Sunday, November 30, 2008

153: Thanksgiving Redux

Today is Thanksgiving again--our fourteen and a half pound turkey warming in the oven, loosely packed with organic stuffing, and Ryan's pot of gravy steaming on the stove. I'll wait on the butternut squash bisque and bread for now; the turkey is enough to keep me distracted. While it heats, we're watching a documentary on the 1996 Everest disaster, giving emphasis to the chilly snow falling outside.

Tomorrow it is back to routine--classes, but a new addition, and that would be the seasonal work at the bookstore. Classes are over in a week and a half, which seems so sudden, so surprising. I must cobble together a small manuscript for my workshop, and I'll have a stack of portfolios of my own to grade, but nothing so weighty as, say, one hundred and twenty freshmen research essays, as I generally faced over an incredibly brief winter break while teaching high school.

Hope you're all staying warm, enjoying leftovers, maybe taking a Sunday walk in the neighborhood, as we tend to do.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Home again, home again. Our dogs are a robust contrast to my parents' dogs; they are a decade apart. House still standing, cats still purring, all is good in the world. Well, all, save my neck, which seems to be greatly pained, perhaps from bending over a secret knitting project, punishment for staying up too late.

We brought the pricey turkey back with us, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving in our home. Butternut squash bisque, cranberry bread--all the things I have half the ingredients for and didn't quite make it for the holiday, along with us and the car (which is still, by the way, in Green Bay, with its pathetic clutch and we arrived in my mother-in-law's car--a kind lending).

Oh, and challah, the next recipe from our Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day. I've only had it once, in New York City, at market, and I drool at the memory.

For now, I bend back into little projects, too addicted to completion and lists. That are checked twice. All of that, you know.

Friday, November 28, 2008

151: Black Friday

Today was spent mostly inside, knitting little squares, little gifts, napping, and reading books. I've never braved the stores on "Black Friday," and after hearing about the Wal-Mart employee getting trampled to death (!!), I'm especially appreciative of my modest bank account and my meager handmade givings. If I give, it comes from the heart, not from a push and a shove and a pair of extraordinarily sore feet (and danger, now, apparently). Ryan and I both get antsy in crowds of large people anyway. I'm so grateful the bookstore I'll work at for this holiday season is small and sweet as opposed to that monolith in the Twin Cities. There's only so much hiding under a counter a girl can do.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

150: Happy Thanksgiving!

This year's Thanksgiving: a quartet, though not what it's been over the years--instead, me and a husband, and his parents (along with their two dogs). Ryan is messing about on his laptop, trying to get his virtual machine to work (say what?) and I'm knitting little squares and rectangles to wrap up for the holidays. The turkey is sitting now, settling in to its new form, and we'll eat in half an hour or so. Outside, snow. And more snow. It's quiet here and good and though it isn't quite what I expected, not the trip out to Michigan to see my beloved grandmother, it's still full of that peace we all love when it comes to the holidays. The cozy feeling that snowing gives, the snuggling with dogs, the kitchen lit up with mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

149: The Best Laid Plans

A burned out clutch at an ATM has kept us Green Bay-bound for the holiday. My father leaves tomorrow, alone, free range turkey-less for Michigan, and Ryan and I are holding back, hoping to find a way to get a car repaired before Sunday (as he has a meeting on Monday; it also happens to be my first day at the bookstore). I'm sad not to see my grandmother, and I'm also sad that Penelope and Zephyr are kenneled (though exercised five times a day, advertisement states) when they could romp around with their pals Sassy and Chance.

Who are not, by the way, pictured above. Instead, I bring you Lanie (the black lab in the second picture) and Madison (the husky-collie-golden-lab mix in the first and third picture), my parents' geriatric dogs, the dogs that were my puppies when I was a teenager. Now Madison has cancer, or something along those lines (the vet is not certain, and could only be if he cut her open, and no one wants to put her through that now), and leaves my father guessing when it comes to eating--lately, it's only been McDonald's hamburgers. Lanie is still hanging in, though she has these horrifying cysts that give her a camel hunchback. Aging gracefully, you see.

This is the way it is though: staying awake with the novels I meant to read and pass on to my grandmother, knitting little washcloths and dishrags (and other, more secret projects), fighting to stay awake, restraining myself from borrowing the family car to rescue our dogs from boarding so they can come romp here in the snow and kick me out of bed, as they are bound to do.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


There it is, my first (four) loaves of homemade bread: Vermont Cheddar. So good. (Thanks, Ang!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

147: Just in case I don't say it enough:

My mother rocks.

