Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I made some cookies last night, a friend needed some cheering up. If you knew me real time you'd learn I almost never make a recipe the same way twice, there are a few things I don't mess with but in general I don't like stifling the creative juices with absolute directions from a cookbook.
But you can try this if you like. They turned out pretty well. I took the regular chocolate chip tollhouse recipe you find on the back of any bag of chocolate chips, and added:

4TB finely ground good quality coffee with an equal amount of boiling water added and then steeped for 5-10 minutes (this softens up the grounds a little). If you used expresso grind I think they'd be even better. Add immediately after the eggs have been mixed in.

An extra 1/2 cup flour (recipe calls for 2 1/4 or 2 1/2 c.)
An extra 1 teaspoon baking soda (recipe calls for 1 ts)
A bag of Toffee chips (add when you add the chocolate chips)

Bake as directed.
Any good names for these welcomed in the comments.

Also on a cooking note, I got a pork shoulder roast on half off sale and tossed it in a zip lock bag last night with chimayo chile powder, kosher salt, oregano, cumin, a bit of sugar, some cabernet left over for cooking, some onion and hickory flavored salts. I'm going to slow roast it as for carnitas this evening.

Anyone want to come over and eat?

(like I said, I tend to mess around with stuff. the carnitas ended up with the following added after the initial roasting in the marinade and tearing apart the meat into chunks: a couple of tablespoons of honey, 1/2 cup apricot nectar, 2 ts chipotle chile powder, more salt, 3/4 c. milk. apparently the roasting at the end with the milk is supposed to make it classic carnitas. The end result was a lot less greasy than taco trucks carnitas and had quite a lot more flavor in the meat. I was pleased!)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dear xxx.
Ok I admit it, that was really a boring email wasn't it?
It basically says in code, "I wish you were here" 300 times.
I spent the last 2 hours reading and sitting in the bathtub. I cried a little. I was happy a little. I thought. I learned a new term today: emotional fusion. It is something I am really good at. Apparently this is not a good thing. I put the book aside before I learned how messed up I really am. I will come back to it though. I was looking for something erotic to read and instead it was a self-help book.
The to-do list is still not started. It's kinda grey and truthfully I just want to curl up and read a book the rest of the afternoon. Not an erotic one, and not a self-help one, something with a good story.

I reread my email to you and realized it was a series of events, nothing the least revealing in the text. I didn't say how it made me angry the pond guy was a flake, about feeling silly and loving and nostalgic making the pancakes for the kids like my Dad used to make for me as a kid, or how I was wistful thinking about yet another trip as a single parent... better yet going to a wedding, or how I struggle with why I am involved in this thing with you and equally struggle with why I'm asking why. As if some answer would make a difference. The book I read talked about why people close their eyes during sex. I guess I hide a lot of things, hoping people will see them anyhow.

bye for now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A quick update, was hoping for a creative streak tonight but none came.

The antibiotics have done the job and I'm for all intensive purposes well. Yay.
Which means work and house and kids and dog are all demanding make-up time. Yikes.
Gonna go put the laundry in the dryer and make kids lunches for tomorrow. Sleep well.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I have a good dad. The type who nags you about going to the doctor and getting enough rest and worries that he's not there when you're sick, even though you're 46 and he's 84 and this would beg the question who should be taking care of whom right?

ANYhow, I was reassuring him last night that I had finally gone to the doctor and gotten some antibiotics and he was lamenting the fact that he wasn't here to help me out. I told him I have all the classic sick stuff on hand, tea, soup, 7-Up, popsicles. When I got to the popsicles, I remembered something about being sick as a kid. My Mom would call my Dad at work, and state in some terribly compassionate fashion how his little one was desperately ill, and needed him to stop on the way home for supplies. This translated into a request for my Dad to stop at the drive-through dairy to pick up juice bars. I would get to choose, grape, orange or lemon. They were all equally good, and a treat that only showed up in the house when I was sick.

