Monday, November 18, 2013


“You seem more your ‘Technicolor’ self lately.” says Jedi Jasmin.

And it’s true, for which I’m thankful.

It’s also true that now I must begin digging out of a Pit of Many Messes created by Not Coping for six months.  It’s nearly as daunting as the flat wasteland I have, until recently, inhabited. Physical and psychic piles of undone things which seem so menacing they might eat me alive.  I have no idea how to solve some them, adding embarrassment and bewilderment to the Mess, which will eventually require awkward, purple-faced conversations with people I will, ultimately, grossly disappoint.

In the meantime, I am also thankful for many things, even in the midst of the morass and funk (btw, excellent band name)...

1. GingerMan

2. Food, House, Cars, Essentials

3. Family Dinners and Holidays

4. Dessert

5. Coffee

6. Parents and Friends

7. Knitting

8. Bed

9. Technology, Movies and Music

10. Health and Insurance

11. Our rockin’ Hair Guy, Eric Ringo

Never in exactly that order at all times, but as needs arise.  GingerMan is always at the top. 

I am very grateful that we have enough food, clean water, toilet paper, heating and and live in a safe house

l love my family: My Parents; Our closest friends with whom we share Family Dinner and Games Night; My Knitting family (who saved my ever-lovin’ mind when we all met five years ago); and our hair dood, Eric--that rare creature, a rad stylist and one of the most open-hearted, optimistic, warm, compassionate people I’ve known.

I’m thankful for nights out at fab restaurants, dessert any time I want BECAUSE I’M A GROWN-UP, and COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE. 

I’m thankful for technology that keeps us connected with family back in Northern Ireland.  And friends in England, Portland, Philadelphia, Southern California, sometimes Thailand, really anywhere.  As Louis C.K. says, it’s a frikkin’ miracle and you’re holding it right there in your hand.  Also good for communicating with moms trapped under sleeping toddlers.  A frikkin’ miracle.

I’m thankful for my Tempurpedic bed and pillow.  And my Prius which gets about 44MPG.  I’m thankful we have things that work and we don’t have to worry so much about stuff. Or Stuff.  (See also: Clean Water and Toilet Paper--Section Heading: Major Anxieties.) 

I am so, so thankful that despite this year’s minor debacle, aside from some dental work , we are completely healthy, and every day we have that I am grateful for.  I am thankful for great health, dental and vision insurance, and our truly awesome team of doctors who have cared for us for most of the last 12 years.

I am grateful for Holiday Dinners and Knitting Days.  For Music and Movies and Fun.  For every single thing I’m able to snatch back from the grasping darkness--to laugh and feel Technicolor again. 

If you are reading this, I am thankful you have come on this journey--here’s our Thanksgiving Menu so you can Nom-Along! Please chime in to share YOUR menu’s favorites!

Main:  Barbecued Beef Short Ribs and Pork Baby Back Ribs

Sides:  Rachel Ray’s Bourbon-Pecan Smashed Sweet Potatoes (go Google them suckahs, they will change your life)
America’s Test Kitchen Barbecue Baked Beans
Gigi’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Mom’s Green Beans
Corn Bread
Colleen’s Pasta Salad

Dessert: Pie, Pie, Pie.  Mine will be the Cooking Light Pecan Date Pie, which I also just discovered can be found on Teh Interwebs.  I know, Dates. Buy whole pitted, chop them up tiny, and they melt right in. HOWEVER: Use real crust.  It is Fab. U. Lush.  I make it every year, it kills me every time, and I prefer it to regular pecan pie.  

If you happen to show up round the end of the evening, feel free to bring a sweetie of some sort or you will be denied admission unless I reeeaaaallllly love you.

But I love you all, in all our Technicolor glory.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I was once frivolous with persimmons. Injudicious with their use.  Didn’t use ‘em fast enough? Oh well, Grandma had a tree, there were PLENTY.  Want a REAL fruit cake?  Here’s persimmon cake--juicy, moist but firm, full of complimentary golden raisins or currants.   OH!!!! And the COOKIES!!!  I would scatter these to the masses without heed to the coming apocalypse. 


Our county has fungus. It killed Grandma’s 30+ year-old persimmon tree, and with it, a piece of my heart.  Persimmon salad and baked goods are some of the first memories I have of my Mom and Grandmother’s cooking, the first times we baked together.  Poor, dead tree, it couldn’t have known how rash my youth had truly been.

