plus ça change...

mood indigo, 1997

muted music floating up from the room below

dancing, swaying, tipsy together across this creaky floor,

and you, whispering tasty lies, nibbling my ear,

tellling me all those things every wide-eyed girl

in her best blue dress yearns to hear.

Should I be astonished, or pleased, or just “well, of course,” about having written the same thing, essentially, twenty years apart, one from the point of view of a young woman, the other (directly below this post, click the arrow on the bottom left) an external view of someone clearly much older? Yeah, I’m all the ages I’ve ever been, still here, still me, so all of the above, I guess.

What I’m wrestling with, though, is the writing of two people each waltzing to the music that floats up from below, but they are on opposite sides of the wall. I can see the whole thing pretty well, but the telling of it might require a gift I have not received. Still, I persist for now. And while I continue to mull it over, I’m going to work on a new sonnet.

mapping metaphor

When we bought our first home computer in 1996, we had a free Compuserve account, so my introduction to the internet was through forums there, particularly an old time radio one populated by stereo geeks and deejays, who taught me a lot about all manner of things, and a poetry forum, where I learned both how to read and write a poem. Those guys were so sharp, and I still think of them with real fondness and awe, after all this time. Plus, I took up poetry to improve my prose, and it worked, but I ended up liking it for its own sake.

These days, I miss writing poetry, but mainly I miss feeling like I have something to write about. This being National Poetry Month, I thought it might be a good time to give it more of a concerted effort than I have in awhile.

Writing a decent or at least readable poem is, for me, both done in an instant, and rarely ever finished. I like sharing my thought process, and I hope someone out in the ether enjoys seeing early formations and later iterations created slowly outside of any useful timeframe. Epochs undefined.

But as to topic, all I can do for now is mirror the kind of visualizations which came to mind so many years ago, so many miles ago, when I was relatively young and full of spirit, and hope they foster new ones, as well. Let’s start with an easy metaphor.



seeking nothing more than a formless connection

a quiet ethereal [sort of give and take,]

they begin a slow tentative waltz

dancing to the strains of music playing on the distant side

of these old plaster walls…


The words in brackets are written as I hear them, but are too lazy, and I'll probably change that whole line. 

Oh, because it's National Poetry Day.

Just to get on the board, a bit of nonsense, wish I felt like doing it right.

willful attack of malaise
whose will? not my own
drifted far from reality
reins slipped from my hands
no bargain made
no measure taken
no treasure left behind—

and just as pointless if I write it in French.

ma pulsion poétique a fini
les rênes ont glissé de mes mains
mais je ne peux pas résister à un défi
avec le jeu de mots je suis coquine

Perhaps I'll finish that some time.

perfectly natural

I'm going to do a lot more gardening posts this year, along with just a few sewing and cooking ones, and hopefully an occasional poem.

But for an unofficial official start to the season, I just had to share this. Last Friday I planted some pepper seeds in little starter pods. They were in this plastic container, Pepperboxand today I noticed they were retaining too much moisture in it, so I moved them out.

Look what was left behind! Isn't it just the most? TinypepperbabyIn the first photo, it's along the back wall very slightly left of center.

Here is baby lettuce. Mesclun
I also have baby spring onions and some wee little chardlings. They got late starts, but they'll be just fine.

Experimenting with a dessert no one likes but me

And writing this as I go.

I chopped five challah hamburger buns (I know, what a thing, but they were marked down,) and divided them; there were maybe six cups challah bread total. I don't know. I mixed each half with a couple tablespoons of melted butter and put them in 9 inch cake pans. So, as much as will fit in two of those. Whichever of these you try, just double everything for a 9x13 pan.

To one I added a generous amount (@2 tsp) of cinnamon and half a cup of brown sugar, and to the other, about a half cup of sliced almonds and a half cup of white sugar. 20170215_123748
Over each of them I poured two eggs and an egg yolk, whisked, and milk added to that to make two full cups of liquid. The brown sugar one got a splash (let's say 2 tsp) of vanilla extract, and the white sugar one got almond extract. I am going to use the extra egg whites along with their shells to clarify some soup stock which is reducing on the stove.

I forgot to add a little salt, but I think the salted butter will help with that. Also, and this is before I am tasting it, a half cup of sugar might be too much; it looked like a lot as I was sprinking it on, and might want only a third. 20170215_124824
They are in the oven at 350º for 35 minutes, and I am expecting them to need at least five more.