The drive-through dairy.

No no that's not what it was. Let's try google image search again.




Oh good here we go.

This is kinda close, but in our case, the drive-through dairy had you drive through the middle of the building, and there was one of those old gas station bells that rang when you drove in, and they came over and handed you the milk or whatever out of the refridgerator cases.

When they were closed, the big garage doors were down and this always seemed like a very sad sight for me even though our stops there were rare.

Occasionally on weekend errand runs, during the summer, we would stop and get fudgisicles as a special treat. I can't tell you why but it was always Dad who went to the drive-through dairy. We of course had regular milk delivery to our front door most of the time I was growing up (glass bottles in a little wire milk crate that held six) so we didn't go to the drive-through dairy for milk. Now I wonder, didn't they sell fudgsicles at the supermarket in the 1960s?

Did you have a drive-through dairy in your town? What did you get there?

Postscript: I am thinking it might have been an Alta Dena drive through dairy, apparently they still have locations in So. Cal although not near my hometown anymore.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Inside every turning leaf
Is the pattern of an older tree
The shape of our future
The shape of all our history
And out of the confusion
Where the river meets the sea
Came things I'd never seen
Things I'd never seen" --Sting

Call it a prayer of hope for those in need

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Funny how emptiness can be so saturating
As if I have been dammed up
Behind the absence of you.

No no, I did not forget myself,
I just cannot hear over the steady roar
Of reminders that you aren't there.

I got those new tires, see?
When I looked down my throat with a flashlight my tonsils looked like plump satin pillows!
And I had this dream about you last night.

But I shouldn't say that either.

All the words dry up before they meet the air
And so my voice has fled.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

It is nearly dark and I am walking my dog and we are walking "the short block" (which is actually about 6 blocks) as I am unwilling to be walking at all tonight and he is desperate to be walking at all tonight and this is our compromise. We approach the halfway mark and he is straining because there is a small child across the street on a bike he'd like to go sniff and she calls over to me, the sort of trusting bold sort of thing that I so like in a small child but which makes me cringe in a world that sometimes feels so full of threats, "Can I pet your dog?" and of course the answer is yes, and I wave at her to come on over, but I have no voice to say yes, have not had a voice since eight this morning, and she squints funny at me and says she can't cross the street, can we come over? And we walk over to her on her bike with the white training wheels and she has pigtails and a chubby sort of face and some darker areas under her eyes and no helmet it occurs to me that it is after nine pm and she is by herself and this is a nice neighborhood and I don't have any good reason to worry and restrain the urge to ask her if her mommy knows she is out because sometimes the questions well meant are themselves scary so I have Joey sit and she asks his name and I whisper Joey. And she asks why I am whispering and I motion at my throat and tell her I have no voice because I am sick and so she very confidingly leans in towards me and says "I'm a dog whisperer" and I think, "Did she say dog whisperer" but I let it go because I can't hold a decent conversation with my throat in its current state. So she pets him and he jumps up and licks her on the face and I whisper "sorry" and she says "that's ok, I like dogs, I'm a dog whisperer" and I say "Well good, and we have to go now. Have a good night" and I start to walk him back across the street, and she gets back on her bicycle and slowly starts to peddle along, and I look back at her wondering which house she lives in, and whether I should have walked her home noting which have garages still open and I feel better when I see one she is peddling towards, and she yells out to me "thanks for letting me pet your dog" as if this is the biggest favor on earth, and I want to yell back to her "thanks for talking to me and petting my dog" because this is the biggest favor on earth but instead I just whisper/shout "Sure" and wave vigorously, and as I turn to go down a different street she has turned her bike around again and is peddling back away from us and I still don't know if she really said dog whisperer.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday Catbird Blogging

