The Lives of Others: Blog Discoveries

Turn on cable and you're bound to be sucked into or assualted by one reality show or another, all screaming for your attention. It's easy to be pulled into the lives and suffering of others. I'm grateful I don't know them. I also wonder if these people exist in the same form when the cameras are off: do they really wear heels and miniskirts all the time. It must be exhausting sucking your stomach in for months of filming. I also wonder what happens to them when their fifteen minutes of fame's over. The news of late show that people will do almost anything to get on tv or stay on tv. It's as if they don't exist unless on camera.

This reminds me of when Warren Beatty, in absolute exasperation, asks Madonna if she exists when the camera's are turned off in her reality film, True Lies. As for Madonna, can you imagine a world where she's not reinventing herself on film? And what about us, the veiwers? Why are we watching and watching? Yes, we experience catharsis watching these programs, but I'm finding blogs far more interesting. It's as if I've been given the key to the front door of a stranger's home while they're at work and I get to puruse the bookshelves and look inside kitchen cupboards, or better yet, I've been FedExed the diary of a someone I'l never meet, and I can thumb throw it at my leisure and piece together a life from the entries.

Blogs let us enter the lives of ordinary people living ordinary lives. This is extraordinary. I still write my secret thoughts in my journals, record my dreams, (which incidentially focused on "bindi" or "lindi" last night), and still make my to- do and to-don't lists, which I will never post on my blog because my journal and my blog are two very different beasts. My blog posts are random, but much less discursive and rambling as my journals. I'm still figuring out the medium.

I found these blogs today, and I'm getting acquainted with these bloggers. Here they are. Go ahead. Enter.

Cool Travel Guide
Features great travel photos and commentary.

Strawberry Kittens
This blogger photographs herself in outfits she wears to the dentist, doctor, etc..

Mrs. Blandings
Has an interior design slant and provides great links.

Zeichenn Press
Features letterpress cards and lots of amusing ramblings.

Stephanie Friedman Photography
Great eye and aesthetic. Lots of interesting photographs.

Beyond Words
Mixed-media art and politics.

London Still
Musing of a real drama queen.

Poem Therapy at 10:37 P.M. - Sarah Manguso

Oblivion Speaks
Sarah Manguso

I am not here to ruin you.
I am already in you.
I am the work you don’t do.
I am what you understand best and wordless.
I am with you in your chair and in your song.
I am what you avoid and what you stop avoiding.
I am what’s left when there is nothing left.
Love me hard, pilgrim.

What a fabulous concluding line. Yes, indeed, love me hard! Isn't that all any of us truly want? To be loved. Hard, as in deeply.

Sages from the beginning of time have said that it's not necessary to travel the world to find our treasure, and that real treasure is in our own back yard. Also, that the answers to all of our questions, lie within ourselves. The Wizard of Oz's Glinda the Good Witch of the East said it best when she told Dorothy, in response to her query on how to get back home,'It was inside you all the time.'

Cooking the Blues Away: Day Three

I don't like shopping. Foraging for treasure in thrift and used bookstores, this I like. I say NO to Black Friday! (when my daughter was two, she'd throw her right hand into a rigid salute by the side off her head and emphatically say, I say no!)

I did not leave the house, except that I had to pick my daughter up from work, but that's a story for another day. I spent the day lazing about, talking and texting friends and family, cleaning up the last leftover clutter from Thanksgiving, watching Ovation tv's Framed photography programming, baking a pie, and then later, quiche, and letting the dogs out and in and out and in x infinity. Harley had three outfit changes yesterday. Today, he went au natural. He's getting a bath tomorrow.

My plan for the day was to stay home and not spend one penny, but, I finally relented and went to the grocery store since we were out of milk and I needed a red pepper for the quiche.

I took a photo of the pie and will post it here later. I didn't take photos of the quiche, although both were equally deserving. Recipes for the pie and quiche are provided below. My husband liked the quiche and loved the pie, and hopes this is not the one and only pie I make.

Homemade Blackberry Pie
3-2-1 Crust:
3 cups flour
2 cups shortening (yes, I know shortening, but it makes the best crust!)
Pinch salt
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix flour, shortening and salt together using a pastry cutter.
Add water and mix with wooden spoon (or chopsticks - my friend Chingling taught me traditional cooking using only wooden untensils and they actually work best, but stick with the pastry cutter since there isn't a wooden equivalent).
Knead dough with hands.
Flour surface.
Roll dough to even consistency.
Place on buttered pie pan.
Trim edges.
Decorate crust edges however you like. (I used a fork for the crust decoration).
Option: I like to cut shapes for the upper crust with my vintage heart cookie cutter.

Pie Filling:
3 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbls cornstarch

Mix blackberries and sugar in blender.
Heat blackyberry mix to a boil, then add cornstarch.
Reduce heat and simmer for at least five minutes.
Pour mix into pie pan.
Place dough hearts on top of mixture.
Cook for 30 minutes.

Sauteed Vegetable Quiche
1/4 cup butter
1 Onion
1 Red pepper
1 cup mushrooms
Dash: salt, pepper, thyme, basil, Tapito hot sauce
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tomato
1 cup Swiss or sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk

Melt butter and sautee vegetables, then mix in spices and hot sauce.
Spread cheese in bottom of pie crust (see 3-2-1 crust recipe).
Spoon vegetables on to of cheese.
Blend eggs and milk, then pour on top of vegetables.
Slice tomato and place on top.
Sprinkle parsley over the entire surface.
Bake for 45 minutes or until center is solid.

Thanksgiving Day 26 November 2009

Edgar Guest

Gettin' together to smile an' rejoice,
An' eatin' an' laughin' with folks of your choice;
An' kissin' the girls an' declarin' that they
Are growin' more beautiful day after day;
Chattin' an' braggin' a bit with the men,
Buildin' the old family circle again;
Livin' the wholesome an' old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother's a little bit grayer, that's all.
Father's a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an' to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin' our stories as women an' men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we're grateful an' glad to be there.
Home from the east land an' home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an' best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We've come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an' be frank,
Forgettin' position an' station an' rank.

Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An' I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers.

My favorite line from this poem is, We've come for a time to be just what we are. Family really are the only people who take you just as you are, and where it's possible to leave the mask you wear in the world at the door and enter, as yourself. I heard from six of my seven siblings. Yes, I said seven. I remember after delivering my one and only child, thinking, "mom did this seven times".

Dinner preparations began early, early this morning. The turkey and stuffing where in my husband's man-be-cue grill (it's a huge convection oven that masquerades as a barbeque grill) by 7 AM. We both spent the entire morning and into mid-day preparing. My stepson and friends made stout drinks and spent almost two hours soaking in the hot tub. Dinner was supposed to be at 2:30, and since we're running on Mormon time, it was ready and on the table by 3:00. Only my nephew was bugged we were running late, but I saw that he made good use of his time an had lined up a row of snowballs. (For later!)

We had the usual crowd for dinner: my parents, my husband's mother and her friend, my daughter; we also had new friends for dinner and my sister, her husband, and kids, and my b-i-l's sister. Harley was happy to see everyone except my youngest neice. He barked and barked at her. She didn't mind and chased him delightedly. I remember Harley was also afraid of my brother's baby. He must think babies are dangerous rivals. Who knows?

My daughter kept the tv on so she could keep an eye on her team, the Raiders. They lost. I think everyone had a good time. The turkey was excellent! Best of all,I got presents: Lehi Roller Mills Cinnamon Spice Pancake Mix & Christmas Night Light Veilleuse.

It's 8:39 and the dishes are almost done. The dish towels and tablecloths are tumbling dry, and I'm feeling relaxed and sated. My husband has been in bed for over an hour. He's "tarred". He reverts to Missourian dialect when he's tired.

It took over two hours to make the mincemeat pie and I had to use rum instead of brandy because I didn't want to deal with the liqour store craziness last night - you had to take a number and wait outside because the lines were that long.

I have two favorite liquor store stories: 1. My friend had spent the entire day cooking for a dinner party when she realized she needed port. She looked like a wreck, her baby was dressed only in a diaper, and when she was at checkout to pay, she realized she'd grabbed the wrong wallet and literally counted out the amount in pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters. So there she was looking like a derelict mother buying liquor instead of onesies. 2. On occasion the "whiskey fairy" brings a bottle of Crown Royal to my husband for helping out on the farm, so my father and I drove into the empty liquor store parking lot, when two cars came skidding in, the drivers got out and ran into the store. When we got inside both were already in line, and both were in various stages of inebriation. The woman could hardly stand and was clutching her sweatshirt together with one hand or she would have exposed herself. The man was as skinny as a stick and looked as if he'd been shot in the eye, it was so red. We got the giggles, I suppose at their expense, but only in a is this really happening? way.