So now I am older, greedier, and have to buy the sweet, precious beauties like the rest of you suckers.  Except for one looooovely woman, Purple Kathy, a fellow knitter and gustatorial maven.  Also, Kathy the Persimmon Tree Owner.  You heard me.  

She pinged the other night and asked if anyone in the area might just want some persimmons. She doesn’t live far away, I’m surprised she didn’t hear me howling from home.  She also delivered to my doorstep, an extra service atop an honor to which my past persimmon indiscretions leave me undeserving.  There are two major types of persimmon, Fuyu and Hachiya.  Hachiya are terrible until they are super-ultra ripe and hard to work with.  I know a few devotees, but the most widely available are the squat, round Fuyu persimmons--sweet and crisp like an apple and can be eaten out of hand if you just can’t wait.


I have now agonized over the best use of my bag of persimmons, once again risking rot in the face of indecision, so I started with salad. 


For dressing persimmons I really do prefer citrus, and the CUMIN IS ESSENTIAL.  This is a Magic Mom Product (TM).  When I was a kid, Cumin smelled like...persperation.  Then it went into dressing and onto this fruit and became a smokey, lemony, savory counterpoint to the sweet, crisp fruit that I have never forgotten and never fails to make me actually drool the moment I set eyes on even a photo of a persimmon.  It’s that good.  I added sweet curry powder for an extra trill of savory counterpoint to the fruit and always use stronger, slightly bitter greens such as mixed field greens, lighter baby kale or spinach because underneath it all, persimmon is firm with a good snap when it’s fresh. Keep it all nice and toothsome.

If you are a persimmon aficionado, you will have a preference for skins on or off. If you are an eager novice, I find them kinda chewy, so I peel them, quarter, remove any disagreeable centers and slice.  Then dress with this vinaigrette based on a standard 4-serving recipe--just use the 3:1 Oil-to-Acid ratio then math it up or down according to need. 


3 TB GOOD SALAD OIL: Favorites include Walnut, Olive, Avocado.
OPTIONAL: 1/8 tsp SWEET CURRY POWDER (I used Penzey’s Balti Curry blend)
FEW GRINDS Fresh Black Pepper

Add the nuts to the greens, dress and toss well, then TELL NO-ONE IT’S READY-- 


There are times when snorking it up yourownself is the wisest resource management policy.  

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Monday, October 21, 2013


Think this will be some heartwarming tale of culinary salvation?  
Some like it Hot, Some like it Cold, I liked it in the Trash, One Day Old.

Yup, I did it.  I trashed a whole pot of soup.

There are no post-apocalypse photos, this is the only record of the aftermath.

I used America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook’s recipe for Split Pea and Ham Soup [pg104], carefully doing the maths for a 1.5x recipe.  I procured ham hocks from my grocery’s very reliable, high-quality butcher.  The suckers were hu-uge.


But no worries, I thought they were roughly the same amount as 1.5 times the recipe (original: 3).  I followed all the directions, except for the salt.  I added the smaller, original recipe amount (1tsp) to the pot and let it go according to scripture.  


After one hour I added the carrots, etc.  


Crucially, I did not taste at this point!  Correction or abandonment could have occurred here, the hocks pulled and a re-set achieved the next day.  Nope, not me!

One half hour later I extinguished the flame, yanked the hog shanks to cool before returning the meat to the pot, and added the extra diced ham, giving the whole thing a whirl for luck.  Then I tasted.  

Salt Lake City, baby.  Bonneville Salt Flats.  Down the Ol’ Salt Mine.

This is the point where I swoop in with great advice--scientific or homespun-- such as adding a potato to remove saltiness to save dinner.  

Well, GingerMan’s lightning search of the internet proved the number one solution is, indeed, adding potato to your soup to reduce salinity.  I’m not sure how many potatoes this case would have required, but it quite possibly would have created another famine in the homeland, and--sit down for this--Irish Girl had no potatoes.  Zero inventory at 10.20pm on a Friday night.  We’ve been cutting down.  Our bloodwork looks normal, but our spud situation was dismal.

