Sunday, September 26, 2010

507: sunshine and head colds

It was a beautiful day today, meant to be spent in the northern climes of the Twin Cities with my best friend and her little boy, but the first nasty head cold of the season has taken both me and my husband down: he with shivers and temperature swings; me with a throbbing head and an achy throat. I have an OB appointment tomorrow morning (complete with gestational diabetes test), so I suppose I can request a throat-peek.

We still had two rambunctious dogs, and we had a taste of what parenting will be like down the road--it does not matter how very sick you might feel. The kids must be appeased.

The sun was shining, the air was fresh and sharp. Three days ago it was raining so hard and so fast they had to close parts of a nearby highway. Today, there were mud puddles, and tall trees taken down, but mostly, one of those ideal autumn days for the dogs to romp, and two adults to zombie-shuffle along behind them.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

506: new recipe: beef & guinness stew

When we were little, my mother used to make us beef stew, and I loved it. I'd been waiting to make a stew like this for me and the husband, but something had always stopped me--his pickiness, my inability to dedicate three hours in the kitchen to dinner. But now, the soup is on the stove, simmering for later, and I have a recipe to share with you, from March Cooking Light:


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 5 cups chopped onion (about 3 onions)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (11.2-ounce) bottle Guinness Draught
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices carrot (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices parsnip (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled turnip (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons butter to pan. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt; dredge beef in flour. Add half of beef to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, and beef.

2. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return meat to pan. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, raisins, caraway seeds, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil. Cook 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot, parsnip, and turnip. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with parsley.

(Ryan said, "Look, I cut you an alligator tail!)

I omitted the parsnip and turnip and replaced those with celery and potatoes from our CSA. We also used onions from our CSA and instead of tomato paste, I only had diced tomatoes, so I replaced that as well. Oh, and we only had vegetable oil, so I used that instead of canola, though I know canola is healthier.

We don't have a Dutch oven, though I suppose we ought to add it to our holiday wish list as we've had to maneuver before; instead, we used our copper pots, which are much-abused and very loved and part of our wedding loot.

I love any time we can be a team in the kitchen. I usually stare at the recipe, blank-eyed, the onion-fumes and the pregnancy drawing pillow-and-down-comforter fantasies as I stir. He usually chops. And chops. And chops. And chop he did: two cups of carrots, a cup and a half or so of celery, the remaining russet potatoes, and five cups of onions. And I got to go to the liquor store--the first time since I got pregnant, I think. All those rows of cider and beer... Sigh.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I wanted to share some music I have fallen in love with. I love the bluegrass / Irish feel to it--a perfect combination for me. On repeat.

PS: Oh, and yes, I know they are from London. I still love that pub / folk music.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The first trimester was rough, like having a hangover without the rowdy night before. The second trimester was comparatively smooth, with regular morning-sickness bouts, but minus the nausea. (Ryan's convinced my mythic second-trimester ease lasted a week.) Now I am heading into the third trimester, and already my body is shifting into an uncomfortable mode, new stomach upsets, deeper imbalances in sleep (I will be introducing the neti pot into my evening routine), moods swinging in ways they haven't swung in years. I'm trying to keep the internal peace through breathing, meditation, fresh air, making. There are layers of tethers just now, and I'm simply attempting to unfurl (and keep the casualties to a minimum).

:: Loving prenatal yoga. I'm going twice next week. My body is sore from last night, but in such a good way. I think I moved better this time--more smoothly, and accommodated when I knew my body couldn't manage. The only position I absolutely was paralyzed on was the bridge, and that's because there is some spot on my very-lower back that leaves me immobile on my back, one of the worst pains radiating as I slowly try to roll over. I will be gentle with myself until I can manage such contortions.
:: Milk remains my strongest pregnancy craving. Strawberry shakes too.
:: Knitting more than reading. I'm still so painfully slowly making my way through Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and Gretel Ehrilich's This Cold Heaven. I'm savoring, truly.
:: Thrilled, thrilled that Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting has been re-released. I've been lusting after it since 2004, but because it was out-of-print, any copies to own were in the hundreds of dollars. Many others must have been lusting too. Some day I will be accomplished enough to work those cables.
:: Just watched Under the Same Moon. Those last few minutes are so good--the ideal ending, hitting the right emotional note.
:: Looking forward to the weekend. I love my teaching assignment, but I find myself suddenly ready to be finished with this MFA of mine. Part of it, I know, is that my journeys are so strongly overlapping, and my brain is partly wrapped up in the trajectory of impending parenthood. So much of my body is limping along too, which feeds that desire to remain away from weighty stress.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

503: away in green bay

We went to visit our parents in Wisconsin this past weekend; we brought a canvas bag heavy with produce, both from our garden and from the CSA, leaving a hefty zucchini Ryan found hiding beneath the plant's enormous leaves with his parents to make bread, and a myriad of veggies, perfect for a soup or peasant stew, with my parents.

Have I mentioned how much I love autumn and its soups? I had a wild mushroom and brie chowder at Z Harvest, a restaurant very special to Ryan and myself as it is where we went on our first date, and where we went last May when we told both sets of parents that they would become grandparents (for my parents, the first grandchild, for his, their fourth).

We went to two concerts also: my father's group, Rough Draft (he is in two--the other group is an Irish folk band called Celtic Consort), had a show at The Attic, a used books / coffee shop downtown. They sang some of his original songs, and he took a moment to sing one solo, a song about Alzheimer's, and he told a story about my grandfather I hadn't heard before, leaving my mother and I both with tears snaking down our cheeks.

