a mixed bag.

Everyone on God's green brown earth has been buzzing with excitement over Autumn's arrival.

Everyone except me.

It's not that I dislike it, but I'm more aware than ever that it signals Winter's imminent descent. He's extra mean here in Ohio, what with the lake effect snow and all.

And dude, I feel like Summer was a total gyp. I had already lost my flip flop tan-lines by late June.

In other Fallish news, our puny, infantile Japanese Maple trees are trying to toughen up as the temperatures dip. It's been pretty cold here at night, and I can hear their knees knocking from my bedroom window. Keeps me up.
I have already started to dream up my Christmas decor.
Meanwhile, I'm still trying to just accept that it's fall.
I miss summer.

I'm sorry. I do this every year.
I'm always late to the game. It takes me forever to come around.
And once I do, I like it. I don't want to pack it all up again.

It doesn't help that I feel a little sorry for November. And Thanksgiving.

 My point is, I don't really dig Christmasy things at Thanksgiving. Still I like it all done by then.
November is not Winter even if you can see your breath in the morning and there's talk of flurries by the weekend.

 My other point is...

I'm a slow-poke.

 I don't set out to redecorate for the seasons, it just happens. Very slowly.
Without warning, I realize I need to groove with the new rhythm. So, while I'm not necessarily an advocate for pulling out all the stops and redecorating every time the air changes, change is meant to be celebrated, right? I dig around in the closets and basement. Here's the cool thing about being a human on this good earth: We get to experience all of life. It's all ours, the crazy and the mundane, the parts that squeeze our souls right into our hearts and the parts that cause us to take literal the phrase, "stick a needle in my eye".

Today has been a mixed bag.

It's one thing to tool around when the lights are all on and the trees are flamed out in the fiercest golds and the blushy hot oranges. I've seen the good parts of my life on those days. I can picture myself there, under the glare of the September sun.

It's a completely different thing to drive around after dark, the November wind howling around, chasing itself through the naked trees. Those gangly trees spook me. The streetlights were mostly gone.

It makes me sad. It makes me want to run back to the very beginning, back before I knew what I know. 

The doubts fall around me like the leaves and the rain. 

As I drive through the dark streets, I shove the doubts down, because I know they aren't the truth.

In that moment, I am getting a little taste of real life. But wishing real life could always be a pretty thing doesn't make it so.

I don't know what it is about change of seasons, but it always brings my heart to its knees, at some point or another, with nostalgia as thick as honey.

It's a good thing. It's a bad thing.

It's a good thing. Life can be a crazy-cat complicated. It can be big and nervy and maybe a smidge terrifying at turns, but in the end, you're still there with your heart in your lap.

Life feels too big and too pinchy-tight so much of the time, but I'm still just making my way through, eating cereal for dinner and shaking my head over insignificant things. It takes the pressure off, somehow. I'm only human, and I am frail and often weird. Am I the only one who finds this fascinating and wonderful? Tell me I'm not.

just sayin'.

Silky Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6 to 7
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 1 cup good chocolate chips)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan, Slowly whisk in the milk, in a thin steam at first so that lumps don’t form, then more quickly once the cornstarch mixture is smoothly incorporated. Place over medium-low heat and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 10 minutes or so (slower over lower heat is better, to give the cornstarch time to cook), before it starts to simmer, the mixture should begin to thicken, enough that it will coat the back of a spoon. Add the chocolate, and continue stirring for another 2 to 4 minutes, until chocolate is fully incorporated and mixture is quite thick. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

If you’re concerned about lumps: Run mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.

Distribute among individual pudding cups or one large serving bowl, and chill until it is cool and set, about 2 to 3 hours.

If you dislike pudding skin: Put plastic on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating.

Do ahead: Pudding is good for 3 days in the fridge but nobody I know would allow it to last that long.


press hard.

I don't know what it is, but I love seeing what other people wear.
And what they eat.
And read.
And how many throw pillows on the couch they find to be an acceptable number.