The pie turned out just fine, even though I poured the rum in too early. Instead of a full top crust, I cut out hearts and stars with vintage cookie cutters, buttered them and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar. My husband said he was going to take a video of me baking to prove I really made a a pie, but decided against it so he can say he must of dreamed it and it never really happened. He couldn't believe I knew how to roll out dough. Does he think I've never watched a cooking show? I actually got a great tutorial at 6 AM watching Martha Stewart Desserts. I think he was a little jealous that I made a pie for Dad because he complained that I never make pies for him. So, I'm going to make a blackberry pie for the man tomorrow.

The mincemeat pie was good, but meat in a pie is a little wierd. I don't think I'll make it again. I am going to make a plum pudding for Christmas. It appears I'm going traditional in the dessert department. Dad ran for the giblets as if they were the best treat in the entire world, and when I told him I'd made mincemeat pie, he got so excited (he said "Oh! and threw his hands up), it reminded me of a child opening presents Christmas morning. Very sweet, and funny. Baking was worth it.

This is what we served:
Love-rubbed turkey (my husband's secret recipe)
Turkey (sauteed giblet)gravy
Honey-glazed ham
Traditional stuffing with celery
Cranberry sauce
Sausage-stuffed mushrooms
Giblets (hidden under in a silver server)
Sweet corn
Green beans with bacon and onion
Rolls & butter
Mashed potatoes with parsley
Berry pie
Peach pie
Pumpkin pie
Mincemeat pie

Joy in Giving Gala

Last night, my husband and I attended the Joy in Giving: Christmas Tree Jubilee gala presented by the Weber School Disctrict Foundation and their partner sponsors. It's always an enjoyable time to play dress up and support an excellent charity. It's taken until this evening for my feet to recover from wearing high heels, though.

Every year my husband's company sponsors the construction end of the annually donated playhouse, which is the grand finale of the evening's auction. This year's playhouse was a cottage-style Pink Playhouse with white siding and bright pink wood trim. Inside there was a table and chairs, and a loft with ladder. Perfect for a princess and her attendants! The bidding was pretty fierce with one lady standing right next to the playhouse waving her arms. The playhouse went for a decent amount, considering the economy. All of the donations from the evening sponsor special needs children in Weber School District.

One feature of this fundraiser is that there is something there for every income level: gift baskets of every sort, trips to Maui, Yellowstone, Puerto Vallarta, ski passes to Wolf Creek ski resort, rival BYU and U of U trees (incidentally, the U's tree kicked the Y's coniferous ass by over $500), donation envelopes.

Quite a few years back I almost "won" an 8K tree, by accident. I was having a lively conversation with one of the dinner guests at our table, actually one of the big bosses, while the tree auction was going on around us full tilt. I asked which tree was being auctioned. He pointed, I pointed, and then immediately, there were two attendants at our table to record our "bidding war". Lucky for us, our bids drove the price up and somebody else won the tree for about 10K. You can bet I sat on my hands the rest of the evening. I know I left with a gift basket, and I think it was a variety of fair trade coffee from Ibis Cafe.

The trees this year didn't reach high bids like in the past, but attendance was excellent and overall, the benefit did very well. If you interested in sending a donation, send it to Weber School District Foundation 5320 South Adams Avenue Ogden, UT 84405.

The dinner was excellent. We were served:

Winter salad with carmalized walnuts
House raspberry vinegrette
Baci rolls with rolled butter

Carrot roasted red pepper & honey braised spinach
Bacon wrapped filet mignon
Baked crab & coconut stuffed shrimp
Whipped mashed potatoes & vegetables

Homemade apple pie topped with caramel with whipped cream & chocolate holly
Premiumm brewed coffee, raspberry lemonade

There was an open bar and the wine was tasty!

Gratitude for Whatever Comes

mixed media painting

The Guest House
Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

To be honest I've spent the majority of my life trying to evade the majority of unexpected visitors or crowd of sorrows that have shown up on my threshold. I think it's perfectly normal to slam the door in the face of the dark thought, the shame, the malice when they arrive unbidden. It's much easier to be grateful for whatever guide arrives to fill my guest house, after its gone. My process goes something like this: first reaction - oh shit, second - get out of my house right now, you!, third - you can sit over there in the corner, but keep quiet and don't move!, fourth - um, when are you leaving?, fifth - since you're here you might as well eat something, sixth - seriously, when are you leaving?, seventh - listen, if you so much as twitch or say one word, I'm coming over there, eighth - so, why don't you tell me why you're really here , ninth - would you like a glass of wine?, tenth oh,you're leaving? nice to know you, bye now!

Like the commercial says, life comes at you fast. Although I never am happy when an unruly arrival takes up residence in my guest house, I am looking forward to welcoming family and friends, whatever mood or circumstance they're currently inhabiting, into my home this holiday season. It's a bit of a menagerie around here lately, with the addition of the new puppy and the ubiquitous pee pads and half-chewed toys in every room, so I have lots of cleaning. The puppy has a new winter sweater and coat for the occassion. I never thought I'd be one of those people who buy clothes for their animals.

Thanksgiving is just two days away and I haven't picked up the turkey or the ham, or anything else I'm planning for dinner. To be honest, this is how I roll. I'm not one of those uber organized people checking detail after detail off their lists, nor am I an adrenaline junkie waiting until the last minute to begin cooking. I'm somewhere in between.

Every year I listen to NPR holiday cooking suggestions, thumb through past Martha Stewart Living magazines, pull my recipe cookbooks out, see what looks interesting, and then two or three days before the big dinner, I head to the market. The dinner always turns out well, although one year my decision to make smashed, rather than mashed potatoes, nearly caused my husband to have an apopletic fit. He is a man who loves his potatoes pure: no peels, no horseradish, no nothing. What I know is that the dinner will turn out just fine, family and friends will leave well-fed and satisfied, the dogs and cats will have plenty of left-overs. Afterwards, I will enjoy a glass of wine all by myself.

Last year we had a group from China join us, so our Thanksgiving fare was Americana traditional: bread stuffing, basted turkey, squash, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie. This year, I'm planning on adding a few modern takes on traditional dishes, but I am making one very traditonal dish that harks back to the nineteenth century. Mincemeat pie. Since my father won't even look at his laptop, there's no chance of his reading this post and spoiling my surprise. Years ago my father was in the middle of mincemeat mania and he literally badgered me every day to see if I had found a mincemeat pie. It's important to note that his mania began after the holidays, so if any restaurant actually served mincemeat ever, that window had closed. I tried to explain local restaurants and grocery stores didn't offer mincemeat, and probably stopped way back in the 50's. He persisted. And then, he finally gave up. So, I was over at my sister's telling her the mincemeat drama, when my father called and asked her what she was doing. Of course she told him we were just sitting there eating a piece of mincemeat pie. His gasp was audible, so was the invective and demand that she put me on the phone. It took a while to convince him we really weren't eating mincemeat pie without him.

The mincemeat pie inspiration and recipe are from this morning's program that I heard listening to NPR on the drive to work: Pass The Dessert: America's Thanksgiving Recipes I've always hated the mincemeat pies my grandmother made with raisins, but this is made with meat, so it actually sounds good. The suet gives me pause. Where does one purchase suet?

In the case you're too lazy to click on the link, here's the recipe:

Mincemeat PieIngredients
1 pound venison or lean beef, boiled and chopped
4 ounces suet
1 pound tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped fine
3/4 cup beef broth (or reserved cooking liquid from meat)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cider
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Juice from one lemon
Juice from one orange
1/4 cup brandy Pie:
Pastry dough for 9-inch double-crust pie
1 large egg white, lightly beaten Makes a dozen mini pies

For the filling: In large stock pot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients except brandy and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add brandy and cool to room temperature.
For the pies: Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into 12 4-inch circles and 12 2-inch circles.
Line standard capacity muffin tin with larger circles, pressing dough firmly into pan edges; chill for 30 minutes if dough becomes soft.
Fill each cup to the top with about 1/3 cup mincemeat, top with smaller dough circles, then cut a slit or small circle in the center of each. Brush with egg white and bake until dough is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
Cool on wire rack 15 minutes, remove pies from pan, and continue to cool another 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Poem Therapy at 9:44 PM - Carl Sandburg

Caboose Thoughts
Carl Sandburg

It's going to come out all right—do you know?
The sun, the birds, the grass—they know.
They get along—and we’ll get along.

