11 March 2013

a poem

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I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
heavily
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—

you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!



"Love Song" by William Carlos Williams, from William Carlos Williams: Selected Poems (The Library of America, 2004).

Photo by me.
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09 March 2013

pulp the classics

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Pulp! the Classics:  so good.

What's your favorite?


Illustrations by David Mann. Book design by Elsa Mathern. More info here.
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07 March 2013

feta and olive focaccia

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When did I lose my sweet tooth? (Is there such thing as a salt tooth, and is that what I have now?) These days instead of dessert after dinner — say, the recommended single square of dark chocolate — I savor a single square of feta cheese, plucked fresh from its bowl of brine.

And I guess I'm a savory baker now, too. Sunday I made two pizzas and cheese-studded focaccia and breakfast buns for the week. Three bowls of yeasty dough perched precariously on the radiator, swelling with their invisible fizzy bubbles. There's something satisfying about baking several breads at once, tending to each loaf as sweat drips down my back, my flour-dusted apron proof of three jobs thoroughly handled, afternoon light glinting goldenrod in the window.

We've had fat, fluffy snowflakes drifting past our house this week, and every night I practically sprint through their downfall to get home and heat myself pesto pizza, or spread pale butter on olive bread. My nights are good food and red wine and Boardwalk Empire, and continually coming to grips with the fact that small things make me happiest, in this short term day-by-day kind of life I'm living.





Feta and Kalamata Olive Focaccia

(adapted from here)

Makes one 12-inch loaf

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup diced feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil for brushing
pinch coarse salt
shredded Parmesan cheese for sprinkling


In a large mixing bowl combine warm water with yeast, sugar, and salt. Let sit for 3 minutes, or until begins to bubble. Chop feta, olives, and garlic. Add these ingredients, along with flour and olive oil, to mixing bowl, and stir until well-combined. If dough is too wet, add 1 or 2 tbsp of flour. Don't knead the dough.

Lift dough, grease mixing bowl, return dough to bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in warm area and let rise until dough has doubled, about 1 hour. Knead dough once and dump out onto well-floured surface. Press into a circular or oval shape about 1 1/2 inches thick. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray, and carefully transfer dough round to sheet. Preheat oven to 425º.  Cover dough and tray with a cloth and let rise again for 20-30 minutes.

Poke several indentations into dough with finger. Brush olive oil over surface, and sprinkle with coarse salt. If you wish, press additional olive and feta pieces into the bread. Bake for about 10 minutes; remove from oven and quickly sprinkle with shredded cheese. Return to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes more, or until golden brown and crusty to the touch.

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14 February 2013

more than juice

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These Arrested Development Valentines by Marisa Seguin have "touched my heart" this morning. I've been e-mailing them to every AD fan I know!
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06 February 2013

sixties crush: helen mirren

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I've had the biggest crush on Helen Mirren since I started watching Prime Suspect. (Yes, British crime dramas are my new favorite thing...I'm looking at you, Idris Elba!) I just came across these photos of Helen from 1969 and I love absolutely everything about them.


Photos by Neil Libbert, found here.
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05 February 2013

thinking about

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Skewed empathy in popular television

At first I avoided Breaking Bad, wary of its gut-wrenching violence (I always get way too attached to TV characters!) - but I eventually gave in, intrigued to watch what's being called one of the best television shows of our time. It's earned that moniker for a reason: I love that programs like Mad Men and Breaking Bad are so rich with deeply-layered meaning and pathos that the nerd in me wants to write an interpretive essay after every episode.

Yet articles like this one remind me how important it is to remain critical of even our favorite shows. Something can be well-acted and affecting while remaining imperfect.


Shows like "Breaking Bad" encourage viewers to relate to men who do truly unspeakable things (poisoning children) while judging their wives for much smaller transgressions (retaliatory affairs). If they stand up to the men in their lives, they're irritating obstacles; if they don't, they're hypocritical colluders.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been discomfited by this trend, particularly as seen on Mad Men. True, Betty has been hateful to her children, and that's enough to turn many of us off. But her adulterous one-night stand and second marriage are nothing compared to Don's womanizing - yet she is the one dubbed a "whore" while Don gets to traipse home when it suits him, still the beloved "Daddy" despite his myriad cruelties.

