Sunday soup

It’s Sunday and I made “garbage soup” — you know, one of those concoctions that thriftily uses up items in the fridge no longer up for a starring role? Every version is necessarily different. Today’s batch included: slightly rubbery celery, tired lettuce, the ends of four sliced-open heads of garlic (above), a few small potatoes, one shallot, and excellent chicken stock. (Honestly, with good chicken stock, you could probably boil up strips of newspaper and find them edible).

Once blended and topped with parsley, this batch tasted pretty much like cream of celery soup. Yum! Especially considering there isn’t an ounce of dairy in it. Wonderful for an off-again-on-again rainy day. We enjoyed it after a quick visit to a Pottery Barn down the road. Because college tuition ended rather sooner than expected, we might replace some of our more awful or out-of-scale pieces of furniture. A smaller coffee table would be nice. The one we have is nice but a little too big and it blocks the fireplace.

We also looked at headboards to get ideas (we will make our own). I lusted after floral linen shams, faux fur bathrobes (so soft!), candle hurricanes, and darling reindeer ornaments. Seems like plaid is a thing this year. Maybe a few will be left come January.


Had fun taking B&W pix  — I’ve been tagged on Facebook. You probably know the drill.




Lastly, I went to the Tenth Annual Boston Book Festival yesterday. Went with my friend and writing teacher. We ate hot dogs, wandered inside the Boston Public Library and attended a great panel discussion between two fiction writers (Claire Messud and Jacqueline Woodson). If it doesn’t turn into what feels like a homework assignment, will share more.

Umm sugar

I can be an unabashed braggart when it comes to food — moaning my approval before anyone else at the table has a chance to comment, for instance. But, you know what? Every now and then I just hit it out of the park! These sugar cookies sailed right over the Green Monster* into my happy, happy mouth (*for those who don’t know, that’s a Fenway Park reference).

The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.

I don’t bother with their laborious flour concocting and instead use whatever gluten free flour is to hand. These cookies feature almond meal — always a boon for this nut-lover’s palette — and cream cheese, which probably accounts for the confections’ creamy softness. I happened to be out of vanilla (what? –  I know!), so I subbed a smaller amount of almond extract. Pow — these cookies are to die for. And that’s saying something for gluten free!


It’s Friday and it finally stopped raining. I’m reading Michael W. Twitty‘s food memoir and just got to the part about his conversion to Judaism and the parallels between Jewish and African American culinary traditions. Left me with a hankering for pastrami (I must trust my dear readers to be openly lusting for sugar and red meat in the same post!). There may be a run to Zaftig’s in my near future. There happens to be one near my favorite Christmas Tree Shop in Natick (please stop, Dee — too many confessions for one post).


I’ll end on a loftier note. Here’s the start of my contribution to a wonderful collaborative art/magic project that Mo is dreaming up (I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer — It’s Crow Time). More to come.

Twick or tweet?

I’m in bed and it’s dark and still raining. Click and glow — the phone in my hand. First up, a hilarious take on Halloween candy, the kind of diversion one hopes for and almost never finds in one’s merry traipsing across social media.

The World’s Most Evil Candies Ranked,” by Dhiraj Naseen. You’re welcome.
(I’m in agreement about all except: candy corns — yuck! don’t like ’em.)

Tap, tap. Next up: an article about how scanning social media first thing in the morning rots your brain. I kid you not.

Click and down goes the phone — I’m no fool! — but carefully, having dropped it enough to have those spider web cracks typical of millennial devices (makes me feel young!).I listen to the rain. Under the covers, I stretch my hips.

Unfortunately, NPR’s on. Oh great, trump will prevent Obama’s student debtor protections from becoming law, because — why? Because we all want our young to be victims of predatory lending – of course we do! Certainly, Betsy DeVos does.Another kind of poison — the inescapable toxic cloud of indecency that is the news. It’s harder to click off. There’s no getting away from it. Not really.

I jog while Nozema-ing my face in the dark — as if it might make me live longer or at least, render my jeans a decent fit again. I don’t feel like a millenial now.

Descending the stairs for coffee and the day’s official start, it’s still dark. I cover the stove and microwave LCD clocks with post-it notes — their glare offends. Okay, leave me alone.

Then, it’s down to business — a vigorous editing session and then an almost-hour-long-walk with the dog in the rain.


Home to a ‘call me back, it’s important’ message on the landline.

Turns out, all I have to do is set a firm deadline to call forth the Gorgon of my sister’s need (did you know the three Gorgons were sisters? I’ll be Medusa! She can be one of the ones nobody’s heard of).

