My friend Debra invited me to Medium last month, but it took me til late last night to write anything there, and then, I waited til this morning to take it live.
Here’s an excerpt:
The pattern of this visit was similar to most others: I bantered with my barista, who commented on the color of my hair that week, asked how my writing was going, mentioned she’d bought tickets to my improv troupe’s show the next week. I spent a few minutes people-watching (a father and his teen daughter were both absorbed with their cell phones, two teens were on a very awkward first date, a table of young women was engaged in animated conversation), and then, drink in hand, I made my way to the door.
I was watching Julie & Julia again yesterday because I didn’t feel well and wanted something comforting to watch, and Meryl Streep does such a great job of playing Julie Powell’s version of Julia Child that the film is worth re-watching.
Also, I’ve been reading a memoir about a woman’s adventures with the different sweet shops in Paris (and New York) and since I couldn’t convince Fuzzy to go buy me a chocolate croissant, watching people enthuse about amazing food was almost as good.
(Fuzzy threatened to take away the book if I didn’t stop whining about croissants. Then he offered to get some from the grocery store. GROCERY STORE CROISSANTS? UGH!!!!!)
But then the soundtrack to the film captured my attention, and I realized that one of my favorite entries from the Great American Songbook is in it: “Time After Time.”
Shirley Bassey does not sing it in the movie.
But she did sing it.
And just as there’s no such thing as too much butter, there’s also no such thing as too much Bassey.
Thursday is nearly over, but I wanted to write about bread, so I’m doing it this way.
1) I spent the day baking bread. Well, that’s not true. Twice today, I spent several minutes tossing the ingredients for bread into the bread machine and pressing buttons. But I spent the day smelling fresh bread being made, so it sort of counts, right?
2) My bread machine is a Breadman Plus, and was a joint gift from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law years ago. It remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It has a jam setting that I’ve never used, though I have been tempted. I don’t really like jam though. I like marmalade. And lemon curd.
3) I learned my love of bread-making from my grandfather. He had a bread machine, too, of sorts. It was a large copper bowl with a hand crank, and it was meant to make it easier to mix the dough.
4) My fondest memories of my grandfather are of the times when we baked bread together. He would wear a blue calico apron with “Chief” embroidered across it (made by my mother – my grandmother’s matching one said “Chiefie”), and I remember him putting cornmeal in the bottom of loaf pans, and knocking on baked loaves to see if they sounded “done.” I was always amazed by the way his rough, thick-fingered, calloused hands could be so gentle with dough. But they were gentle in the garden, as well.
5) My grandfather was a great fan of James Beard. I’m not his greatest fan, but I love the way he wrote about bread. He said, “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” I agree completely.
6) Just as I have a thing for beach novels, and coffee houses, I have a thing for bakery books. One of my favorites is Bread Alone, by Judith Ryan Hendricks. It’s a lovely story about a woman whose husband leaves her, prompting her to rediscover her love of baking, which began during an apprenticeship in France. Okay, I know, it doesn’t sound lovely, but trust me, it is. There’s a sequel, but it’s not as good.
7) Last year, when I visited my mother in La Paz (Baja Sur, not Bolivia) we found a Greek restaurant where the owner/chef bakes his own bread. He got me hooked on this rustic whole-grain loaf filled with pesto. It was amazing.
8) Sprouts sells a walnut raisin cinnamon bread that is to die for. It’s even better when toasted and slathered with honey-roasted almond butter.
9) My grandfather used to keep a special crock on the back of the dishwasher. It was his sourdough starter. I’ve never been fortunate enough to have anyone give me sourdough starter, but I have successfully done a wild-capture, when I still lived in California.
10) San Francisco style sourdough is special because of the type of yeast (wild captured), and the refreshment ratio (40%), but you can actually make it pretty much anywhere. However, true San Francisco sourdough is also special because you’re eating it in slightly salty, coastal air.
11) When Fuzzy is away and I really don’t want to cook, I often make a meal out of good bread, cheese, olives, and fruit.
12) In my family, Italian bread is the soft baguette that you eat with pasta, and it isn’t covered in garlic and cheese. We fight over the ends.