Today I tried to find a free range turkey in town, and they had a handful at the bottom of the freezer at our tiny organic market, but they were all reserved. With no spares lying about.

My mother spent her afternoon fulfilling my request: calling around, running about (her) town on a wild goose chase, so to speak, several grocery stores, and fifty seven dollars poorer, she found a better treated turkey for a dinner she won't even be able to attend. (Our parents' dog, Madison, is extremely sick, and when Ryan and I stop in town to pick up my father on the way to my grandmother's house, this might be our last time seeing the twelve year old collie/lab/golden/husky mix. Kenneling her for the weekend just isn't an option any more.)

Maybe next year I'll convince Ryan we should raise our own turkey. After all, I somehow got worms in the house.

Thanks, Mom.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

146: Homebrew Swap

So Angie and I are feeling elvish, though our husbands are in on it too: we're all homebrewers, and since I've retreated to the kitchen (tonight: homemade chicken noodle soup; last night: an improvised chicken recipe and brussels sprouts) for the late autumn and winter, I've been itching to make this a bit more social.

(Speaking of which, I love this blog: bread and honey. Collaboration in the kitchen is always so good.)

A twice annual tradition, perhaps: wine, beer, all homebrew, maybe home baked bread, preserves, little goodies, and a party to accompany each. Keep me moving, keep me trying new things. Keeping me celebrating every day.

145: Vermont Cheddar Bread

Adapted recipe here. We followed the one in Artisan Breads in Five Minutes A Day, first one from the recipe book Angie gave me for my birthday. Our is now sitting, rising, collapsing, on our counter.

Also, this video was helpful before we started:

Something I'd like to find around here some time is Community Supported Preserves and Bread. I've been pointed to some research: a Wedge Co-op article here, and something on HGTV here.

I've also picked up a recent issue of Cooking Light and Martha Stewart's Everyday Food in preparation for the holidays. I've already found a cranberry sauce and a stuffing I'd love to try. Perhaps later I'll post a listing of recipes that caught my eye and link them to the various websites.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

144: Mornings

Top six--say hello to those fabulous photographers!:

Mornings: the original, mine, the group.

I've been keeping a photo a day blog for a while now: once, and rejuvenated.

But after I spent nearly two years taking a photo a day, I've been ready for a little nudge--a kind of specificity to add to the challenge. Mornings work for me.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A few bits:
- "Beekeeping" was accepted for Wicked Alice's next issue.
- Poems from the Alzheimer series have been solicited for February's issue of This Joy + Ride. An image from the lake series will also appear with those four poems.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My days at the internship are now at an end. This, I've learned: working behind the scenes at an arts organization is a position to respect because there is so much to juggle (fortunately, the interns take on some of that juggling). Any sort of admin position is tricky--there is power in it, we see from the sidelines, but once you are wiggled right there in it, the responsibility is piled on. It's a remarkable job with some amazing projects.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Photo: by Ryan

This is one of my favorite photographs my husband has taken: this, taken at Colville Park last autumn. For his birthday last year, I got him several rolls of black and white film, which he will occasionally noodle with. He nearly took a nature photography class half a dozen years ago in Duluth; it's amazing how things enter and pivot in our lives.

Today I gave a presentation in my poetry workshop on the image and memory, using this flickr photoset as a slideshow. Unfortunately, Flickr opted to conk out on my halfway through, not yet reaching the photos where Christian was born or the ones of Middle Sand Lake I took this past August on my one year wedding anniversary (and subject of many poems they have recently critiqued).

Other things:

- There is a Flickr group started up called a year of mornings, respectfully modeled after the beloved photoblog 3191. I have dutifully jumped onto the bandwagon, and you can follow my own three hundred and sixty five days of mornings here.
- I am currently reading American Fuji by Sara Backer. It's a fast, escape read, which isn't quite what I probably expected when I bought it. I'm finding all kinds of books tucked all sorts of places in my home (OK, I lie, it's all alphabetical, but I think there are something like five five-shelved fiction bookcases alone, so indeed, things do get "lost", especially as I am charmingly bumbling) and I have no clue how I acquired them. Probably when I worked at the bookstore, yes? That seems to have been my best acquisition years.
- I'm finishing up Queer as Folk via Netflix. Next: The Wire. I'm completely addicted to going through an entire series back-to-back via DVDs-by-mail.
- My last day of my internship is tomorrow.
- My first day of my bookstore job is December first. (And while I worked in a giant bookstore for five and a half years, I haven't in a small independent one, though I must admit, I have fantasized it quite a bit.)
- I'm really excited to read 2666. Before I can, however, I have given myself a "healthy challenge" which involves exercise and eating good things and quarters for designated accomplishments, so it might be a while. Books, I am finding, are good "carrots." Next up: the works of Trish Hampl.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Ten Top Trivia Tips about Molly Sutton Kiefer!