Some days will be rainy and you will sit waiting
And the letter you wait for won’t come,
And I will sit watching the sky tear off gray and gray
And the letter I wait for won’t come.

There will be ac-ci-dents.
I know ac-ci-dents are coming.
Smash-ups, signals wrong, washouts, trestles rotten,
Red and yellow ac-ci-dents.
But somehow and somewhere the end of the run
The train gets put together again
And the caboose and the green tail lights
Fade down the right of way like a new white hope.

I never heard a mockingbird in Kentucky
Spilling its heart in the morning.

I never saw the snow on Chimborazo.
It’s a high white Mexican hat, I hear.

I never had supper with Abe Lincoln.
Nor a dish of soup with Jim Hill.

But I’ve been around.
I know some of the boys here who can go a little.
I know girls good for a burst of speed any time.

I heard Williams and Walker
Before Walker died in the bughouse.

I knew a mandolin player
Working in a barber shop in an Indiana town,
And he thought he had a million dollars.

I knew a hotel girl in Des Moines.
She had eyes; I saw her and said to myself
The sun rises and the sun sets in her eyes.
I was her steady and her heart went pit-a-pat.
We took away the money for a prize waltz at a
Brotherhood dance.
She had eyes; she was safe as the bridge over the
Mississippi at Burlington; I married her.

Last summer we took the cushions going west.
Pike’s Peak is a big old stone, believe me.
It’s fastened down; something you can count on.

It’s going to come out all right—do you know?
The sun, the birds, the grass—they know.
They get along—and we’ll get along.

I read this tonight on and hope for all who read Sandberg's poem, that it serves as balm to soothe whatever trouble has its claws in you.

Thursday's Child

David Copperfield 1910 edition

"Everywoman" marginalia back pages

Marginalia inside front pages

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared by the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighbourhood who had taken a lively interest in me several months before there was any possibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was privileged to see ghosts and spirits; both these gifts inevitably attaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants of either gender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night.

So begins the first chapter of Charles Dickens David Copperfield. I found this treasure at the local thrift store. I love books that include marginalia of any kind, and in Eulalia's case, she included her address, calculations, and class notes. I assume from B.Y.E, that she attended BYU before it was a university, and that David Copperfield was assigned reading for a literature class. Why she wrote Everywoman on the back page is a mystery. I'll confess my first thought when I read it was Whitney Houston's I'm every woman, it's all in me,and I hear Whitney and Chaka singing in my ear as I write this.

The narrator of Dicken's novel bemoans being born on a Friday as bad luck. Does he fulfill his query and become the hero of his own life? Read the book and find out. In the meantime, you may consider the meaning of which day of the week you were born.

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

According to Wikipedia, this rhyme was first recorded in A. E. Bray's Traditions of Devonshire in 1838.

If you don't have any idea on which day you were born, here's an interesting site that will provide the information in a few seconds. What day of the week were you born? The site also provides a modern version of the days of the week rhyme.

Instead of "far to go", in the modern version I'm "very smart", so naturally, I like this version better.

I was born on Thursday. My daughter and both husbands, current and ex, were also. In the original version I have "far to go". Although in reality I haven't wandered too far, I'm a wonderer at heart, restless, willing to drop and run, until the rational and practical side steps in and puts a heavy thumb down. That thumb has been heavy far, far too often. With each year, I've noticed that I'm becoming more and more restless, and that my daydreams center around escaping to anywhere with only a backpack, camera, notebook, iPhone, and credit card. Two weeks ago a colleague asked if I'd be interested in working in China next year. I said YES without hesitation, and it took more than a few beats to bring me back to the reality that my daughter just might object if I moved that far away from her at this point in her young life.

Thank god for Ovation tv and their Staycation programs. And thanks again to diety and the Sundance Channel for Man Shops Globe. Both stations help me get my wanderlust fix, and I'll watch, (twitching with restlessness), until I finally allow myself to pull up anchor and sail the hell out of port! I give myself three more years of nose to the grindstone responsibility.

See, Thursday's child really does have far to go,as in all around the globe and back again!

Ever wonder how Thursday come to be called Thursday? Thursday was named after Jupiter or Thor, the Nordic name for Jupiter, also known as Zeus. Ruled by Jupiter, this planet bestows Thursday's child with the following qualities: Honorable, expansive, generous, jovial, philosophical and/or extravagant, conceited, hypocritical, sharp-tongued, fanatical. Seems a little harsh I'll take the good with the bad.

If you're interested in what the ancients called their days of the week, or how to pronounce Thurday in say, Ido or Scots Gaelic, check out wiki's Week-day Names. And if you feel like it, check out David Bowie's lyrics for Thursday's Child. While you're purusing the site, why not google your own day of the week!

Cooking the Blues Away: Day Two

I woke early this morning to music. Both dogs were still asleep. I thought I imagined the music and it took me a minute to orient myself until I heard Tammy Wynette's twangy refrain, stand by your man, and knew my husband was out in the hot tub listening to his oldies. I swear the man was born in the wrong century.

I joined my husband for an early morning soak. The air was very cold, so the contrast of the hot water was invigorating.

Afterwards, I headed to the local coffee shop for breakfast with my father and uncle. I suppose I could label these Sunday breakfast meetings as coffee therapy and story, but to be truthful, blood pressure watch or drama du jour are better descriptions. The topic of the day was a local murder from the 1950's, about a neighbor who shot his wife in cold blood and got away with it with the old "crime of passion" defense. What's amazing is that this man married three more times. What were those women thinking?

The story: the neighbor's wife was in her early twenties, they had two daughters, she had enough of him so she asked for a divorce. It's unclear whether they were divorced or separated, but they were no longer cohabitating. Well, this neighbor "happened" to drive by, and "happened" to see his ex or soon-to-be ex sitting at the kitchen table with another man, so he went back to his place, got his gun, headed back to her place, kicked the door down, and while the male visitor was exiting out the kitchen window, the neighbor guy shot and killed her. Hardly a crime of passion, and even if it were, the ass hat is allowed to walk without any consequences? Infuriating. It helps to understand that the culture and time period were on his side, that he was well-connected. If he committed his crime today, he or a part of his natty anatomy would be a little forlorn pile of grass!

My father said he took the man's mother to the jail to visit him, and he remembers that he was sitting under a tree reading the Book of Mormon. I suppose in this case Hamlet was correct when he said, Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so. The guy is still alive, one wife divorced him, at least one other wife is dead, (supposedly from natural causes), and he lives in a city called Eden. Can you believe it? If I ever have the opportunity to meet this man, I'll ask a couple questions I bet he's never been asked. And I'll get answers.

Okay, now coffee therapy is accounted for, back to cooking therapy. Our daughter (technically, my stepdaughter), her husband and his brother, and most important of all, the two-year-old grandbaby, came for a visit today. He can say his entire name: first name, two middle names, and surname, and he on occasion, also speaks in full sentences. We played Tyrannosaurus Rex, Legos, and Slinky.

My husband was in charge of cooking today, not only because it's Sunday, my day off, but mainly because I'm interested in cooking healthy, and he is deeply committed to cooking dangerously. He's a red meat, mashed potatoes with gravy and overcooked vegetables kind of cook and eater, and that's exactly what he cooked today: beef roast with garlic and loads of salt slowcooked in the crockpot, mashed potatoes with loads of butter, brown gravy, baby carrots, and white flour rolls, with you guessed it, loads of butter.

My cooking therapy today consisted of making one cup of hot chocolate. I asked the grandbaby if he wanted hot chocolate, he replied, want one. Of the two days of cooking therapy so far, today wins the prize.

22 November 2009 Lazy Sunday Hot Chocolate
1 sippy cup milk
2 Tbls Stephen's Gourmet Hot Chocolate Chocolate Rasberry

Microwave milk for 45 seconds.
Stir in chocolate mix.
Check temperature.

Cooking the Blues Away: Day One

I suppose The Winter of My Contentment works equally well, especially since it alludes to wicked old Richard III, but whatever the title, cooking as a strategy to keep the blues from crossing my threshold, works for me.

My latest brilliant strategy for not getting depressed this winter, is to cook. I plan to cook whatever catches my attention, has potential for lifting my spirits, and the possibility for consumption by my family.

