Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Report from the Wilds

Oliver found what he called a trap tossed on the side of the road on our street. He has been outside for hours, messing with it and has set up a line of cheese to its door.

The rope goes through his bedroom window. I have taken a largely laissez-faire attitude toward this endeavor. Reader, if you are worried about raccoons or even rats coming to an untimely end, know that the thought has crossed my mind but it kept on going.

Stay tuned.


Sick person on her way to Lourdes to take the waters.

I have a common cold, so it's no big deal. But I do love this picture and feel envious of the stretcher and the trip to France.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baking as Metaphor

It's not what you think. There are warm smells of yeast rising, the edges of bread baking or cookies crisping. The steady hand can mold and shape marzipan and fondant into tiny facsimiles of the real thing, but it's not the real thing. I read the directions for the white icing recipe that I've read hundreds of times: Add shortening and butter and beat on medium-high until it triples in volume, ten to twenty minutes. The days go by, even the years, and despite the adding, the layering, volume only triples. The rest is air. The steady chipping away comes up from within. The whirring and whiz of the mixer drowns it out, but it's still there. I read Heather's post about perspective, about the struggle for empathy, of other people's problems, problems that we bakers we molders of the impossible see as tripled in volume but made of air. I don't want to talk about schools, one says, it's too stressful. My father is coming for Thanksgiving, another admits. He'll drive me insane. The handyman is late; he's always late and it's giving me stress. You know who you are. The public schools here are dangerous, terrible, another confides, forgetful of the person to whom she is speaking. You're so changed -- both for the worse and for the better. The pastry chef's fingers are deft, and her sense of timing exquisite, but her fingers flail, grow arthritic with the struggle to think all is relative. All is relative. All is relative. A refrain that makes her weary in effort. She just can't lose the thread. Plop. Plop. Plop. The icing falls from the bag in an even swirl that belies effort. The boy lies in the bed, his head wrapped, the cancer cells growing, volume tripling, even as the burst in his brain tries to settle. All is relative, all is relative, all is relative, she thinks, struggling with volume when there's only air. Perspective is a thick band that grows thinner and ends in a point, a pastry bag with a tip, the swirl of frosting from the outside, round and round to the center.

You know who you are. And it's not what you think.

** This post is dedicated to Heather and Klein

Monday, November 28, 2011

In lieu of words of my own,

I opened up Garrison Keillor's collection of poetry titled Good Poems for Hard Times.

I randomly opened to this poem, on page 88 by Anonymous:

Carnation Milk

Carnation Milk is the best in the land.
Here I sit with a can in my hand --
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

I have to say that random poetry is perfect. Try it and let me know what you come up with.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nothing is Magic and Everything is Real

Blue skies, rugged mountains

Trees laden with grapefruit, ripe for the picking

Christmas poinsettias among a riot of color

Peaceful fountains

The view from our room

More ridiculous grapefruit trees

Sparkly pool water

Beach balls and hot tubs

What the hell is that?

A little closer

Could it be?

Could it actually be....?

Holey mackerel! It's Santa!

When Santa lands at your feet, it's hard to get a clear photo...

But it was definitely The Man

The tree was dark, 

and then there was light.

One night in Palm Springs, crashing with my friends -- who needs Christmas?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wish you were here

The boys and I have driven to Palm Springs for a night with friends.

I might dye my hair blonde like the lady above and wear a green bow in my hair and a cute swimsuit.

I might never come back.

Tips from Oliver, Part One in a Series

I took Sophie, Henry and Oliver to the nursery yesterday, to buy some potting soil for our vegetable garden. The boys climbed into the car, Henry in the front seat with me, and Oliver in the back with Sophie.

Oliver leaned over and gave Sophie a resounding kiss on the cheek.

Sophie smells weird, like lavender. She needs to smell like something different, he said.

What do you mean? I asked.

I think she needs to smell like a normal girl, like what normal girls wear. Like Daisy and Emma.