The next two suggestions were Cider Vinegar and Honey or Sugar.  I had every other sort of vinegar, and the recipe had already called for lemon, so the acidity was high.  So I went for the honey.  Did nothing for the saltiness, but I will be adding 2TB honey to the next batch because it reaaaalllly enriched the smokey flavor from the ham hocks.  

GingerMan and I stood over the pot, gazing woefully into the murky green depths and decided to give it a night.  I took it out the next day and all the marrow-y, gelatin-y, smokey ham goodness added to the earthy peas and underlying sweetness of the honey and thyme was simply divine...

Then our mouths sucked dry like a Bugs Bunny cartoon as we ate a bowlful each.

Peas Porridge in the Bin One Day Old.

Sometimes you will be brilliant.  A lot of the time you will be pretty good if you follow all the directions and learn from a few mis-steps.

Every once in a while, you gotta mis-step all the way to the trash with whatever burnt, charred, slimy, runny, salty mess you’ve concocted, make a lot of notes and try again.

Saturday 19 October:

Pease Porridge Hot...
Yesterday was Pea Soup Day again. I doubled the recipe but used two hocks due to their buxom, salty nature.  I had added extra peas to the first batch as a salt-reducing measure, to no avail, but the contrast in textures was quite nice so this go-around I added a portion of the peas later, with the carrots. I omitted all salt until having tasted at the very end, potatoes were on-hand, and both were entirely unneeded.  

Pease Porridge Cold...
The soup was fridged for the night. Let it relax, give the ham bone essence and split peas time to meld. Today's early tasting was ZOMGYUM! Rich, super-thick, smooth but chewy, just enough carrot and wicked smokey-hammy. I'm learning!

Pease Porridge in My Pot, Wiser and Older.
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Saturday, October 12, 2013


The Downstairs needs decorating...

So if the Kitchen and Living Room need painting, a Girl needs paint colors.

...If a Girl needs paint colors, she needs ideas.

...If a Girls needs ideas, she needs yarn.
And if a Girl needs to go yarn shopping, she needs to go with friends.

So if a Girl goes yarn shopping with friends for color inspiration....

She HAS to go to Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Portland!


My beloved friends Abby (KnitKnitCafe podcast) and Mary Kay Carol may have applied gentle influence and offered hostelry to seduce me into going up.  Because Portland is completely repellent all on it’s very own. (I’d drive up there again tomorrow.)

I brought the worst weather they’d seen all year.  (Sorry.)

For the Official Record, we ate at:

Pine State Biscuits, partaking of the Reggie Deluxe--A fine biscuit, a piece of fried chicken, cheese, sausage gravy, bacon and, because it's me, an egg on top:


Bread and Ink Cafe, featuring an unbelievable cinnamon roll, Lox Benedict and a Liege waffle with fruit:


Carol and I also tried the much-vaunted Dar Essalam in Wilsonville, which everyone in the whole wide world recommended.  We went for lunch, which meant we missed the Tagine they’re famous for, but reveled in the Casablanca, a dessert of a perfect phyllo pillow filled with gorgeous fruit that absolutely curled our toes:


The requisite Piggy-Girl’s Logbook being done, we did actually attend the festival as well!  

Friday I took Mary Scott Huff’s Knitting Behind the (Color) Wheel class.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, she is an unparalleled fiber artist and all-around Sassy-Ass Cat.  I would have paid just to hug her.  We started a modular envelope bag incorporating what we learned about color and coordination earlier in the morning, then in the afternoon, applied i-cord (as in ideal-cord, inspired-cord, and intelligent-cord) and a Dorset Button.  


This may have been where I fell down on my lack of sewing skills, but all around it was six sacks of fun and I had lunch with a great veteran spinner and knitter, Betty, who gave me a ride to the MiniChef where we ate, surprise, some pretty mean biscuits.

Is this all starting to swirl together?

As the heavens continued to sheet down rain, Abby and I visited my all-time favorite yarn shop, Twisted, where I scored the Perfect Kitchen Yarn. It was shortly after we fell down at Pine State and then ran the hell home to watch Big Bang Theory and knit.  

Saturday, we visited the festival market, spread through several buildings and out on the lawn, an unfortunate circumstance in the typhoon conditions.  Highlights included Huckleberry Knits, Abstract Fiber and the winners, scratching my current  Self-Striping Itch:


It's Fly Design's Monarch (Purple and Black) and Shoe Fly Sock (Rainbow) super wash, self-striping yarns that made me tap-dance like an elf in the crowded corner booth.

