebration or either of the two of us has their personal traditions tromped over and thrown out. Tricky business, all this negotiation. What does your family do for Easter treats for little ones?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Blow Easter Eggs

Everyone I know hard boils their Easter eggs, but I like to blow them. To be perfectly plain we usually split our bounty in half and hard boil some and blow some because who doesn't like a good hardboiled egg, right? When I was a girl my mom taught us all how to blow an egg and it was part of our roster of special family traditions. Growing up I didn't know anyone who decorated hollow eggs and now, as an adult I have still, fantastically enough, never have knowingly met a single person who knew how to blow eggs much less anyone who really does it. Kind of fun to have a corner on something small.

I love the delicacy of the finished product:  such a feather light form of natural sculpture. I also love that you can keep the eggs out at room temperature. You can use them to decorate, keep them around for keepsakes or even give them as gifts because they are really art, not food; nature brought inside for appreciation....every bit as beautiful as driftwood sculpture or framed pressed flowers.
A finished, hollow egg.
I also love the niggly work of spearing the tiny blowing holes with our pearl-headed sewing pin (the pearl is key!). I think of how it must feel to be the tiny baby chick inside one of these shells, digging at it for your very life. Kind of a daunting task. It must be a major boost to see that first pin-prick of light shafting through the walls.

Here is how to blow your own hollow Easter eggs:
  1. Stab a single tiny hole in one end of a raw egg.
  2. Stab repeatedly at the other end in a circle about the size of the head of your pearl-headed pin.
  3. Put the tiny hole to your lips and sealing tightly to the egg like a trumpet player, blow! (Be careful to hold your egg firmly but gently it is easy to get carried away with the exertion of blowing and crush the shell in your hands.)
  4. The white will stream out first which is the hardest part to expell (Perservere! And occasionally shake the egg!) and then the yolk will come in golden rivulets, it's the easy part at the end.
  5. Then rinse the eggs to remove all traces of yolk and white and leave to dry....then decorate away!

Ru was big enough to do one himself this year for the first time.

The "scrambled egg" leftovers we'll cook and eat on Easter morning.

Slightly over half a dozen, transluscent, hollow eggs. :)
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hawk's Nest

We have a gigantic white pine towering over our house. It is about two or three stories taller the top of our big three story colonial, a giant of a tree. I love the feeling of it's sturdy hulk staking the property lines to the top of our hill. The neighbors say that there were once several big pines like that scattered on our lot. Now the only one left is that one lone giant, rooted just over the hedge on the nuns property (yes, our next door neighbors are a convent full of extremely warm sisters).
Our drive in October
Even though it is a magnificent tree it is perilously close to our house which means both that in the fall our drive is showered with a stunning carpet of golden needles in the fall and that I sit shuddering in my bed every high wind rainstorm that we get, listening to the old tree creaking and moaning right over our heads wondering if someday it will fall crashing into our roof and saw off our master bedroom or go galumphing through to the sunroom below.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)Image by Tilton Lane via Flickr

When the tree guys starting coming by giving estimates to chop down the diseased hemlocks and the large straggling chokecherry we sure thought wistfully about making a call on our neighbors to discuss dismantling their giant in the bargain. That is, until we realized that the pair of red-tailed hawks we've seen wheeling over the house had mated and nested, right in the top of the great tree. I can't blame them. I'd nest there too if I was in the neighborhood. The have clearly picked carefully the biggest, most secure spot in the area and although I'm sure it is a bit chilly in a stiff wind (the tree is at the tippy top of the hill we live on top of) it has to have a regal view and feel like the best place around to bring up your young. We nested next door, clearly we thought it was a good spot too.
The king pine
The whole idea of taking the tree out will have to wait for a later date but more importantly, in the meantime we have the privilege of having a family of hawks raised up right next to us. I am pleased that I decided to go for bees instead of backyard chickens and thinking fondly of the effect on local bunny rabbits and voles that might be so unlucky as to discover our vegetable garden.
One of our hawk parents leaving the nest
 You can already hear loud cheeping when you walk down the driveway and see one of the parents swoop out of the tree, heading for the heat vents high over our hill. I haven't been able to locate the nest so far, somewhere in the heart of the tree, far from prying eyes but I keep looking, figuring one of these days I'll figure out where to look when I see the parents looping in and out. Now I need to get out, on the double, and get a pair of binoculars.
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