Even the creator of Breaking Bad, when interviewed for the article above, expressed confusion and dismay at the excessive vitriol Skyler garners. At first I was convinced that Betty and company only seem hateful because they're written and directed that way, but now I think maybe audiences are equally to blame for their lack of empathy toward female characters' decisions.

This article, another interesting read, is speaking to the whiteness of popular television, but it also reiterates to me just how many shows, though meant for co-ed audiences, feature male protagonists. Why if a television program, movie, or book has a female lead does it tend to be less popular, less desirable, or less acceptable for men to consume?


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Keeping up appearances

An article about how ridiculous it is that Lena Dunham's physical appearance, and frequent nudity on her own television show, offend people more than her actions and words:


It makes me so angry that appearance is still such a qualifier for a woman's success - that people still think they can judge someone's worth based on their physical attributes. I'm just glad I was too young when Titanic came out to realize that people apparently criticized Kate Winslet's weight at the time. Considering elementary-school me thought her the most talented, beautiful actress in the world, what would that have done to my own sense of self-worth?

I wish it were par for the course that young adults grew up watching bodies of every shape, size, color, and persuasion on screens big and small. Something distinctly lacking from our cultural awareness is how different people can be under their clothes; it still surprises me sometimes how uniform the naked bodies in visual media are, which surely does more harm to self-esteem and societal expectations than can be traced.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second presidential term, and Michelle Obama . . . got bangs.

Again, a powerful woman - this time one who worked tirelessly for a year to effect policy change and her husband's re-election - has been reduced to nothing more than her physical qualities by the media's focus. So disappointing (though not necessarily surprising) in this day and age.


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Rape culture and misplaced blame

Also so important to me lately are Hila's recent posts, particularly this one on rape culture. How devastating that women continue to be blamed for so many of the world's ills. That women are expected to change their personal behavior to compensate for the wrongdoing of others seems to me like putting a Band-Aid on a gangrenous limb, rather than getting to the poisonous root of the problem and hopefully making all of our lives safer, better.


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Beauty hidden in plain sight

I'm always glad to find that I can still be surprised by the moving incandescence of words. Like when Odessa reminds me of this poem, and Rachel gently highlights the rich language latent in classic tomes. As W. B. Yeats said, "The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."

And so I try to sharpen my sensitivity to wonder by diving into books again, particular those that transport me to quiet, sad lives in another time, another land, lovely-gray and far, far away.


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Valentine's Day

1)  I still think it yields the best candy, no matter what else we love or hate about this holiday.

2)  It also happens to result in great love-themed fragrances from my favorite indie perfumers. One has created a line based on the mystery of untranslatable words; oh how wonderful that with a twist of the imagination, these phrases can be translated, into scent, onto skin:
CAFUNÉ
Brazilian Portuguese: The act of running one's fingers gently and lovingly through a beloved's hair.
(Black tea, toasted sweet tobacco, Sudanese frankincense, cocoa absolute, black pepper and vanilla infused coconut husk)
Sounds divine.

3)  "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." —A. A. Milne


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Image credit: "heaven on their minds 02" by Jonna7.
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22 January 2013

mix no. 16

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One of my favorite music mixes I've made is this Sixties-esque Mix. Since I still can't get enough of harmonies and hand-claps, here's volume two: more contemporary songs that feature elements of '60s rock and pop.


Enjoy!


Tracklist:

01.  Keep Me in Mind - Little Joy
02.  French Navy - Camera Obscura
03.  Get Lost - The Babies
04.  I'm Gonna Try - Shimmering Stars
05.  Spinoza - Generationals
06.  She's Thunderstorms - Arctic Monkeys
07.  Stranger - Lissie
08.  Goes Out - Play People
09.  Sleeping in the Beetle Bug - of Montreal
10.  Searching Through the Past - Bleached
11.  16th & Valencia Roxy Music - Devendra Banhart
12.  Trouble in Paradise - The Like
13.  Future Primitive - Papercuts
14.  Headlights - Sean Lennon
15.  Where I'm Going - Cut Copy
16.  The Start of Something - Voxtrot
17.  I Follow You - Melody's Echo Chamber
18.  Why Bother? - Weezer
19.  I Can't Keep You in My Mind - La Sera
20.  Stray Cat Strut - Stray Cats
21.  Again and Again - Mikal Cronin
22.  Parachutes - Jenn Grant
23.  Old Friend - Caveman



Original cover images found here and here.
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14 January 2013

goodbye, 2012

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An animal-filled fall...at a "Meet the Breeds" expo I even got to pet my dream dog, the English Mastiff! Favorite cooking experiments included pumpkin pie cinnamon rolls, pumpkin cheesecake brownies, homemade queso blanco dip, and triple ginger molasses cookies. So many besties visited New York, meaning much beer was had.