I began my cooking therapy yesterday by making minestrone soup. I made so much that I invited my parents over for dinner. Everyone literally slurped it up, no talking, just spoons clanking and lips smacking. For the majority of my cooking life, I've made dinner because somehow, the job fell to me. I think the "somehow" is that I"m the mom and I don't like to eat out all the time. Also, I've never been one to watch my family eat with a "I did that" smile of satisfaction. Although I expect "thank you" for my time at the stove, I don't expect kudos or raving. I have a lot of "foodie" friends where cooking is the center of their lives and conversations. I've purchased many, many cookbooks I have yet to use because of these people, and now, instead of looking at the pictures and thinking I'll make that someday, well, that day is here.

One thing you have to understand about my daily cooking life, is that my husband over salts everything he eats. He also adds Tabasco or soy sauce to everything. The majority of the time this confounds me. Sometimes it infuriates me. I mean, why spend the extra time to season with fresh lemon zest or basil leaves when it will be drowned in some condiment? Even though my ego isn't hooked to my cooking one little bit, I try not to think about all of the food doctoring that goes on at the dinner table. I suppose it's more a time/respect issue.

I am glad to report no one, my husband, my daughter, or my parents added anything to the soup other than crackers. Success!

21 November 2009 - Minestrone Soup
1 pkg Delectable Additions Vegetable Soup Mix
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 lb browned turkey sausage
1 cup diced carrots, potatoes, celery, cabbage
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Tapito hot sauce
sour cream

Boil 8 cups water. Add soup mix and simmer for 1 hour.
Brown turkey sausage. Add sausage, stewed tomatoes, and vegetables to simmering soup.
Stir in Tapito hot sauce.
Simmer 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

How to Make a Needlepoint Tapestry

#1 collage or painting to suit your tastes (see How to Make a Voodoo Collage post for additional ideas)

#2 a. Adobe Photoshop texture/patchwork feature

#2 b. Adobe Photoshop Pixelate/mosaic feature

#3 a. Adobe Photoshop Texture/patchwork feature

#3 b. Adobe Photoshop Pixelate/mosaic feature

Needlepoint stitch technique examples

About thirteen years ago I taught a needlepoint tapestry class for the U's fiber program offered through its continuing ed department. The class was a crash course in drawing, design, color theory and color-mixing for the non-art major. All of my students were female, which was not a big surprise, so I used a butterfly motif to teach basic stitch and color theory. During the course we completed value and full-color cartoons (basically, a color mock-up drawing which serves as the pattern), needlepointed small butterfly tapestries focusing on expressive color (think Vincent Van Gogh), color theory (think da Vinci), complementary (think Seurat - and because thread isn't paint, we employed a technique called split thread color mixing in which you take individual threads of one color and bundle them with threads of another color, which, if you stretch the technique a lot, is similar to how Seurat painted dots of complementary colors next to each other and let the viewer's eye do the mixing). The class culminated with a final project in which students completed an original autobiographical tapestry that featured elements learned in the class. In a few short weeks students completed amazing work. The university's fiber program was offered for a brief time, and sadly is no more, but it's resurrected every decade, so it's due to reemerge. Fingers crossed.

Needlepointing is an excellent stress reducer for both men and women. Queen Elizabeth I needlepointed in her spare time when she wasn't dodging assassination plots by contemporary stitcher and queen, Mary, Queen of Scots. Howard Carter found a needlepoint in King Tut's tomb, and although there's no evidence, i.e. tomb paintings, that Tut stitched the piece, he just might have. Check out these guys: Kaffe Fassett's Glorious Needlepoint and Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men. And if you still think needlepointing is just for gals, check out Kate Shoup's chapter, Women's Work, My Ass! chapter from Not Your Mama's Stitching: The Cool and Creative Way to Stitch It To 'Em.

Needlepoint Tapestry
18 count mono canvas
wool crewel yarn, rayon, silk, or cotton embroidery floss
#22 blunt tapestry needles
stretcher frame or embroidery hoop
collage, painting, or photo

I. Scan original image in Adobe photo shop
II. For patterns #2 a. & #3 a.: Click on filter, then texture, then patchwork. Save and print image.
III. For patterns #2 b. & #3 b.: Click on filter, then pixelate, then mosaic. Save and print image.
#3. a. & b.
IV. Follow your color pattern. I prefer to work from the center out, but you may begin where it suits you.
V. Once completed, removed from frame and steam to reshape.
VI. Frame needlepoint, (or turn canvas edges under and stich to a throw pillow).

Rosetta Stone for the New Age

Rosetta Disk from O Magazine photo by Spencer Lowell

An analog archive of more than 1,500 languages:

Fourth Century Bible from National Geographic photos: British Library

A virtual archive of the earliest known complete copy of the New Testament:

Tell My Father I Wish to Be His Son

voodoo revision six

voodoo revision five

voodoo revision four

voodoo revision three

voodoo revision two

voodoo revision one

voodoo collage completed 11-16-09

I stayed up late last night working on this collage, pulling images and text from National Geographic, Veranda, Arts & Antiques magazines. I had images spread out all over the bed and Harley, the new puppy begged to be let up. I relented and he did what puppies do. I watched three Ovation programs on, art of the Moors, Goya, and the French Revolutionary painter, David, who has always and inexplicably annoyed me.

Although I've had time to play around with the images in Adobe Photoshop, I haven't had time to reflect on the collage and its voodoo message. The demons in the right-hand corner demanded to be included. They're really not demons at all. They're mythological creatures of the trickster archetype sort called Krampus. Basically, wild men who were the anti-St. Nicholaus, that punished naughty children. Scrooge probably was borne out of the forgotten Krampus, who are currently enjoying a come-back in Austria. Hum bug, indeed.

It's appropriate that the dog is barking the declaration to the Krampus and that the kingisher birds seem to be as well. Of course there's a goat in the background, watching and waiting. The floating woman appears to be a winged water spirit or an untethered water lily about to lift out of the composition.

The title of the collage is taken from the scene in The Godfather when Michael finally accepts his fate as the heir apparent to the Corleone empire. Up until the brutal death of his elder brother, he had been able to distance himself from the family mafia business and pursue his own bent. I understand wanting to follow your own bent.

How to Make a Voodoo Collage

Collage is the medium of mystics - Charles Simic

At least once a year I sit down and rip images and text from old magazines and quickly assemble and affix them on to a poster board. By working quickly, I don't try to make art or get my ego involved. Voodoo collage is an intuitive and invigorating process. What always surprises me is the distinct narrative that emerges, regardless of the magazines I use. Also, that the collage reflects my current emotional state, aspirations, desires, and blind spots.

I call this collage-making process voodoo collage, because, after the collage is finished, shellacked and clipped to the easel for viewing, it almost always acts as a dialogue and provides answers. I use my voodoo collages as inspiration for paintings.

All art reflects the artist's inner world and how his or her filter refracts this understanding. I agree with Simic's quote regardless of the actual medium, whether it is paper, metal, music,fabric, language. It is the cobbling together of ideas, materials and forms that create the unity. Collage is the art form of this new century.

Check out The International Museum of Collage, Assemblage, and Construction, and these artists and writers, although not necessarily collage purists, that employ collage sensibilities and techniques in their work: Marcel Duchamp, Chris Roberts-Antieau, Phillip Glass, Quentin Tarintino, Sapphire, Tupac, Cohen Brothers, Thomas Pynchon, Maggie Taylor. Then get to work on your own voodoo collage. Post it here if you'd like.

Here's a poem to serve as inspiration.

Read Your Fate
Charles Simic

A world's disappearing.
Little street,
You were too narrow,
Too much in the shade already.

You had only one dog,
One lone child.
You hid your biggest mirror,
Your undressed lovers.

Someone carted them off
In an open truck.
They were still naked, travelling
On their sofa

Over a darkening plain,
Some unknown Kansas or Nebraska
With a storm brewing.
The woman opening a red umbrella

In the truck. The boy
And the dog running after them,
As if after a rooster
With its head chopped off.

