Sunday, April 12, 2015

Everything Points to the First Rhubarb Pie

Nothing pleases my poor little would-be writer's heart more than discovering the work of a real, true writer. Someone who absolutely nails descriptions, ideas, and life-stuff to such a degree that I slow down just so I can savor the words. Such is the case with Verlyn Klinkenborg's book, The Rural Life, based on his New York Times column about life on his small farm in upstate New York.

The book sat on my shelf for a year or two, one of those situations where I read a good review of it and ordered right away (damn you, Amazon, for so easily indulging my biblio-cravings!) but never quite got to it. I mean, really, The Rural Life. What was I thinking? I am all city-girl. The rural life appeals to me not one iota, though I can stand 3-4 days at a time without bright lights, traffic, sirens, and people, people, people. Much beyond that and I start to wither a little (damn you, extrovert/A-type personality!). So, no, not a rural girl in the least. But what drew me to the book originally was the idea of getting more in touch with the seasons and changes of nature, plus having read many of Klinkenborg's columns in the Times. 

Somehow, winter seemed a good time to pick up The Rural Life and see what I might be missing in my brightly-lit world. The book is organized by months, and it was January, so, yeah. A good time to start. January. It's now April. I'm still reading. Here's the kicker: It's only 212 pages, and I'm only halfway through (July, if you're interested). But I find myself  re-reading chunks of chapters and whole chapters, just so I won't miss some glorious bit of prose. A yellow highlighter sits handy to underline phrases, sentences - yea, verily, even paragraphs - that must be mulled over and remembered.

A few, a very few, of my too-good-to-forget images from The Rural Life:
  • "Other seasons come abruptly but ask so little when they do. Winter is the only one that has to be relearned."
  • "A garden is just a way of mapping the strengths and limitations of your personality onto the soil."
  • "In this part of the world each day seems to bring a different, contradictory season. But everything points to the first rhubarb pie." 
  • "Everyone reaches for fullness in summer, but the fullness that most of us know best belongs to the memory of childhood. What was it that made summer days so long back then and made the future seem so distant? What was the thing we knew or didn't know?"
  • "The root of the New England character is incredulity, a state of chronic, weather-induced heartbreak .  . ."
The language speaks to me. The order of the words speaks to me. The soul-grabbing images speak to me. I want to remember all of this. I want that hope of the rhubarb pie, or trying to discover what I knew or didn't know all those summers ago. The writing demands deep reflection, something I'm not very good at. I'm working on it.

There is a slight downside to all of this, though. While I purely love exceptional writing, it does hit home that I will never achieve this level of expression. Oh, I can tell a pretty good story - and storytelling is so, so important, I get it - but I'll never write anything that demands yellow-highlighter proximity, phrases that must be remembered. Nothing that will ever point to the first rhubarb pie. But I can surely appreciate the ones to whom the gift has been given.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Best Flat Belly Detox Recipe

Is a flat-belly detox on your New Year's resolution list? So many concoctions have cropped up on social media over the past week, with ingredients ranging from kale and strawberries to sawdust and cow dung. Just run 'em through the blender, ingest via the mouth (or wherever) four times daily for two weeks, and bam! No belly. No body toxins. And probably no appetite for anything else, once you've wrapped your lips around a cow-dung smoothie.

But do not believe a word Gwyneth Paltrow might say. I, yes I, have your perfect detox recipe right here. You don't even have to work it into your system several times a day. Or week. Or month. In fact, I recommend once a week, max. OK, pay close attention. Here it is:
  • 2 (or 3, depending on how detoxified you want to be) scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 (or 2, depending on how flat you want that belly of yours) cups hot fudge sauce
  • handful of walnuts, pecans, or almonds (or all three)
  • 1 cup (or 2, depending on how brave you are) freshly whipped double cream
  • 1 fake cherry, or another cup of hot fudge sauce, or both (depending on how bat-shit crazy you are)
  • 1 big ol' spoon
Now, if you're lactose intolerant or nut-allergic, well, this won't work for you until you check yourself into a clinic and get un-lactose intolerated and de-nut allergerized. (It'll be worth it in the end, truly.)