13) White bread (except baguette) never crossed the threshold of my house until I married Fuzzy. I looked at it in horror. He never bought it again. My favorite sandwich bread is pumpernickel. Especially if there’s liverwurst involved.
Bonus: “Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it’s flat.” – Carmen McRae
I wrote about coffee for my Sunday Brunch piece at All Things Girl today (link: Sunday Brunch: Oh, Coffee! ), and I’d love it if you all went and read it, but right now, I want to share a bit of J.S. Bach’s “Coffee Cantata.”
There are days when I wake up in the morning and am disgustingly perky, bouncing in and out of the bathroom, dancing my way to the kitchen, making coffee because I want it, and not because I need it.
Then there are the days like today, when I woke up aching from head to toe, feeling like my brain was wrapped in gauze, and that every movement required me to swim through pudding. I have these days about once a month, but this one snuck up on me, although, in retrospect it explains the meltdown I had via email with two good friends. Hormones are SO much fun!
Fortunately, today was a day where I had no deadlines, so I was able to take myself off to bed as soon as I’d finished wrangling the dogs (the three older ones have to be fed before the puppy can be let out in the morning, or no one eats the right food, and since the four dogs have three different types of very expensive grain-free dog food, this is an important part of my mornings).
I had every intention of doing some writing, but my brain and body joined forces and dragged me into sleep, and so, I spent most of the day curled up on the bed with a stack of books remaining largely ignored, the computers all turned off, and three of the four dogs curled up near me.
Around five, I began to feel slightly more human. Or at least, I felt hungry, so I had a tuna sandwich and part of a ginger ale, took a shower, read magazines for a while, and ran to the grocery store, though I still had that pudding-feeling.
The house is devoid of chocolate (with the exception of chocolate protein shake mix), and I made a point of NOT buying any at the store, but when we got home, I brewed some lovely Kusmi tea which had come in my last Birchbox. The flavor was called “euphoria” and was roasted mate with chocolate and orange. I added a level teaspoon of turbinado sugar, and while I didn’t feel euphoric after drinking it, I did feel a bit more grounded and centered.
Another mug of tea followed about an hour later, along with a cup of strawberry Chobani yogurt, and a ton of water.
And now? Now it’s just after midnight, and while several layers of the brain-gauze have been lifted, I’m still tired and sore, so I’m taking myself back to bed.
Pollen season has hit North Texas which means I either have itchy ears (yes, ears) and watery eyes, or I’m in a perpetual state of Benebriation (you know, that post-benadryl brain fog).
This means I sometimes have to schedule work around my need to sleep off the antihistamine haze.
It also means that quick and easy become the operative word for mealtimes.
Tonight? I cut two organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, threw them into the wok-pan (it’s not a true wok) with a bit of heated olive oil, and tossed them around til they were browned. Then I added a liberal slug or two of my favorite teriyaki sauce, Soy Vey, and let them simmer another ten minutes.
I’m about to add a bag of frozen “Asian-style” veggies to the pan, stick the lid on, and let it all cook together for another few minutes. We’ll eat when the veggies are hot through.
Should I be using fresh veggies? Yes. But when it’s just the two of us, the frozen veggie combos are more cost effective because we can’t use large quantities of fresh veggies quickly enough.
Dessert, in a few hours when we need a snack, will be sliced fresh strawberries tossed with balsamic vinegar, a bit of granulated sugar (cane sugar, of course), and accented with a dash of ground black pepper.
Vintage Typewriter | Credit: MorgueFile.com | Click to embiggen
From my Sunday Brunch column at All Things Girl:
April is National Poetry Month, at least in the USA, and the eighteenth is the day we’re supposed to acknowledge the poems we carry in our pockets. Most of my clothes don’t even have pockets, and the only poetry I write is not for public consumption, but I’ve loved poetry since I was young enough to embrace A.A. Milne (he wrote SO much more than just Winnie the Pooh) and eschew Dr. Seuss (sorry but his silly sing-song-y stuff does nothing for me), so I thought I’d chat about that today.
It was grey and damp over the weekend, which meant it was the perfect weather for Saturday’s International Tabletop Day board game party, and the rain returned Monday night and is still going on as I write this on Wednesday night. Rain and I have a special relationship, so this week’s list is all about that.