1. a variety of magazines
2. poster board
3. glue sticks
4. scissors
5. Modge Podge or gel medium
6. medium size brush

1. tear or cut images and text from magazines that appeal to you until you are satisfied you have enough (suggestions: give yourself a time limit and don't try to force a theme)
2. set aside the magazines and clear the space
3. have images, text and glue sticks at the ready
4. quickly shuffle through your images and text to remember what you have
5. begin placing images and text (note: remember to work quickly)
6. affix with glue stick
7. paint a thin layer of Modge Podge or gel medium over the entire surface
8. allow to dry
9. pin to the wall
10. reflect and enjoy

Mark Christensen November 15, 2009

"...The threshold we cross with closed eyes-
Where angels hide behind their backs
The saws with which they mean
To saw the present from the past,

Oblivious to the scarlet threads
That prove to be hiddenn among
The filaments, those red rivers
Running through the theme of time..."
from Angels Grieving over the Dead Christ -Gjertrude Schnackenberg

Mark Christensen, our friend, died this morning of complications from a stroke.

My husband and Mark were friends from their early, wild man years. They grew up together, were in and out of trouble together, were together during hale times, and saw each other through hard times.

Mark and I became friends when my husband and I met close to fifteen years ago. One of my favorite memories is of Mark and my husband sitting in my living room politely drinking Thai coffee from demitasse china cups and eating petite chocolate-covered cookies. I wish I had taken a picture. I didn't know either of them very well then, and I certainly didn't know they drank thier coffee black, or that they generally drank an entire pot of Folgers or gas stop variety coffee every morning.

A few weeks before his stroke, Mark came over for early morning coffee in my husband's man cave. I walked out to say hello and he greeted me with his usual kiss and hug. It's true that life changes on a dime. It's so strange and sad that he's gone.

How to Ignore a Problem

"How a person expresses his desires,
follows them, ignores them, reacts to
their satisfaction or lack of fulfillment is
a measure of a person's character."
-Susan Minot


But, sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to ignore it for a brief time. One way to ignore a problem is to indulge in distraction, until the moment to face the problem and engage full force, presents itself. I present my calm before the storm:

1. Of Bees and Mist

2. Etsy

3. Cake Wrecks

4. Watch rap: ignore book

5. Shorpy Historic Photo Archive

6. Not Paper

7. Almost Alice

8. Tarot reading

9. Ed's Chicago Cocoa Chili ( Chocolate Chili )

10. Political cartoons

11. Ed Fella

12. Don't Chew the Wallpaper

13. Chocolate Voodoo Drunken Zombie Cake Recipe

It's That Time of Year

Wasatch Front dwellers are expecting a winter snowstorm to arrive today. It's supposed to last through the weekend, so everybody get to the store and stock up on eggnog, and get out your winter blankets!

The good news is that today's storm will be ushering in The Sister's Holiday Boutique!

Here are the details:

Holiday Boutique

November 12 & 13
10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Unique hand-crafted gifts,
with home & holiday decor
for everyone on your list!

12243 Grizzly Hollow
Draper, Utah

I made sterling silver and gemstone necklaces and earrings, so I've been hammering and soldering up my own storm.

Veteran's Day November 11, 2009

Tsingtao China: Daniel Eugene Layton & Frank Thornton post bar brawl

First picture: was taken outside the Lighthouse Bar. There was a white Russian lady with a cloth sack for a dress. We were getting out of bounds and were in the wrong place and got out of line. The lady picked us up by the nape of the neck and threw us out of the bar into the mud.

South China Sea: Daniel

Second picture: Shanghai China. We were going in for discharge on the USS Anderson. You can see a sanpan in the background. We were on board with some National Chinese troops who were headed to Formosa (Taiwan).

Phillipines: Shipmates

Third picture: in the harbor of Saipan, Marianas Island group, with James Wood from Bountiful. Met him in Saipan.

U.S.A.T. General Wm. Weigel; U.S.S. Roosevelt not shown

Fourth picture: USS General Weigel headed for China. On the way we stopped in the Philipines, Okanowa, and Yokahama. I got off the ship and went to Yokuska, Japan. One night when traveling through tunnels on a Navy bus, we saw Japanese planes half assembled inside the tunnels. I was in Yokuska for about a month, then caught a plane to Aleta Airfield (spelling may be wrong), and flew back to Guam. On our way back on a four-engine plane we went over Mount Fujiama three times as the pilot kept saying, "Let's take another pass" several times. When I landed in Gaum they put me in a quanset hut at about midnight. The next day I ran into Lloyd Colmere, he was a mess cook. After he got off duty we went to the beach and gathered cat eyes. They are a beautiful shell and rare. Every day when he got off duty we would visit the beach. One day when I was near the beach I ran into two water buffalos and they scared me. I didn't dare go by them and ended up going back.

When I was there before, two years previously, I guarded Japenese prisoners of war up by Ganna field. One night I was there, two-three weeks waiting for transit to Tsigntao, China to catch my ship. I boarded about midnight and they told me I had to get my blues on. We were hot. When I boarded the plane and we got up 10,000+ feet it was cold and I was glad I had my blues on. When the sun was coming up we had engine troubles and had to land in Shanghai. It was off the beach. I waited a day there while they fixed the plane. I boarded another plane and we flew to Tsingtao. There were about 50 flying tigers (P-40s) on each side of the strip. The U.S. had turned them over to the National Chinese.

On leave in Hawaii: Daniel, Dick Dawson

Three sailors: Sailor, Dick, Daniel

Haircut in Hawaii: Daniel

Salt Lake City Airport: Daniel, John H. Adams, Pinky Bone

Early morning

Boot camp: Guard duty

Barracks: Daniel with shovel

Heartfelt thanks to all who serve!

Lon Searle, accountant and b-i-l, acted as scribe,Veteran's Day 2009, recording the stories exactly as they were told to him by Dan. He and Dan sat in the Searle great room and as Lon scrolled down on each picture, Dan filled in the details. Four are related above, under the corresponding photos. Dan began his informal interview by stating: I'm still farming, raising cattle, and wheat.

Reinventing Myself in the Kitchen

I am not a domestic person. I dread like the daily grind of cooking dinner, but I do enjoy cooking when I'm entertaining and can try out new or exotic dishes, especially when I know my guests will appreciate my efforts and not heap salt or slather the dish in soy sauce. I can remember a time when cooking was an adventure, and spices were exciting, (and I used them to paint with until my mother put a STOP to it. Glue mixed into ground pepper or paprika or cumin is just fabulous to play with). I know I made a cheese souffle when I was very young, because I thought this evidence I was becoming sophisticated, and not some ordinary farm girl who raised runt lambs as pets. In college I learned how to make Palestinian red pepper and ginger chicken soup from Sharif, a grad student who also taught me traditional dances and always claimed that when he was fishing he heard the fish complain how unlucky they were to be Mormon, since they were allowed to only drink water. At the time I thought he was old. He was probably thirty.

As far as the domestic goddesses, I'm more of wild at heart, how did this housework & cooking stuff get to be MY job?, Artemis type, not the hearth-warming, soup-making Demeter. But, like Demeter, I would make the earth barren and everybody pay if Hades abducted my daughter to the Underworld.

The only apron I use on a regular basis is paint-smeared and seriously messy. I do own a cooking apron, my sister gave it to me, and I have worn it, once. This is all going to change, as is my attitude about cooking. The plan is to cooking dish that hold my interest, and that my family will eat. I started with making hearty split pea soup. I hate split pea soup. Always have. My husband loves it. The weather turned cold so I decided to start making soup. The base is an organic mix (from Gourmet Food Mixes Homemade without the Hassle) to which I added sliced turkey sausage, diced carrots, celery, and onions, and a big splash of Tapitio hot sauce. Yummy!

I love food, books about food, recipe books, history of food, etc. I read Julia & Julie a few years back, read old blog posts, but have yet to see the film.

My younger sister told me about The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and I ran across Heat today on Powell's website.

If you're interested in free and incredibly tasty recipes, my nephew's wife, Stephanie, has an awesome blog. Check her out at featured recipe today is: Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

Books to Read Around the World

Another find today, (all on my own), is The Guardian's World Literature Tour. The current destination is Egypt. The reading list is growing; of course Naguib Mahfouz and Alaa al Aswany are included, as well as authors that date back to the Pharoahs.

My suggestions to add to the list:

Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif.

The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, its author compared to Tolstoy and Flaubert. I devoured this book two summers ago. Although the central theme is a blend of politics and love, forbidden or otherwise, the book is much more than the tale of forbidden love, or yet another tome decrying the arrogance and destructive effects of colonialism. The emerging Egyptian Nationalist struggle against British imperialism, is explicated through the means of a culturally forbidden love affair between Lady Anna Winterbourne and Arab nationalist Sharif al-Baroudi. Close to one-hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, Anna and Sharif's great-granddaughter, discovers Anna's journals and letters, (translated by Amal, her lover's sister), and thereby discovers the parallel between her Great-Grandmother's choice to marry a man outside her own culture, to that of her obssessive love for Egyptian American composer and political activist, Omar Ghamrawi. If you're not paying attention you might miss that Amal is a quiet symbol of the effects of postcolonialism and the current state of Egypt.