After you have one of these unbelievably tasty detox brews per week, or even every two weeks, you, too, can be flat-bellied untoxicated.

A couple more things are required: get 20-30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week (walking briskly is fine, as are a couple of sit ups and vacuuming the living room). And let your kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin do the job they are meant to do - remove the toxins from your system. Unless your natural body-included detoxicators aren't working properly (yes, another visit to the clinic), that's all you need to detox anything you may ingest except for alcohol and drugs. That's right! Your body regularly detoxifies itself! Unbelievable news, I know.

Please don't put these organs out of work. Let them do their job. And don't forget your feet. They like to walk. OK, pass that hot fudge sauce. I have a resolution to keep.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

Resolved: Not to care what you think

When I started blogging almost ten years ago, I was looking for a way to clear my head of the silly stuff stuck in there that was holding me back, pissing me off, or simply occupying valuable space needed to move on to more important things. Many of my early blog posts focused on hilariously trivial things, whatever was on my mind and with few limits on language or range of thought. I mean, no one was reading them, so what the hell? Great therapy, minimal cost.

Somewhere along the line, though, things changed. The blog stopped being random, free-wheeling, whatever's-on-my-mind stuff, and started being something else. I think I can pinpoint the change around the time I started sharing links to the blog on Facebook.  My blogs became tempered in tone, less fun, more middle-of-the-road. I certainly didn't want to offend any friends or family with what I was writing, so I kept it safe. Not that the older blog posts were dangerous in any way, but they were certainly more unbridled.

So, I'm going to try my best to get back to the original intent of this blog in 2015. I plan to use it as a brain-dump. Whatever's going on in my head. I won't set out to offend you, but neither will not worry about whether what I post will upset you. Feel free to disagree or get your panties in a wad, just don't rant about it to me. Write your own blog.

Be assured that I will still stay away from politics, Botox, the Kardasians, and trials and tribulations of work or family. But I'm sure I'll find many other topics guaranteed to bug, discombobulate, or hack you off. ~ shrug ~

I love ya' and honor your right to your own thoughts and beliefts. And it's time for me to honor my own. Let 'er rip!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Scram, Old Man 2014

It's been a tough year, full of uncertainties, sadness, illness, and stress. We all carry stuff around that most folks don't know about, living our lives juggling whatever comes along. Sharing what we can, bearing what we must. So be it. But 2014 has been particularly filled with crazy negativity, and I'm looking forward to leaving it behind.

Of course it wasn't all bad. Some wonderful memories were made. I loved when my family visited New York and we took in everything from the Statue of Liberty to Coney Island and Broadway. I've loved settling back into the rhythms of Atlanta and being with family and friends again. I loved the day out in London with friend Joanne, catching up on two years' worth of our lives, tracking down the Twinings Tea Shop in the dark. And watching Liam and Charlotte grow over the past 12 months has brought me infinite joy. For all of those things, and more, I give great thanks. 

But would I want to relive it? No. I'll look ahead with prayers and good thoughts to the new year. I will bring the lessons I learned in the past 365 days with me in hopes that they will inform my thoughts and actions in the future. But beyond that, I'm happily shoving Old Man 2014 out the door.
So buh-bye, Mr. 2014. Don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave.

Wishing you good health, laughter, and love in the coming year. A very happy 2015 to one and all!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Bones of Winter

I love winter. I love it for many of the reasons that most people hate it. I'm partial to cold weather. I love that it's Mother Nature's way of saying "slow down!" I love lying around on the weekends, feet in cozy socks, with a good book and cup of tea while the winter winds blow outside my window.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the beauty of naked trees. The winter sky sets off the shapes of branches hidden under the leaves and flowers of other seasons, creating shapes and patterns we rarely get to see. I suspect most folks think the foliage is the glory of a tree, but to me, the true glory is the branches. Tree bones come in infinite designs - from stalwart and straight to complex filigree, and it's only when they are bare that a tree can show us what it really is.

