zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
The third time is confirmation, methinks: no matter what color is in the jar (Voodoo Blue, Atomic Turquoise) or how much bleach I've used, my hair will turn into a deep, vivid green. I'm not complaining: it happens to match my glasses and eyeliner. There are worse superpowers to have.

What I need, though, is to cultivate a gracious way of handling St. Patrick's Day jokes while steering the chitchat into other directions. (March 17 coincides with a sad anniversary in my personal history.) I wonder if there's an economist or Nobel laureate I could make the green in honor of...

Oho, here we go: Joseph Bienaimé Caventou. French. Pharmacist. Co-isolated chlorophyll and caffeine. Caventou, you're my man!

(When you can't berate them, make their eyes glaze over. Heh.)

From Flower Confidential's section on Multi Color, a flower-painting factory:

"We can glitter anything," he said, moving cheerfully past the roses.

The chapter in general ("...a rose the color of blueberries. Actually, it's hard to compare this blue to any color you'd find in nature. It was more of a Las Vegas blue, a sequin-and-glitter blue. A blue you'd find in nail polish or gumballs, but not in a garden. Peter had hundreds of these blue roses...") reminded me of the the daisies that are doctored with shoe polish to pass for black-eyed Susans during the Preakness Stakes.

The window for Rhysling nominations will remain open until Saturday, February 22. My eligible poems can be viewed via this Google Doc until then.

I was thinking of baking a gingerbread Washington pie (from my Complete American Jewish Cookbook) in honor of the holiday, but we ate a a lot of dessert last night, and there are some savories higher on the list (specifically turnip cake and artichoke quiche). Also on this week's agenda: finetune 600 endnotes; relearn how to play poker; reacquaint myself with riding a bike (temperatures are supposed to reach 64 F this week); work on a birthday gift. Onward!
zirconium: snapshot of oysters enjoyed in Charleston (oysters)
This one's for the lawyers... ;-)

He often took his manuscript [of Physiologie du Goût] to court. In fact, it was in idle moments in the halls of justice that he wrote most of it. His other companion, besides his manuscript, was his dog, who went under the uncompromising name of Ida. She followed him everywhere and sat on the bench next to him both in the courtroom and in his favorite Café Lemblin. [His biographer] Monselet relates that during the hunting season the judge's presence was sometimes pungent. This was due to his habit of shooting small game birds and then carrying them around for days in the capacious pockets of his Prince Albert-like coat. As the birds became higher, his neighbors on the judicial bench became more uncomfortable, understandably enough.

-- Samuel Chamberlain, Bouquet de France

I also finally finished Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential last night (it seemed appropriate to do so on V-day), and then I turned to my Southern Living handbook to see if it had anything to say about building cold frames. (We have two window frames, one with the glass still intact. I shall probably turn them into cold frame lids eventually -- but right now it would be an elaborate variation of procrastination. Back to reading about bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators...)
zirconium: photo of cupcake from Sweet 16th, Nashville (crackacino cupcake)
(aka what I was reading during dinner tonight)

The poularde, of course, is a young hen who has been forced by the cruelty of man to submit to an ovariotomy, so that she can be fattened more easily. Thus relieved of a myriad worrisome details, these placid hens avoid domestic cares completely. Indifferent to the chatter of the young, the rivalry of other females, and the philandering inconstancy of the male, she may devote her entire time to the pleasant business of fattening herself on the best corn. More than one critic has reflected upon this bit of skilled alteration which results in such subtle refinements of taste. Capons have suffered similar indignities with resultant plumpness and freedom from vagrant thoughts. One meditative gastronome has come up with the disquieting query: Do cannibals breed eunuchs for their choicest feasts?

[dinner tonight was hot chicken from Pepperfire, accompanied by a glass of Los Dos grenache+syrah :-) ]
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
eggs baked in avocado halves

A cookbook I bought last year suggested baking eggs in avocado halves as an easy breakfast. The results were meh, but now I know what doesn't work for us (at least with this oven, which runs cooler and slower than those of typical test kitchens, based on other adjustments I've had to make to other recipes).

On the upside, the carrot wontons I made two nights ago turned out fine. I ground up a handful of carrots and seasoned them with sesame oil and black pepper...

