Unraveling

Not exactly scarf weather

RIGHT: Hematoma Scarf (14 days)
LEFT: Anemia Scarf (4 days)

The day after MIM’s birthday, though I had yet to get him a present, I sent him to the craft store to buy me yarn. I was on my back in bed with my suddenly severely swollen leg elevated on a stack of pillows. “Just buy me something soft and puffy, like Kathryn’s sample yarn,” I instructed, handing him the small ball Kathryn had left the night before after she’d taught me how to knit.Read More »

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Dropped Birthdays, Dropped Stitches

Matt Ryan’s 5-year-old, birthday-saving Facebook post: “Rick got his full loaf shrimp po boy from the Louisiana Market on the corner of Carondelet and Louisiana”

For the first time in 30 years, I forgot the Man I Married’s birthday. Instead of my bringing him breakfast in bed and wishing him a Happy Birthday, he brought a cup of tea to me in my downstairs recovery room—an office now filled with medical equipment. Whereupon I greeted him with a graphic recap of the results of the prescription laxative suppository I’d finally given a chance–through desperation–at 8:00 the night before, thinking I’d be feeling lighter by bedtime. Instead, I read an entire novel overnight on the cold throne, feeling like I’d eaten nothing but peanut shells for the past two weeks rather than having ingested and injected massive cocktails of opioids with a side of morphine.Read More »

Commoner’s Field Guide to Birds

Three years ago, I asked for a bird feeder for Mother’s Day. My first, time-intensive, agonizing identification was of a Black-capped Chickadee. If only I had first read the field guide books, which all agree that the likely first enthusiastic customer on a new backyard feeder will be the cheerful Black-capped Chickadee. I’ve since identified 25 bird species in my backyard, and the Black-capped Chickadee is one of the few whose name makes any kind of sense. It wears a rakish black beret, perfect for any basement poetry reading, and natters on throughout the day, “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee,” sometimes commenting with goodwill, sometimes scolding with irritation, but always with its charming, “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” If only my adolescent were so endearing with his constant repetition of, “Can we have pizza? Can we have pizza? Can we have pizza?”

Birds, I learned to my horror, were named by white men who shot them dead and noted the defining details of corpses. John James Audubon might shoot hundreds of birds for the sake of one drawing. A Ring-necked Duck’s neck ring might be obvious from close-up observation of a stationary object, but in the cold, wet field, from a distance, on a moving target, it’s a Ring-billed Duck, for heaven’s sake. Duh. I am not the first to note this, I now see in some field guides, so we are all in agreement: let’s get rid of these stupid names and start over.Read More »

Accidental Wonder

When the best moments are after you miss the turn to head home.

I sat in an Othello High School hallway, eating my sandwich at the 20th Annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. The Owl Lecture room was standing room only, so I found myself in familiar territory—flash back to eating lunch by myself in high school about forty years ago.

I had no adolescent feeling of exclusion, though I lapsed into the same behavior I did back then: eavesdropping on the popular kids.Read More »

The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cake–Redux!

Practicing rosettes
Practicing rosettes, stars, beads, and what my classmates called “poops”

Six months after my cake decorating fiasco and with cupcake-decorating and cookie-decorating classes under my belt, I was ready to try again: this time with adult supervision. I signed up for a two-part, six-hour cake decorating class. I’m not sure why I ever thought I could casually decorate a fabulous anniversary cake. Like brain surgeons who decide they’ll write a novel “when they retire,” my goal was a bit of an insult to pastry chefs.

There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry. –Julia ChildRead More »

The Lousy Cook Makes Bread

Happy first birthday, sourdough starter! (Those bubbles are yeast farts.)
Happy first birthday, sourdough starter! (Those bubbles are yeast farts.)

Before there was cake, there was bread.

Breadmaker sourdough loaf
First perfect breadmaker sourdough loaf (July; yes, after half a year of trying)

It all started with the potato bread. Seattle has amazing fresh bread choices, but the prices are as high as the quality. My son particularly likes the potato bread, a soft white bread with a caraway tang, but an active fourteen-year-old can put away a lot of bread, which quickly adds up to a lot of dough.Read More »