Memoirs of a Woman Doctor by Nawal el-Saadawi

I read Nawal el-Saadawi's fictionalized memoirs when I was in my early twenties, back in college, and I can remember thinking the character was very angry, and also, that a lot of what was written, the social and political oppression of women as a whole, just couldn't be true. Turns out the character had every right to be angry, and yes, the injustices were true. el-Saadawi wrote this novel in her twenties, and the book was instantly hailed, yet also considered highly controversial, so many parts were deleted. The book is considered a revolutionary feminist book which showcases the struggles of ordinary women, for basic rights. Speaking truth to power is risky business. el-Saadawi has never strayed from telling her truth, the truth of Arabic women, the truth of her life as a professional and as a wife and mother, nor from working to better the political and cultural lives of Arab women.

Book Beast

This "discovery" is filed in the "where have I been?" category. I'm sure I heard about its launch, but forgot until I recently heard an interview with Tina Brown (former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker) on NPR: Book Beast and Art Beast at Tina Brown's omnivorous web magazine, The Daily Beast, are not to be missed. Neither is the news and opinion coverage.

The Daily Beast Twitters, it Facebooks. Friend me!

The Ninth Day of November

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall November 9, 1989. This date has marked highs and lows in Germany's history, and the history of the Jewish people. History is a slippery slope, tyrants come and go, walls are built to be torn down, each generation is witness to unspeakable horrors and glimmering triumph. Nobody needs to be schooled on Germany's role in WWII, the resulting Cold War, and reasons for the Berlin Wall's construction, nor does anyone really need a lesson on bigotry with the Jews as scapegoat the world over, down the centuries, or the atrocities of Hitler and his henchmen. Even so, a few reminders of events from world history are provided here, and also, the following excerpts are from the Vancouver Sun's article, Speeches by world leaders on Berlin Wall anniversary.
"Today marks a truly happy moment of the German and the European history. Twenty years ago the door to freedom opened up and a seemingly invincible wall that divided a people and an entire continent suddenly became permeable.
... Let's use the gift of freedom . . . it is in our hands to overcome the borders." -Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

"Today we don't have the USSR and the GDR on the political map of the world... Today in Berlin I want to say that the confrontation is in the past. Today we want to build a different, new, better world." -Dmitry Medvedev, Russian President

"I pledge here today that Britain will always be at the heart of Europe - we will never give succour to extremism which would drive people apart." - Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister

"This anniversary is a reminder that human destiny will be what we make of it. Even in the face of tyranny people insisted that the world could change. Human destiny is what human beings make up." -Barack Obama, U.S. President

Dates culled from various sources as This Day in History, Wikipedia, Jews in History.

694 - Espania Visigoth King Egica accuses Jews of aiding Moslems; Jews sentenced into slavery.

1526 - Jews expelled from Pressburg, Hungary by Maira of Hapsburg.

1720 - Rabbi Yehuda Hasid synagogue set afire by Arab creditors; Ashkenazi Jews expelled from Jerusalem.

1862 – Ulysses S. Grant issues order to bar Jews from serving under him.

1918 – Kaiser Wilheml II abdicates after German defeat in WWI; Republic of Germany proclaimed in November Revolution.

1921 - Albert Einstein is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with the photoelectric effect.

1923 – Beer Hall Putsch; Nazis fail to overthrow Weimar Republic government; Hitler flees.

1925 – Hitler orders formation of Schutzstaffel / SS.

1938 – Kristallnacht/ Crystal Night; Nazis burn and loot Jewish storms, homes, and temples.

1944 – Deportation of Budapest Jews resumed.

1944 - Otto Hahn awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry; fails to share award with Austrian Jew Lise Meitner.

1989 - Fall of the Berlin Wall.

2006 - Opening ceremonies for Munich’s new Jewish Center and synagogue.

2009 - Old Hebrew Bible, looted by Nazis, is returned to Vienna's Jewish community in NYC ceremony.

2009 - Kristallnacht Remembrance.

2009 - Fall of Berlin Wall 20th Anniversary

That Old Black Magic

mixed-media collage

That Old Black Magic
Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer

That old black magic has me in its spell,
That old black magic that you weave so well.
Those icy fingers up and down my spine,
The same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine.

The same old tingle that I feel inside,
And then that elevator starts its ride.
And down and down I go; round and round I go
Like a leaf that's caught in the tide.

A fantastic song, recorded by the greats, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, the Muppets. Glenn Miller recorded a version, and even Marilyn Monroe sang it in one of her films. What's truly odd and a little creepy is that so did Kevin Spacey and Robin Williams.

This post has nothing to do with falling under the spell of a lover's charms. The old emotional weight has returned and with it,that old familiar restlessness and sadness. The elevator analogy of the song is apt, but in this case, it's more of a sheet of thick black ice that descends and hangs a few inches overhead. I thought I could outrun it this year, trick it, night-light it away, but this past week I've come to believe that in addition to the old standard seasonal depression, this is linked to behavior, patterns, things I've been complaining about for a long time.

This year it's about clearing out the baggage, finalizing accounts no matter how difficult or disappointing or embarrassing, and most important of all, being accountable for every nook and cranny of every bit of it.

I started clearing out in a literal way, by turbo-cleaning and organizing my living room and the silverware drawer. Baby steps!

Magnet Hands on a Thursday Afternoon

Once a month for the last year, I've gone to Advanced Health Clinic,for a cranial sacral session. Since my first few sessions, I've literally pushed the magnet hands of Ros/Rosalind, on my friends and family. When I explain to friends what the sessions are like, my description is something like, it's like a psychic massage, but it's not a massage and she's not a psychic. Um, it like psychotherapy, but she's not a psychiatrist, but the sessions are incredibly helpful in a way regular talk therapy isn't.

For the last few weeks I've had a terrible pain on the top of my foot which has made it impossible to take my speedwalks around the neigborhood's walking path. These walks are especially good in the early evening since so many migrating birds perch in the trees creekside or forage in the open farmland nearby. Geese, ducks, crows and pheasant are the norm. So are hawks, and sometimes an ibis or two, crane or a heron, and on rare occasion, it's possible to see pelican or an eagle on the path. I never have, but some have claimed they've spotted deer and a red fox. I saw a mink last year, but that was after a group of animal activists released them from the mink farm located nearby, and they ended up on the path, in resident's backyards, everywhere.

My foot got worse. I started wearing flats and flip flops, then I'd get mad and wear heels and limp around all day. I couldn't stretch my foot or make circles. I figured I'd bruised the nerves when I dropped a tiny plate of metal on it when I was cutting and soldering sterling for a ring, and that my castor oil poultice would work its magic like it did to alleviate the old plantar facitis issue years back. It didn't. I wore tennis shoes with skirts, dress pants, whatever, (stylish tennis shoes, but still).

At my session with Ros this week, I told her my foot was bothering me,and within something like 45 seconds her magnet hands had fixed the problem. She said I had blocked energy in my heel and did I know what that was about? Of course not, but I was grateful the pain was gone and more that a little surprised that it was really gone, and even moreso that it hasn't returned. Thursday night I had to show off to my husband and daughter, turning big circles with my foot and humming the bigtop circus tune, you know the one. I don't know why I'm surprised by anything that happens during the sessions, since it's always helpful, even when I leave a little freaked out, or angry, or weepy. After every session I'm more than a little overwhelmed with trying to process what the hell just happened and I wander up to the front desk, make another appointment, then sit in my car without the radio on until I can orient myself back to the direction of my normal life.

I've always been interested in alternative healing and preventative medicine, and what I find most interesting is the alternative medicine measures that were considered healy-feely quackery from only a decade or two ago, (and which, incidentally, were used by healers for centuries,)are now mainstream. Everything old is new again.

Day of the Dead Redux

mixed-media collage

November 2 I set up a makeshift altar on my kitchen counter and poured wheat beer for my Grandfather James Archie and Uncle William (from I Like to Go Swimming with Bow-legged Women post; All of Your Lies, Give Them to Me post). I set out a plate of my Great-Grandmother Brigg's favorite, Lorna Doone cookies, and poured her a glass of peach tea-flavored water (from Grace for a Child post ). And for my Grandmother Mary Roberts, a glass of the same peach water and a plate of M&M's to satisfy her sweet tooth (I didn't write a post for her, but will next year).

