The Luggage by Constance Urdang

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The theme of the next week (!) is travel - not that I haven't been on the road recently but this time it'll be for fun.  Oh it has been too, too long!  And this might be one of the best parts of the journey: the anticipation of it all.

The Luggage by Constance Urdang

Travel is a vanishing act
Only to those who are left behind.
What the traveler knows
Is that he accompanies himself,
Unwieldy baggage that can’t be checked,
Stolen, or lost, or mistaken.
So one took, past outposts of empire,
“Calmly as if in the British Museum,”
Not only her Victorian skirts,
Starched shirtwaists, and umbrella, but her faith
In the civilizing mission of women,
Her backaches and insomnia, her innocent valor;
Another, friend of witch-doctors,
Living on native chop,
Trading tobacco and hooks for fish and fetishes,
Heralded her astonishing arrival
Under shivering stars
By calling, “It’s only me!” A third,
Intent on savage customs, and to demonstrate
That a woman could travel as easily as a man,
Carried a handkerchief damp with wifely tears
And only once permitted a tribal chieftain
To stroke her long, golden hair.

Let's arugula everything

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Still Life of Pizza, Pre-Baked
If this summer is going to be remembered for anything at all, it should go down in the books as the Summer of Endless Cookery.  Even more than the Recovery of Mum or the Antics of my Overgrown Pet.  Once the weekend hits, my feet are planted squarely in the kitchen and budge only to make occasional quick trips to the store for more ingredients.  I've baked and broiled, stirred and simmered, sauteed and stir fried my cares and worries to a boiling point and watched them evaporate like steam.  Cooking for people (and caring for people) has always done that for me.

Critical to the kitchen, and particularly to my parents' kitchen where I concoct pan after pan of  weekend meals, are leftovers.  Nothing is wasted and everything is either eaten or frozen.  Only if there is visible evidence of spoilage is something tossed, and reluctantly at that.  Which is why, when I whipped up a large jar of arugula pesto to slather on some sandwiches, the remainder was kept and has been used as some component of every meal I prepared this past weekend.  I've added it as globs of bright green on to a homemade spinach artichoke white pizza, and when melted amidst the mozzarella, it created bubbly green swirls of nutty garlicly flavour.  Even odder yet, I added it to my quinoa fried rice, right after dumping in the soy sauce.  You wouldn't think the fusion of Asian and Italian palettes would complement each other so well, but surprisingly, it works rather well together.

The neon green sauce has been marinating in its own juices and the flavours have become more intense the longer I've let it sit in the fridge.  Sure, we could freeze it in ice cube trays and bring it out on a more "normal" basis but then what would be the fun or challenge in that?  I'm having fun throwing it into random dishes and seeing what it adds.  Who knew arugula pesto could be the jack of all trades in the kitchen?

Six months with Ryon

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Junk in his trunk
He gleams like a newly minted penny in the sunlight, a warm reddish brown colour.  It's the peak of summer and when there isn't a breeze and the humidity is close to 100% (on a day like today), his coat is mottled with dark brown patches of sweat.  Not that we haven't tried everything to prevent that and keep him cool, including buying him a second fan that sat on a ledge inside his stall.  Luxury accommodations, I tell you.  Fearing horsey shenanigans, we ziptied that sucker to the wall.  The next day, we found the box fan, hanging by its electrical cord, laying face down in the shavings of his stall.  Not to be deterred, we tried bungee cords, which were subsequently ripped apart.  So as far as I'm concerned, the boy can stand to sweat a little bit longer.

He spotted the decomposing corpse of the possum long before I did.  It was lying on the side of the path, pinkish-white belly up and swarmed by a swirling cloud of flies.  His head perked up and his ears pricked in the corpse's direction.  I had been daydreaming, surrounded by the damp, earthy smell of fresh greenery after the past week's rain, and idly scratching one of my many mosquito bites.  Both of us wrinkled our noses when we drew closer, a bit in shock at the dead body, incongruous with a Sunday afternoon trail ride.

He sees things - my bright-eyed boy - notices things, hears things before I do, indicating with loud snorts that all is not right or normal.  "Pay attention, mom" he seems to be telling me, as he did with the shirtless hiker crouched under the bridge, wringing sweat from his shirt and kneeling down to catch his breath.  He trusts me to take care of him and to protect him.  No longer does he nervously back up 20 yards at the sight of the monstrous wooden bridge.  Patience and persistence won the day and he daintily picks up his hooves and clip clops across it.

We've come a long long way Ryon bub and I can't wait to see what comes next.

I may have to move...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

... Into this home featured this week.  I'm so not over this 1920s Colonial located in Fort Worth of all places.  Doesn't it sound like I say this same thing every week?  But seriously, this time, it's for real.  I'm such a sucker for grand old homes that have been lovingly restored and this has got to be my favourite.  This one.  With the fireplaces in every room.  With the absurdly large front porch.  With the beautiful bathtub in the master bathroom.  And I don't even take baths.  The furniture can stay as well.  Okay, okay, I'll just take the 400 square foot garage apartment.  Anyone want to buy this home and be my landlord?