Before I finish, I want to point out that the longer the bread cubes soak in the liquid, the more puddingy they will be. Personally, I like them only half-puddingy, suspended in the custard around them, and with a tiny bit of crunch on top, so I don’t let it soak long before baking. That sounds super gross, doesn’t it? But it is delicious. I just adore bread pudding, as long as it doesn’t have raisins in it. It can have chocolate chips in it, if you like to do that*. I don't, but it occurs to me you could add some shaved chocolate and grated orange peel, and that might be really nice. Maybe with a splash of orange liqueur.

Also, sometimes people make a hard sauce to go over it. I do like that, however, as I need to reduce and have no business eating bread pudding in the first place, I’m going to skip it.


*I wish I could remember the name of the book in which an old lady is staying with some kids and they make chocolate chip stale bread pudding. The concept utterly fascinated me, but my mother refused to make bread pudding. Sigh. Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.13.06 PM
In the end, these small pans baked for 39 minutes. The brown sugar one puffed up more, but settled down to the same level as the other. 20170215_132959
When you get bread pudding at a restaurant, it's much more dense, because they use a deeper pan, pack in the bread, and also start the custard process before pouring it over the bread cubes, by warming the milk and other ingredients first. I like my way better, and it's simpler to do. And so far, I like both versions, though I might favor the almond one slightly more, because I really love almond-flavored desserts. I'm going to taste them both again later to see if I feel the same way.  They would be divine with a little cream poured over the top, or with ice cream, if you really like ice cream. The brown sugar cinnamon one would be good with a chopped apple added to it; if you use a green apple, maybe toss the pieces with a spoonful or two of sugar first, and a squinch of lemon juice. The half cup of sugar was just right otherwise, for a lightly sweet dessert.


It ought not to be…

Hi there. This is my domestic arts blog and newer poetry and tiny story spot, now rolled into one. I needed to simplify, and it occurred to me that the name of this blog is sort of perfect for all my various doings, season by season. Today I have the garden on my mind.

Currently, during what is generally the coldest week of the year here, it is 60º in southeast Cincinnati at noon o’clock. That is just about 15º for those of you playing the C game. Here is some attractive info from Weatherspark about what it’s typically like here, or was. If you are now just fascinated by my climate, click here and scroll down to see what a cloudy cloudy spot this is. I’m not adapting well to that.

But the rest of it is a guessing game at this point, and these pictures demonstrate the result of that. Liliesindistress
The second photo is garlic shoots. There tend to be a few which appear a few weeks after planting in autumn, then they die back til spring. But they are in a different kind of limbo this year.

None of this should be growing or green right now. We had a warm winter in 2013, when the lemon balm came up early. This past autumn it never even fully died back, nor did many of the other perennials, and the ones which start greening in spring began doing so in December, instead. The years between 2013 and 2017 have each had their own set of extremes, as well.Frontstuff
Since December we’ve had several actually frigid days (below 15ºF/-9.44ºC,) but they’re mostly just punctuating weather more typically seen in early March. So even my late season pansy plants never died. They aren’t blooming, of course, but are behaving like perennials instead of annuals. I think maybe it feels like this in winter in the south of England, or South Carolina; I don’t know. I’m not well-traveled.

I super hate cold weather. Not because I’m particularly cold-natured, though cold is pretty bad for the asthma. I hate having to wear coats and shoes and not getting to sit in the yard and grow things, and I hate the bitter evening wind when I’m out trying my best to keep from doing nothing but hibernating until April. So I felt pretty darned good out there this morning wearing jeans, a sleeveless top, and my garden clogs, taking these pictures and checking things out. But it’s unsettling, and I am worried for my grandchildren, rather than maybe just for theirs, as I was in the past.  

What we see now are more extremes. Wild temperature swings, tons of rain followed by no rain at all, and a sharp beginning and end to summer, with the rest of the seasons all just drifting into each other. Here along the middle-middle latitude, gardening recommendations keep changing and there are more microclimates; tiny pockets with more heat than surrounding areas, than there were a couple decades ago.

Your superficially labeled binary politics aren’t that interesting to me, as an aside. I’m just reporting here: what I see, what I’ve known, and what I fear might now be the way of things, which, in the span of a single human lifetime, seem like they ought not to be. If this season looks to continue as it has been, though, I guess I'll take advantage of it and plant some lettuce, and put a few things in the plastic greenhouse next month instead of in March.