She's a tuxedo cat, but a bit lopsided. Half a white mustache, alternating white and black eyebrows, depending on the molt, and nowadays a small circle of grey fur on her forehead betraying her age on an otherwise pretty typical black and white domestic short hair feline (B&W DSH, as they record on the vet logs.) She's 13, which I easily remember because she was one and a half, the same age as my daughter, when we got her. It was late Feb, and after the obligatory two weeks of mourning for her predecessor I was in a rush to find a replacement. Only there weren't any kittens to be found. I called the pound, I called pet stores, I looked at the ads in the paper, but basically people said "kittens arrive in Spring numbskull" and sent me packing. One of the rescue groups sent me to a local "cat lady" though, and she told me about a young female cat she was trying to place. Arriving at her house, I entered a living room where what felt like hundreds (more likely thirty or forty) eyes looked up at me from perches on couches, chairs, tables, floor, window sills, TV set, fireplace, in fact nearly ever surface of the room had a resident cat. A couple of dachshund were dashing around barking and I was invited into the kitchen where still more cats stared at me, one of which was "Della" the cat I was there to see. (Yes as you have already guessed, the house did not smell any too fresh and with the number of animals walking on kitchen counters I was glad I wasn't invited for lunch. Imagine the cat litter logistics in this house!)

Della's story is quite similar to Acorn's, although in some ways both more horrible and less traumatic. Her original owners didn't bother to get her fixed and at puberty she got pregnant. They did not want to deal with this problem so they took her to the vet and asked him to put both her and her soon to be born kittens down. The vet refused but offered to board Della in a rescue home, and so she became a foster child, bore three kittens, which being cute little guys were promptly placed, and there she still was still hanging out with a herd of about 40 other rescue cats and a couple of wild little dogs and a local cat saint, albeit a rather obsessive cat saint. In any case, by now you've ascertained my weakness for these kind of sad stories, so you know the teen mom went home with me. Attributes in her favor included her ability to get along with other pets (we had another cat we didn't want to piss off), her mellow attitude about everything, and that charming half mustache.

But the name was all wrong. Della. This cat had a touch of the whimsical about her, still some kitten left, and Della seemed so stodgy. But nothing else seemed to work. We went through all the typical names for a tuxedo, but in the end a week had gone by and there was still no better name. One night though, we were looking at her oddly-shaped spots and next thing I knew I was humming a silly old song my Dad would sing around the house, "Lydia, Oh Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" and lacking any better ideas we decided to name her that.

Now this might come as a surprise to you but I knew nothing else about this song until tonight, when it occurred to me "oh heck, I can look up the lyrics on google." Ok I think I do remember something about Groucho Marx singing it, but I am startled to learn it was redone in the movie Philadelphia Story, and more still to read the full array of wacky lyrics now associated with our cat:
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
and a torso even more so.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is The Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it, The Wreck of the Hesperus too.
And proudly above waves the red, white, and blue.
You can learn a lot from Lydia!


When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world,
if you step up and tell her where.
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree,
or Washington crossing The Delaware.


Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
When her muscles start relaxin',
up the hill comes Andrew Jackson.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
Oh Lydia The Queen of them all.
For two bits she will do a mazurka in jazz,
with a view of Niagara that nobody has.
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.
You can learn a lot from Lydia!


Come along and see Buffalo Bill with his lasso.
Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso.
Here is Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon.
Here's Godiva, but with her pajamas on.


Here is Grover Whelan unveilin' The Trilon.
Over on the west coast we have Treasure Isle-on.
Here's Nijinsky a-doin' the rhumba.
Here's her social security numba.


Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
Oh Lydia The Champ of them all.
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
And now the old boy's in command of the fleet,
for he went and married Lydia!

I said Lydia...
(He said Lydia...)
They said Lydia...
We said Lydia, la, la!

Music by Harold Arlen. Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg.

My my my.
I had no idea.
It's perfect for her.
She's never been a Della anyhow.