I rock a real "Tell me everything" vibe.

And since I should be getting groceries right now, heck, I'll provide a little commentary. Time mismanagement is one of my spiritual gifts, and senseless yammering is another.

 But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself.  Back to the feast, and the wherefore of side dishes.  Vegetarians are often cornered at Thanksgiving, asked how they find any food to eat, what with the big beast of a centerpiece and all.  I, however, believe they've got it made, at least based on my own meatless years.  I don't like turkey, it's the sides that make my knees weak, the mushroom-studded stuffing and tarragon leeks and hit parade of fall vegetables.  No turkey?  Whoot!  More room for brussels sprouts, I say!  The hubs, however, does not say this so much.

He's the sort that will burst into the kitchen around November 21st, announcing "I've got great news.  I've invented a new holiday!  It's called MEAT day, and on it we'll have chicken and turkey and beef for dinner.  As much as we want.  'Kay?  How 'bout tonight?"  He's the one that calls dibs on the drumstick.  In September.

So, there are turkey legs burbling on the stove, stock-bound.  On the counter, a grocery list with the words brussels sprouts.  A recipe on my desk for Mile High Chocolate Pie.  Friends coming, Thursday, to feast.

I'll only speak for myself here, I love a day (a season!) that inspires gratitude on all sides. I think back on the past year and I remember that first smooth stone, tossed into the pond. Gratitude. It slipped beneath the surface and the concentric circles formed and before I  knew it, I was thinking harder about the things I am most thankful for. So, for letting that first stone fly - thank you.

If I decided to log my every thankful, I would have a volume so thick as to require its own shelf on the book case. I know, in the end, that my time is better spent living gratitude than writing every whip-stitch of it down. So, I've started penning my thankfuls on the inside surface of my heart, every day. And I am pressing down hard when I write.

For tonight, I'll not attempt the unabridged list. Instead, I'll share some here-and-now, bright-burning highlights.

I'm thankful that I'm spending Thanksgiving with my peeps. Last year my heart was a little fogged over.  This year, I have new wrinkles and a new tinge of weariness, but what it means is that we are together, and I'll take it.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to bake three desserts in less than 24 hours, starting with a chocolate pie  that indeed lives up to its name.

I'm thankful for unexpected surprises left on my doorstep {sigh}.

 I'm thankful for the cachepot of friends I have collected over the years, you guys pull me through. every single time.

I'm thankful for the hope of a new story.

I'm thankful that I am much more than the sum total of all my failures.

I'm thankful that Tom and Jerry humor transcends generations.

I'm thankful for the guy at the other end of the couch.

I'm thankful for the rattle and whir of a furnace, for air scented heavy with orange, for ponytails, my boys and Susie, for flannel pajama pants and cinnamon rolls in the fridge for tomorrow morning, the kind that you have to whack on the countertop to open.

I hope all of you have big fun brewing for tomorrow.

And remember,  press hard.

just sayin'.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May it be filled with chocolate pie, Brussels sprouts, and the people you love.

Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts

First things first: buy good sprouts. They should feel firm and have tight, shiny-edged leaves. I like to buy medium-size ones. You could buy littler ones, if you like, but don’t buy them any bigger. I find that the larger they are, the stronger – i.e. more bitter – their flavor. My dad used to come home from the grocery store with big, hoary, loose-leafed, air-headed sprouts, and it made me crazy. Do not do that.

These sprouts would be delicious alongside most any meat that typically graces the holiday table: beef, turkey, ham, lamb, you name it. And with a crusty hunk of bread and some cold leftover chicken, they also make for a warming Sunday lunch.

1 ¼ lb. Brussels sprouts
3 Tbs unsalted butter
¼ tsp coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

First, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem end of each sprout and pull off any ragged or nasty outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges.

In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes or so. I like mine to get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor.

Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low or medium low: you want to keep the pan at a slow simmer. Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.

Remove the lid, and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the sprouts. Serve immediately.