These bones of winter remind me to look deeper than whatever spring green, summer shade, or autumn color hides the real tree. Or person. Look up, my friends, and appreciate the glimpse of reality that God and nature give as a blessed gift in winter. Yes, look up and rejoice!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

God Bless Us, Every One

One of the big advantages to being in my own home for Christmas is that after all the wonderful, dear family time, I can come back at the end of the day and spend Christmas night doing whatever I please. That always involves cozy clothes, re-heated leftovers, and a night of Christmas movies. Even though I've watched each of them several times during the season, I cram as many into Christmas night as possible.

This year, I'm watching every version of A Christmas Carol/Scrooge that I have access to. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I've added the 1935 Seymour Hicks version to the mix, followed by 1938's Reginald Owen version, 1951's with Alistair Sim, and moving into Albert Finney's musical version from the 1970s, George C. Scott's from the 80's, Bill Murray's Scrooged, and The Muppet Christmas Carol (Michael Caine is phenomenal, really). Amongst the full-length films are sprinkled Mr. Magoo's version, as well as versions from the Flintstones and Mickey Mouse. That should keep me busy this evening (I'm with Alistair Sim at present).

I love the message of Dickens' work and feel the need to remember its lessons of redemption and living into one's own history, being aware of the present, and casting an eye to the future. I'm hoping that if I spend Christmas night with Scrooge, Fezziwig, the Cratchits, and several ghosts, I'll be more apt to retain these things.

Christmas is not over after midnight tonight. Technically (church-wise), it lasts through January 6. I'm happy to keep it up until then, and pray I can keep it up beyond.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

A very Merry Christmas to everyone! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Home for Christmas

For the first time in nine years, I have a Christmas tree. A real one, not one concocted out of stacked books and a few well-placed ornaments. I'm in my own cozy place, not camping out as a visitor, and watching my own Christmas DVDs, surrounded by my own books and all the Christmas cards that have come my way. Because for the first time in nine years, my home is where my family is. My stuff doesn't reside a 800 miles away. I am home for Christmas.

Do I miss the crazy splendor of New York at Christmas? Yes, of course. I haven't seen the trees at Rockefeller Plaza and The Met. I find myself wondering about the theme for the windows at Bergdorf's and Sak's. The holiday markets at Union Square and Grand Central had to do without me this year.

But I got to attend pageant rehearsals, Christmas programs, and holiday family outings spread out over the month of December, rather than being packed into 3-4 hurried days. I've baked Christmas cookies with Liam in my own little kitchen and watch Charlotte yank on the ornaments at the bottom of my tree. I've gotten to catch up with dear friends at a party or two. And none of it involved the purchase of an airline ticket.

In short, I'm back in the fold of family and community. It feels good. It feels right. I love New York and always will, but my place and my heart are here. At home. For the holidays and beyond.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Novembering

We're in that sweet spot between Halloween and Thanksgiving. If you don't give in to the early Christmas push all around you, it's a great time to slow down and savor the color, the cooler air, the smell of the dried leaves before the year-end onslaught. The season calls for joyful reflection of nature and life in general. I call it Novembering.

Novembering is my best Advent effort, since real Advent hits at a time that, no matter how we try to resist, is jam-packed with obligations not to be ignored. So I do my watchful waiting between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It's a time for extra reading, extra thinking, extra kindness. There's time right now. No trees or presents, no parties or performances. A chance to tap the brakes and pull off the road for a few weeks, intentionally, without the stress or guilt that will pile on in a month.

I'm not sure I could commit to Novembering without the color and glory that is autumn. There are fine reasons, I'm sure, to live in places without brilliant red maples or blindingly yellow ginkgos, but none come to mind. Deserts and beaches, nah. Not in November. Maybe in January or February, but definitely not in November.

So I'll use the color and crisp air to spur honest reflection in the days running up to Thanksgiving. No early Christmas for me, even though it's my favorite holiday, because I need this time for other things. Like appreciating the slowing down of nature, even if life in general doesn't slow down. Like thinking deeply about what I'm thankful for and why.

Novembering lets me prepare myself first for the day of Thanksgiving. And if I'm prepared for that, I'm well on my way to being mentally and emotionally prepared for Christmas.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Halloween

When I was a little girl, I could never get to sleep the night before Halloween. It was a couple of notches down from the keyed-up restlessness of Christmas Eve. After all, I didn't have to listen for reindeer on the roof or a big ol' red-suited elf falling down the chimney into my living room. But the butterflies-in-stomach excitement was there all the same.