But lavender smells good!

Yeah, but it smells sort of like what a baby's clean butt should smell like. Not a teenager.

I handed him a small roll-on fragrance thingy that I had in my purse, some kind of ginger essence from Origins.

Yeah, that's good, he said, after rolling it on Sophie's neck. He leaned in to smell her and said, Yeah, that's good. She smells like a normal girl now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Love Letter to Cara

Dear Cara,

I lay on Sophie's bed this morning as the sun poured into her room, listening to one of the three CDs that you brought over to us on Wednesday with your beautiful girls. The sun was pouring through the windows on this morning after Thanksgiving, and despite last night's difficulties, my heart swelled up out of sorrow and into joy. Each song so carefully chosen; words that crept, then danced around the room and my tears running down my face -- Of all my extraordinary friends, your ability to do this for me is something that I can only wonder about and accept as being nearly divine. Thank you, Cara -- thank you for your understanding, your silly humor, your tight hugs, your wisdom and understanding. Thank you for listening, for always saying the right thing, for your strength in combating your own illness, for raising two beautiful girls, for thinking of Sophie, for talking with Sophie, for believing in Sophie. Thank you for your attachment to us, for your holiness and deep spirituality.

All my love,

It's like a breath of fresh air, a clear stream and other platitudes, but

Yosemite, 2011

I am grateful to read Nicholas Kristof's editorial in yesterday's New York Times titled Are We Getting Nicer?

So let me be contrary and offer a reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Despite the gloomy mood, the historical backdrop is stunning progress in human decency over recent centuries.
-- Nicholas Kristof

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A bit of contrary charm

Thanksgiving Angst by Anna Dibble

via Moira's wonderful blog Dog Art Today

Happy Thanksgiving

Yosemite 2009

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving - Day Three

I'm thankful for laughter and humor. I'm thankful for my Fox News-watching relatives and I'm thankful that I don't have to watch Fox News. I'm thankful for waxed eyebrows, friends who have people over for Thanksgiving dinner and good report cards. I'm thankful for funny texts from my little sister in Washington, D.C., and  I'm thankful that it looks like fall outside in Los Angeles, but it's not too cold.

How We Do It: Part VII in a series

Making a wish on Sophie's first birthday

The picture was grainy, black and grey and white shapes, no movement other than the cursor, no sound other than the doctor's steady voice. The last time I had looked at such a screen, Oliver was floating around in my belly. There it is. There's her uterus, and there's the lining, she said as she rolled the wand over Sophie's stomach, glistening with gel. I bent over Sophie, one hand on her chest, the other on her forehead. I was holding her down. The doctor had turned out the lights in the room, and Sophie was fairly relaxed. When I looked into her eyes they were dilated, her pupils dark and as expressive as they ever are. I spoke matter of factly to the doctor, asking her questions and reassuring Sophie every few seconds or so. It's all right, Sophie; I know it's cold on your belly, but it's all right, I said, brushing the hair from her forehead. So, it's really hard to see anything, isn't it? I asked the doctor. I don't know how you do that. The last comment inane but I'm conversational, a social genius at best. When she was finished, I took the paper that lined the recliner and wiped the gel off Sophie's stomach. The doctor switched the machine off, and Sophie sat up.

Everything was fine. We went to the gynecologist to inquire about hormones, about puberty and its effect on her seizures. We talked about pheromones and Sophie's cycle linked to mine, her bad days making mine look like a carnival, a fun house. I learned that the uterine lining is very thin in Sophie, that the lining is as thin as a marathon runner's might be. I learned that the reason why she doesn't have periods is probably because of that and that everything else looks fine. I already knew that, though. Perfectly fine. We spoke a bit about estrogen and progesterone; the doctor wrote a prescription for progesterone. Let's try it for three months, she said, if it helps at all, you'll know by then. 