  1. Medieval knights put the skin of Molly Sutton Kiefer on their sword handles to improve the grip.
  2. The moon is 400 times closer to the Earth than Molly Sutton Kiefer, and 400 times smaller!
  3. If you drop Molly Sutton Kiefer from the top of the Empire State Building, she will be falling fast enough to kill before reaching the ground!
  4. Molly Sutton Kiefer is actually a vegetable, not a fruit!
  5. Molly Sutton Kiefer is incapable of sleep.
  6. Ideally, Molly Sutton Kiefer should be stored on her side at a temperature of 55 degrees!
  7. Molly Sutton Kiefer can usually be found in nests built in the webs of large spiders!
  8. If Molly Sutton Kiefer was life size, she would stand 7 ft 2 inches tall and have a neck twice the size of a human!
  9. Some birds use Molly Sutton Kiefer to orientate themselves during migration.
  10. If you put a drop of liquor on Molly Sutton Kiefer, she will go mad and sting herself to death.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Saturday, November 15, 2008

139: Hay Creek

Hay Creek: We return again and again, unsnapping their collars, watching them run up and down the sandy banks. For my birthday, my husband got me an upgrade to my Canon, and my old SLR found a new home. And today was the first day I've "taken it out," so to speak. I'm always leery of change, especially when it comes to anything mildly technological.

I was always afraid, too, that it wouldn't be so easy to take pleasure in the natural world without that verdant bursting, but fall is gorgeous too. The leaves are rotting now, everything is muddy and slippery, but the dogs flung themselves with that regular abandon, and I think, I think this one can stay.

(By the way, I love the way Penelope can blend into the landscape. Zephyr was there, and adorable as always, but he's a little trickier to capture properly on film.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

138: Currently


- Dreaming of catching a hummingbird between my thumb and forefinger.
- Trying a new recipe (Spanish Lemon Pepper Chicken), which I botched with too much lemon. Maybe I should have known better, as the sauce calls for a mix of chicken stock and ketchup. Ryan made rice. I don't know what it is, but the coming of winter seems to drive me into the kitchen, wanting to warm vegetables on the stove, wanting to experiment.
- Reading Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht. Makes me miss playing classical music. (Never enough to drive me to lessons, though I have not-so-long-ago retrieved my violin from my parents' house.)
- Collective readership.
- Listening to America, America by Ethan Canin on my drives to and from campus. Well timed, just after the election. Next: I've requested Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father.
- Admiring Assemblage's Paper Crane Top.
- Thinking of ways to be grateful for winter: reading in bed (I sense a theme), warm soup (I'm especially loving the thick ones with vegetables: pumpkin, tomato, asparagus--and yes, book clubbers, that was foreshadowing), the stars coming out (as long as the clouds aren't hovering, but now it's so blue during the day), wool sweaters.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

137: They have arrived!

The worms arrived today in a sack: five hundred tucked in with the dirt, woven into the fabric. Now, layers of shredded bills and Langton Hughes poems, a little bit of vegetable refuse, water. They are settling in beneath the light. I will turn them over, watch the transformation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

136: Progeny

Christian: Nearly five months old now, nearly half a year. Everything is nearly when it comes to people of this size. He smiles now, incessantly, pleased at everything save the camera in his face, and even then, he is tolerant. (He knows his aunt will be an obnoxious presence in his life in that way.) I've become a bit more adept at changing diapers, a bit more adaptive to projectile vomit. His fist is his favorite chew toy at this point, and he drools like a champ, which seems to be a strong indication that teething is on its way. We are able to identify his parents every day: the almond shape of his father's eyes, the dimpled chin from his mama. And that dopey mouth hanging open? I'm sure we know who that belongs to.

I begin to wonder what Ryan and my progeny might look like, and even more, what traits he or she will receive: Ryan's bold childhood behavior (help, help, I'm stuck on the ceiling!) or my addiction to books, Ryan's blonde hair and blue eyes (or my blonde-ish hair and blue eyes), height and width (oh please, if we have a daughter, let her not have my calves), science or languages, the narrow or rounded face, dedication or procrastination. What ways these offspring will combine, will smear the DNA and become something of his or her own.

