Archive for the ‘In Other Words’ Category

sticking to it

In In Other Words, On My Mind on February 24, 2011 at 8:58 am

My 8yo, Madeleine, is wicked smart. And just in case her smarts are not enough to guarantee her spot in the geek squad down the road, Richard likes to sit down with her after dinner and talk about algebra and infinity and such. So when she came home today with a “Continental Math League” paper on which she had answered only one out of six problems correctly, then immediately ripped said paper from my hands and tried to crumple it up, little red flags went up.

I chatted with her a bit, and figured from the little she was telling me that this was a timed competitive enrichment activity that she’d been a little nervous about because, you know, “I’m bad at math.”

Slap to the forehead.

I heard myself telling her “Don’t be afraid of doing something just because it’s hard, sweetie.”

There’s one of those lessons I need to learn too. See, I am taking a good hard look at this here bloggity blog and trying to figure out how to make it work for me.

And besides all the questions of how to get a Facebook “Like” button on the page, or how to find advertisers, or what exactly do I care enough to write about for 3 or 4 times a week for an indefinite period of time, there’s the ever-haunting doubts. What if nobody reads it? What if everyone hates it? What if I look like a foolish sham of a writer? There’s a growing list of things to do or learn about blogging, and I’m wondering if this will turn into one of my unfinished projects.

For now I’m sticking to my list, one item at a time (or maybe 4 or 5, for the ADDer in me). Right now I’m trying to figure out a new name, because Write On the Bay just isn’t quite right. And choosing a name means defining what it is I really want to blog about.

I think I have a pretty good idea, but I’m wondering what you, my treasured readers, what do you think? What speaks to you here? Where do you think my voice is clearest and most compelling? Do you think it’s all a pile of rubbish?

Let me know. Maybe I’ll even come up with a prize (think baked goods — I am known to have Obsessive Compulsive Baking Disorder) for a randomly selected commenter. That’s something bloggers do, isn’t it? Comments must be entered by midnight on Thursday, February 24. A winner will be selected by a cute child of mine from a hat and announced on Friday, February 25.


guerrilla baking (or, why you shouldn’t be afraid of yeast breads)

In In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind on February 21, 2011 at 8:28 am

I used to be afraid of yeast breads until my homesickness for New Orleans drove me to baking my own King Cake, a sweet bread traditionally served in the Mardi Gras season. I offer this “recipe” to anyone worried about screwing up a recipe requiring yeast. As you’ll see conditions in my kitchen are less than ideal, and we usually do just fine. Real recipe to come later this week.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Clear out space around the stand mixer, ignoring the tower of dirty dishes just beyond sight.

Search for recipe in recipe binder, don’t find it. Pull it out of the pile of recipes waiting to be put back in their proper place.

Yell at the 8yo that she will do nothing fun today until her room is clean.

Ask the 5yo to play with the 11mo in the living room so he is no longer pulling pots and pans out of the cabinet beneath you.

Fearful moment #1: think that you only have one envelope of yeast found with the spices. Feel better when you find three more packets of yeast with — surprise! — the baking supplies.

Mix yeast and sugar with warm water in a small bowl, set on stovetop next to leftover pancakes and bacon grease from breakfast.

In bowl of stand mixer, combine cups flour, (Crap! you only have 2 cups of AP flour. Scrounge 2 more cups of cake flour. Pray you won’t need the fifth cup of flour since all that’s left is whole wheat.) sugar, salt, nutmeg (use a nice heaping teaspoon since it’s old and probably not all that flavorful anymore), lemon rind.

Fearful moment #2: is all the butter in the freezer? Phew. No. Cut up 1 stick of butter into milk and nuke them together. Re-read handwritten note to not forget milk and butter in the microwave like you did the last two times you made this.

Fearful moment #3: There are NO EGGS in the house. No getting around this. Wish you had taken a shower, throw on the jeans you wore last night (bra optional), and run out the door, yelling to your hubby that you have to go to the grocery store before the yeast mixture blows up all over the kitchen.

Drive to the store, listening to local radio station story about how sailboats need to protect themselves from lightening strikes. Start thinking about getting the big kids into swimming lessons before the summer starts. Nearly pass the grocery store because you’ve forgotten what you’re doing. Wonder if you have adult ADD.

Pick up eggs and AP flour, head home.

Wash hands thoroughly, separate eggs with hands, resolve to do something with the growing collection of egg whites in the freezer. Add warm milk, butter, and egg yolks to dry ingredients, start mixing. Second guess starting out with the dough hook instead of the flat mixing paddle. Switch out the dough hook for the paddle. Realize 20 seconds later that the dough hook would have been fine. Mix until well blended,  knead with dough hook, adding last cup of flour until dough is no longer sticky.

Kiss hubby and the big kids as they head out for church. Put the baby down for a nap.

Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Catch up on Facebook. Start a blog entry. Shower. Get dressed, hoping the baby might fall asleep again. Get him a bottle when he doesn’t. Kiss family members returning from church.