Then I celebrated the new year at a nautical-themed party, the Eighties cover band wearing captain's hats as sea-green balloons drifted down on us at midnight. I danced, surrounded by my favorite people, until my voice went raw. It was marvelous.

Indeed, this year had its share of marvelosity and I've been fortunate in countless ways. But I feel justified in saying overall, on a personal and physical level, 2012 was not very kind.

I guess all I can do is play alchemist and turn "unlucky" 2013 into gold. Tomorrow I'll bake donuts for the first time. Next week I'm taking a train trip south for some puppy love. Next month, a dinner party built on puff pastry and mulled wine. I'm living on plans and little pleasures, taking things one day at a time.

I hope your Gregorian calendar year is off to a brilliant start!

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30 November 2012

word nerd

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"Untranslatable Words" by  Fucshia MacAree. Prints are available in her shop!

It's fascinating which complex ideas different languages have distilled into single phrases. I think I could spend another lifetime studying linguistics — traveling the world, recording dying-out dialects, exploring how the human mind has created so many distinct pronunciations for the same familiar things.

I recently "Americanized" a book for work and was surprised at how difficult I found it. I thought because of way I'm alert to slang and spellings different from my own, it would be fairly easy — but instead my eyes glided over UK phrases too complacently, as if I were eager to incorporate these puzzle pieces of culture into my own lexicon.

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27 November 2012

november

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•  "Let go" has become my mantra of late. I'm trying to let anger, stress, and worries I have no control over seep out of my body slowly, without doing more damage on their way out.

•  I'm learning to appreciate with gratitude the still, quiet pleasure of an hour without pain. What they say about not appreciating what you have until it's gone — in this case, good health — proves itself true time and again.

•  I find that during the holidays, especially, it's important to keep myself from comparing my expectations to the outcome.

•  A familiar instinct still surfaces often: the desire to capture warm moments with a photograph. Usually, however, the little screen on my camera can't replicate the bright colors of our surroundings. I adjust the white balance and keep trying to no avail. The personal meaning of the moment becomes lost in my pursuit of turning sensory experiences into instant art.
            But I'm learning. This weekend, I walked through a crackling wood with a bounding puppy who tried to fetch us small trees in her mouth. Leaves fluttered down like scented confetti, and the uninhibited little rustles of wild creatures made us feel as welcome as if we were walking through our living room. I didn't take any pictures; I didn't even try. I knew not even my words could immortalize that hour in time — a thought that still takes some "letting go" on my part.
            (Perhaps the pictures I did end up taking — the birthday boy's silly faces, the dog gnawing her squeaky hamburger toy, my sister dancing to my brother's made-up songs — will serve their own purpose by making me smile when I'm sad. That autumn walk will have to carve its way through my mind, creating a path I must journey down internally if I want to live it again.)

•  Through the train window on my way home I kept glimpsing wonders: a pale green statue atop a pedestal on a hill. A lone hawk, hunched over a city telephone wire as the wind ruffled its feathers. Hundreds of birds undulating over a pale pink river in some mystical dance. It seems no matter how many times I traverse its tracks, the east coast will never cease to amaze me — and so it about does my head in to imagine all the different landscapes stretching westward across our country, and around the world, that my eyes have yet to see.

•  I haven't been able to focus well on work or personal projects, or even to decipher my own thoughts for some time. That in-between-ness is the worst, when I can't buckle down and I can't relax, oscillating between interest and apathy and basically just wasting my time.

•  The future is waiting and change is near. There's so much to do to prepare. But I think my Christmas wish is simply for a moment of to-do-list-free clarity. The feel of a pet's soft head under my palm, my other hand wrapped around a hot cup of Mom's coffee, my stomach calm, my being opening into the moment, absorbing the presence of family and friends like roots drawing life-giving water into the heart.
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