Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween is about appearances

and it's what's on the outside that counts.

I made this cake purely for the looks (and got the idea from i am baker). It's a red velvet cake with cream cheese filling and marshmallow fluff frosting and ghosts. It's enough to put one into a diabetic coma, I imagine. But it looks damn good.

In this case, it's what's on the outside that counts, but it's only bones. Click here to get in the spirit.


Domestic quotes and my favorite Charlie Brown line

Someone needs to change Oliver's sheets. It smells like a cat died under there.
Hmmmm -- I wonder who that "someone" is.

Don't put that grape in her mouth. She looks like she's about to have a seizure.

Will you please remove the pile of shoes from the middle of the floor? And pick up your lunchbox from under the table.

Who spit all these pumpkin seed shells on the floor and under the bed?

Why isn't Halloween a national holiday? Easter is.

Has this dog not been fed, yet?

Go pop your head in and check on Sophie.

Is someone going to do our laundry?
Hmmmm--I wonder who that "someone" is.

You need to start wearing cooler shoes, Mom. These are just - uh -- lame.
I wear Birkenstock sandals all summer and then move into the Birkenstock clogs in fall.

Where did all the candy corn go?

I got a rock.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Siblings

Can you guess who carved which pumpkin? The one on the left is throwing up because the knife is stuck in his head. The one on the right is Bob Marley Pumpkin with dreadlocks.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunshine, Dry Air, Baseball, Pedophiles and Boy Scouts

It's a beautiful day in southern California, albeit a bit on the scary-dry side and we're headed east and north to a baseball game in the deep, dark valley. I've got on a tee-shirt and jeans and will bring along an umbrella to shield my lily-white skin from the wicked rays of autumn. I opened the newspaper this morning casually, like I said yesterday I generally only scan the headlines and then politely fold it back up and place it on a stool for The Husband to peruse when he comes home from the Mistress -- but this morning's headlines screamed, atrociously, to me BOY SCOUTS FAILED TO REPORT ABUSER so I placed my coffee cup down and unfolded the paper and my heart quickened and my stomach sickened. It would seem that back in the dark days of the seventies and eighties, many boys were abused sexually by Boy Scout leaders and the organization didn't report these known incidences to the police but removed them from their positions with kind letters, assuring them, the pedophiles, that their positions in the community would not be ruined or embarrassed or whatever else. The said pedophile then skipped off to Canada and proceeded to do exactly the same thing and the Canadian scouts overlooked it as well.

Well, damn.

Whether this is going to mimic the Catholic Church pedophile scandals remains to be seen, but as the mother of a Cub Scout, I'm sick about it.

Reader, what would you do?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Words from the Fishwife

I haven't jumped into the fray in a long time. I haven't really been reading the news or watching the news or keeping abreast of the news in any but the most cursory of ways and have thought that it would be nice to live in France during an election year because I'm told political candidates aren't allowed to campaign until two months before the election. And even though President Obama cruised through my neighborhood the other day, stopping at a local restaurant and wowing the good folks inside (I would have loved being at that Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles when The Man came in), I'm as repulsed by the amount of money changing hands for the Dems as I am by the Repubs.

It all repels me.

But I do have some random thoughts that I'm going to get off my chest in no order whatsoever.

1. Herman Cain? Really? The man seems like a character from a Simpsons episode. He's the freaking front runner of the Republican party, running on some kind of bullshit "authentic populism" stand --

2. Mitt Romney? Really? Why not just let a corporation run for president?

3. When all the government employees are let go and laid off, because government is bad, you know, where are those people going to work?

4. When all the soldiers come home from the colossal disasters that we called freedom on the march, where are they going to work?

5. How much longer are we going to have to listen to sentences like this, uttered by Linda Wall, the conservative Virginia House of Delegates candidate who recently admitted to a lesbian affair with a minor: I've never tried to hide that I was in homosexuality. It's amazing how irked I feel at just that word in.

6. In fact, I'm just going to come out and say it: Is our country really going to be slowly but inexorably ruled by a bunch of damn illiterate fools?  I'm feeling almost reactionary about all of this, thinking that it might be a good idea to require each candidate to have a working knowledge of philosophy, to have read the Greek classics, to have a formidable grasp of world history but most of all to know their ass from their ---

Oh, well. Enough.