Start on filling. Crap. No cream cheese. No vanilla extract. Seriously? Send hubby out for second grocery run of the day.

Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long.

Mix brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground allspice, salt, maple syrup, and softened cream cheese. Spread filling over middle of dough. Fold edges toward the middle. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Throw lunch together, sit down with the family. Don’t eat too much, because, there is, after all, king cake to eat later.

Bake cake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool.

Combine confectioner sugar and the lemon juice. Invite very sweet children over. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let kids decorate cake with colored sugar sprinkles.

Cut cake. Enjoy. Listen to hubby say it’s the best king cake you’ve ever made.


starting the year with a damn good poem

In In Other Words, Writing on January 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm

My God

by Sandra Beasley

My god is a short god. My god wears jeans.

When he swims, he has a lazy breaststroke.

When he gardens, he uses his bare hands.

My god watches reruns of late night talk shows.

My god could levitate but prefers the stairs

and if available, the fireman’s pole. My god

loves bacon. My god’s afraid of sharks.

My god thinks the only way to define a country

is with water. My god thinks eventually,

we will come around on ear candling. My god

spits chaw. My god never flosses.

My god reads Proust. My god never

graduated. He smiles when astronauts reach

zero gravity and say My god, My god.

My god is knitting one very big sweater.

My god is teaching his terrier to beg.

My god didn’t mean for icebergs. My god

didn’t mean for machetes. Sometimes

a sparrow lands in the hands of my god

and he cups it, gently. It never wants to leave

and so, it never notices that even if it tried

my god has too good a grip, my god, my god.


time for adventure

In In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind on December 8, 2010 at 9:32 am

I am so over New Year’s resolutions. They are so 20th century. But I have been compiling a list of adventures to have in 2011, or whenever. Here’s the first batch, along with some background.

ski down a mountain

attend a film screening

It’s been about fourteen years since I’ve been skiing. And in a few weeks, my little family will head out to Park City to visit the fabulous Heather and Chris. Serious skiing there, people. Like, my heart is skipping a beat just looking at pics Heather is sending us from the trails. AND. We’ll be there during the Sundance Film Festival. How cool is that? I’m such a voyeur, I can’t wait to walk down the snowy street with the Hollywood types, and take in a flick or two while I’m at it.

visit a dairy farm

build something

go to a Tractor Supply Store

shoot a shotgun

I admit to falling under the influence of good friends. And two of my bestest buds, Jen and Christian, have got me loving their new home in Pennsyltuckey — er — York County, PA. I could easily do all of the above in a weekend trip to visit these doers on their 11 acres. The building I’ll probably do at home. Maybe a bat box. Maybe a desk. We’ll see. Either way I’ll probably bug Christian for advice.

ride my bike

And speaking of influential friends, Christy was crazy enough to say “yes” when I asked her in 2008 if she wanted to train for a triathlon with me. I borrowed a road bike at the time, and my own hybrid has sat neglected for I don’t even know how long. It’s high time I tune it up and roam the hood with the kids, or chase after Christy on her road bike.

visit the Smithsonian

It’s right there!

shop at a tienda

I want to improve my game in the Mexican cuisine category. And sometimes it’s fun to just explore a store I don’t usually visit, pick up some mystery vegetable, bring it home and try to turn it into something worth eating.

write a friend a letter

I write a mean letter. Well, nice letters, really. And who doesn’t like to receive a real, honest-to-goodness handwritten letter?

make beignets

make king cake

Because they are yummy. Because I know what it means to miss New Orleans. Because I can.

read poetry

write poetry

Where oh where has my literary mojo gone?

practice yoga on the beach

I don’t know about all you other baby mamas out there, but I have a hard time with self-care when I’m tending a new baby. But he’s not so new anymore, and I could use a little more downward dog in my life. Pair it with staring out at the water, and that spells serenity for me.

spend the day doing nothing

Too many days of my life are overscheduled. A whole lot of nothing will have to fill my calendar sometimes.

days with…

In In Other Words, On My Mind on November 30, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Recently, a friend sent me a link to the amazing Days With My Father, a blog-cum-book documenting photojournalist Phillip Toledano’s time spent with his father in the last three years of life. It is at once sad, funny, poignant, and visually stunning.

Toledano’s father treasured the visits with his son and daughter-in-law, just as my dad relished the time he spent with all the friends and family members who visited him in his last days. It was such a pure enjoyment, like he knew that nothing else really mattered.

Toledano writes of his deceased mother consistently pointing out his faults, and how he now realizes  she was mostly right. It’s funny how infuriated we can all get with loved ones, how they can tell us all these things we don’t want to hear about ourselves. And sometimes they just plain make us crazy.