Being thirteen she has her share of stories: for now I'll just share one. As I mentioned, she was used to the dogs in her shelter home, and soon she established a practice of running up to meet dogs on the sidewalk in front of our house when people would stroll by on their evening walks. It seemed she was fearless, and this proved out the week we chose to board a friend's lab while he went on vacation. A friend's 150 pound lab that is. What we didn't realize is that Lydia felt territorial about her backyard even if she kissed dogs walking out front. So when we let "Buddy" out in the back, Lydia waltzed up to him and arched her back and hissed, all too clearly, "Get the heck out of my yard." Unfortunately, Buddy was not smart enough to back away from this terrifying cat he outweighed by at least 130 pounds, and so she literally leaped onto his back and dug her claws in. At this moment, I must say terror and hilarity competed for top billing, and while hilarity won out when she jumped back down as the dog ran for his life, we later paid the price in round two when the dog chased her up a fence which led to torn knee ligaments and much costly medical intervention. But to this day, gimpy and verging on elderly she is top dog in the household, even over the resident border collie.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I've been thinking about a question posed to the attendees of this birdwatching trip I went on last week, raised by Eric Bergman, naturalist at the Pine Butte Ranch run by Nature Conservancy. "What is Natural History and the role of a Natural Historian?"

So here goes with my response.
It is the story the natural world tells us, but it's also the unique perspective the observer brings who collects certain information and connects it together in ways that make sense of it in the observer's experience, then told to us in a story who's meaning is partly derived from the viewpoint of the observer. It is a story about time and place, something many of us bloggers write about, and it is different depending on who tells the story, even though certain natural "laws" may apply.

In the place called "Family Cabin" where many others have slept and where certain things remain relatively constant, such as a river rock fireplace and 1960s era formica counters in the bathroom, I take up residence for the week. When I arrive, the gifted bandana is converted to a bedstand covering and becomes the grounding place or foundation for the little pieces of another place, my Oregon home. This new set of features includes a votive candle, a small stuffed buffalo named "Roam" who travels with me, a flashlight, and a portable CD player. Over the next few days things get added to the bedstand "landscape." From Pine Butte a twig of twisted and heavily weathered limber pine is added on Sunday. Monday, from Indian Head, a found horn of a young buck whitetail, balancing and echoing the lines of the twig, which now hold the candle between them. then a postcard photo of the aerial view of this ranch is added as backdrop behind the candle. Wednesday a young deer jawbone with teeth still intact is added.

If I am the "environment" or system which now flavors and changes this place, as the storyteller it is my imprint now on this cabin shaping and changing its landscape in ways unique and reflecting my ways of appreciating and saving certain pieces of my experience and choosing to retell them on a nightstand. If I had stayed longer maybe the landscape would have continued to be modified, maybe bleeding over onto a desk or fireplace hearth, but certainly when I left Friday my imprint on that place was washed clean, just as the rain will wipe away the grizzly footprints we found on the Butte and the newly swollen river will wash away the spotted sandpiper prints in the sandbank. Other stories will last generations, such as the story left by a family who built a ranch and willed it to be used to help others appreciate the landscape and history they loved in Montana. Some stories may outlast all human storytellers, such as the geology of mountains, glaciers and rivers and the marks they have left on the Rocky Mountain Front. But as Eric pointed out to us, a basic rule of nature is that of change, and without the storyteller of a place, eventually it will be lost to time.

And change leads to diversity, whether via DNA created or environmental, so no storyteller will see things the same exact way, necessarily will tell a different story of a place than another. Therefore each of us has a valuable story to tell in describing a bird, in photographing a weasel, in sketching a lake, in tasting a wildflower. Because your story is different from mine, the collection is richer, more complete, than any one story alone can be. When I look out the window of my cabin at night, I only see this slice of the world - these constellations, these rain drops, these rustling trees. I want to know what others see out their windows of the world as well. And it seems to me this is one remarkable attribute of blogging about our worlds. Recording our "natural histories" and sharing our unique lenses into the life that surrounds us.

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