What hopes I have now: that our children will know love as we know love, that we will be able to support each in whatever passions they may have. That Ryan and I will always be able to provide that safe environment (and model of good, lifelong love).


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Outside, slushy rain falls, tapping against our windows, and the green of this grass isn't long for our ground. The dogs are making nests from abandoned blankets, fleece and wool, and our heat is barely puttering, keeping quiet as my income has shrunk bewilderingly low. I realize if we had a baby, we'd need space heaters, or a more robust heating bill, a bravery to keep that delicate skin a delicate pink.

For now, I'm loving our family as it is: the six of us in this transforming house, a house I admit is becoming (finally) less cluttered (though it still has a ways to go), a house that has been our home for so long, and when Ryan mentions the possibility of moving to the Twin Cities after I am done with my MFA (if I find a job teaching in the Twin Cities at the college level--comp, most likely, if this is the path I choose) and how that brings sorrow to my chest, despite my dear friends living there, because I have fallen in love with this little town with the bookstore that will keep me over the holidays, the arts center at one end and the bluffs at the other, with the Mississippi and the woods, with dreams of a house near Hay Creek as opposed to a smaller property and even smaller rooms.

For now, I am loving my life as it is: the luck of makeshift family and friends, the ways in which paths are surprising, delightful. I am lucky with love in my heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

133: There was laughter.

Last night, we had a wine tasting party; at nine, half the guests left for the chilly return to the Twin Cities (flecks of snowing wending down in the night). The tub held floating half-filled bottles of wine, clinking against ice slivers. We played Apples to Apples; my sides sore the next morning from so much laughter. Each month should contain small celebrations like this: first trips to the butcher, apple cranberry stuffing, home baked bread, stories upon stories. Each life should be filled with this: the sounds of laughter of very dear friends, the sweet smile of your godson, the feeling of being sated, that this life is enough.

Friday, November 7, 2008

132: 29

This is the last year I am in my twenties. I used to be jealous of my high school seniors who were facing their undergraduate degree, but now that I'm in the MFA program, I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be at this point in my life. I never thought I'd be able to say that: "Now that I'm in the MFA program." On election day, I was doubly happy: I was also accepted into an advanced workshop at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival in January. I'll be working with Kimiko Hahn, who I met in 2002, I believe, when she came to the University of Minnesota for a once annual (intentions were good) poetry festival. I went to the PBPF last January, but it was an intermediate workshop; this year I'll be working with one of the headlining poets. If I could continually splurge, it would be on travel. If I could travel anywhere, it would probably be to Ireland, though I have a long, long list of places I'd like to go before I die.Despite this, I am fairly happy we settled into Minnesota. Even though I love the coasts, I love them in my imagination; I don't know what it would be like to live there. My favorite spots in Minnesota are Red Wing and especially the north shore. I would move to Duluth if we could; Ryan was lucky enough to live there as an undergraduate. My new favorite vegetable is brussels sprouts. We attempted to grow them this year and yielded a tupperware full of tiny buds; they're good raw in salads as well as cooked. I am one who loves vegetables and doesn't eat enough of them. I'm not sure what kind of laziness that is. I was twelve when we moved from Tennessee to Wisconsin. I was nineteen when I moved to Minnesota to go to college. And while Wisconsin has some nice spots, like Door County, I would not move back; I am not fond of Green Bay. But of course, I would never take that move back: Green Bay brought me together with my husband and my dearest friend Kelly, among many of my girl friends that mean the world to me, like Chris, Nikki, Mandy, Kim, and Jen. It's true that most places I look back on with unpleasant memories have also brought me together with some of the best people in my life. Case in point: Old High School brought me together with Emily, who has proven crucial to my sanity and is a blessing. I'm lucky like that. The people in my life are good. I'm spending Thanksgiving in Michigan again this year; I started that up a decade ago when I realized we hadn't been visiting our parents' parents often enough--I wanted to attempt Michigan for Thanksgiving and Chattanooga for Christmas, but it was too expensive to fly on that sort of regularity. That lake in Michigan plays a significant role in the work that I've been doing. I might not get a chance to work on that chapbook manuscript as hard as I've wanted this winter break. The local bookstore called me and asked if I wanted a holiday job. I haven't turned in an application, but I did mention in passing that I missed working in a bookstore, which is true. I've secretly always wanted to work there. Temporary is best though, given how crazy my schedule can be during the semester. When I first moved to the Midwest, I couldn't handle the cold. I practically lived in my long underwear. Now, it's been years since I've worn any. I consider myself a Minnesotan now, though people in my program have suggested a "Tennesotan," after MDB's "Anglosotan." I must say, looking back on these journeys, these years landing me here, this is how I feel: Lucky, indeed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