I put Sophie in her stroller and wheeled her out into the Santa Monica afternoon. We headed east on Olympic Boulevard, saw glimpses of the skyline, silver and clear against blue. We saw mountains behind it, their tops iced in early snow. The cars stopped and started; we sat in a gridlock for over an hour and then another hour went by when twenty minutes would have sufficed. Brake lights blinked and the voices on the radio suddenly infringed on me. I turned them off and sat in silence with Sophie, our car moving along, a buffer from sirens and horns and gesticulating drivers with appendages where ears might have been.

I have now seen my daughter's brain and her uterus, one functioning abysmally for no apparent reason, the other functioning perfectly, for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Week -- Day Two

I know -- it's an over-exposed thing, but this one made me smile, and I'm grateful for anything that makes me smile.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I think I need to crawl into a hole and not come back out until 2012.  I made the mistake of venturing into CostPlus World Market and was overwhelmed by Christmas prematurity. The amount of cheap stuff for sale was astonishing.

I hate cheap stuff. Who buys all this cheap stuff? There were literally hordes of people evidently buying cheap stuff, speaking what seemed like a dozen languages.

I bought a microplane to grate nutmeg and a case of what my Italian relatives call agita.

Thanksgiving Week - Day One

Olvera Street, 2007

To open deeply, as genuine spiritual life requires, we need tremendous courage and strength, a kind of warrior spirit. But the place for this warrior strength is in the heart.

Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Half Century Cake

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yellow Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Nonresistance, UC-Davis Style

I find this photo remarkable:

Photo: Brian Nguyen

I'm struck, too, by what James Fallows calls the moral power of an image in this Atlantic article.

Whether you support the Occupy movement or not, you have to admit it's incredibly interesting. I feel, at turns, cheered, energized, afraid and puzzled by and for it.

The United States Constitution states the following in the First Amendment, of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Winter skies, Venice Blvd. 4:30 pm

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Inspiration

Have another drink


I'm having a salty dog.

Remember last week's post? I wrote about Gail Collins and her brilliantly funny posts about the current political campaigns in The New York Times. I mentioned that it's a fun game to find the sentence in her column about Mitt Romney tying his dog to the top of the station wagon for a family trip to Canada and marvel at how she does it. Then make yourself a drink.

Play here.


(and if you live in the southern California area and want a couple of passes to the upcoming college basketball tournament in Anaheim, I'm giving them away here)

Joan Didion

photo credit: Gary Leonard

I didn't have a clear view of Joan Didion on Wednesday night when I went downtown to hear her at the historic Vibiana Theater. I had bought my ticket for $20 several months ago, before the publication of Didion's latest memoir Blue Nights, and it was general seating. The room was cavernous, a former church, I think, built in the late 1800s. About six hundred people sat in folding chairs in the grand room; a woman lurched over me to a saved seat about five minutes into the program. She apologized profusely and made a big production of sighing and sitting down. Didion was about the frailest speck of a woman I've seen in a long time, wrapped in a soft pale purple shawl, her long fingers constantly in motion as she spoke and read from her essays and books. The woman next to me literally typed and texted into her iPhone THE ENTIRE HOUR that Didion spoke. As you know, I've been in a mood of late, and I was unable to tune the woman and her phone out. Rather, I was constantly mindful of her and her texting, which completely detracted from the iconic writer, and I spent more time debating whether I should say something to the texting woman than I did listening to Didion. As my son Oliver said tonight when he lost in the second heat of the Raingutter Regatta at his Cub Scout meeting, EPIC FAIL.

I've read nearly all of Joan Didion's writing and admire her writing immensely although I've never felt particularly connected to her writing emotionally. Does that make sense? 

The first thing she read Wednesday night (and before I became completely and utterly distracted by THE TEXTER) was her famous opening line from The White Album:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

The White Album was published over two decades ago, and lays bare in the driest of tones and most beautiful language the culture of California in the sixties and seventies, yet that line rang through the crowded church as true as it ever had. Didion's two latest books, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights chronicle the respective deaths of her husband and her only daughter. It was difficult to imagine what stories Didion must have created in order to live through those deaths.

