my (really long) list, again.

we are all so different. we are born and we live and things happen to us along the way that give us each such distinctly personal histories. they are the random quirks and stories that distinguish us from all the other billions of people out there walking around on this earth. and as I'm really thinking about the truth behind that statement, it's blowing my mind a little. I just can't quit thinking about them, so (sorry) here are some random things about me:

I love to make lists. I make lists of lists to make. so I don't forget anything.

Growing up, I wanted to be a Shin-digger and dance on Shindig, but also dance for the New York city ballet on the side. haha a prima ballerina. on the side. I crack myself up.

 The taste and smell of cilantro makes me gag.

My imagination often got me into trouble growing up.

I suck at math.

When I am upset or angry, I get in the car and drive.  I realize it's not the best thing for me or all the other poor drivers out there who see me crying, my face all sad and contorted, but it soothes me, ~ the loud music, the wind on my face. and when I come home, I am always ready to work things out.

I twist my hair until I have a migraine.

I have bathed in a traditional Japanese bathhouse and it was the cleanest my body has ever felt.

I hate the dark. Sometimes at night, I can't wait for morning. and coffee.

Hostess Suzi Q cakes are one of my favorite junk food. a guilty pleasure. have you seen them? they are two slices of devils food cake with a whole mess of cream filling (okay, lard and sugar) in the middle. they are the kind of 'sandwiches' only a sugar-crazed child would love. I haven't eaten Suzi Qs in years but drooled over some at Circle K the other day.

My first boyfriend's name was Eugene. we were six and impossibly cute together.

 I am very particular about how my towels are folded. I love to open the linen closet door to find neatly stacked rows of perfectly folded white towels. I believe this may be the result of working at the gap back in the summer of 1970. I'll not deny Martha Stewart's influence here, either.

 If I really love a book or movie, I will read or watch it over and over and over again. it's like comfort food to me.

As a child, I was a rhymer. as in, I took great pleasure in the rhyming of words. and I took even greater pleasure in bringing my agitated peers and sibling to their knees, begging me to PLEASE STOP! this, of course, only fueled me to take my rhyming skills to new heights. and also, I just loved the rhythm of rhyming words. and still do.

While living in San Francisco I was standing on a corner waiting for the bus and was mistaken for a hooker.

 I love polka-dotted underwear.

I get easily overwhelmed now.  I never used to.  I just don't process stress the way I used to.  It's my mantra.

I run in circles trying to decorate my house.  I can sit in a room for hours staring at what might be possible.

When the hubs and I go on vacation and check into a hotel, he waits patiently at the door with the bags to be sure this is the room we're actually taking.

I am extraordinarily critical of which pics can be kept of me. I screamed at the hubs for having unauthorized pics of me on his phone.  No they weren't risqué, they were just taken at the wrong angle.  There are a lot of wrong angles. I've had to loosen up on this recently and I'm not happy about it.

Some people call me bossy but I prefer "Life Coach".

I'm a first born perfectionist who always thinks the glass is half full.  In general, it's not the best combination.

I hate magic and card tricks... and practical jokes, and clowns!!!

I like to say my faults first, before you have a chance.

Sometimes I lick butter.

Sometimes I lick mayonnaise.

I am mostly completely lost in my life.

I am adverse to any sort of exaggeration.  I believe people should undersell everything.

I was in love with my puppies the first day I laid eyes on them. I like to smell the tops of their heads.  Still.  To this day.  They are fourteen... and patient.

I am a nervous flyer but I'm the first one to book a flight somewhere.

I have narrow feet, and cankles.  I believe I come from peasant stock.

I am good in a long term crisis like battling an illness.  I am terrible in a crisis that arises out of nowhere like a stuck elevator.  I will not remain calm, or carry on.  Well, actually I'll carry on but it won't be the kind you're hoping for.

I like when people drop by, unannounced.  I'm not being facetious.  I actually like it.

I don't like cowboy flicks.

I was a very loud talker when I was younger.  Sometimes it rears it's ugly head.

I deal best with people who speak honestly with very little sugar coating.

I'm a really bad driver and I often turn corners up on the curb.  Also, I have several marks on my car which are unaccounted for so I'm assuming I'm hitting things and just driving on.

The movie I have never forgiven for taking two and a half hours of my life is The Thin Red Line.

I have panic attacks about whether or not I owe someone money, or whether or not they owe me money, which is less of a concern as I age because now I can't remember whether or not anyone owes me money.

When the bill comes, I'm an even splitter, unless you've ordered Dom Perignon. Then I will just panic.

I love Jane Austin books even though it was recently pointed out that none of her novels portray the madly in love couple past the wedding day.

I startle so easily that my husband has to sing loudly if he is approaching anywhere near my vicinity.  In our home.  The home where he and I both live. 

