2.05.2016

it's the little things.



This morning I was flipping through an old Ladies Home Journal that I borrowed heisted from somewhere because yes, as a matter of fact, I do want to know how Miranda Lambert got that smoking hot new body.   I flipped to a page celebrating married couples and the sweet traditions they develop over the years to help each other and show their love.


One couple, married for 50 years, stated that she's bad at directions so he always drives her to a new place the day before her appointment so that she can find it, and she is good at grammar and spelling so she always checks his emails and FB posts.  pffffft! Another couple reported that she makes little baggies of homemade muesli every Sunday for him to take to work and he...well...I forget what he does  But anyway, you get the point.

I started thinking about the hubs and our sweet traditions, but then I was interrupted by the hubs, who is home on the weekends, snoring loudly in front of a blaring TV.  And this annoyed me and redirected my train of thought towards all the little ways we annoy each other.  He is off on the weekends, for God's sake...it's annoying enough that he has nothing to do....can't he just do it quietly without the surround sound rocking the house to yet another three year old rerun of NCIS?

No, he can't.  He can't because if the hubs is home, the TV is on, or he gets lonely.  He will try to engage a person in conversation, yelling across the house and if that doesn't work, he'll resort to physical means such as hugging, tickling, anything for attention.

And Lord knows, I am not perfect.   The hubs gets annoyed that I'm not friendlier in the morning.   I am a morning person.  I'm  not playful, I'm not chatty.....I get up earlier than everyone else for the sole purpose of being by myself.  If someone gets up early and joins me, well, it just bloody pisses me off.

The hubs and I have a million little ways to annoy each other.  For instance, he eats his poached eggs whole. and runny. That's one whole egg, yolk and all, just breaking in his mouth, coating his tongue, sliding down his throat.  I'm getting a little queasy thinking about it.  I, on the other hand, do not care about malware or internet security and this is not only irresponsible, but it drives him insane.  Have I set up the security feature on my phone?  I don't know.  Would I like to learn how?  Must I?  Deep sigh.

And don't get me started on the air conditioning/heating.  I do not care for air conditioning.  If I wanted to live in air conditioning, I would move back to Florida.  I want my windows and doors open to the fresh air.  I want to walk in from  outside  without experiencing  a 20  degree temperature  drop that sends me running for my snorkel parka. The hubs, on the other hand, would prefer to not walk into a bread oven every day between September  and  April.

Yup, we've got a million little ways to annoy each other without even trying.  But we've learned to compromise, and that's how we show our love for each other.   He gives a  little, I give a little....plus  I  make him little  yogurt sundaes Saturday mornings for breakfast. I don't judge him when he wears sweatpants all weekend (even to fancy pants restaurants). He understands my almost freakish love of my puppies. I make him soup to take to work all week. He always runs to the store to pick up items I forgot. Sometimes  I pretend to be friendly in the morning.  Sometimes he eats his eggs like a normal person.

It really is the little things.

just sayin'.

 Eggs Benedict
1 cup grated potato
½ cup julienne onio
1 egg
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter


Prep the ingredients: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees to keep the potato pancakes warm while you make the Eggs Benedict. Wash and dry the produce. Grate the potato, onion and red pepper.

Make the Hash Browns: In a bowl, mix the potato, onion and red pepper with egg and flour. In a 12-inch pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Shape the hash browns into 4 inch circles. Fry on each side for 4 minutes until golden brown. Place in the oven to keep warm while you make the Eggs Benedict.

Make the Hollandaise Sauce: Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for 1 minute, make sure it has completely melted. In a blender, blend one egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for 10 seconds. Turn the blender on high and pour the butter steadily into the sauce. Place the blender in hot water to keep the sauce warm until serving.

Poach the Eggs: Fill a pot with enough water to cover the egg while cooking. Heat the water until the water is simmering. There will be small bubbles under the water, yet it has not started to boil. If the water starts to boil, reduce the heat till it is simmering. Add the white vinegar to the water. Crack your egg in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, swirl the water in a circle. Once the water pace has slowed a little, pour the egg into the center of the swirling circle. Cook the egg for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the egg with the slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.

On a plate, layer the hash brown, poached egg and top with hollandaise sauce. Enjoy!

1.29.2016

raining roses.

A couple months ago I had one of those existential crises in which everything was suddenly too loud, too busy, too jarring, too jolting. Too much. Too much. I wanted quiet. Calm and bright, only not the Christmas kind.

I pulled everything off the walls in my office, including my beloved butterflies, removed every single nick-nack and do-dad, and when I was done, I was done. I loved it for a little while. I lived in a blank space for at least a full week, which in the reality of someone like me, is basically a millenium, or a really long time. I did what is called "quieting the room", and all I can say is, I was made for quiet. I wasn't sure if I'd ever pull myself out of the quiet. Even the hubs was starting to worry. "Love, when are you going to hang something up? This is weird."

It just so happened that around the same time, my jute rug unraveled, again, and with it, my last shred of sanity.