I read somewhere about a man and woman who went into their children's bedrooms at night and bowed, silently, to them. I thought of that last night when I tiptoed first into Sophie's room and saw her dark form curled away from me and then into the boys', their breathing full and loud, loudness stilled in sleep, finally. Still and silent, it felt natural to bow, deeply, at the waist, their breath mingling with the rest of the air in the room.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Amazing and wonderful

Sophie stayed home from school today because she had three huge seizures before 9:00 in the morning. I had two one-hour conversations with two different friends who completely get it. I decided to put Sophie in her stroller and walk around our neighborhood. What's amazing and wonderful?

This tree:

This giant honeysuckle-like thing that positively dripped with honey:

This girl, who is awake and alive after having three seizures:

Some days I don't know how we do it.

After Ritsos

You know that moment in the summer dusk
when the sunbathers have all gone home to mix drinks
and you are alone on the beach

when the waves begin to nibble
on the abandoned sand castles—
And further out, over the erupted face

of the water stained almost pink
there are a few clouds that hold
entire rooms inside of them—rooms where no one lives—

in the hair
of the light that soon will go
grey and then black. It is the moment

when even the man who mops the floor
in the execution room of the prison
stops to look up into the silence

that grows like smoke or the dusk itself.
And your mind becomes almost visible
and you know there is nothing

that is not mysterious. And that no moment
is less important than this moment.
And that imprisonment is not possible.

-- Malena Morling

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eating ice-cream straight out of the container

Ice Cream, You Scream

The ice-cream man selling my son Oliver a plastic toy gun and pellets really resonated with a lot of you on Sunday when I posted about it. The whole situation was actually more humorous to me than scary, though, which my writing apparently didn't convey, so I thought I should clarify a bit. We live close to a huge public park and last Friday night, Henry played flag football for his school at the park. Oliver came along to watch, of course, and during the game asked if he could have money for ice-cream. At our city parks, people with small freezer carts roll around, selling ice-cream and toys and balloons. Yes, it's a bummer that the ice-cream man would sell a potentially dangerous toy, but these guys are pretty desperate anyway -- they're going to sell what sells, right? They're making their living selling ice-cream and plastic shit. I believe it was my responsibility to forbid the purchase of that toy -- just as it would be my responsibility to forbid my kids to buy crappy candy or McDonald's for that matter -- and Oliver totally and completely did this on the sly because he knows I wouldn't have approved.

So I'm giving the ice-cream man a break and claiming this one as my own -- and Oliver's bad!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Love this

Me, a million years ago

In an age where there is much talk about "being yourself," I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being anybody else.
Thomas Merton

Boys and Guns

I got the call in the late afternoon. It was the health insurance broker, and he was apologetic. I don't want to be a snitch, he said, but I feel like as a good neighbor, you need to know. The insurance broker lives one street away, so he actually is a neighbor. My heart started pounding. The broker continued, I was coaching T and K baseball this morning with my son R, and the twins claimed they'd been shot in the back with a BB gun. They said it had made a mark, and Oliver had done it. I thought you should know. My heart stopped pounding, and now I felt annoyed. A BB gun? I said, We don't own a BB gun. We would never own a BB gun. Those boys are all nuts, I added. Well, that's what they're saying, the broker said, and I thought you should know.

Here's the background. We live in a fantastic neighborhood, right in the middle of Los Angeles, where the kids run free and wild, into and out of each other's houses and yards. The kids all happen to be boys, too, in ages ranging from about three or four (he's not free to run around, but he tries to!) to Henry, who is the oldest at thirteen. I've long since given up the protective watching of their every move in what I call benign neglect -- I can't stand boy games, anyway, or sports -- watching them careen around, wrestling, having nerf gun wars, climbing trees and jumping off of shed roofs is enough to tax the heart in negative ways, so I go inside, one ear cocked for screams that sound bloody. I assured the neighbor that I'd find out what the hell was going on with the BB gun allegations and get back to him.


The first person I called was the twins' mother. One of the twins' mothers, I should say, and emphasize that these mothers are about the coolest ones you could imagine. That they have not one, but two boys that are bruisers in the best sense of the word is highly amusing, and I knew that whatever had happened, they would be cool about it. 