My friend was concerned that the site might upset me. I cried, of course, because that’s what I do. But I was glad he sent it. It was a timely message for me, so close to the holiday season and the accompanying mega-size doses of family time. Reading through the site reminded me that I need to treasure the time I have with loved ones, focus less on what might bother me about them, and more on who they really are and how much they mean to me.

thanks giving

In In Other Words on November 25, 2010 at 8:15 am

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

ee cummings

let’s see if this will work

In Family, Food, friends, In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind, Writing on November 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

I love how my friends can ask me these simple little questions and suddenly I can think more clearly.

“Well, what do you want?” says friend.

“Hunh,” says I.

I write a list, because I’m a list maker. What do I want? What do I want to do? What do I actually want to accomplish in any given week? See, I hadn’t actually given that question much thought in the last year or so. Here’s the list.

-1-2 blog entries

-3 hours writing fiction/poetry

-8-12 hours working (for money!)

-workout 3-4 times

Not a huge list, but I have not been protecting my time to do these things I want to do. It seems doable, even with all the stuff I don’t really want to do but must do (mountains and mountains and mountains of laundry come to mind), and all the stuff I want to do and must do (cooking, loving on the babies). Ok, let’s give this a go.

tending the wild woman

In friends, In Other Words, Writing on November 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

My friend Heather recently made a remark that reminded me of a book I read in college, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I had came across the book in my work study job, cataloging the entire library collection of the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. The title intrigued me. Even the author’s name was interesting.

I was a biology major working in the home of the women’s studies department. I never took a women’s studies class. I had only a cursory knowledge of the history of feminism. But I read this book. Devoured it really. It served as a pivotal text for me, giving me a primal understanding of the wildness I saw in myself. It put into perspective the Wild Women’s place in the world and my life.

The Wild Woman part of me has faded since then. She’s been packed away with marriage and kids and mortgages and jobs (nothing like working in Washington, DC to shush the Wild Woman). But she’s been there, and she’s ready for a little more attention.

I see the Wild Woman in all of my girlfriends. That’s probably why I love them so fiercely. I don’t see her in all women. Some women are so meek I don’t seem to have much patience with them, and that may be why.

Heather is good at reminding me to embrace the wildness. She’d been running with coyotes — literally — in the trails of Park City, Utah, and wondered aloud why women are often compared to wild things like coyotes in a derogatory way. I recommended she read Estes. Her husband Chris got a little worried when he saw the book on her nightstand. But our husbands already know that we are not to be tamed. And whether they admit it or not, they are completely smitten with our wildness and wouldn’t have us any other way.

I started reading the book again myself, and I’ve been thinking about wildness and womanliness and what it is I want to do with this life of mine, including this here little blog. It’s a work in progress of course, but one thing I know I want to do is honor the Wild Woman. I want to protect her from the demands of soccer momness. I want to give her space and freedom to write and create without worrying about critical eyes and clucking tongues.

So you’ll see some changes around here — a new look, a streamlined list of links, some wild words. Stick around if you dare.


In In Other Words, On My Mind on September 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis, like all those affluent 40ish family men buying high-end racing bikes.

Maybe I’m ready to move on from all the indignities of pregnancy and post-partumdom.

Maybe I’m mourning my dad.

Either way I’ve been feeling the need to be audacious. I suppose it might seem silly, or even mundane, to someone else, anyone who’s already tackled the challenges I want to take on.

But mainly I want to prove to myself that I can set myself to a task and accomplish it without hiding behind any kind of “I can’t”.  I won’t be asking permission, and I won’t be worried about what anyone else thinks I should be or do.

Life is short, and fear is only going to waste my time.

make this cake

In Family, Food, In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind, Uncategorized, Writing on August 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I hate when bloggers write about why they haven’t written in a while. “I’ve just been so busy!” Yada yada yada.

Well, here’s why I haven’t been blogging for a while. When I thought about writing, all I could think about was stuff about my dad, and I’m guessing there’s only so much of my feeling sorry for myself any reader can take.

But someone gave me a kick in the pants, so here I am. Pity party and all. We’ll call it a segue to less self-indulgent topics.

I made a cake Saturday. A lot of eggs, a lot of butter, more than a few tears. It would have been Daddy’s 83rd birthday. German chocolate was his favorite.

It was one of the best cakes I’ve ever made.


If you like German chocolate cake, or if you like chocolate, pecans, coconut, and creamy caramel-ly frosting that you would eat by the spoonful (not that I’d ever do such a thing). Make this cake. Pronto.

German Chocolate Cake (adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe)

Yield: Serves 12
For cake
1/2 cup water
6 ounces German’s Sweet Chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For frosting
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 7-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9″ cake pans and line with parchment paper. Bring water to simmer in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Add chopped chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended. Beat in yolks 1 at a time. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter in 2 additions. Pour batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake for 10 minutes in pans then turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely.
Make frosting:
Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until mixture simmers, thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 18 minutes. Mix in coconut and pecans. Place one layer of cake onto a platter with chocolate chips up. Spread warm frosting over top of cake, but not sides.  Let stand until frosting sets, about 2 hours.

Share, but only if you must.