Carrot filling

I spooned the filling into the wonton wrappers left over from the last time I made a batch of potstickers, and then steamed the lot:

Carrot wontons

I also made a decent goulash out of leftover turkey, rice, and corn (adding tomatoes, onion, cayenne, and the leftover carrot mixture). This morning I fried pancakes because we were out of bread.

This week's bathtub reading has been issue 139 of the Paris Review (1996). From the intro to an interview of A.R. Ammons:

For most of the next decade [1950s] he worked as a sales executive in his father-in-law's biological glass company on the southern New Jersey shore. Ammons published Ommateum, his first book of poems, with Dorrance, a vanity press, in 1955; a mere sixteen copies were sold in the next five years. (A copy today would fetch two thousand dollars.)

Bedtime reading has included bits of Anthony Glyn's The Seine. I am enchanted by this sentence: "Saint Seigne tried hard; it wasn't his fault that he was turned into a river-god."


Feb. 6th, 2014 01:47 pm
zirconium: Spicer Cub (daft horse) during Pimlico (spicer cub at Pimlico)
tulip on my desk

This seems to be the healthiest of the tulip bulbs I moved to indoor containers. It is keeping me company as I edit.

The BYM was given permission yesterday to start putting weight on his leg. Progress!

The BYM has ordered me to refrain from cooking raw anchovies at home in the future -- understandably, since the aroma lingered in the kitchen long after I'd baked them, hauled out the garbage, etc. (and he said he could smell them even before he entered the house). Oh well. The dog was hyper-happy about the experiment (even though I refused to drop the fish-heads on the floor), and the leftovers added oomph to the Chinese spinach I pulverized today to use as a green pasta sauce.
zirconium: Photo of Joyful V (racehorse) in stall (Joyful Victory)
cultivating sunniness

(It's been a gray, gray day.)
zirconium: Photo of cat snoozing on motorcycle on a sunny day in Jersualem's Old City. (cat on moto)
a slip on the tongue...

This morning's fortune

slivers of memory:
grapefruit soda
and mellow Malbecs


time to step back
a step away away from the wreck
there being so much
to learn about breathing
before the next dive
zirconium: French word for "light" (on wall of Cheekwood Mansion) (lumière)
Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus
greeting February shadows
with flame-bright silks

Christmas cactus
zirconium: black pearl pepper plant at Cheekwood (black pearl pepper)

Candlemas eve
coaxing old tulips
toward the new season
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)
My friend Harry was a renowned political scientist: he co-taught a seminar at Harvard with Henry Kissinger for three years, compiled a reading list for Jacqueline Kennedy, and shows up in a lot of bibliographies about U.S. central intelligence. I didn't know any of this, however, until long after he and his wife and I had become friends.

As he grew more frail and forgetful, Harry would repeat stories, sometimes during the same visit. Because I knew he was a tennis fan, I often answered "What have you been doing with yourself, Peg?" with something like "Stayed up too late -- Kuznetsova and Schiavone went the distance in Melbourne!" This invariably prompted the tale of how, as a young man, he had attempted to install a tennis court in his yard. Killing the grass was an ordeal. So was laying the clay. The results weren't very good, and he conceded defeat when tulips popped up along a baseline the following spring.

Harry Howe Ransom died yesterday afternoon at the age of 91. I am remembering how, at the end of many a visit, Harry would simply put his hand on my sleeve and whisper, "Peg, you are one of my favorites." I will miss him.
zirconium: corner of dormant tulip bed (corner)
Coldest day of the winter so far, but the tulips are still proud:

still stubborn

The hollyhocks are saggier than they were at the start of yesterday's snowfall ...


... but it's still so green underneath the outer leaves:

under the hollyhock hood
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
The young cat belongs to my friend Knight. The kitten spent part of the evening perched on my lap, which was covered by an afghan knitted by K's grandmother:

New Year's Eve New Year's Eve New Year's Eve

CNN's two CST clocks -- one for New Orleans, one for Nashville -- were about five seconds apart, which resulted in two sets of numbers being shouted around us, which was pretty funny. The BYM and I started kissing at around 11:59:59 New Orleans time and didn't stop until 12:something:something Nashville time -- as fine a start to the year as I'd hoped.

Today sped by far too quickly, but it included getting to my first yoga class of the year (in jeans, since somehow it's not enough to bring the pants downstairs if you don't put them in the bag you take out of the door...), visiting honorary and immediate family, rereading the New Year's Eve scene in Nora Roberts's Black Rose, and not letting sleeping dogs lie (at least, not right when I got home):

New Year's Day
zirconium: Photo of Joyful V (racehorse) in stall (Joyful Victory)
The Christmas stockings are already back in the basement, and after lunch I might dismantle the wreath for the compost pile, and then prepare kale salad and clove snaps for the next round of shenanigans. It wasn't overly crowded at the dump, but I was amused to see others on similar "let's get this clobber OUT of the house and yard NOW" missions. The grocery stores and wine boutique were hopping as well. The wine shop owner told me that the caramel brownies I'd given to them were "mindblowing." (That recipe has done right by me this past year: I had to bin my first batch because I'd forgotten the gelatin, which left the glaze harder than plexiglas, but I've baked and boiled several pans' worth since then, and it's been pretty sweet to see "OMG THOSE BROWNIES" on my phone. *Cheshire grin*)

My 2013 had a fair amount of grief and fear and aggravation in it. Some of it likely won't be sorted out until 2015, and some of it not ever. I've gotten better at coping with "not soon" and "not ever" scenarios as I get older (Gottseidank), but man, they still bite.

But there was also the love and support of friends and colleagues, both in crisis and in general; happy trips to New Orleans, Keeneland, Atlanta, and Vancouver; seventy-one yoga classes, twenty-one bike rides, and assorted hikes (including a climb up the Grouse Grind); and some publications:

  • one haiku and two haiga, in Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku and Haiga (Dos Gatos Press)

  • "Even an Empty Life Can Hold Water" and "Making Rice Dance," in the "Journeys" issue of Inkscrawl, August 2013

  • "With Light-Years Come Heaviness," in the "Immigrations" issue of Eye to the Telescope, April 2013

  • "Newest Amsterdam," in Dreams and Nightmares, May 2013 (issue 95)

  • "The Bed I Haven't Made," in STAR*LINE, April 2013

  • "Sweet 16th" and "Novecento," in the "Menupoems 2013" featurette of Alimentum, April 2013

  • "Proportions," UU World, Summer 2013 (first published in Measured Extravagance [Upper Rubber Boot, 2012])

  • "creasing the statement," unFold, 10 April 2013

  • "Clinging," in Escape Into Life's "Dog Days of August" feature

  • "Remnant," in Escape Into Life's "Fleurs de Mai" feature

  • "next to the bandshell" and "kittens nesting," in 7x20, September 2013

  • five poems on offer at The Poetry Storehouse for remixing (an offer so far taken up by Nic Sebastian and Othniel Smith); an interview of me was published in the Moving Poems forum on 2 December.

  • "Watching Pain(t) Dry," in Overplay/Underdone (Medusa's Laugh Press)

  • Thank you all for being a part of my life -- be it as an occasional visitor to this blog or the pal pouring me another whisky or some other incarnation of reader/friend/colleague/inspiration. Wishing you all a splendid 2014!
    zirconium: sculpture of owl at Cheekwood, Nashville (Cheekwood owl)
    Henry Parland's My Hat: "My hat / was run over..."

    Jones Very's The Hand and the Foot, a sonnet. I don't agree with the thesis but it's been in my clippings pile all this time because of the final couplet.

    This item in Dylan Thomas's list of Useless Presents: "once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet."
    zirconium: Photo of Joyful V (racehorse) in stall (Joyful Victory)
    Dorothee Lang to Smitha Murthy, on her Italian class:

    The next lesson will be happening tomorrow, but I haven't opened the books yet. I just can't seem to bring myself to sit and learn consecutively. And thus, the gaps in knowledge show more and more. It's like in school, when there are classes you enjoy, that seem fun, that are easy. And so you don't take them seriously until they turn more and more complicated and the pile of things to learn grows bigger and bigger. And you think, "If I had learned just a bit every day from the start, it would still be easy now." Which is a true thought and it should make you sit and start the learning, but it somehow does the opposite: it frustrates you . . .