1) I grew up on A. A. Milne’s children’s books. Most people know him as the creator of Winnie the Pooh, but my favorite of his works is the book that was published right after Now We Are Six. It’s called A Gallery of Children, and it’s comprised of short stories that are all character studies of different children. My favorite is “A Voyage to India.” Here’s an excerpt:
To-day was the day. To-morrow will be too late. Perhaps even now if it cleared up – but each time she has said this, down has come another cloud. She tried shutting her eyes; she did try that. She tried shutting her eyes and saying, “One, two, three, four – I’ll count twenty and then I’ll open them, and please, will you let the rain stop by then, please, because it’s too terribly important, you know why.” Yes, she counted twenty; quickly, up to twelve, and then more slowly to fifteen, and then sixteen…seventeen…eighteen…nine-…teen…and then, so slowly that it wasn’t really fair, but she wanted to make it easier for God, twe…twe…twe…TWENTY!
But it went on raining.
2) On rainy days, I prefer tea to coffee. I love the way the sugar hisses as it falls into the tea (I don’t typically sweeten coffee). I love the way the rain hisses as it falls into my swimming pool.
3) When there is no actual rain outside, on really hot, dry days, I have movie marathons of weather disasters. A typical choice would be a double feature of The Perfect Storm and The Day After Tomorrow.
4) When I was a kid, I had no idea what a rain barrel was. When my friends and I sang, “Say, Say, My Playmate,” we would sing “Slide down my rainbow,” instead of the original line. (How do you slide down a rain barrel, anyway?)
5) Langston Hughes on rain:
Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
6) My idea of the perfect afternoon is a pot of tea, a stack of books, and a driving rainstorm. A fire in the fireplace is nice, but not necessary.
7) My ability to willfully suspend disbelief is so well-honed that if we see a movie with significant weather, I expect it the actual weather to be the same when we leave the theater. This is especially true for movies where there’s a lot of rain.
8) Despite the above, I actually have a very low threshold for movies where people are tired, hungry, cold, dirty, and wet for long periods of time.
9) A significant part of my childhood was spent in Colorado, where, during the summer, it rains every day, but only for about fifteen minutes. There is NOTHING like a Rocky Mountain rainstorm.
10) I didn’t start getting storm-related migraines until I moved to Texas eight years ago, but the funky purple-grey-green light that comes with storms has always made my eyes hurt. I don’t wear sunglasses at night, but I do wear them on rainy days.
11) I’m not a fan of power-outages, but on dark, dreary rainy days, I like to enhance the mood by keeping the lights dim and lighting candles. There’s something so magical about flickering flames inside and flashing lightning outside, and the combined scents of ozone and candle wax.
12) For my Sunday Brunch post at All Things Girl on March 31st, I wrote about rain. Read about My Romance with Rain.
13) On rainy days, my musical tastes run to instrumental jazz or classical music, rather than anything with lyrics, but my favorite rain-related song ever is Vienna Teng’s “Lullaby for a Stormy Night.” Here’s the video:
I woke up this morning with my right elbow throbbing with pain. It hurts to bend it, and if I try to lift anything heavier than my iPhone, tears spring to my eyes.
Icy Hot Balm, ibuprofen, and a single, leftover flexeril got me through the day, mainly because I logged off everything and spent the day doing laundry, reading, watching comfort television (currently Season 3 of Gilmore Girls) and napping. Max was so worried about me (possibly because he hit my sore elbow causing me to send a glass of cranberry juice flying across the kitchen) that licking my face clear of tears wasn’t enough; he curled up on Fuzzy’s side of the bed, under the covers, and let me rest my sore arm on his warm, soft back.
Dogs make everything better.
Even when you essentially have one hand tied behind your back.
In preparation for the annual summer lightening of my hair color, I’m allowed to use hot water to wash my hair again (my usual technicolored dyes require tepid-water washing) and I’m also once again able to use mint shampoo (mint strips moisture and color).
My current minty fresh hair products of choice? Organix Mint and Tea Tree Oil, which come in curvy green bottles, and smell almost exactly like Girl Scout Cookies…Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, to be specific.
The Dove body-wash I’m currently using, is made with pomegranate but smells like raspberry Zingers.