My first presidential election was also my twenty first birthday. Kelly's aunt had just passed away, Ryan was living in Duluth, and Gore versus Bush was playing on the barroom TVs. We sat at Stub and Herb's, my one celebratory drink in front of me and I wallowed in the sorrow of the screen as the nation became more and more red. Indeed, I will admit it, that was the year I voted for Nader.

The next important election brought still more sorrow: Wellstone was killed in a plane crash. I remember the heavy sadness, but also that needed urgency in his memorial, the arena packed, our attention locked in on his surviving family. Norm Coleman won against Wellstone's replacement, former vice-president Mondale.

And Bush won again. To my stupification.

The next birthday election was additionally sad for me: I couldn't celebrate the DFL victories because the school referendum did not pass. Ultimately, it would cost me my job. And true, in the end, this was a blessing, but at the time, the pit in my stomach did not entirely agree.

This election is phenomenal to me: I look on the cover of the New York Times' webpage and I see the numbers:

Obama: 338 (62,748,033)
McCain: 161 (55,595,497)

Senate: 56 DFL; 41 Rep
House: 252 DFL; 173 Rep

Also a happy piece: the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment question was a YES, adding a small tax, which is a small price to pay when you consider the importance of the natural world and our arts. An amendment after my own heart.

I wish I could sail into this blog post completely thrilled, my happiness that Obama won clear, and I am, I truly am, but I'm selfish and want it all: the race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken may be contested, but Coleman is winning, and I haven't witnessed a recount that swung the other way. The margin appears to be 601 votes out of 2.9 million cast. And I know those numbers above mean Coleman would be handy to tip the balance, which I think, ultimately, is a good thing, as I reluctantly don't want either party to have complete control (feel free to argue me down from this statement), but this is my state, and I want my state to be reliably liberal.

And even more sad: it appears the ban on gay marriage will return to California, after all. This is something I've been furiously spouting on about--I know my friend Emily said it may be supported after twenty years, that it is a social movement, but it's ridiculous to me, and I'm befuddled as to why it's being knocked down and why anyone should wait. I consider it luck that the person I fell in love with and opted for happily-ever-after was a man, but it shouldn't be that way. I should feel the luck in having a person, not that he comes with rights--rights everyone should have.

But I don't want to end it on that note. Obama won! That's a good note to end on, indeed.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I must say this: we love our house. When I first walked in, on our first tour, my body did a little zing! jig inside. I loved the sloping floors, the year 1890 stamped on its birth date, the swing of a path on the first floor, the front porch, the sandbox I knew we would later convert into a garden.

And like any homeowner, we have many goals for this home: to replace the cheap carpeting downstairs with hardwood, to build a sturdier fence, to redo the basement, and pipe dreams like building a third bedroom upstairs where the attic storage space is. There are smaller goals too, like installing a garbage disposal, a little suck and grind for our food waste.

And I am lazy on a myriad of levels: I allow the build up of dust on my bookshelves, the collection of magazines to read grow, the dogs to loll about and leave fur deposits all over the living room carpet. I am good at ignoring, and I am good at avoiding. I didn't want to zap myself as I installed something remotely mechanical or plumbing-like, and my husband wasn't enticed by the idea either.

So I began a compost heap: a cheap one, though now I covet the tumblers--I do so love the lump that began as a pile of dried flowers and cantaloupe rind. A colorful collection that eventually boasted egg shells, toilet paper tubing, and all kinds of stems leftover from our CSA. It's all rotting now, just next to our raspberry bush, and I love it.

This morning I ordered five hundred red worms. I told my husband we couldn't get a third dog, but we now have five hundred little creatures coming to live with us; he has Chris to thank for it. Last night was book club at her St Paul apartment, and among the various delights of her sweet bird, her lineup of mint and clover, her lion ants, was the plastic box of worm poo. Indeed, mixed in with browned banana peels and coffee grounds were little red worms, sifting through and creating wet earth, perfect for her garden plot. I envied her her worms.