My first purging attempt was in the early seventies. Dressed in a bandanna, halter top and cutoff jean shorts, I surveyed  the stacks of fringed vests, old photos, vinyl records and books that lined my wallpapered closet. I sang along to Joni Mitchell on repeat – Come on Carey get out your cane
I'll put on some siiiilver, We'll go to the Mermaid Café....Have fun toniiiiight
– and I carefully culled through years and years of ephemera to find the hidden gems I wanted to carry with me on this new journey.

What did I want to stuff into suitcases that might offer padding, support, stability, for the uprooting of a sheltered childhood in a small town? What would keep me safe? What would keep me happy?

Everything?

Anything?

I begin by tossing aside hand-me-down skirts that felt childish and worn. I left behind favored stuffed animals, meticulously glittered scrapbooks, yearbooks, award ribbons and three hopelessly worn out two piece bathing suits from years spent swimming walking around our local pool.

Everything that made it into a box had been approved for my new life, for the move to San Francisco. Yes, the new version me would wear bell bottom jeans. Yes, I would wear the brambleberry lipstick. Yes, of course, I would hang a Jefferson Airplane poster on my wall, and attend the final show at the Fillmore West featuring Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead. I would fantasize about going to the The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden. and never, ever miss an episode of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Why would I not? I was, wait for it... I was blooming.

With every sheet of bubble wrap, with every newspaper-wrapped belonging, I decided who to be. With packing tape in hand, I purged for transformation, for renewal, for change.

Do you want to know a secret? When I purged from this place, when I allowed the objects in my life to dictate the trajectory of my life, when I assigned too much value to studded jeans and rock posters, do you know what I was doing?

I was changing what I had, not who I was.

Curated objects do not create a corresponding lifestyle.

The very same hands that stuffed platform sandals and a hair dryer into an overflowing cardboard box in late July were still, unchanged, the hands that would later unpack them in an apartment on a hill in August.

I organized make-up, clothes, journals, and photographs into dresser drawers. I stacked books and music that seemed sophisticated and adult appropriate but did not offer comfort. I unrolled the poster that felt so cool in June, but now, well who was I kidding? I longed for my glittered scrapbooks.

I found that, on this day in August, I was surprised that the contents of my suitcases did not make me an adult. Life, it seems, is the only act that will make me grow.

Over the years I will run full-force into this desire to transform many times again, over and over, for years to come.

When I became a mother, I decorated a meticulous nursery with coordinating crib bedding and paper flowers hanging from the ceiling. I organized onesies in drawers labeled 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and beyond. I stock piled cloth diapers. I lined bookshelves with Dr. Seuss and wooden toys, I stocked our pantry with organic rice cereal and made my own baby food.

I changed what I had, not who I was.

I curated a perfect version of motherhood.

I did not then realize that curating perfection would do nothing to assist in actually creating perfection.
I did not then realize that surrounding myself with baby quilts would be a feeble attempt in fluffing the nest I was utterly unprepared to rule. I did not then realize that swaddling a newborn in a miracle blanket would not miraculously transform me into a mother, and that no amount of back-up diapers would shield me from the sleep deprivation of changing them at 3am.

I did not realize how my heart would crack open for the first time.

I did not then realize that, to become a mother, you must mother. You must do the work, with or without Dr. Seuss, Dr. Bronner, Dr. Spock.

George Eliot once wrote of this. “It will never rain roses… When we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”

I have a tendency to want more roses. I have a tendency to strive for ease and simplicity, for an effortless life of capsule wardrobes and minimalism and Konmari.

But.

This is not a worthy goal. Minimalism is not something to be mastered. It’s a learning, a re-evaluating, a practice that comes easier on some days than others.

It’s not a raining of roses. It’s a planting of roses.

I am changing what I have, not who I am.

Sometimes, I am just down right tired. I'm weary. I spend so much time and energy creating boundaries and striving for simplicity and searching for a slower way of life that I’ve made it just as exhausting as the fast living I tend to do.

I get it.

Simplification is not simple – it is a focus, one that requires energy and endurance and mindfulness. It is not a goal to top. It is not a box to check off.

It is not about the roses, the beautiful garden, the fruits of your labor.

It is about the planting.

It is about the work.

It’s planting at its finest, a surveying of my lifestyle, my actual needs. Committing to begin taking stock of me – not the curated version of me, but the actual me. 

It’s an honest look at what I already have, and it’s an honest look at what might be missing. And after the taking stock, the inventory – the planting – a list based on what I have vs. what I need.

Sometimes mine comes back empty. Turns out my “needs” are at times, dressed up “wants.”

Slow living is a slow process. I will get it right and I will get it wrong. My garden will bloom for weeks and then I’ll lose focus, life will get busy, or hard and I’ll forget to pay attention to my efforts. I’ll wish for the roses to rain again, for life to be simple again, for the work to get easier, and when will it get easier? Never!

Planting will never be easier.

But the roses are worth it, every single time.

just sayin'.




 Cheesy Vegetable Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrot
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups chopped cauliflower
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 cloves minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.5 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk

Melt butter and cook onion, carrot, celery until soft on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low boil and cook until potatoes are softened.