So, I understand that one of the twins was hit with a BB gun by Oliver? I asked.

That's what the boys said, she confirmed, but we didn't want to make a big deal out of it. We know how wild they all get.

Well, I just don't know what to say, I said, we absolutely do not have a BB gun, nor would I allow such a thing in my house or in my kids' hands. Are you sure it wasn't a Nerf gun?

It made a mark, the mom replied. Jesus Christ, I thought. And what the hell? I hung up the phone and called Oliver who was at the neighborhood fair with a friend and his father. When the father answered the phone, I asked him if his son (who lives across the street) had a BB gun that could have perhaps been used that morning. NO! he exclaimed and then put Oliver on the phone.

Oliver, did you shoot T with a BB gun this morning? I asked.

It's not a BB gun, Mom, Oliver replied, and he sounded nervous.

Well, what kind of gun was it? I asked. My heart was pounding now, again.

Just a gun. Mom. I bought the gun. Now Oliver's voice is starting to break.

What do you mean you bought it? I asked, my voice rising. Where did you buy it?

I bought it at the park! Oliver is crying a little now.

You bought it at the park? From who? My voice is now completely "risen."

From a MAN, Oliver cried.

A MAN? I shouted, What MAN? The night before I had finished my Breaking Bad marathon, and one of the episodes featured an eleven year old kid who had been hired by drug thugs to assasinate people. It was chilling, to say the least, and I felt for a moment as if my life had truly morphed into Breaking Bad instead of my having the fantasy of breaking bad, it was happening.

The man! The man who sells ice-cream! Oliver is sobbing now. I'm sorry, Mom! I bought it with my own money, I promise. I'm sorry.

Oliver, how much was it? I said, still confused and upset.

A dollar, Mom, it was a dollar!  My heart stopped pounding, and I lowered my voice, reassuring Oliver that it was all right. It just scared me. I then told him that he was never to buy anything from anyone without my permission. I told him that he was absolutely not to use the gun, again, and that I was disappointed he'd hidden it from me and then actually hurt someone with it. I asked him where he'd hidden it and told him that I would keep it until he was more responsible. I did all the right parenting things, I guess, and then just shook my head, acknowledging that my influence as a liberal-leaning, pacifist Democrat was probably about as great as the conservative-leaning, patriotic Republican influence of my parents on me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

M.F.K. Fisher

I read all of the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher's books years ago, but last night I picked them up in an attempt to find a great quote for a post I was writing on The Mistress' blog. What a pleasure it was to read her sophisticated yet charming prose -- if you've never read her, I highly recommend it.  Here's the bit that I quoted from on The Larchmont Larder blog.

On another note, you still have a chance to win the $100 Visa Card that I'm giving away on my review blog. For more information, go here.

Blue blue windows behind the stars

Neil Young and his wife Pegi held their annual Bridge School Benefit on Saturday, and I thought of my dear friend Jody and her beautiful little girl Lueza when I saw this clip of the man himself and Arcade Fire singing that blue blue song Helpless. I know Jody was there with her family and Lueza in their hearts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day of Pleasure

I impulsively bought myself a day of pleasure yesterday at The Institute of Domestic Technology. I know the name sounds ponderous, perhaps even pretentious, but the place itself is neither of those. Basically, it's a group of people committed to bringing back or even re-invigorating the art of home economics. Their mission is to reverse-engineer the notion of where our food and ingredients come from.  I took the Foodcrafting 101 class, devoted to jam-making, cheese-making, and bread-making. The class was at the amazing Zane Grey (the western writer) estate in Altadena.

We worked in a refurbished barn tiled in shiny gray with stainless steel appliances and a huge work table around which we stood and listened to the food artisans.

First up was bread-making with Erik Knutzen of and The Urban Homestead. I'm a pretty decent bread baker, but there's always something to learn. We made a simple Levain Bread using Erik's starter instead of yeast. I was partnered with a wonderful young woman and her two friends with whom I immediately connected -- we all shared a similar sense of humor and had a lot of fun.

Shaping a boule

Next was jam-making with Kevin West. Kevin's blog Saving the Season has been a favorite of mine for quite some time, and he proved to be as adept a teacher as blogger. We made a delicious and simple pear jam with vanilla bean. He definitely de-mystified all aspects of canning, and I feel inspired to give it a whirl at home.

