Thursday, December 18, 2014

A kind of triumph

Yesterday was a little bleak, overcast and cold, but that's just December, isn't it? With the light diffused and glowing, or thin and pointed, cutting through too much dark.

Kevin's grandmother died on Sunday. She was 93. At Thanksgiving dinner she had told my father she was ready to move on. And she did. Last Thursday she fell and broke her hip, as old women do, and then I guess she thought it was the perfect out. We went to see her a couple days after the fall, when they had gotten her settled and comfortable at home, on hospice. We woke her up. Here, we told her, here are the kids come to see you! And she raised her head. And, oh!, she said. And she looked at them like they were puppies, and cooed. She smiled with them and let us hold her hand for a few moments. Then she let her head fall back onto her pillow again and fell asleep.

That was the last time.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The long answer

Today, all day, the clouds parted long and wide enough for the ground to dry out a little and for us to pick out a hairball of a tree. In the next few days we will wrangle the monster inside, deck the halls, make merry, and invite the family to help cut out snowflakes and hang ornaments. The month has begun to twinkle. It feels good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The next twenty years

When I was eight, Thanksgiving was about leaf-patterned vests with coordinating too-hot turtlenecks. We kids were let loose after dinner, to take a cleansing walk around the block. And it lasted a long time. Our stomachs were near to bursting, mostly full of potatoes and gravy and the cranberry jelly we slid and sliced from a can. (I always, always loved the suck and slip of the cranberry cylinder as it dropped from the can to the plate.) And we were all happy, pretending our California fall felt like fall, and wishing secretly it would instead be foggy or rainy or colder than it really ever was. We had enjoyed dinner, and it was nice to see everyone, but it was just another party. It was a fall version of Christmas, without all the presents.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Margins: Dinner for a family at five

I have been fighting for a while now. Fighting to keep us all fed. Fighting to carve notches of space from the hardwood of our days. Fighting to not suffocate under the dailiness of living.

Take note: I know depression, and I am not depressed. I have the strength and the sleep reserves and the space to fight in the first place. But the fighting I’ve been doing has been, at times, pathetic. It has been limp-wristed, weak-armed, uncoordinated, and half-assed. And I'm done with that.

I have two versions of my life: The version where taking the time to make pizza feels expansive. I gather all the ingredients. I let the dough rise. Time shoots up and spreads like a veritable fountain of youth, bubbling, making every second new and shining and beautiful. And then there is the version of my life where I give in to hurriedness and efficiency, and even getting takeout is too time-consuming and messy. Dinner is empty and so is my fridge, and I stay where I was before dinner: lost in avoiding the daily and trying to paw my way out of a glass bowl. Every expected squeal from my children is a scratching on the surface of my spinal cord.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More than the sum of its parts

I like the way my friend Melanie would say it when anyone tried to organize, emphasizing the end: pot-luck. As in, a "pot-luck" is by nature a luck-oriented ordeal. It is a meal where people convene and are asked to bring and edible "something." But there is always the chance that it won't quite work. There may only be salads. There may only be chips and dip. There may be no magic at all.

kale and delicata salad with pomegranate and rosemary

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin Frosting

October is always odd in my corner of California. Half the time the weather is too hot and too windy for much fall frivolity. This October has come and gone, but I just might have got a grip on it: the squash, pumpkins, and pomegranates. The apples, late figs, and persimmons. And the lingering bites of summer that I usually try to ignore. We moved back almost five years ago, but finally, I think I am getting the swing of the seasons.

 chocolate cake with pumpkin frosting

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Smitten Kitchen's Apple Cake (with Thyme and Rose)

I'm standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the front window when they arrive. I'm rushing, to finish the apples. Peel, quarter, core. Slice. Toss with cinnamon, thyme, rose petals. Squeeze of lemon. The oven is hot, and the day is cool. This is the plan: to have the ingredients five-year-old ready. He walks in. We hug. I say, hey, want to sift some flour? And the magic starts. If I can just breathe through  flour on the floor, look away when egg yolk dribbles across the counter, and let him wander in the kitchen, his way, we're in for a good night.

Apple Cake with Cinnamon, Thyme, and Rose

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl: A dream in the making

If real life were the same as my dreams, my son's school's harvest festival last Friday would have sold sugar cones of this Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl. It would have had a three-legged-race for big people, bobbing for apples for everyone, a portable wood-fire oven for the Autumnal pizza I'm craving (with dried figs and hot pepperoni), and salty, buttered popcorn in wee paper bags. If real life were the same as my dreams, I'd be the master of the Cake Walk (think musical chairs, but with cake!) and I'd have brought a layered pumpkin delight with chocolate glaze. We would have raised a bazillion dollars and get to revamp the school garden and build an outdoor theater space. And Cedar, the kindergartener, would grow up to be the next Michelangelo, or Einstein, or Steinbeck, all because of this ice cream and the races and the layer cake and the wholesome, perfect fun.

Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl, melting in its serving dish

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Margins: The girl eating pears

Two days ago was the autumnal equinox. Yesterday was New Moon. And this morning a drought-stricken California woke to rain. I'm not saying that anyone outside of this landscape would know that fall has reached the Sacramento Valley, but we who live in this place know. After all, the leaf tips on all the trees are dried and brown, and what is still fresh is turning a different shade. There are pears. Huge strong-stemmed, cinnamon-sweet Yali. Rough brown Bosc. Juicing, palm-small Seckel. Luxurious and luscious Comice. The jujubes, too, are a ruddy and falling off the trees. And I am thrilled. Thrilled in a quiet, yawn and stretch sort of way. Fall is a good, productive time for me. Fall has a way of whooshing me back down to earth, the solid substance of ground underfoot. It is the down swing, a movement slow and warm, gentle enough to not produce a panic, but with enough strength behind it to understand, there is no fighting. There is only sitting down (or standing up!) and doing my work, whatever that is. There is only stepping out and taking risks in that quiet, plodding way - the way that means I'll have enough energy to risk again, ad infinitum, because I'm not flitting about like some caffeinated faery before a faeryland beauty pageant. This is no pageant. This is no show. And I'm not flitting or fighting anyone or anything at all. This is just autumn, and I am just me, the girl eating pears.

Seckle pear on table

It happens to also be the first day of the Jewish New Year today, too. I am not Jewish, but like sacred sites that rotate through organized and not-so-organized religions, a holy day is a holy day, no matter who claims it and what for. So, it is nice to notice. Happy New Year. Happy New Moon. Happy new season. May it bring the quiet and the good work and the rest it should.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Blackberry Mace Cake with Spelt

I made this cake a while back, before the high-strung, be-bopping business of summer really hit. Its energy - its blackberry, mace, and spelt energy - is what I want right now. It is dark and grounded and earthy. It acknowledges summer without giving in to it - I love that. I suppose it also helps that the cake is deeply spiced, darkly fruited, and simple. A cake for Ordinary Time.

Blackberry Mace Cake with Spelt