I also FINALLY procured a beautiful, full-size noste-pinne (yes, I immediately lost the tag):


We met up with lots of local yarn gals, including Kristine (Kadyellebee Designs),  of whose sultry voice I will never tire, and KnitCents Rachel came all the way down from Olympia for the afternoon.  Mary Kay Carol brought Wonder-College-TeenK down from school for the day so we walked and shopped and lunched and generally went a bit nuts with the weather and all.  Fiber Festivals are always a little wild and wooly...


Looted up, we headed home, where Abby made the best tomato soup ever:


 ...and we snuggled up to watch Bridesmaids. Siiiiighhhhh Chris O'Dowd is one of my favorite actors ever, as being at turns hysterical and heart-rending is the Irish Gift. And he’s Cute.  And Irish.  A distant second to GingerMan, but an entirely similar sensibility and a hilarious movie.  I now feel really terrible that I avoided it for so long and grateful to Abby for making me watch it!

We met up with Carol on Sunday after brekkie at Bread & Ink and went to Happy Knits where I scored with Sherlock.

No, Really:


This is intended for the Bandwidth Hat from Stephen West’s Book Two, which I reviewed the very first time I ever appeared on Knitmore Girls as “That Squirrel Girl They Know On Too Much Coffee”.  It’s one of my favorite of his designs and I’ve been looking for the perfect yarn for, what, two years?  Local dyer Black Trillium's beautiful swirly-coffee yarn will be the cabled headband with the gorgeous olive for the patterned crown.

Monday I met Carol’s knitting group at Beyond Art, a lovely yarn and bead shop in Aurora, Oregon.  They’re a spirited group of knitters and spinners who also volunteer in the local and state spinning guilds, often in period costume. That’s their super-power, and their secret identities involve a bevy of cheek, naughtiness, and some very sound knitting advice. 

Tuesday I was deposited at the airport in cold, wet, darkest gloom and after waiting extra time in security while the TSA dude literally took a jeweler’s loupe under ultra-violet light to the license of the man in front of me, I hoofed it to my “gate”.

Or “gate-lette”.  To find my plane.

Or “plane-lette”.

I boarded the tiny prop plane, texting my dad, so as not to have a nervous breakdown in full voice... i can’tstayonthisplaneigottagetoffthisplaneisTINY

He talked me down sufficiently that I did not disembark, weep openly, or throw up.  Thus we climbed through the cloud cover and I saw the sun for the first time in five days.  It was the smoothest flight I’d had in ages.

So the yarn and I made it home safely. 

Now the Girl has yarn in her favorite colors.


And paint can be bought.

The Downstairs can be decorated.

... And if the Upstairs needs to be painted and decorated, a Girl might need more yarn. 

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013


ps- there are no photos here because between flickr and yahoo asshattery i am locked out of my photos.  if you know how to permanently fix or prank them, i'd appreciate knowing... now, on to the blog...

So this year, I came undone.

Now, a sock------

Yes, a sock. It is a beautiful knitted thing.  A mastery of magic and engineering.   Toe, foot, heel, leg, cuff.  Heels being my favorite, the juncture at which horizontal becomes vertical by sheer trickery.  There are as many recipes for socks as for spaghetti, but in the end, it is the making and the wearing that spark joy in my soul.  Imagine the betrayal as the little fucker fell right the hell apart.

(photo of one of my socks with a stupid hole in it here)

I tried to mend it by taking up the broken end and securing the live stitches, but the little tail kept coming loose and unraveling even more, making it three times worse every time I thought I had it sewn up.

It started in March.  My doctor and I decided to change my medication.  The old one was terrible for blood sugar, weight gain and liver function. Feeling that the last year or two had been quite fine, we moved ahead with a new medication in a calm and orderly fashion. Everything seemed to be okay, the stitches were holding, the pattern lookin' dandy. Hearts and Flowers.

(clever photo of heart-and-flower sock here)

In April I gave notice at my job for May, as the commute was frightful and I thought I'd move on to a home-based business. Everything made sense, I still felt in control, relatively happy and confident.  I started that business, got off to a roaring start....


Just a couple of strands at first, but I was still rolling, keeping busy.


I woke up one morning from the middle of the hole.