We made a handcrafted coarse mustard with Guinness Extra Stout beer and whole brown mustard seeds, flavored with red wine vinegar, kosher salt and various whole spices -- so much better than the stuff you buy at the grocery store.

The couple who live in the Zane Grey house have goats and chickens and an extensive kitchen garden. We met all the goats and chickens, and I decided that while I aspire to be a homesteader, I'm a bit squeamish when it comes to the animals. I'm not going to apologize about that. I just don't really dig it.

I do love goat cheese, though, and the next part of our day was making it. While the process takes quite a bit longer than we had, the Institute worked it so that we were able to see each step of the cheese process, beginning with a taste test of cow and goat milk.

I have no problem with cheese, but milk-tasting makes me squeamish. I did it, though, and found that I actually liked the pasteurized goat's milk the best. The raw stuff tasted very sweet and grassy and was preferred by most everyone, but not me. It made damn good cheese though, just about the freshest tasting thing I'd ever had.

Even if you don't have goats in your backyard, you can buy a really nice-quality goat's milk at Trader Joe's and with the addition of rennet and a special bacteria, along with a high quality muslin, and 24 hours of time, you can make this yourself. A bit of this spread on some of the home-made bread and some pear jam? My god, it was good.

Here's some of their more aged goat cheese that we ate with the levain.

It was really a perfect day for me -- delicious food, lovely people and we brought home the delightful goods we'd made. I learned so much about artisanal food and was inspired to continue, as the Institute says, "rediscovering the future of home economics."

Sitting Down

The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for a while.

Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From the archives

You know, I've written a lot of damn posts. Nearly two thousand posts, actually. And lately I'm hard-pressed to write anything of worth at all. But I do love this blog, love the toil of it, the inspiration I get from my blogging community, the comments, the connections, the everything. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that blogging has changed my life in the profoundest of ways. I try to come here, to the blank screen, at least once and sometimes twice daily to jot down my thoughts or post a poem or a photo or tell a silly or a sad story. I come more than once or twice to read all of your posts. It's all good.

I'm feeling a little dry, though, dry like the southern California air in October. Dry like tinder, needing just a tiny spark to flame up and spread.

I randomly went through my archives, and this is the first thing I landed on. I'm going to be lazy and re-post it.

A Reposting of Trapeze Artistry and Humor

Now, I'm off to sell popcorn on the street with Oliver for his dang Cub Scout Troop.

And then I'm headed for a day of complete and utter pleasure, I think. But more on that later.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

What I'm thinking about

Alain Delorme photography

photo by Alain Delorme

Right effort is effort with wisdom. Because where there is wisdom, there is interest. The desire to know something is wisdom at work. Being mindful is not difficult. But it’s difficult to be continuously aware. For that you need right effort. But it does not require a great deal of energy. It’s relaxed perseverance in reminding yourself to be aware. When you are aware, wisdom unfolds naturally, and there is still more interest.

-- Sayadaw U Tejaniya

The phrase It's relaxed perseverance in reminding yourself to be aware stands out to me. Relaxed perseverance seems possible.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Things I've Never Done

1. Voted for a Republican

2. Traveled to England, Scotland or Wales

3. Smoked a cigarette

4. Seen a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it

5. Cheated on a test or shoplifted

6. Gotten so drunk that I passed out

7. Been born again and baptized in a river

8. Attended a gun show in Georgia

9. Seen a giant Buddha statue in Thailand

A buddha statue located at the Royal Grand Palace

10. Eaten liver and onions

11. Watched a pro football game and enjoyed it

12. Worn thigh high boots or had the desire to wear thigh high boots

13. Used the expression "making sweet love" except in a mocking way

14. Seen the planet from the window of a rocket ship

15. Discovered a way to stop Sophie's seizures

16. Told anyone to go fuck themselves

17. Loved my insurance company (this so naturally followed #16)

18. Hacked a path through the jungle

19. Seen Bob Dylan, my musical hero, in concert or just out and about

20. Given birth vaginally

I was inspired by Gretchen at Second Blooming to make this list, and I could have gone on forever. It appears that I've got to get busy and do some of these things -- or not!


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