I told my family not to touch anything, not one cookie, not one piece of chocolate. My daughter locked her cat up so it wouldn't jump on the counter and disturb the offerings. My husband husband said, You do some strange things. Maybe. I do hope my relatives enjoyed their brief time visiting this past weekend, that they know they are in my thoughts, and that the beer, tea, and food was to their liking.

Tears of the Sun God

mixed-media painting

I'd forgotten all about this micro painting of a honey bee. I'd put it away in a dresser, and until a few days ago, when I discovered it in my studio tucked inside an envelope,thought it was lost. At least a decade ago I became interested in miniature portrait painting after seeing Elizabethean miniatures called limnings that were painted on a thin slice of ivory. I've always loved working on a small scale, which infuriated my art professors (and a couple art directors), who always admonished me to go bigger. I always thought their criticism was a little Freudian. Is bigger always better? Talk show hosts with bigger mouths, celebrities with bigger egos, politicians with bigger scandals? I think not. In any case, I listened to them, went big, but I didn't like a lot of the work I created. I like the intimacy of working on a small scale and once I saw the scale of Frida Kahlo's brilliant, (and relatively small) paintings, I gave myself permission to work on a more intimate scale again. I dabbled with miniatures for a very brief time and began painting modern madonnas with sunflower halos, women with birds for hair, hands with eyes in the palms. My subject material soon morphed and extended to anything that caught my interest. I painted tiny images that I wore as pins. I gave most of them away, but I still have the Eye of Fatima and Venus of Willendorf paintings. I wish I still had my Martin Luther King Jr. pin I wore in honor of his day.

Years ago, a bee farmer used to bring his hive and place it in the field behind my home. I loved sitting by the hive, listening to the insistent hum as the bees went about their quotidian duties. I don't know what happened to the beekeeper or his bees. He probably retired from the business.

Bees hold a revered spot in all mythologies and belief systems. They were thought to be tears of the sun god Ra, embodiments of divinity, muses, messengers, omens. Great thinkers, such as Plato and Sophocles associated themselves with bee symbolism, as did popes, kings, historical figures of every sort. Even countries and states claim the bee. Incidentally, the bee is the state insect of Utah, because industry is queen here, (there is only room for a queen, singular, in the hive, which reminds me of the great Queen Bee herself, Queen Elizabeth I's declaration, "I shall have here but one mistress and no master." Here are a few links that may prove interesting: thebeegoddess; beemythology;Did You Know?

In ancient times, bees and beekeepers were sacred. Beowulf, you know the macho Anglo-Saxon capable of tearing Grendel's arm from it's socket with his bare hands,from the epic everybody had to read, way back in high school? his name means beekeeper, and during this his period, the keeper of the bees and the honey, was a very big deal, probably because, all symbolism aside, mead is made from honey, and mead was a staple of the Anglo-Saxon's diet. Belly up to the bar Thanes, Beowulf is in the meadhall! Grab your favorite beverage and check out Beowulf, the film for an entertaining evening.

Mead is beer, just in case you didn't know. I never acquired a liking for beer, but I made a batch of mead, just because. It tasted a little sweet, but, it tasted like beer.

Here's a basic recipe:
Suggestion: if you want to get into the Anglo-Saxon spirit,I suggest you purchase your honey from a beekeeper at the local Farmer's Market. If you really want to get your Viking on, consider not shaving or bathing for a few days prior to making your mead, purchasing a yard of fake fur to wear as a makeshift cape, brandishing your wooden stirring spoon, and declaring pompous,self-referential oaths such as, I (insert name here), am the greatest mead maker (or whatever you'd like to declare: cupcake maker, lover, expectorator) of the 21st century!

Basic Mead:
3 lbs Grade-A Honey
1 gal filtered water
1 pkg ale or wine yeast (do not use Baker's yeast or you will be very, very sorry)

For fruity & spicy mead, add lemon or orange wedges, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger to the basic recipe.

Stainless steel five-gallon pot
Long stirring spoon
Candy thermometer (to let you know when the mead is cool enough to add the yeast)
Fine mesh strainer (to screen foam and dead yeast)
1-2 spotless clean apple cider or milk gallon jugs
Plastic strainer (to siphon mead into bottles)
1-2 hardy balloons (to keep air out as mead ferments)
2-4 wine bottles
2-4 wine corks

Boil water.
Stir honey into boiling water.
Turn off heat and stir continuously.
Add fruit slices and spices.
Stir some more.
Remove from heat & cover with a fine clot.
Allow to cool.
Strain foam, fruit and spices.
Pour mixture into gallon jug and add yeast.
Stir mixture until yeast is absorbed.
Cover jug top with balloon and let ferment for 2-3 days (or more).
(Note: the balloon will fill with air, so crack the lip and let the air out, before the balloon bursts, or you will have a mess and an angry spouse or roommate).
Insert plastic sieve into wine bottle neck and pour mead (leaving room for cork).
Secure cork in bottle.
Allow to sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Drink at will!

In the House of Memory

In the House of Memory

mixed-media assemblage
Collection of the artist

I created this piece as an homage to William Clyde Layton, my uncle who died five days after he landed in France, during WWI. The piece is a combination of sculpture, collage,and painting. I've written copiously about William: flash fiction novella, blog posts, essays, etc. If you're interested in knowing more about him, or if you just want to see some sweet old photographs, you can read about him in my Day of the Dead posts: All of Your Lies, Give Them to Me & William's tree. In the House of Memory was featured in the Salt Lake Art Center's Not Just Another Pretty Face salon PowerPoint presentations.

I Dreamed God Was a Bird

I Dreamed God Was a Bird

mixed-media asssemblage
Collection of Helen Bero Van Wagoner

I created this piece last winter, and like the majority of my assemblages and sculptures, it's a combination of sculpture, collage, metalworking, and painting. It was exhibited at one of the many Not Just Another Pretty Face salons that were held along the Wasatch Front last January. The salons were sponsored by the Salt Lake Art Center for the express purpose of cultivating and broadening their base of local art patrons. The salons created a relaxed, intimate environment in which prospective patrons viewed the work of local artists and then commissioned specific pieces from the chosen artist. The artists and the commissioned pieces were featured at the NJAPF Exhibit last June. Although I did not have a piece commissioned for inclusion in this show, Helen Bero added I Dreamed God Was a Bird to her impressive art collection.

This Day in History

This is day four of nanowrimo and guess what I'm doing? If you're reading this, you know. I wish last year's winner of the Procrastinator of the Year award would shine up the trophy and send it my way. I'm really not worried about word count, my goal is to fill in the gaps, add another 10-30K, and I really don't want to get obsessed and crazy this month, like I have in the past. One good thing about writing this blog, even though I'm not spending every minute being a nano purist working on my novel, blogging is a good warm up.

I culled the dates from the website, This Day in History, rambled a bit about what I know, then googled.

1869 - The first issue of the scientific journal Nature is published.
One hundred and twenty-nine years later in November 1998, the British science journal Nature published the results of Dr. Eugene Foster’s DNA Study, which concluded that it is likely Thomas Jefferson was the father of his slave Sally Hemming's children. No kidding! Fawn Brody came to this same conclusion in her psychobiography, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Portrait, way before DNA. She also gave up the goods on Joseph Smith.

1916 - Walter Cronkite, American news broadcaster born.
As a child, I loved watching Walter Cronkite report the news, so much so, that when my younger sister protested that we always watch the news, I lied and told her that he had saved an entire family, mostly children, from a terrible fire when he ran into their burning home, and carried all of them to safety. For whatever reason, this worked and shut her up, so I could watch the news without arguement. I liked Walter. I was curious about the world, and from my perspective Walter offered up gems of the dangerous and exciting known world outside of my experience. It's curious that now, with so many sources of 24/7 news stations, Internet sources, etc., that I detest the daily news, probably because it's so redundant to watch the same story unfold day in and day out, decade after decade. And really, is the +8 couple's divorce really breaking news? I like BBC and The Christian Science Monitor for world news, The New York Times for book reviews, and I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Mosaic: World News from the Middle East on satellite channel 375, otherwise known as linktv. Generally, I listen to NPR and the local news on the way to and from work.