    Really, I don't know what it is. Why I am not willing to take the time to learn and instead expect to catch the verb forms in flight, by hearsay. Expect Italian to be effortless. Even though I never was good at learning vocabulary and grammar. And taking the Italian book to Majorca and leaving it there in the suitcase to bring it home didn't really solve the problem either. On the other hand, I would have felt silly learning Italian words while sitting under the Spanish sun. But then, both are Mediterranean places. And better to feel a bit silly while learning than ending up without answers.

    -- in Wor(l)ds Apart (Folded Word, 2012)

    Also on language: Smitha Murthy, My War with Chinese

    From my photos of Israel (this one I think near the edge of Eilat), November 2009:

    091102 041
    zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
    A perk of hosting a birthday dinner two days before Christmas is enjoying leftover chocolate praline cake for breakfast on Christmas Eve:

    praline chocolate cake

    The sun is bright and high in the sky. There have been some thin drifts of fat snowflakes, but all they're doing is sending Percy the Panic Catfish into a fin-flapping frenzy, and confusing more of my tulips:

    three more join the party

    another confused tulip

    and then there were four
    zirconium: black pearl pepper plant at Cheekwood (black pearl pepper)
    From this past Sunday's NYT Book Review:

    "The genius of you Americans," the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser teasingly told a senior C.I.A. official, Miles A. Copeland Jr., in the late 1950s, "is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves."

    From the In-2014-I-Plan-to-Fry-More-Tofu Department, via the NYT's Mark Bittman:

    That "good" news you may have read last week about the Food and Drug Administration's curbing antibiotics in animal feed may not be so good after all. In fact, it appears that the F.D.A. has once again refused to do all it could to protect public health.

    [On a related note: How to Make Tofu Really Freaking Delicious. I tried this a couple of weeks ago and the salt soak indeed seemed to help things along.]

    The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study. The responses are also a treat.

    The Goldilocks Guide to Caramels [that sound of hammer meeting sheet glass accidental toffee this morning? Yep, that was me on my front porch...]
    zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)
    Caramel is the delicious toffee-like substance that the cook produces when sugar is heated to a brown color but not burned. The result is what [Marie Antoine] Carême called "monkey's blood."
    zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
    ...which were Laura Lee Guhrke's When the Marquess Met His Match (which, incidentally, has some cheeky nods to Pride & Predjudice and Jo Beverley's Seduction in Silk), I've noticed something the plots have in common that pleases me. It is to some degree a spoiler, so I'll put it under a cut:

    Read more... )
    zirconium: illustration of boots for a fic I wrote (Hooch's boots)
    Sometimes I just have to laugh at my mama's voices in my head. (Okay, more often than just "sometimes.") Today it was when Voice 1 was nagging at me to watch my weight (so, yes, it would not only be okay to throw out the charred chocolate from Sunday's candy-coating debacle, but I actually should) and Voice 2 was simultaneously ordering me to put the whole mess into a freezer bag because it's still edible and the $1.09 I spent on it (i.e., a half-bag of milk chocolate morsels on sale) would become $5.09 in twenty years (assuming an average annual compound interest rate of 8%) and that $4 earned would likely pay for three tins of tunafish and a bag of rice and a carton of frozen spinach if that's all I can afford by the time I'm too decrepit to bus tables or otherwise scrounge for my daily bread.

    Not to mention my own derivative spin of Voice 2, which was urging me to keep the chocolate on hand because what if I need a hit of chocolate three months from now when I'm burning the midnight oil, and there's none in the house because I was listening too much to Voice 1?

    I tell you, some days the noise in my head is worse than a hair salon before an awards show. I'm glad to report that my sensible self prevailed over all these voices (i.e., I need the fridge space for better food, so I dumped the mess into the sink) -- and in less time than it took to type all this -- but holy hell. I'm getting better at recognizing the voices before they tie me into knots, but as my co-worker Gail told me a long time ago, "Your parents know which buttons to push -- after all, they installed them," and rewiring those circuits takes time.

    A plus side to having a spaghetti-wired brain is being able to amuse myself even with rags. When I built a t-shirt fort for the hydrangea last month, I raided my husband's scrap box, which included this tee:

    the t-shirt I nicked

    At the time, the hackberry and walnut trees nearby were shedding leaves like crazy. So I was giggling to myself as I planted that little bit of meta.

    winterizing the hydrangea


    zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (Default)

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