I already did plant a butter lettuce stump yesterday and put it under the plant lights. To end this with a photo, which is nice to do. Lettuce

Occasionally crafty, and tasty, too

I made a gingerbread house. I’d never made one before, except from a pre-baked kit my daughter found at a yard sale or something one time. And I think that’s all. Housefront
First I bought some candy, and then I went looking for templates, recipes, etc. I didn’t like any of the kits, and also, whenever you buy an all parts included kit of something, what you make never looks like the picture on the box. That’s not good for the psyche. But I found a different kind of kit that I did like! And I am recommending it to you if you want to try this, for a couple reasons. Bakeset
It contains just the frame pieces and a set of good instructions, which is all you really want. It even has recipes for the gingerbread and the icing. I compared them to some online, and decided their gingerbread recipe made very good sense. I am glad I used it. It has a very small amount of baking powder; recipes I saw at websites either had none, or too much. Well, I guess those ones either shrink or spread, or I might be wrong about that, but I’m not taking the chance since this one didn’t. Housepieces
I didn’t use molasses, though, and that might have been a good thing in terms of how it baked, or it might not have mattered at all. I used dark corn syrup I already had, because I was trying to make this house for an amount of money I could recommend without guilt. You might already have dark corn syrup for some other purpose, as well, but if you don’t, it’ll be less expensive than molasses. Royalicing
People were discussing whether it would taste as good or better, and worried the dough would be too light in color. This seemed odd to me, as all I was concerned about was the physical and chemical properties; would it have the same viscosity, and would it change how the dough rose? It turned out very well, barely changed size at all, and set up perfectly. Also, still brown. Spreadingtray
I used some candy from Big Lots and some my son brought me from the store he works at. And I took my time. Baked one day, assembled and decorated another day, decorated some more the next day. I might add a little more to the back. I’m a very “less is more” kind of person regarding this sort of thing, so I had to try to see it another way.  "Finish," go back, add more, repeat. Housebase
It still wasn’t super cheap. The kit was $12 and the candy also came to around $12. It could be done for less, though, if you make your own templates and follow the recipes I am sharing below. And it could be done for a lot more if you buy a fancier kit and/or fancier/more candy. Completehouse
Shame to end on a blur, as phone decided to focus on background instead, but I didn't feel like going down to take another photo. So there we are. And here are the recipes. I used salted butter. Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 11.40.20 AM
Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350º F. The edges will look crisp. Set your cutters or templates over the warm dough to see if the pieces need squaring. Let them cool completely before handling.

To make Royal Icing: 3 egg whites, 1 lb confectioner's sugar, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp almond extract (go ahead and use vanilla if you don't have almond,) beaten on high for ten minutes. If you want to dye it, spoon some into individual bowls and add gel colors. It will harden quickly, so keep it sealed airtight or covered with a damp cloth.

If you do it yourself without a kit, just take your time, spreading icing over a foil-covered cardboard or tray (which I did only in the center first, adding more later when it was time to arrange the trees, etc.,) setting the completely cooled bottom pieces in and sealing them together with more icing, and be sure to let the base dry before adding the roof pieces with yet more icing; holding each section in place until it will stay on its own. Then wait until that's all dry before pasting on the decor. In the meantime, seal away the icing, and also keep a damp cloth over it while you work.

One other thing—when I took the dough out of the refrigerator, I worked with 1/3 of it at a time. I cut three house pieces each from the first 2/3, then used cookie cutters on the rest.


Fluid Dynamics

Now is now,
In luxury, taking deep breaths
Learning to breathe deeply all over again
at least for today
today is today
tomorrow’s wheezing just a concept
like tomorrow’s lunch and dinner
yesterday’s forgotten nature
it’s all one and the same—

Wu wei, sprezzatura, chickadees, chicken breasts
a tree with a bent trunk that still reaches for the sky

—and all this,
this drama, confusion, chaos,
greedily or angrily or desperately drinking in of lies
drowning in a shallow pool of incalculable demand…
this, too, shall pass.


Someone's Mother

Today I learned of the death two years ago of someone I once knew,
barely and briefly.
I can see her face, almost, skimming over the surface of a previous decade
I remember her glasses and her long hair
and looking down at her as she spoke with quiet nervous energy;
hardened with confidence worn out
not yet worn away

I know she loved her girls, but I remember little else.


Maybe I'll revisit this later.

Her name was Michelle.

through smudged glass

Autumn arrived this morning on a crisp steady wind.
Birds crowd the feeders with messy greedy fervor,
leaves drift from trees to form a light blanket over the tangled grass, sorely in need of a
final trim before winter rest.

This afternoon’s rain will bite rather than soothe.