The depression is unbearable and seemingly unbreakable.  It's a uniquely isolated feeling, like being a little wooden doll suspended in deep black space. Nothing about me has felt natural in sixth months, I have absolutley no emotional connection to what is going on around me-- Parties, hangouts, birthdays, doing laundry are all the same gig. There are parts of me I am nearly certain will never connect with the outer world again.  

Hyperbole and a Half wrote about her struggle with depression recently and the part that made me laugh and sob uncontrollably was the way she described what I call Giving Face.  Unless you've just been surprised by a party girl poppin' out of a cake at a funeral, you have natural facial expressions related to your everyday speech.  I feel like I literally need to reach up and mold my face into a look appropriate to any given experience. I often stand among people feeling stretched and awkward. I hear conversation around me, the attendant phrasing and pauses, then the alarm sounds that I'm supposed to react!  Formulate, execute, et Voilà, A Face!  Needs some work? Sorry.


So here's me in therapy, and at the meds doctor, on time and ready to go...I pick up stitches and whip the yarn round and we pull the hole shut a bit...


And there's another loose end, coming undone, the hole three times worse again.  I can't think much of the time, I don't actually care or have opinions about a lot of things and I have all the energy four cups of coffee and two naps a day can afford me.

I feel obligated to say that with some tinkering, yes, I am a bit....Lifted? Brighter, I think. But I’m still floating in the hole, wooden and sometimes completely emotionless.  It’s odd, but some of this, including intermittent feelings of ennui and total uselessness are actual side effects of the medication.  

I’ve never experienced this before.  Many, many sufferers of mental health problems maintain that the medication makes them unbearably gray.  Fellow Bipolars and others suffering with more severe conditions feel it takes away our Super Powers. When I find a way to explain those to you, I will, but suffice to say, the more severe the change, the more likely some people drop their ball of meds to find their way out of the wool. My meds mostly made me feel more “me”, more in control, able to live among friends and family without causing damage. Lately, though, I have nearly ached for that razor’s edge of unmanaged ZING, just those few beautiful moments before everything will go, inevitably,  to crazy hell, just to get the feeling of life back, to see the extra rainbow color, to cinch that hole tight and sew in the tail in a fit of mad possession. 

Looking back, I could just rip the entire year out, no matter how much I had loved the pattern, as that tiny, ungraspable end eludes me and I can't stop the unraveling.  It feels like a slow, perpetual, unrelenting state now, which leaves me at moments panicky, frightened, embarrassed, heartbroken and, ultimately, resigned.  

Every day is a step in this sock, every day the hole may rip and leave me exposed or the heel may hold and I’ll just keep walking.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013


A Mothers Day Card:


Dear Mom,

You were the mid-season replacement and parenting was tough.  I was a tough kid.  But we’re all grown up now and so much we’ve done I cannot imagine having done without you.

You were my Mom when I was 20 and freaking out and joined the Navy. You were my Mom when I came home tired, bedraggled and dumped by an idiot. You picked me up when I felt humiliated and said hey, it can happen to anyone kiddo, you’re life’s not over and dinner’s waiting when you get home from work.

You were my Mom when L had her final breakdown and disappeared.  You never stopped hugging me.  You never let me go and this was the most gargantuan feat of grace and understanding any woman could possibly muster, to help her kid deal with the crazy of her spiritually dying mother.  And you never let go, especially when I called you from work and said it was my birthday and I didn’t know where my mom was.  Yes I did.  She was on the other end of the line, saying honey, I love you and it’s gonna be OK.

You were my Mom when GingerMan came to pick me up for our first date. I was ready and waiting, on time, upstairs, and let him sweat it out down there talking to you for nearly ten minutes, because I wanted your appraisal of his character.  You waited up past your bedtime to tell me he was charming and seemed just good enough for me (you later raised his rating to “Buy”). 

You were my Mom when we picked out my wedding dress.  And five years later when my sister chose hers.  Your mother was our beloved Grandmother, the only real one we had.  We were married in her back yard and you were our Mom when you walked us down the aisle and sat in the front row with your corsage and tissues.

There to capture the Important Things
La Belle de Notre Dame

You’re our Mom when you call three or four times a week just to say Hi or ask if we want lemons or limes or avocados off the backyard trees.  When you ask if I just want to come for lunch and hang out.  You make the best sandwiches, and I can’t replicate them at home.  Mom Sandwiches, as Dad says.