I thought, a bit, of those of us here, in blogworld, who write our stories in order to live, who craft with words in attempts, somewhat vain, to make sense of what will probably never make sense. I'm not sure why there's comfort in the crafting, but there is. Didion also stated that she always writes for an audience and never for herself, that the relationship between writer and reader is as intense as that between the actor and the audience in a theater. 

I'm still thinking of these things, two days later, and despite the fact that THE TEXTER (or my inability to ignore her) prevented me from really hearing much of Didion's talk, there was something in those few words that I did hear that will resonate for a very long time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Terrific Thanksgiving Weekend Community Event and Giveaway

I was recently approached by 76 Classic Gives Back to host a giveaway on my site and tell ya'll about this wonderful community event. I am NOT being paid to do this but thought it was a wonderful event, particularly as we get closer to the holidays and begin drowning in a sea of buy, buy, buy. Here's the info:

The 76 Classic is a men's college basketball tournament, held in Anaheim, CA over Thanksgiving weekend. That's in Orange County, right next to Disneyland. This year's tournament includes Boston College, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Saint Louis, Santa Clara, UC Riverside, Washington State and Villanova. This year, the 76 Classic has identified Hunger Relief and Education as two areas in which the surrounding Orange County communities can benefit. In partnership with the City of Anaheim, the 76 Class has designed philanthropic programs to support local charities, as well as elementary, junior high and high schools throughout Orange County to get involved. The general public can get into the 76 Classic (one session; two games) for $10 with a can of food for donation. They can also visit Northgate Markets and buy and donate food there for a voucher for free admission.

-All students K-12 and children can get into the tournament (one session; two games) for free with a can of food.

All proceeds go to the Orange County Food Bank. Just to clarify, the public will get into one session of the tournament with one can of food for $10 or free for children. They will need to donate a can per session.

All donated food items will go to the Orange County Food Bank.

For more information on the 76 Classic tournament or the 76 Classic Gives Back program, please visit

Now here's my giveaway! I have two passes to attend the tournament. Please leave a comment below before Monday at 5:00 pm Pacific Time. I will draw a random winner and notify you Monday, November 21st. You must then give me your contact info and the tickets are yours on Tuesday!

Play ball!

My bathroom is so tiny

that I call it the Barbie bathroom. The lovely lady above stares at me every morning and I stare back. I love her so much. This morning, I stared thoughtfully at her as I picked up my Origins A Perfect World moisturizer and spread it on my face. It is a perfect world, she whispered to me through her silky mouth, and tonight, when I apply Origins Starting Over, I'm certain that she'll laugh and whisper the same.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Walking with Sophie

I'm not going to expound upon my morning which, much like many mornings, was an aggravating and upsetting one, filled with miscommunication, seizures, cancelled plans, and lots and lots of crying. After a cleansing call from my friend Heather, and more tears and jagged sobs, I headed out with Sophie for a walk, and while my eyes felt hot and my head pounded, I was cheered, once again, by our glorious weather here in Los Angeles. The skies were outrageously blue; I had a tee-shirt and sweater on that I had to remove and tie around my waist; the breeze was blowing and I thought to myself that if it weren't for the weather, I might be dead.

I had to take a picture of this very strange front "lawn" which was actually a cemented over yard in front of a 1920s apartment building. The owners had cut out circles and squares in which pathetic plants grew. Weird, weird, weird.

The thing about Los Angeles is the incongruity of the urban grit and riotous color, all thrown together no matter where you look. This crazy beautiful rose crept up a window in an otherwise dirty and decrepit yard.

The fall colors are fantastic -- and while they don't scream as loudly as they might in New England, the sweet-gum trees give us a bit of glory.

So, I'm not dead and have made it through another day. Here's to the morrow, as they say.


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