1899 - Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams is published.
This book was ground breaking and brought the unconscious mind out of the closet. An interesting bit of trivia: Dr. Freud wrote the first psychobiography on Leonardo di Vinci. I carried a chip on my shoulder named Sigmund for a very long time. Penis envy? Hysteria, and that machine/treatment? Oedipus Complex? Seriously? Once I read Freud's personal history, looked into his family genogram, well, I understood how Sigmund would look to the Oedipus myth to explain and project his own experience onto the experience of all humans, especially in light of when his father married a young hotty, he quickly sent his two young sons off to boarding school, and avoided a very prickly situation, but not a scathing psychoanalysis from afar. Just goes to show that the personal is the political, or in this case, the psychological.

1922 - In Egypt, British archaeologist Howard Carter and his men find the entrance to King Tutankhamen's tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
My imaginary friend called herself Senya, and related her sad tale that she was an abducted African princess made to serve and live in Imonhotep III's household. She missed the boa-boa flowers,(can't find evidence of this flower), her homeland, which I understand was geographically close to Ghana or Kenya. Of course she was the pharoah's lover. Of course his wife plotted both of their ends. The fact that her story is almost an exact parallel to Verdi's Aida is a little wierd, especially since I was far too young to have been to the opera, and my parents are not the type to have a libretto of the opera laying around the house. Senya came unbidden, and fully-imagined. I believe she was real, for a time anyway, much the same as my daughter's imaginary friend, Sissy, whom she carried around in a shot glass, tossed into the air and caught her while jumping on the trampoline, was real. I can still see Senya's charcoal black feet, her beautiful shoulders, and her hands embroidering her life's tale in red thread on flaxen cloth. I still see her running through the pyramid which had become her tomb, frantic for an escape. I have always been fascinated with Egypt and so have spent countless evenings reading books about ancient and present-day Egypt. I've also googled Senya, and all of the grammar school details I recorded on notecards. Nothing. I'm holding out that Dr. Zahi Hawass will unearth a detail which proves African woman named or renamed Senya lived. I like to think that her restless soul returned to befriend and inspire by telling her story to a little white farm girl from Utah.

1924 - Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming elected as the first woman governor in the United States.
I think it's about time we voted for senators with breasts. After all, we've been voting for boobs long enough. ~Clarie Sargent, Arizona senatorial candidate. First, I'd like to offer sincere thanks and gratitude to all the women who made my way of life possible: I can speak in public, I can vote, own property in my own name, divorce a husband, retain custody of my child, remarry, take whatever name I chose, keep the money I earn, have access to birth control and decide how many children I will have, earn advanced degrees, work in a profession of my chosing, be a full partner with a man of my choosing. On the way to work yesterday, the reporter said something like, "if elected, Annise Parker will be the first openly gay mayor of Houston; Mary Norwood urged Atlanta's residents to look beyond race, and that if elected, she will be the first white mayor in nearly three decades." Honestly. What will really be a first, is the day when "first woman", "first African American", "first Latina", "first gay", "first whatever" is no longer relevant or even recognized, and we just recognize the whole person, not the race or gender, or other differentiating factors.

1946 Robert Mapplethorpe - photographer born.
Before the economy went completely off the grid, my husband and I used to head to Las Vegas every year to be wined and dined. Those days are over. My husband would spend his days at a conference, and I'd spend mine in one of the many fabulous art museums the city has to offer, and then later we'd meet at the sushi restaurant dujour for fantastic sushi and my yearly sake duel with fabulously eccentric Alex. I always lost. Never duel with a man who drinks vodka like water. Sadly, the annual work trip and Alex are both casualties of the corporate mayhem meltdown that still has the country by the throat.

In 2007 I attended the Venetian's Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition presented by The Guggenheim Hermitage Museum. Spend some time with Mapplethorpe's photographs here, here, and here.

1960 - Filming wraps on The Misfits, starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable -- the last film for both.
I fell right on my face in love with Clark Gable when I was in the seventh grade, after my teacher called Scarlet a "bitch" and pressed Gone with the Wind on me. I read it in one stretch, then ran right out and saw the 1939 film at the local dollar theatre. This was way before DVD's, so it says something that roughly thirty-six years after the film's debut, it was still playing at a Saturday matinee. I went with my cousin and she hated it. I'm certain I shushed her. A lot. This was before I acquired all my bad manners,and still cared about being a good girl. I never wanted to be Scarlet, I just wanted bad boy Rhett to fancy me. I immersed myself in the history of the period, and even though it would be some time before I realized just how incorrect much of the history presented in the novel was, I became intensely interested in the Civil War, Reconstruction, carpetbaggers, etc. I should note here Alice Randall's fabulous parallel novel, The Wind Done Gone, told from Cynara, Scarlet/Other's half white sister's point of view. Also, that I absolutely hated Scarlett. Hated it. And hated the made-for-tv movie. Scarlett kicks ass. She isn't some mealy-mouthed victim, that's Ashley's job. Back to my GWTH obsession: I wanted a corset, and if I'd been able to find one, I'm certain I would have worn it. Too bad Victoria's Secret wasn't in every mall back then. I spent hours creating parts for myself in the film, the novel. I painted a cheesy portrait of Gable as Rhett Butler, wrote poetry, a very cheesy "Bonnie Blue" song, learned to play "No Other Love" on the piano. I imagined I'd marry Gable, even though he had died before I was born. Brother! I got over the book, but it took much, much longer to get over Gable. It Happend One Night cemented my fixation with all things Gable, but it was The Misfits that broke the spell, and my heart. Gable's ravaged face, his bravado and charms nearly all gone, and the sadness, the gravitas that permeated the film still makes me squirm. Despite the damage the decades of partying, the wreck of his love life, the state of his health, Gable still had "it", and gave the performance of his life in this film. A relative has a framed snapshot of Gable that her uncle took of Gable right after Carole Lombard was killed in that fateful plane crash, (see how I'm falling into cliche). It's a nice black and white phot of Gable in his car waiting at a stoplight for the light to turn. He looked disheveled, like he'd stayed up drinking all night into the next day. A newspaper with the headline of his wife's death is barely visible on the seat beside him.

1979 - Iran hostage crisis begins: Iranian radicals, mostly students, invade the United States embassy in Tehran and take 90 hostages (63 of whom are American).
I was in high school when the hostage crisis began, and in college when it ended. When it began, I didn't know one Iranian and all I knew about the crisis was what was reported on television. I wrote a very earnest and clueless political poem, The Dance, in which Khomeini, Carter, and the hostages perform a ballet. I was awarded Second Place and $50. First Place was awarded to the poem, The Kiss, and I was livid that some stereotypical first love poem about stolen kisses and furtive glances had beaten my OH-SO-VERY important poem. I accepted the award at an assembly in which I performed later, in my drill team sequin micro-mini dance costume and white go-go boots. Ironic, eh? When the crisis ended, my bubble had expanded. A lot. At the college I was attending, I was witness to for mock executions by Shah or Khomeini proxies enacted on the campus square, and to pro and anti-Khomeini demonstrations. In one instance, police from the surrounding cities were called in and I remember them lining the sidewalks, dressed in riot gear. My algebra tutor, and numerous friends schooled me on the real politics of the region.

1994 - San Francisco: First conference that focused exclusively on the subject of the commercial potential of the World Wide Web.
That there was even a conference held to discuss this seems laughable with 20/20 hindsight, and reminds me of the Frances Hodges Burnett quote, At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done-then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. It's impossible to imagine a time when the Internet wasn't a force, commercial or otherwise.

2008 - The 56th quadrennial United States presidential election was held. Barack Obama is elected 44th President of the United States.
For the last four years, 2008 in particular, the last year of the Bush Presidency, first thing in the morning I clicked on political, found a favorite to set the tone for the day, then headed over to to find a poem that matched the theme or spirit of the cartoon. Humor, not the mean-spirited, derisive or divisive kind, but the nudge you in the ribs, ohmigod is this for real, kind, got me through some very rough Orwellian times. I'm an Independent with strong Democrat tendencies, although I have and do vote for Republicans. I live in Utah. I've tried my very best to stay as far away from anything that has organized and religion as a descriptor, so many times I've felt like I was in a lifeboat with the other fifteen democrats, holding on to the sides for our lives, bobbing in the salty waters of the Great Salt Lake. I know the president is hardly the saint he was made out to be and that he's just a man doing a very hard job, trying the best he can with the his particular skill set and moral compass, just like the majority of our former presidents were. It doesn't really matter where you weigh in on the Obama scale, Novemeber 4, 2008 was a momentous day. Good on us, America!