26 April 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Glory-of-the-snow

Chionodoxa, or glory-of-the-snow, in bloom. A happy little burst of blue.

24 April 2017

Favorite Poems & Poets: Joy Harjo

When I was an undergrad, I was lucky enough to hear Joy Harjo speak at my college. I was so moved by her words and use of language that I immediately went out and bought three of her poetry collections. Her poems are beautiful yet cryptic and, reading them, I always feel I am skimming the bare surface of meaning.

Today I'm sharing excerpts from two poems. The first is "The Woman Hanging From The Thirteenth Floor Window," a poem from She Had Some Horses. It's about a woman contemplating her life -- should she break loose and fall or climb back up and reclaim herself? The second is "Perhaps the World Ends Here," from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. It's, ostensibly, a poem about a kitchen table but is also a big ol' metaphor for life.
"The Woman Hanging From The Thirteenth Floor Window"

She is the woman hanging from the 13th floor
window. Her hands are pressed white against the
concrete moulding of the tenement building. She
hangs from the 13th floor window in east Chicago,
with a swirl of birds over her head. They could
be a halo, or a storm of glass waiting to crush her.

She thinks she will be set free.
Please click here to read the rest of the poem.
"Perhaps the World Ends Here"

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
My extract doesn’t start at the poem's beginning nor does it end at the poem's end. Click here to read it in full.

And here's a (longish) video of Joy Harjo talking at the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival about her family and other things:

20 April 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Banana & Coconut

It's that time again! The monthly "Improv Cooking Challenge"! April's focus ingredients were banana and coconut. While my peers have created impressive sweet and savory dishes, I have kept it simple and made fancy ... toast. (Fancy toast is a totally legitimate thing, you know. There are even whole cookbooks dedicated to it. I'm just being trendy. Right?)


This toast makes sweet, super-quick, and breakfast that will keep you going through the morning. It's important to use a well-toasted thick, hearty bread -- I used Silver Hills' high-fiber Sprouted Power Mack's Flax -- or it will be overwhelmed by the toppings and flop about when you try to pick it up. I mean ... I guess you could eat the toast with a knife and fork, but that kind-of defeats the purpose of toast, yes?



Fancy Toast

Yield: 1 or 2, depending on hunger

Ingredients

  • 2 slices hearty whole-grain bread, toasted as you like
  • 4 Tbsp soft, spreadable goat cheese [Vermont Creamery]
  • ½ half peeled banana, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened flaked coconut [Bob's Red Mill]
  • Honey, as needed
  • Cinnamon, as needed

Instructions

  • Spread toast with goat cheese.
  • Top with banana, blueberries, and coconut.
  • Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon as desired.
  • Eat.

If you don't like goat cheese, ricotta or farmer's cheese would also work. And, obviously, pretty much any combination of fruits would be tasty!

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.





19 April 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Hyacinths

Purple hyacinths are almost ready to flower!

17 April 2017

Easy Easter Lamb


It was my turn to host Easter and, of course, I made lamb. Usually, I roast a boneless or semi-boneless leg, but this year I wanted to be a little fancy and roasted three racks of lamb. In total, I roasted nearly 5 lb of lamb which was, even by my own overly-hospitable standards, a bit much for four adults (even with leftovers factored in). Next time, only two racks! Or more people at the table?


Greek Rack of Lamb

Yield: 4, very generously

Ingredients

  • 3 racks of lamb (approximately 1½ lbs apiece)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbsp Greek seasoning blend [Penzeys]
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • About an hour before cooking, place lamb on a large foil-lined baking tray and let it come to room temperature in a cool place.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • In small bowl, combine the lemon zest, Greek seasoning, garlic, and oil. Rub over lamb.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes or until meat reaches desired doneness (imho, that's 160° for medium).
  • Let stand 5 minutes before carving. (To carve, cut from the meaty end toward the bone).


The lamb chops went over really well and I will definitely roast more racks in the future ... although not as many at once.

15 April 2017

Anxious Days

Honestly, after the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union fragmented into individual nation states, I never really thought about nuclear war again. And yet here I am worrying about goddamn thermonuclear apocalypse.

As well as healthcare, the environment, immigration, and every other damn thing you can think to worry about in this Age of Orange.

For the past decade or so, every time we humans would do something shitty, I would remind myself of all the good things that were also happening, but now I don't know that there's enough good to balance all the bat shit human wickedness I see. Too many people seem hellbent on unstitching civilization and destroying the planet for whatever profit or advantage can be obtained by that regardless of the cost to others (indeed, the cost to others may be a definite bonus).

I can barely explain what's happening to myself -- can't imagine what it would be like explaining it to children. And, oh, I have been fighting. But what is that fighting worth? What is it accomplishing? 2018 feels too dangerously far in the future to be worth pinning hopes on.