I will split a dessert with you if you understand the rules.  The rules of splitting a dessert are that the last bite will have the same presentation as the first bite.  You may NOT swirl the desert around, eat it from bottom to top or in general desecrate it in any way.

I love traveling with my husband because he handles every aspect of it and constantly tells me what to do, which is out of character for him (and me) and makes me giggle.

I'm an animal person.

Things that match upset me.

I'm big on jewelry, especially vintage costume jewelry .

I love lipstick. lace. velvet. stripes. pink.

Sometimes I know I'm being irrational and I don't care, in fact I may up the ante, just for fun.

My favorite book of all time is Tropic of Cancer then Grapes of Wrath.

My sister and I often do sketch comedy.  You would be offended by most of it.

I like kooky people.  I'm not sure if that's because they make me feel better about myself or because I really want to be more like them.

I cannot be a pen pal to someone in need if they don't already know me.  Almost nothing about my brand of soldiering nurturing translates properly through the written word.  It's best if you get to know me in person so I can see where you flinch and adjust my warrior calls encouragements appropriately... real time.  I learned that lesson the very hard way.

Coconut cream pie is my absolute favorite dessert in the world.  That and the butter cake at Mastro's.

I will cut the tube of toothpaste lengthwise to get out the last bit.  Actually, the tube or bottle of anything.  That's just good economy.

There's more.  I'll write them down when I think of them.  I know you will be waiting... probably impatiently.

just sayin'.

corn pie

1 unbaked pie shell
1 1/3 cups half and half
3 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 small onion cut into wedges
1 tablespoon AP flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or frozen corn (thawed)

Let pastry shell sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Line unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of heavy duty foil. Bake at 375* for 5 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer.

In a blender, combine the cream, eggs, butter, onion, flour, sugar and salt. Cover and process until blended. Stir in corn. Pour into pie crust.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.


Good Ol' Days.

Summer soothes me like ginger lemon tea. There is the sunshine, catching the frets as they ricochet off of me and tossing them over my shoulder like the old news that they are. There are flowers, calming me like a salve. I'm ready to live these last Summer weeks with a new kind of peace and a new kind of joy. Or maybe they're the old kinds. Maybe they're the Good Ol' Days, coming back around and slowing down just enough for me to hop back on.

It may periodically trip me up, this odd existence. I have joyfully surrendered with the assumption that change would steam-roll me right into our next phase of life. As it turns out, Life isn't interested in steam-rolling me. It probably knows it's too hot and sticky for a bunch of steam right now, anyway.

I have a lot of friends that went camping this summer. I know, right! Here's the thing, I'm really not a camp girl. I enjoy what I know of it, but my knowledge is quite limited. I was not Born to Camp. It may have something to do with my long-standing aversion to outhouses or it may be related to my woeful hair that really must be washed daily.

It's not that I'm spoiled a wimp, though. No, it's definitely not that.

I'm a hopeless romantic when it comes to summer.  This year I took it pretty easy, planning little, dreaming big. But even empty calendars (especially empty calendars?) have hopes and dreams penciled in.  And although I'm all for free-range ambitions, I've decided I'm going to crack down this year, manage expectations like I mean business.  The childish ones Certain People bring to summer's table.  The unrealistic, seriously?, plain ol' silly sort.  Expectations that leave me shaking my head and smirking out loud and muttering 'surely you know better' under my breath.  

See, one of my Big Ideas about summer is that I'll Get Out, early and often.  To the park or the lake, or garden, to hike and explore and Be In Nature.  I spin Grand Plans in my head all the time, about catching crayfish and studying limestone and identifying leaves and bark and seeds.   Valderi-Valdera optional.  Sort of.  I am fiercely fond of my own childhood summers, which I recall as almost entirely en plein air.  I left the house in the morning and didn't return until dusk, filthy and sun-blind and brimming with adventure. Then those wonky teenage summers that I spent covered in baby oil, color-coding my bathing suits, and teasing my bangs. I was busy writing sonnets and day-dreaming about boys who would be but a memory just one short week later.

I want that now.  I try hard to Make It Happen.  Sometimes, too hard. 

I suppose it all boils down to agendas.  I often have one.  So does Life.  And often as not, they look nothing alike.  I had my sights set (like always) on the ocean.  It brings me pleasure and peace and great heaps of warm fuzzies, like a postcard from home.  But Life had eyes for staying home this year. 




One of these days, opportunity will arrive.

All I know is that when "it" lollygags 'round the bend, I hope it finds me with a smile on my face. And maybe a clean shirt and blow-dried hair, but I'm not holding my breath.

just sayin'.