Belly Dancer and Baklava for Grandma's Birthday
For all the sandwiches, and avocados, and love and listening, thank you from the bottom of my screw-ball heart.  I love you, Mom

Happy Mothers Day
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Thursday, May 2, 2013


Hi LA,

Funny, how no-one knows that’s why I hate my name.  We share our initials and people call me ‘La’ all the damn time.  I loathe it.  I turn 40 this year and intend to change it, to what I am not yet sure, but I am sick to death of LaLaLa.  

You named me after someone you knew.  When I was little you said she was an aunt, but my oldest sister said she was just a friend, someone who was kind to you in a life where people were duplicitous and lecherous at best.  But it’s nothing to me, and I’m sorry, but I’ve never liked even the sound or look of Laura Ann.  I have no connection to it and it’s got to go.  I used to think I could do that with you, to, but now I think differently, so let me hold your hand and say “Hi”.

It’s been a while.

You’re my mother.

At the moment, I work in downtown Menlo Park, and while it is a lovely place, we have a few “fixtures”, one, by pseudonym, Blue Lady.  Because she wears a blue parka.  She is You.  I knew You the minute you walked into the shop the first time.  You look the same. Your troubles are deep, you live in a home or shelter and are, by turns, disconnected, sometimes cheerful and talkative, or maudlin, or inconsolable.  Sometimes the voices come and you are frightened and angry and I have to call the police and I hate it. I hate that you are frightened, that your sanity is lost. I hate more that you frighten me and make me uncomfortable.  That I have to fight inside to console you or hate you for coming into the shop and talking to my customers and leaving me unsure of what to do.  I can’t take care of you now any more than I could when I was small.  So I bottle it up for the day, after you’ve used the bathroom and left. I get in my car and tighten up, drive all the way home, then fall apart.

The other day, Facebook ran a Suggested (advert) Post (advert) for a Mother’s Day card that featured a mommy and daughter outside in the rain with an umbrella and galoshes, and they were rainbow colored. The caption read:

What moments have you noticed that you’ve started to act like your mother?”


My response was: “Dunno, but love her as I do, it's never looked like this...”, and it took me a while to realize I didn’t write that about my mom, I wrote it about you.

There are a lot of moments, many of which torment me; are painful and regretful and retarded my life just as the same poison ruined yours.  And yet, so, so many moments I wish I could. 

You see, you passed on the crazy.  Big ol’ buckets of it, in many forms, to just about all of us, but a few of us especially in a few special ways.  The nephews have their challenges which they have overcome with a lot of resource help in school and my sister’s never-ending sainthood.  She deserves a Nobel.  Or something.  But I got the PayDay-BabyRuth-Nutbar, and it has tormented me my entire life.  Which is where this whole agonizing ying-yen begins.

I was a difficult, probably terrifying, child.  And dad worked a lot. And sometimes, for all his good points, he was not very forgiving, and he had expectations, and I cannot imagine what it’s like dealing with a mentally ill child plus two other kids on your own.  But I remember the Pink and Purple Planet stories.  With the little girl and her archeologist/paleontologist father on a world of weird stuff and dinosaurs, which you made up out of your head every morning on the way to daycare because you had to do something with me for a few hours a day.  But I had wretched anxiety, sick to my stomach, so you made up stories for 15 minutes every morning.

When we moved, the new house had orchard trees.  So we made apricot pineapple jam.  To this day, when I open a jar of really, really good apricot jam I nearly cry with happiness.  But I don’t know how to make jam.  I was too small.  I remember what the jars looked like, and pouring in the molten-hot, golden-orange goo, and the tangy, late-day, sunset-y flavor of beautiful homemade jam, but I don’t know how it was done.