What kept me awake, I wonder? Was candy such a big deal? Was dressing up as someone or something else worth losing sleep over? I really can't remember what had me in such a dither the night before Halloween.

My costume was usually homemade - seems like I was always a gypsy - except for when I was 7 and 8 years old. One year for some reason Daddy sprung for a Siam Princess costume from the dime store. I think it cost a whopping $2.98, and I remember choosing it. Siam Princess? I liked the mask and the shiny yellow and bright pink coverall with some sort of intricate sparkly design.  I got two Halloweens'-worth of wear out of it, so when you amortorize the cost, well - practically free. Of course, it was a little big the first year and a little small the second, but no matter.

One thing that kept me awake, I think, was the anticipation of being allowed to go door to door, never knowing who'd give you what, trying to set a goal of how many houses you could get to or how big a paper sack you'd be able to fill. We always took paper bags to collect candy - no plastic pumpkins or trendy little totes - except for the big kids (and you really weren't supposed to trick-or-treat over the age of 12 - but some boys pushed it to 14), who carried pillowcases.

The idea of collecting candy, or whatever - because you were just as likely to get apples or homemade cookies - was exciting. That stuff just wasn't as readily available to us on a day to day basis. Candy, cookies, Coca-Cola - those were all for special occasions. Like Halloween. I don't remember getting much chocolate; it was mostly hard candy or wax lips or bubble gum. I well remember the fun of getting home and dumping it all in the middle of the floor, pooling our resources, trading this or that, with big brother David coming in at the end with a bulging pillowcase (or two) to add to the loot.

As we got too old for trick-or-treating, there were usually parties or the coming-of-age thrill of getting to answer the door and hand out candy.

I tried to provide the same good Halloween memories for daughter Kate when she was growing up, and I think I did. Her costumes were more elaborate, though we did have several rag-bag homemade ones, and the decorations grew well beyond a simple carved pumpkin, though not to the level of many houses today.

And now I get to re-live Halloween excitement with grands Liam and Charlotte. Liam, at 4 years old, is just coming into his own where the euphoria of Halloween is concerned. The super-hero costume, the thought of trick-or-treating with his family and buddies, the anticipation of what candy he’ll acquire for his efforts - yes, the thrill lives on.

And tonight? Well, I think I'll sleep tonight without difficulty. Tomorrow I’m helping Kate with Liam’s school party, then taking on the delightful job of dressing up as a silly witch (at Liam’s request) to hand out candy at their house while they’re out trick-or-treating. I will love seeing the little cuties come to the door - some in awe of the whole thing, standing there dumb-founded, some shouting "trick or treat!" so loud they blow out all the candles in the house, the princesses and the cowboys, the Captain Americas and the Harry Potters.

Still, if I lie in bed tonight and try to dredge up the feeling of being an 8-year-old Siam Princess again, who knows? Maybe I won't get much sleep after all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Redefining Fun Size

Halloween. That time of year where every Walgreens and Target proudly declares in big bold letters sales for fun-size candy. Fun-size is a marketing term meaning tiny. I can never understand why tiny equals fun, especially where candy is concerned. Maybe if the tiny candy did a little dance or karaoke, yeah, that would be fun, but just tiny? No. Not fun.

My idea of fun-size? A giant candy bar that with every bite you lose a pound. Need to lose 20 pounds? Eat the candy in 20 bites. Sounds like fun to me.

Or a piece of peanutty chocolate candy the size of your fist that automatically deposits $50 into your bank account with every nut you hit. A really fun way to pay off your credit cards. Giant Baby Ruth, anyone?

Or a thick slab of chocolate and caramel that leads you on a crazy scavenger hunt where you unlock mystery doors and meet fascinating new people. What could be a funner-size than that, hm?

Really, I could come up with thousands of ideas for fun-size other than tiny. Tiny may be convenient. Tiny may fit better into Trick or Treat bags and candy bowls. But tiny, where candy is concerned, is not fun. It's the opposite of fun. So, dear marketers, you are fooling no one. Fun-size, indeed.