Summer Corn Chowder

8 ears fresh sweet yellow corn, husked and silks removed and kernels cut from cob
3 Tbsp butter
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half and half
1 Tbsp honey
2 - 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened and just starting to brown around edges, about 8 - 10 minutes. Add in the flour and garlic and cook 1 1/2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour in 5 cups water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then stir in corn kernels and potatoes. Add in thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Transfer 2 1/2 cups of the chowder to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir the mixture back into the pot then stir in half and half and honey. Sprinkle each serving with chives and optional cheddar.
Recipe source: adapted from Cooks Illustrated


almost normal.

Nothing to see here! If I'm being honest, or at least empathetic, I should at least mention as much at the outset.  I'm knee-deep in the domestic, haircuts and sink snaking and tucking flowers into every vase I can lay my hands on.  If it's any indication, the highlight of my week was pulling two bags full of poison ivy from my back yard.  I had help, hired help (and worth every dime).  But still, exciting as dirt.  So long hubbub, hello humdrum. 

It's pretty exquisite.

Because in a year like this year, when change has been the only constant and novelty my closest neighbor, the ordinary feels awfully good.  A little exotic, even.  I finished going through all the drawers, unpacking boxes and airing out wrinkly britches.  I cleaned closets that smacked of many years' neglect, though their contents were only a few months' out of moving cartons.  (Better make that two constants, if you include my abiding inner slob.)  I made headway in the garage and order in the pantry and successful repairs to a deadbeat dresser.  Last year, I would have called it all drudgery.  This year, almost normal.
It wasn't all housework.  If anything, chores played second fiddle to the thrum and blur of a summer suddenly in the swing.  Friday I'm tracking down two shaggy puppies in need of a trim, Saturday I'm keeping up with two flower beds gone wild. I've been working hard to re-claim this common commotion for nearly nine months now, so I wasn't exactly caught unawares.  But the almost-every-day-appointments and constant care blindsided me a little anyway.  And left me more than a little giddy.  We'll manage the vortex later.  Right now, it's just nice to have a seat at the swirl.

Or maybe third fiddle, if it's dust I'm talking.  I dissed crumby rugs for days, because the sun just wouldn't quit.  I walked at the feeblest excuse, to check out the new neighbor's landscaping, just to gawk.  Gardens are pretty gawk-worthy right now.

Everyday accomplishments snuck in.  I made ten minutes to rip a sweet dreams CD for my troubled sleep.  Finally, I have the means to muffle the demons stampeding tiptoeing across the oak floor right outside my door.  And a swell means at that, plump with Mingulay's aching harmonies and the best lullabies ever. Absolutely trivial.  Deeply satisfying.

And at week's end, I hit the Farmer's market, the way I have most weeks here this year, the way I have most weeks for years now.  I piled my cart high with slender leeks and pounds of greens and summer's last gasps, peppers and eggplants and tiny zucchini.  Then I went back for more.  Not a lot more, just a few stragglers too awkward or large for the first pass, like a glowing wreath of bittersweet.  And an enormous cauliflower.

I began a novel!  So far, recipes were the only fiction I've read all year, and I really have no complaints.  Ingredients are perfectly scaled to the reading time snippets I find here and there.  Like People, but so much better.  And Zucchini Marmalade Olive Oil Cake has more plot and pathos than many books I've read.  Still, it feels significant to make it to page 12. It feels almost normal.

just sayin'.

Zucchini Marmalade Olive Oil Cake 

adapted from Tartine

A few ingredient notes: This doesn't need a fancy marmalade, but it does need a serious one.  Something more about bitter peel than orange jam, a marmalade with a stiff upper lip.  I love Dundee, classic and reasonable.  If you use a particularly large zucchini, wring the grated shreds in a clean kitchen towel, or drain in a colander, half an hour before using.  The original called for toasted walnuts and cinnamon; I omitted the first and swapped in nutmeg for the second, and like it this way, very much.  Finally, I used all white flour, but imagine this would be a fine place for half and half, wheat and white.  Or all wheat.  Or a bit of buckwheat.  Be playful.

Also.  Thick slices, toasted golden and buttered.  Make a note.

1 3/4 cups + 2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour (or mix of white and wheat)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs mild extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 Tbs demerrera (raw) sugar, for topping

Place oven rack one rung down from middle position, and preheat oven to 350°.  Butter and flour (or oil) a 9 x 5" loaf pan, and line the wide side with a strip of parchment paper.
In a small bowl, add flour, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg, and whisk to combine.  Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, olive oil, sugar and marmalade until combined.  Add zucchini and salt, and stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon, until combined.  Add flour mixture and fold into egg mixture, until just combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing surface with your spatula, and sprinkling top with demerrara sugar to cover.  Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.  This cake is difficult to over-bake, so moist it is; err on the long end of the recommended time.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then run knife along short sides to loosen and remove with the parchment "ears" to a rack.  Let cool completely, 1-2 hours, if you can manage.  Keeps beautifully, well-wrapped, at room temperature, several days.