I remember cheeseburgers and Kraft Dinner, which I can make, with èlan.  I remember spaghetti, and sausage with butter beans, which my husband likes a LOT.  I remember meatloaf but it was only in the last few years I ventured into this territory because I failed it once.  I remember distinctly it was made in the loaf pan, and had ketchup, american cheese and bacon criss-crossed on top.  I made it once when GingerMan and I were first together, and I didn’t know what order everything went in and it was not to the Standard of Memory. I got the grown-up By-God-Betty-Crocker ring-binder cookbook, and began learning the shortcomings of cookbooks, as the recipe didn’t work either.  Years later I found, on a visit to my sister in Kansas, a Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. You know I bought it.  It was YOUR cookbook.  Spaghetti made with ground beef, salt and pepper and tomato sauce, where *I* got to open the can and pour it in!!! Everything except the meatloaf was there, so I just started to think I wasn’t remembering it correctly.  Turns out I was, but there are better methods, and now I eat it all the time and secretly think of you and me squishing meat in the metal bowl with the hanging ring on the side (which I have).

It was also you, plus crazy plus circumstance plus three kids versus the world, and I remember the times you tried to do things together, or get the two of us active and healthy.  But I couldn’t do things that weren’t perfect. I didn’t know how to compute it, how to deal.  There were little Crayola transfers for making pictures (age 5?), but the rubby thingie wasn’t in the box and I freaked out but you grabbed the wood spatula because really, anything will rub a transfer, but I distinctly remember thinking desperately why is everything in my life incomplete?  Like the green bike you bought, with the leg elastic for your pants leg, but we couldn’t, for the life of us, figure out why there was only one, and I panicked because I was sposed to know the answer.  Not really, but you felt the same way, and you were sposed to be the adult and now I know how that feels.

Except you had no-one on your side.  And a world with very little understanding of Crazy.  

I. Do. NOT. Know.  How you kept it together so long.

I mean, you were really wretched later, when you were still pretty much together.  You were awful to my younger sister.  And I had to pick up those pieces, when I was going through my own real Crazy Adolescence.  But then you fell right the fuck apart and I am so, so, so sorry.

Because I know what it’s like.  To go all the way to edge.  But someone pulled me back.  Lots of people. Real, qualified doctors, an awesome (in the true definition, awe-inspiring,) husband, my parents.  People loved and supported me.  All the things you never had.  You had people tell you to pull your shit together.  To be a better mother.  To straighten up.  Did any doctor in the 70‘s listen to you when you said you were falling apart? Your last doctor was a creep. My sisters and I should have reported him. He was the same kind of lech you grew up with. If he had done more, if he had been, well, normal, in any way, you probably would have had a chance, but your darkness was so black and inky I may be fantasizing of a world never meant to be.

I never forget.  When You come in to see me, You call me your Angel, your Light.  You walk up within a millimetre of a customer and point to me or my workmate, the rock-solid K, and tell them we’re your friends.  Then I sell spices and talk to people about cooking all day and think of You.  I miss you, but I don’t think we can be together, because as close as you are, I’ll never really find you in there again.  But the small me loves jam and meatloaf and Pink and Purple and dinosaurs. 

and you.

happy mothers day.
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Sunday, April 7, 2013


A Tale of Two Weeks
How Smoked Paprika, Onion and Garlic Powders Save the World:

Scene 1: A recovering GingerMan wanted something approximating real food, so I hopped to the store after work and picked up chicken, as requested.  Into a pan, salt and pepper only, brown rice on the side.  Yay.  A few days later, he’s moved on, and there’s still plain chicken in the fridge.  A million things to do, and not much effort to expend, as I have no energy at the moment.

Scene 2: A family Holiday Breakfast, what can I do in batches large enough to feed the Pacific Fleet, full of complex flavor which such endeavors sometimes lack, especially when dietary needs must be met?

My Go-To Team: Smoked Paprika, Toasted Onion Powder and Garlic Powder.  They’re like having Cinnamon, Ginger and Nutmeg for baking.  A few things which play well alone, together, then team with others to save your bacon.  And eggs.  And stir-fry, risotto, meatloaf or squash soup.

Reasons to go with Smoked and Toasted: Developed flavors.  The work is done for you, naturally.  The peppers and onions are dried and smoked/ toasted, then ground so they are deep and easy to incorporate into anything.  BONUS POINTS: Ground Chipotle Pepper.  Adds a small to moderate amount of heat depending on the amount used with a huge amount of naturally smokey pepper flavor added to your dish.

The following are two new spins:


2-Large Broiled chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 mayonaise
1/4 greek yogurt
3 Large radishes, diced
3 TB Red Onion, finely diced
2 TB Toasted Sunflower Seeds
2 TB Roasted Peanuts, chopped

1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Toasted Onion Powder
1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Penzeys Bavarian Seasoning (Crushed Brown Mustard Seed, Rosemary, etc.)
Kosher Salt and Pepper to Taste--The Chicken was already seasoned, and the Seeds, Peanuts, and Paprika all add savoriness so I didn’t add any extra.