Like a proper white lady, I having been doing yoga and meditation to try to find a spot of calm. But the mantra I frequently whisper to myself is not "hope" or "love" or whatever other optimistic nonsense word the yoga instructor suggests we focus our practice on. It is "doom." Breathe in, "ohmygodohmygodohmygod." Breathe out, "dooooooooom."

13 April 2017

Lemon & Dill Baked Tilapia

I'm down to cooking one supper for the two of us during the work week, because -- between my new job, gym, yoga, poker, and other important things -- our weekday schedules don't overlap at suppertime. And when I am around to cook, I find I want to make something fast, easy, and mindless.


Essentially, we eat a lot of variations on this dish. It works with pretty much any white fish as well as salmon and the fresh dill can easily be replaced with equivalent amounts of dry herbs or seasoning blends. The only things that are consistent from version to version are oven temperature, lemon, olive oil, and garlic.


Lemon & Dill Tilapia

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil or spritz with cooking spray.
  • Blot fillets dry with a paper towel and arrange fillets in dish.
  • Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and spread over fillets.
  • Bake fillets uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily and has reached 145°F.



12 April 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Perky Purple Pansies

"I send thee pansies while the year is young,
Yellow as sunshine, purple as the night."
~ Sarah Dowdney, Pansies

11 April 2017

Favorite Poems & Poets: Judy Grahn

I discovered Judy Grahn waaaay back when I was a 90s-era college freshman, lurking in the library stacks, looking for something I couldn't begin to articulate. Like many people of that age and time, I was full of unfamiliar stirrings and oh-so-many FEELS but had no cultural, religious, or emotional frame to hang them on.


I was a bookish girl, you know. All my life, whenever I couldn't find the words to explain the world, books were there to help me. And I quite legitimately expected books would help me with the Big Queer Feels.

So I stumbled my way through reams of poetry and feminist essays until I found a version of myself and the world that felt "true." And Judy Grahn was a big part of that. First with her Another Mother Tongue and then, later, with her poetry.

In hindsight, it is clear I sometimes had no real understanding of what I read, but the words she chose ... the righteous tone of her arguments ... made me feel like I was part of something magnificent. That my feelings had a natural place in the universe and that the universe was not the narrow construct I feared it was.

So here's Ani Difranco (also a huge part of my coming to terms with all the Big Queer Feels) reading Grahn's "Detroit Annie, Hitchhiking" from The Work of a Common Woman. Happy National fucking Poetry Month, people.

10 April 2017

Wintersong


“The last night of the year," Constanze said. "Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride.”

Goblins, changelings, magic, riddles, ill-advised and desperate bargains -- Wintersong has them all. Set in 1800s provincial Bavaria, the novel is reads like lushly written homage to “Goblin Market” and “Der Erlkönig.” I think it’s probably a book that would appeal to Labyrinth lovers, although I found it easiest to enjoy Wintersong when I had deliberately cleared Sarah and Jareth from my mind. As far as world-building goes, Jae-Jones’s universe felt richly detailed and real – it was perfectly easy (up to a point) to become Liesl, to believe I was in rural Bavaria, to smell and taste the forbidden fruits, to feel the cold of winter and the dark fantasy of the Underworld .

So world-building, writing, and premise really appealed to me and I enjoyed those facets of the Wintersong. But … there was still too much that put me off, that kept me from properly enjoying the book, and makes me reticent to read the sequel.

Maybe I’m just a cranky old woman, but I find it increasingly difficult to enjoy novels larded with the nonsense that is on-again-off-again romance. You have relationship problems? You figure out, together, how to fix them or you go your separate, but ultimately happier, ways. And sex as a fix for whatever you think is broken within you? Just … no. I have no time for magical healing penises (or vaginas, for that matter).

Also, that ending! How did the world not end? What about the changeling? Wasn’t he supposed to wane and die if too long from the Underworld? And the whole, abrupt Beethoven/Immortal Beloved tie-in ... I just don’t understand where that was going.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (St. Martin's Griffin, 2017)

05 April 2017

Wordless Wednesdays: Wee Purple Survivors

These little purple dudes don't care about snow, sleet, hail, or rain. They're just waiting for one good blast of sun.

03 April 2017

Paris for One & Other Stories


Paris for One and Other Stories is all about women and their romantic relationships. My favorite of the nine stories was the novella “Paris for One.” Nell, an unadventurous English woman, plans her first trip to Paris with her boyfriend ... who bails on her via text, because he is a selfish boy. Unadventurous Nell has all sorts of experiences in Paris, comes out of her shell a bit, and (inevitably) meets a nice French man who is worthy of her. It was a sweet, gently humorous story with, maybe, not a lot of character development or depth, but good fun none-the-less.

This story collection reminded me strongly of the Maeve Binchy and Marion Keyes novels I used to gobble up while traveling -- all thoroughly sweet and predictable tales. Sometimes with a little bit of a sting – whiffs of adultery, generational disharmony, etc -- but they all dealt lightly with such topics and ended pleasantly enough.

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes (Pamela Dorman Books, 2016)