Mix flour with water and add to soup. Allow to thicken for a few minutes. Add broccoli and cauliflower, milk, 2-3 dashes bottled hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium or medium low until veggies are soft. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted.

1.24.2016

holy cow.




Dear David Duchovny,


I caught your interview on NPR way back in February. of last year. The host discussed your new book, “Holy Cow”,  and I was like, what?, David Duchovny wrote a book? About Cows? Holy Cow! (Bet you haven’t heard that one.)  Listeners were invited to call in.  I would have been one of those callers, David Duchovny, except it would have been difficult for me to breathe while spitting out, “I love you David Duchovny!!!!”.  And that would have been awkward. For you, for me and for everybody listening. It would have just been embarrassing. Plus, I was driving. It was sleeting. Attempting to talk to David Duchovny with my heart pounding while hurtling down the highway in the freezing rain is not in my wheelhouse. And, considering my whole I love you David Duchovny issue it was probably for the best.

Still, I was sorry to miss out on the whole "How do you know David Duchovny" conversation. The great thing about the internet is you really don't have to miss out on anything. You may never read this David Duchovny, but writing down my thoughts about other people stumbling through their I love you David Duchovny calls makes me feel more part of the experience.


So how do I know David Duchovny?  Um, through Wikipedia for one? duh. We almost have the same birthday! From NPR?  Okay, truth is, I don’t really know David Duchovny, but anyone who writes a book about cows gets poster space on my imaginary wall. Okay, not everyone. That would be silly. Cows have been around a long time and there are probably a lot of proud cow book authors out there and although my imaginary walls are infinite, I’m limiting the offer to just David Duchovny. And Temple Grandin.

I saw you on Twin Peaks.  seriously!  I loved that show.  Dennis/Denise was brilliant.  Talk about a ride on the crazy train! I developed my obsessed fan issue, however, during Californication.  And when I say obsessed,  I mean in a over the hill middle-aged Facebook fan girl crush sort of way, not the breaking and entering, sneaking up behind you as you brush your teeth and shouting “IloveyouDavid Duchovny”  kind of way, which would be totally inappropriate. 

And can I just say X-Files? Seriously, it’s been 14 years since an original episode aired, almost 23 years since the show started. And now, Mulder and Scully back together again! awesome! You two are so cute together, and all that baggage history between you guys. (Oh yeah, I remember that you had a kid together!) I'm thinking time and experience has changed your perspectives. fingers crossed, this time you will get it right. I was obsessed back in the day, “The truth is out there” and “The truth is in here” and “I want to believe”. Luckily. we will always have Netflix.

What surprised me, David Duchovny, is how much you and I have in common!  You have a B.A. in English Literature from Princeton University and an M.A. in English Literature from Yale University.You  became a famous actor/director, play the guitar, write songs, and wrote a book about animals that infiltrate the human drama. ME TOO!  Well not the the Princeton Yale part, and not the famous actor part, and not the book part, but I went to school, was in the drama club AND the band, wrote a song, sorta, and write stories about animals experiencing human drama.  By the way, in case you haven’t worked it out yet, I’m a huge fan.

Also, I just remembered, you were a SNL Host and I went to Summer Camp.  See what I mean, soul mates?

So given all that you and I have in common, David Duchovny, I’d like to invite you to have coffee with me.  You could play some of your new stuff, maybe sign your book for me. I know these meetings are supposed to take place at some desk in NPR studios or wherever, but I promise you, coffee with me will be more fun than with Bob Boilen...

Forever yours,
Flouting Cloudberries

P.S. See you tonight at 10 p.m.!

just sayin'.

amaretto brownies

3.5 oz (100 g) or more crunchy Amaretti cookies, ground to make ⅔ cup measure
5 oz (140 g) good-quality semisweet chocolate (see notes)
⅔ cup (150 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar
4 large eggs, separated and left to come to room temperature
⅓ cup (45 g) flour (lightly spooned into measuring cup and leveled)
1 ½ Tbs Amaretto
2 – 3 Tbs slivered almonds for the top


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter a 9 x 9-inch square baking pan.
  3. Grind the amaretti cookies to a powder using a robot mixer and then measure out ⅔ cup.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl or pan over simmering water, stirring constantly as it melts. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to tepid.
  5. Separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl with a few grains of salt and set aside.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter with the sugar until smooth, creamy and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating in each until combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat until smooth and blended. Beat in the Amaretto. Beat in the flour, then the crushed amaretti cookies.
  7. Using very clean beaters, beat the egg whites for 30 seconds on low speed then increase to high speed and beat until soft peaks hold. Gently yet firmly fold the whites into the chocolate batter, a third at a time, until well blended, no white chunks are visible and the batter is smooth.
  8. Scrape into the prepared baking pan and smooth. Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top.
  9. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the top is puffed, a dull brown color and set. Be careful that the top doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack before cutting into squares.
Notes
I used Lindt Excellent Dark Chocolate with Grilled Almonds because not only is it a mellower semisweet chocolate, less bitter than the 70% dessert chocolate I usually bake with, but also to add more almond flavor. The Amaretto can be replaced by ½ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract.