Sunday, January 31, 2010

409: a little something

My poem "Traver K Sutton Will Write Letters to His Wife" is in the current issue of Conte.

It's nice, but sad timing: I was just informed yesterday my grandmother's kidney functions have dropped, which means she's officially in end-stage kidney failure and will begin dialysis. The official functioning went from 18% to 9%. This is the same grandmother, the wife, of course, of the poem, who broke her hip just after my birthday, and who I love a great big ol' deal.

More poems from this series, and other poems, are in the works for publication; I'll let you know when that will be.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

408: on the fiscal responsibility I so lack

About a week and a half ago, I got an email accepting me into Hedgebrook's Master Class with Carolyn Forche. It meets the week before spring break: I arranged my syllabus so this would be the week students had off for conferences, and I prepared myself for Washington in spring. But as I peer into the empty coffers of my bank account, I realize I really cannot go. Not if I want to be fiscally responsible, and I do. Because when his whole MFA thing is over, I'm not sure I will be like my compatriots, jumping into a full-time job, the sort that comes with health insurance and retirement benefits. The bank account just got more slender.

That, and we keep talking about family shifts and, I think, when the time comes, I suppose the tuition to something as glorious as Hedgebrook might be better spent on cribs and rocking chairs. Curses to being an adult.

Ryan is doing taxes today, and it's mortgage-paying time, so all these ridiculous dollar signs are butting up against my long-time hope of being at Hedgebrook, of that need for travel, of that fantasy of being in a cabin and writing and meeting up with other writers, a whole week of that, with a writer who has meant so much to my own tenuous courage as a poet.

But then the practical world descends and I look at my medical bills stacking up, my car insurance, the surgeon's cell phone I need to call for Penelope's strange limp, the furnace inspector I need to call. These two worlds will mesh, I suppose, but they aren't just now. Frugality is a tricky thing. Gotta take care of that little guy up there, and the others, and anything that is to come.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I can't believe I missed this hilariously sweet image in my first go-round of Christian holiday pictures. Enjoy: it reminds me of my long-term baby-sitting, and what I imagine is fairly typical of leisure time in the Nelson household.

Monday, January 25, 2010

406: kale and white bean soup

About a month ago, I made a kale and white bean soup for some of my favorite people, promised I would post the recipe but, you know--

So here it is, and I would make it again. In this case, I omitted the Parmesan as my friends are vegan, but included it in my bowl. Also: my picky husband ate it.

hands-on time: 25 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
serves 8

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed
- 1 cup small soup pasta (4 ouncesl such as tubettini, ditalini, or orzo)
- 1 bunch kale, thick stems discarded and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces (8 cups)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan (2 ounces), plus 1 piece Parmesan rind (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 loaf country bread, warmed

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, celery, onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

2. Add the beans, pasta, kale, rosemary, 8 cups water, and the Parmesan rind (if using); cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the pasta and kale are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Remove the Parmesan rind. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan before serving. Serve with the bread.

from January 2010 issue of Cooking Light

I've also decided to keep collecting favorite recipes here. There's not a lot just yet, but it will grow.

Last night at dinner, as I was shuffling hamburger patties in a skillet, I feel something may have switched inside of me. I failed at my first attempt at returning to the vegetarian fold, but this time, it felt as if there were a full mental shift, true disgust as I sifted around in the grease, and felt myself pulling open the cabinets, finding flat noodles, making a meal of my own. I've decided not to proclaim myself vegetarian just yet, but I'm giving myself a week of it--making those conscious choices, scanning menus and recipe books for the meatless options--and I'll see how I feel at the end of the week. Going vegetarian again is one of my homesteading top ten goals of the year; perhaps this will be the second (vermicompost up and running again being the first) that gets accomplished.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

405: beer dabbler

Saturday afternoon, we made our way up to the cities for a beer festival. I promised my beloved I would be designated driver, though I did pay the taster's entry fee and had some unfiltered honey Crispin, which uses organic apples, honey, maple, and no added colorants, sorbate, or benzoate preservatives. Very tasty--and locally headquartered, as a friend pointed out, but made in California. Almost perfect.

The festival was outdoors, a part of the winter carnival, and I neglected to follow Ryan's advice--wear under armor, my hiking boots, bring extra gloves. It was in the thirties, slushy, rain mixed with snow, not frigid as it might be on our weekend hikes in the bluffs. Of course, in these cases, we're moving, and at the festival, we were huddled in a dreary circle, little glass cups clutched in oversized gloved hands, watching to see who would fall first on what was turning into a skating rink.

In the end, my less-alcohol infused body helped my mouth pipe up a request to depart, and we headed for Pizza Luce, where we fell in love with the Athena, and they--well, had more beer.

It's good to have such good friends. xo

Friday, January 22, 2010


This past weekend I had another Twin Cities adventure: on Saturday, I drove my former local high school student Brianna up to Como Conservatory, meeting my friend Meryl on the way.

Of course, before I delve into the Como experience, I ought to back up and explain all the little Love and Other Catastrophes that happened that morning: I meant to print out my chapbook to mail on the way out of town, but there were a series of issues, along with poor directions to pick up Brianna, and then a few campus mishaps, that made what should have been a brief sojourn into a disastrous romp. And, unfortunately, all these little trip-ups, including the big sigh at the end when I missed the postmark date by thirteen minutes, we arrived at the Conservatory with only eighteen minutes of open time.

And we whipped through those earthy rooms, such a contrast to my first lingering visit two years ago. We managed to glimpse each room, the inhale that smell of green life, get a glimpse of Chloe the sloth, who was quite still and typically lazy, and slip out the door before we were locked in.

After, we went to a Japanese restaurant, something my friend Meryl, who was still battling jet lag from her trip to Japan with her husband, might not have the appetite for, but we delved into the (vegan) sushi, the tempura and udon with gusto. I even managed to get through the meal with chopsticks alone, something that probably was a first for me (and now, that sort of fun newness of it, I want to eat everything with two strips of bamboo).

It was one of those cozy winter days, not too cold out to become an ice castle ourselves, but chilly enough that being in a well-lit restaurant was comforting, bowls of soup and warm edamame before us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

403: 18 months

Ryan and I drove up and over, a little jaunt, a belated celebration of the winter holidays with my oldest and dearest friend. Her son, our godson, is now something like eighteen months old, which means he has a personality, a kind of communication. He's a charmer, that is for certain. I also think I may have glimpsed what he might be in the back of a high school classroom, and I have to admit: it reminded me of the long afternoons teaching. I also loved this glimpse: my husband with a little one, instructing him, telling him what he needed, and Ryan somehow finding a way to charm him right back.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

402: some green in winter

My worms arrived in the mail about a week ago and have begun to bunker down in my new vermicompost bin. This one has more clear walls, so, in my laziness, I can keep a better eye on development, and it is smaller, which feels a bit more manageable, though I hope it's not frustrating to the worms themselves. A few nights ago we came home, and I thought I saw a stray stick the dogs brought in with a white spider moving along--I was proud at my bravery in approach, but I discovered one of the worms had slipped from the bin, which would be fine if it were outdoors, but in this house, there's little but more dirt and more dirt to be found on the ground.

Because it is winter, from what I've learned from Chris, they can, indeed, arrive in a bit of a ball: due to the sub-zero temperatures, those little guys furiously shimmy and move around one another in a lump to keep warm.

Last night my good (and so old friend--it's been a while, hasn't it?) friend Angie and I went to see a reading of Green Barbarians at Magers + Quinn. Of course, the two of us come from drastically different backgrounds when it comes to a bookish event, so me, with my university internship and what else, was expecting a more "professional reading," until I realized any crowd called on by the green movement will feel a bit antsy, a bit like Wellstone's memorial so many years past, that cheer at a call to action, that demand for more information.

[Side note: I went to that memorial disastrously saddened, and I get all bleary-eyed as soon as I begin a full discussion of Wellstone. I remember the day he passed, the call from Kelly, the call to E, the "who will take care of us now?" question she asked, the calling of my father, the desperation. the aloneness, the shape of my apartment at that time.]

Each bit she read was compelling, and eventually we discovered the impetus (one of which) for the book was that her father was a hypochondriac for his last 47 years, and she was exhausted by the "corporate machine," which, I think, a great deal of us are, so she sought to negate some of those myths.

From where I am, just now: we don't shop at Wal-Mart or Target and haven't for a long, long while. We've enjoyed the works of Pollan, have joined a CSA, all of that. But we also aren't about to ban corn from our household, which is what one audience member proclaimed to do, and I respect that, but I think it's especially important to not replace one brain-washing machine with another.

The idea, in fact, is to be mindful.

And that is what I'm trying to do.

A few notes from my first class of the spring 2010 semester. I'll try to keep up, and I hope any classmates (or anyone else!) who wander on over will feel OK adding their own perspective / disagreements / etc. My filter can be off, quite often!

Also to come: last weekend. I've gone from some strange hermitage to socializing quickly, and on Saturday, I had a few foibles in the cities with Brianna and Meryl, and on Sunday, Ryan and I headed up northwest to have the holidays with Kelly and her sweetest son Christian.

Monday, January 11, 2010


"These then are spiritual exercises: walk don't drive, when you do drive, drive slowly, make room for the one behind you, when you drive don't read, listen: when you read, read poetry."
-- Wright, CD. Cooling Time. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2005. 76.

(There's more being said, together, in conversation. Also: I love this book.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

400: parental visitation

My parents came for a visit this weekend. They hadn't come since my wedding two and a half years ago, so some of our small adjustments--the rearrangement of living room furniture, the economizing of bookshelves--were a surprise. We took them to Norton's, a place I like to call "swanky" for our town, had tapas, and back home, they played their first Wii games and we ended it with the ever-popular Apples to Apples.

They brought their geriatric dog Lanie (full name: Cristalana, after some song my sister liked years ago, and I'm certain I've spelling it wrong; I shortened it to Lanie thereafter). It was her first road trip, her first time out of the city where they live, perhaps one of the few times she has been anywhere aside from the place where she was born, the vet's, and home. She was sweet and grunty and noisy and because her back legs are going out, she walks a lot like those ROUSes--an awkward galumph.

Today we went eagle watching, and my parents saw the most bald eagles at once they've ever seen before. I'd say there were maybe half a dozen, maybe eight, swooping around, inspecting the backwaters of the Mississippi. I've posted a handful more photos from our trip on the natural curiosities blog.

Despite my frozen eyelashes and my husband and my later trip into the basement to work more on insulation, it was a warm, cozy weekend. It's always good to see my parents, and I'm glad old Lanie came along.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

399: so many things are ridiculous

Not legalizing gay marriage is clearly one of them.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

398: creepy basement

This is how I got through last night's insanely creepy journey into the basement: the dogs were there to keep me company (and were braver than I), and I pretended like I was spelunking rather than being beneath the entire house. It became an adventure that way, and I stopped shaking as much, which is really not handy when dealing with superhot work lamps and box cutters. You can see the full picture set here.

I would like to put in eco-friendly insulation, but the only stuff we can find locally is the blow-in sort, and Ryan wants to use the kind that comes in sheets. Online, it's easy to find eco-friendly insulation, such as this, but I get the sense Ryan would prefer not to have to order in but pick up at a store. Anyone in the Twin Cities area have any tips for this?

Some other bits:
- I enjoyed this poem, "All Wet and Shine" in Orion Magazine.
- I just subscribed to Organic Gardening. I think fantasizing about summer vegetable gardens seems par for the course in sub-zero January. I think I might use the garden mapping Angie used this year.
- Michael Pollan has a new book. It seems to be designed for the reader on the run, I believe, which seems so very ironic, given the importance given to slowing down with meals. Of course I ordered it. I'll read it s l o w l y to compensate.
- I'm super-excited to be borrowing L + A's snowshoes sometime soon, just to see if it's something Ryan and I might enjoy doing on a more regular basis.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Winter break can feel so long and strange, especially since I see these breaks between semesters as a time to accomplish, and the bitter Minnesota cold has kept me indoors a bit more than I'd like. Sub-zero temperatures just aren't so very inspiring.

What I've been up to these days:
- Working on my submission for The Milkweed Project. Trying to find the rest of my cream yarn to finish the project. Finding a box of Christmas presents I meant to send out this past holiday in the process. Still no yarn (where on earth did I put it?).
- Getting stuck in the snow at the end of my driveway. Jabbing at the ice around the wheel with a garden shovel, spilling that dog-safe sidewalk salt in the crevices. I feel an odd sense of accomplishment, an awful smell of burnt rubber, the knowledge that I know how to rock the car without having to step outside. I feel very Minnesotan.
- Ryan and I are insulating the basement. That space, that "vortex of hell," as a friend dubbed it, is extraordinarily creepy, which makes sense, given it's a dirt basement in a house built in 1890. Two nights ago, Ryan shop-vac'ed the beams of cobwebs, dead spiders and centipedes, and we hauled out all the rotting wood and broken glass in preparation for the plastic-laying that is to occur this evening. Soon, we will follow with the actual insulation, which Ryan hopes will draw down the heating bill. Ridding ourselves of the wood, the glass, the rusty pipes will be the second worst task. The worst is when I do actually crawl into that space, the one that will likely fill me with nightmares.

What I would like to be up to:
- Generating more poems. One of my friends and I exchange poems twice a week, brand new snippets, but I need to focus more, and I definitely need to read more. Less for escape and more for craft.
- I'd like to tick off one of those goals for the year, perhaps that loaf of braided bread.
- I also want to learn to snowshoe, and I've been poking around websites, finding options both modern and traditional. I'll have to see if there is somewhere nearby with rentals, just to test it all out. I found this resource on cross-country skiing in Minnesota.

This Thursday, Ryan and I are headed to Magers & Quinn to see Alex Lemon, a graduate of my program, read from his memoir Lucky. This weekend, my parents are coming for their first visit since my wedding.

Monday, January 4, 2010

396: first memorial hike of 2010

We took our first hike of 2010 with the dogs on Sunday. The temperatures are below zero, but I managed to fare much better on this than the one we took with our friends (sorry, M + S!), which truly reminds me to be careful of what medication and when.

We spotted plenty of deer tracks and what we guessed were rabbit, we played fetch with mostly Zephyr (isn't that shot of him leaping over Penelope neat?--it's the 4th from the top--), we both wore our new YakTrax and Penny her traction booties (which only moved the constant snow licking to her legs), we listened to eagles calling, we giggled at the snow beard Zephyr was sporting, and we spotted some strange snow formations. I haven't quite discovered how this happened--the snow on the bottom of the bush's branches--but if you have any idea, please hop on over here and pass on your two cents, especially if you are particularly science-minded.