Cold as ice-box strawberry cake

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sympathy weight - oh it’s a real thing alright.  In bulking my mom up five pounds (in less than two months), my dad and I have probably collectively put on double that much.  The best thing to have for dinner is company, right?  And we’re not doing physical rehab with intense cardio three days a week.  Well, I know my dad isn't...

I served this strawberry icebox cake back over July 4th weekend at my parents’ dinner party and for a group of “old folks” that were purportedly not fans of dessert or sweet things,  they enjoyed it immensely.  So much so that I had made two cakes and they finished both of them.  Even enemies of dessert and those who claim not to have a sweet tooth can be vanquished by a simple frozen treat that requires zero baking.  No need to turn on the sweatbox of death during these stifling summer days.

Mixing is really key to this recipe and allowing the fruity, buttermilky, cookie goodness to get all muddled up with one another during the freezing process.  This means lots of trips back and forth to the freezer.  But it also means lots of dirty spoons and lots of tastings in between.  Silver lining, folks.

Icebox Strawberry Cake

Adapted from Strawberry Delight by Matt Lee and Ted Lee


1 lb. fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1  pint heavy cream
2  pinches kosher salt
1  cup half-and-half
1  cup buttermilk, whole or low-fat
3 oz. of crumbed lady fingers, roughly crumbled into oyster-cracker-size pieces
1  cup chopped pecans, toasted

Put the strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until the syrup is glossy red but still runny. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the salt until peaks begin to hold their shape. Fold in half-and-half, buttermilk, cookies, and toasted pecans until evenly combined.

Line a 3-quart loaf pan (or two 1.5-quart loaf pans and divide cream mixture evenly) with plastic wrap and pour the cream mixture into it. Then pour in the fruit and syrup from one end of the pan to the other, but do not stir (if using two pans, divide the fruit and syrup evenly between them). The syrup and fruit may float on the surface at first but will gradually sink through to the bottom. Lightly cover the loaf pan(s) with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until a cap of crystallized cream has formed about an inch thick, about 2.5 hours (or 1.5 hours if using two loaf pans). Use a broad serving spoon to break up the cream and fold the ingredients together, taking special care to lift the strawberry pulp up off the bottom. With the back of the spoon, smooth the surface and return the pan to the freezer for 1.5 hours (about 45 minutes if using two pans). Fold again, freeze for another hour, and fold a third time (if using two loaf pans, you might not need to do a third fold). Allow to set for an hour more.

To serve, turn an entire loaf upside down onto an oval platter and slice off individual portions with a knife warmed in hot water.

Disappearing act

Monday, July 14, 2014

I hid in my cell phone-free cave this weekend.  Honestly, I feel as guilty as all get-out admitting it but I dodged human company, opting instead for the quiet companionship of books.  I know I’ve been singing this same song for months now, but I am fatigued.  And people wear me out more than anything, more than the cleaning and baking weekend marathon sessions and more than working seemingly endless days (okay maybe not less than the last one).  When you tack on the soul-crushing heat that we’ve been experiencing the past week or so, it’s basically all I can do to remain upright.  What better excuse to have than that to remain indoors, in the blastingly frigid breeze of A/C and devour stacks upon stacks of summer reading that have piled up over the past few weeks?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I didn’t speak to anyone this weekend.  I checked in on the parents; they’re doing just grand.  My mom has gained five pounds (hooray - the combination of ice cream, bread, and beans are working (don’t worry, it’s not all in one dish)) since she came out of surgery in June and has resumed almost all of her pre-surgery schedule.  I just skipped the typical weekend debauchery of bars and clubs, of sweaty cologne / perfume anointed bodies crushed into a tight space, all angling for the best position to be seen and to be served. I bypassed the weekend experience of hemorrhaging cash from our respective wallets and common sense from our respective better judgment.  Hair done, faces on, it’s all just a little much for me right now, so I stepped back from the crush for a pause, an intermission.

I can count on one hand the number of people I interacted with this weekend.  I responded to even less than that many number of emails.  It isn’t difficult for me to unplug, to put my phone in another room and just forget about it for a few hours.  It is even easier still for me to do that with my work blackberry.

At the end of it all, though, it must end.  No one, not even I, can survive the swirling vortex that is me alone with my thoughts.  Like an Escher painting or an endless set of fluoresced dressing room mirrors, they repeat each other ad nauseam, into infinity (and beyond).  One could go mad (and maybe one has).  The disappearing act is only made magical by the reappearance, without which it would remain grotesque and twisted.  And so, come Monday, much like the carriage at midnight, I'm back again.  Until next weekend.

Speaking of amazingly magical things, my dear friend's musical is being featured Off Broadway in NYC.  If you're in the vicinity, please stop by and check out As We Lie Still.

where we are by Gerald Locklin

Thursday, July 10, 2014

This Paper Ship

Ahh, Gerald Locklin, you sure do speak to me now.  For more of Mr. Locklin's work, please visit him here.

where we are by Gerald Locklin

(for edward field)

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

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