1) Cube or Shred the Chicken, your preference, place in medium bowl.  Dice radishes, onion and add to bowl.  

2) In a separate bowl, mix mayo and yogurt.  This is my favored mix, both for this and tuna, BUT you must feel free to fiddle with the mayo/yogurt ratio to achieve your own private Nirvana.  

3) NOW, add the really good stuff--Smoked Paprika, Toasted Onion Powder (yes, from Penzeys, regular White Onion Powder is great too,) and the Bavarian Seasoning.  In lieu of Bavarian, I should think some Poultry Seasoning, a little extra crushed Rosemary (ooo-yum if fresh!), and maybe some dried or prepared mustard should do the trick, but I do love me some Bavarian blend, Bubb.  

4) Add half the dressing and mix lightly, then add half the remaining and the seeds and nuts, mixing lightly again.  

5) Stand back, admiring your creation.  Taste it.  Is it fresh and savory? Can you taste the chicken, but also the fresh crispness of the radish and the toastiness of the spices and peanuts?  Add the rest of the dressing to desired level of creaminess, plate, grab some crackers and try to control yourself.  

6) It is wonderful on it’s own.  It is fabulous on: Wheat bread or Toasted Sourdough, as a sandwich; on toasted rye or pumpernickel points, or a good, crispy cracker such as Triscuits.




So by adding The Three to the Bavarian we come to a piquant, herby flair.  But sometimes you want rich.  Down-home.  Family food. Say, Biscuits and Gravy? The regular recipe is traditionally....light on seasoning, so to achieve ultimate savoriness, I take the Spice Road:

I start, (as we did in Sept 2011 “Good Gavy! And Biscuits!”), with the traditional Sausage Gravy for Biscuits from the Joy of Cooking, pg. 547, calling for 8oz sausage then the standard 2-2-2 Fat-Flour-Dairy ratio to build a classic White Sauce.  


A) This was for Easter Brunch, where a few people couldn’t/ shouldn’t eat pork, so I now regularly sub Turkey Italian Sausage, with Fennel.  


B) You will need the full amount of the fat as Butter, as there will be effectively no fat from the sausage. 

C) You will want to split the types of dairy 80%/20% to achieve creaminess and viscosity.  I’m OCD, your mileage my vary. Other effective Combinations include Half&1/2 + Whole Milk or Whole Milk + 2%, but I really wouldn't reduce fat content below that if your aim is the time-honored super-creamy, thick sauce.  (Weight Watchers, bless their healthy hearts, claim you can make sauce with just flour and skim milk, and as a physics experiment this is true.  The result cannot be described in words.)

Also note, this is triple the published recipe, for family servings:
24oz Turkey Italian Sausage, browned and crumbled
6 TB Butter
6 TB Wondra Superfine Flour
32oz (1qt / 4 cups) Heavy Cream
16oz (1 pint / 2 cups) Whole Milk
2 TB Smoked Paprika (Regular Sweet will, technically, work, but will NOT render the delicious, unctuous smokey flavor)
2 TB Toasted Onion Powder
1-2 TB (3-6 tsp) Garlic Powder--Your preference.  I live 30 miles away from the Garlic Capital of the World, so you can imagine how I roll.
1.5 tsp Kosher Salt-- To start.  I add more at the finish to taste

Follow all directions to construct Sauce, then,



-Salt to taste
-1.5 tsp Ground Black Pepper, see Salt
-Dashes of Hot Pepper Sauce--I say Crystal Hot Sauce, possibly Tabasco Chipotle; and the stated 2 Dashes per 2 cups gravy are, to me, laughably uninspiring.  The Sauce is to add flavor more than heat, but until you're an experienced splasher, dash with wisdom and constraint to be sure Hotness has not overcome the desired Flavor. 

Add Sausage back in, ladle over Biscuits et VOIL`A!  

So put a little Spice in your Nice (enough), or, if you are Jedi Jasmin, Super Jenius, (courtesy of you can add a little Hale 'n' Hearty to your Kale Salad--Have a Party!  

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