Okay, it’s really serious, having to do with ignored notices from MAHealth, cut offs looming, documentation required (um, two weeks ago?). Even a 1% contribution to medical costs — heck, even a 1% contribution to her DRUG costs — would savage my sister’s finances (or upset the apple cart of my brother’s help — equally catastrophic).

But, wait – what’s happening? No clenching of the jaw. No pleading (her) or heaving of big, resentful sighs (me). What’s changed? Is it the reduction in her meds, restoring mental alacrity and energy? Is it me, ferociously resolved not to be sideswiped by another’s need?

Whatever it is, I’ll take it. She’s handling it (seems to be?) — late, but handling it. I’m laudatory about that, only mentioning the lapsed deadline two (or was it three?) times.

Imagine having no car, needing a walker, owning no real estate, no stocks or bonds, having no savings, no credit or debit card, and paying rent that consumes 75% of a meager income, barely leaving enough for utilities (and certainly not enough for food) and then having to prove one’s poverty to the powers that be.

I’ll blame this on trump. What state wouldn’t want to clear its health insurance rolls of riff-raff in light of all the uncertainty that has so vindictively been inserted into the arena?

Shake your head and note: this personal thread substantiates the earlier point about trump being an all-pervasive toxic cloud.

But I’ll end with this — ‘Flake’ should be the new ‘fleek’ (not that I EVER got what that meant — in spite of some effort, mind). It should be a thing and a good thing — as in “the man spoke with the strength of his convictions. He ‘flaked’ in front of the entire Senate Chamber.”

 

Such good news!

I received intensely good news on Thursday, news that’s galvanizing my revised deadline.

  • (New deadline: January 6).

Are you ready? A friend pitched my book to a friend of hers who happens to be a literary agent, someone legit. The agent is “very interested,” loves the topic. Will read the manuscript when I’m ready — (“she’ll know when she’s ready”). She said, “It’ll all come down to the writing.” Well, yes — I’m ON IT!

The Universe is on notice. No more weeks lost to health issues — please! — mine or anybody else’s! Holidays — gotta be simple this year — for real! No travel til next year.

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Just prior to this incredible news, I’d set up an altar to my ancestors for the first time ever. Interesting, eh? What began as an exercise in learning about African American tradition already lifts my spirits and powerfully furthers my goal.

I’ve always known my parents would root for me and think me up to the task, but this is different. It’s faith-based and operates within non-linear constructs of time.

 

  • That’s me in the B&W. It must be in Rome, Georgia, because I look to be about two?
  • In the second photo (taken at Jones Beach, perhaps?), my mother wears plaid and my father is to the left. I wonder who that guy is to the right? Leaning in like that? This would’ve been some summer in between semesters at Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY — where they met).

Advice


From the research files, happed upon earlier while cleaning up, this Scottish saying: Be happy, child, for you’re a long time dead. 

It sounds like something my father might’ve said. Is there an Irish corollary, I wonder? 

A Nutty Bonanza

And no, I’m not talking about my family (could be, but I’m not). This year, our two black walnut trees have produced a bumper-bumper crop. This, after two years of worrisome sparse production. Look how many have yet to fall!


Don’t you love their spicy scent? For me, a buoyant appreciation for the trees is somewhat corrective. Without even really knowing it, I generally direct a muted ire their way. Why? Because their roots emit a toxin that kills a remarkable number of shrubs and perennials — even hardy natives. I won’t enumerate the losses, but suffice it to say, that if my efforts over the years had thrived the street corner’d be better screened (a view rendered even more naked by the recent felling of my neighbor’s four dead hemlocks).

img_8908Initially, I used the squirrel-smashing rock to roll the nuts free of their hulls. But since I squatted in view of a driveway full of already smashed hulls, I gathered those. The popping sound of nuts under moving vehicles is a distinctive fall sound around here. This year, I’m determined to serve a bowl of the nuts at Christmas. Never have. There will be washing, air drying, and stowing involved and then it appears, a fair amount of work to reveal the meat. It’s an awful lot of labor for a mouthful of nut, isn’t it? So far, using the hose on “jet spray” to rinse the nuts is the most wasteful part of the process. I might add a soak prior to cleaning to see if it abbreviates rinsing.

The improvised drying rack might better be called “Squirrel Buffet”!

We are enjoying yet another incredibly beautiful fall day here in New England. I hope you all have wonderful weekends!