Is this the year I am officially old.  It's not really my actual age, wrinkles, or droopage ratio,  I feel old because I've scanned several fashion magazines this week and I have not found one fall fashion that I want to embrace.

I feel like I should be lounging, newly permed,  around my neighbor's pool with a gaggle of older gals, gossiping away in our one piece skirted bathing suits, wrinkled evidence of too much iodine and baby-oil tanning in the 60's all on display, talking about the crap that passes for fashion these days.

High waist jeans? Crop tops? Pastels in winter. Leather? Bollywood? That's a trend now?  Funnel coat?  I'm not wearing anything that sounds like it might add pounds.  And I believe we covered the scrunchie comeback before.

It's true, I've never been a fashionista.  There was that time when I was 21 and admired another girl's way with leg warmers.  She would wear them with pointy-toed three inch heels. She was lovely with a bird-like bone structure, and could pull off the odd fashion choice. With my athletic build, I was never bird-like.  It was like putting leg warmers on Rocky.  Still, it didn't stop me from trying.  I tried again  in 1972 when I paired a baby blue cotton dress with red pumps and pink ankle socks.  I don't even think that was a trend at the time.  I think I might have been stoned. I loved the eighties fashion.

At some more lucid point in my adulthood, I adopted a classic, simpler way of dressing; structured, clean lines in neutral colors and quality fabrics, with an occasional pop of color. This is what looks good on me.  If it weren't for the way I attract dirt, dog hair, loose threads and food stains, I might even pass for well-dressed in some circles.

But now, it would seem, a classic style no longer passes for a style.  Fashion has become diverse and complicated.  Clothing is made to layer in odd ways.  It wraps and ties and serves multiple purposes.  Is it a dress, a shirt, a skirt?  How le heck am I supposed to figure that stuff out?  I see odd combinations of fabric, styles and decades.  These new clothes, they have holes in weird places....I don't want a tan on just the middle of my back, for the love of Pete.

I can feel myself faltering. It's no secret that I love stripes and polka dots, sometimes together, but I simply can not compute the code that allows two fabrics with different size stripes to be worn at the same time, I couldn't pull off that style if I wanted to. Not that I want to, exactly, that's not what I'm saying.  I'm saying that even if I wanted to, I couldn't. right? I feel as though I've passed over some invisible line into the realm of the style-less.  I've become one with the masses, dressing daily for cleaning house practical purposes.  Like being adequately covered in public. Like someone who wouldn't know a statement necklace if it jumped up and bit me on the nose.  Which is why I don't wear statement necklaces, incidentally, I still buy them I just don't usually wear them, because that seems like a valid concern.

And this feeling of not relating to current fashion trends makes me feel old.  This is not to say that older people are unfashionable.  Style is ageless, yeah yeah we've all heard that one.  I have many friends who are walking proof.  I have other friends who have transcended fashion and are simply elegant.

But as for me?  I  may as well buy some elastic-waisted jeans, a velour sweatshirt featuring kittens, and some comfortable walking shoes.  And a fanny pack.

just sayin'.

 Pear and Cream Cheese Tart

1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup flour
1 pkg (8 0z) cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 thinly sliced pears, peeled

Preheat oven to 425.
Beat butter and 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
Add flour, mix well.
Spread firmly onto bottom and up the sides of a springform pan (I push it about 3/4 of an inch up the sides of a 10-inch pan. A 9 inch pan is a more standard size, so you could push up about an inch.)

Beat cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar in same bowl.
Add egg and vanilla, mix well.
Spread evenly over crust.

Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Toss sliced pears with sugar mixture until covered.
Arrange pears in concentric circles on top of cream cheese filling, starting with the outside and working in.
Eat any left-over cinnamon sugar pears.
(Do not share.)

Bake 10 minutes then reduce to 375 and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown at edges and the middle is set.
Cool on wire rack.
Remove outside of springform pan.
Refrigerate tart for a few hours until cool and well set.