The second concert was close to Ryan's parents' house, a bar owned by a friend in the midst of cornfields, and we listened to a friends' band, the Carpetbaggers, a kind of bluegrass / Johnny Cash-cover playing hybrid. Danno is the bass player, and his history includes losing a foot to a cluster bomb in Baghdad, and a successful stint in rehab years later. It was so wonderful to see him doing so well, shouting out to me from his perch, "Molly, you're going to love this song so much, you'll go into labor!" and after, "So, am I an uncle yet?" in that crazed-Danno style. We also know the drummer, Dox, who played the washboard with gusto and whose girlfriend is expecting at the end of January; we know Angie, who sang with the boys on some songs and has a gorgeous voice and two gorgeous daughters of her own; and we know Scooter, papa-of-two, I believe, who played the mandolin and sang the bluegrass songs with his own special kind of guttural slur that actually worked.

(And in case you are wondering where the audience is, they're most behind, closer to the bar, but we were also there earlier, because we have a sad string of energy, one that runs out early, perhaps in preparation for parenthood.)

And to keep myself from mourning my alcohol-free status, I sipped the weak orange juice without the vodka, and continued working on my second kicking bag. Once this is done, I'd like to try my hand at the picky pants. I have a little under four months and then she is here, and I feel quite uncertain as to how my spare minutes will play out: work on the thesis manuscript, reading for pleasure or for class, knitting and sewing, laundry and laundry and dishes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


One knows the school year has begun when I have a series of grievances, and this year, my last, seems to have piled on a few more than this hormonal pregnant-lady wants to handle.

Instead of dwelling on these little frustrations, I am going to close my eyes and think of absolutely good, good things:

:: Last night was my first session of prenatal yoga. Until now, I'd done very, very sweet and s-l-o-w yoga practice, and while this wasn't hot yoga, of the speed-up-and-fall-over sort, it did move, and I did sweat and at one point, saw little blotches dance in front of my eyes, so I slunk off to the bathroom, cold-washclothed myself, and returned to the dance. In savasana, my own minnow began her own practice, and I imagined, in our peace, our muscles singing, that most of the room felt their own minnows flickering in the dim light. Imagine, a dozen and a half pregnant women, all with tumbling babies, some overdue, some not due for months, all half-moons against the floor.

:: After yoga, homemade soup. Emily's house, sweet pups, help untangling a knotted skein of yarn, and soup. Because soup is one of the best things about autumn and winter and that rainy chill that has begun to settle over our region.

:: After soup, knitting. You see this beautiful progression? I began a second kicking bag. I ordered this beautiful yarn from etsy, in the colorway "oy the koi," which already has whimsy attached to it. I'm loving how subtle the colors are turning out as they knit up. I'm an earth-tones kind of girl, so to venture into such a bright blue, which shows on the etsy listing but not in my photograph above, is a happy risk.

:: I do love autumn. Penelope loves it so much she wants to eat it, apparently. I love the way the trees change, I love to bring out heavy wool sweaters, I love making soup, I love filling the house with the smell of baked bread, I love the sound of crisping leaves in the wind, I love the start of the school year (despite recent misgivings, I love the essence of school).

:: And the pups are sweet-as-ever. Thursdays are our special day together; I am done earlier than most days, and right now, the afternoons belong to us. Once the strong weather begins, perhaps our marches, and my belly, will be kept closer to home.

:: The minnow is doing beautifully. Feeling her move is my favorite part of each day.

:: And my husband. My husband, my husband, makes me feel so lucky all of the time. He's so kind and considerate and never perfect, but always good. He watches out for me so well, making sure we're well-stocked with apples and milk, making sure to listen when I need to vent, reading the Bradley birth books I've been stacking in his lap, holding me close, tolerating my increasing snores, celebrating the good things, the better things. Taking care, letting me take care in return. A good partner can make just about anything tolerable, I think. And to always be filled with this love, this thing that grows every day, after eleven years. No one really talks about that as much--the way a love can grow older, the way it can work.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There is a 500th post, and it was up for a short while, but I had to temporarily take it down: the news on it, which is good news, incredibly happy news, has to be kept hush-hush until the formal announcement occurs. The contract is in the mail sort of thing. But if I keep quiet until I can re-post my humble 500, this blog will have to wait until October. And beautiful things are happening.

For instance, this past Friday I went to a reading at The Soap Factory, an art gallery in the midst of old flour mills, of the poets Steve Healey and Gillian Conoley. Beforehand, I was able to go to dinner with two of my favorite people, Colleen and Meryl, and I had forgotten how delightfully good it can be to be in the company of women who understand you, not just because they too write and love poems, but because they've been with you through two years of strange changes, and will continue to watch and support through many more. I feel so much less lonely when I am with them. The next morning, Colleen hosted us in a round of Alchemy: poetry and yoga. One cannot imagine what a perfect combination this could be, and as I moved slowly about my mat, adjusting my pregnancy girth for child's pose, learning to accept my hips as different entities than they were six months ago, I began to feel more connected with the life inside of me, imagining the way she moved as I moved and how peaceful that must be.

Tonight, my dear friend Emily and I will be attending our first Blooma Yoga session. It is yoga designed exclusively for the prenatal woman or they also host sessions of Mommy + Me type yoga.

My body has gone through so many amazing things in the past five months or so. From the multiple-daily trips to the bathroom to the restless legs to the strange numbness in my left hand, there have been low points, and I've learned to maneuver myself back up out of so many places, with my stomach a strange collaborator with gravity. I am learning to live with myself more whale-like, and I am in awe over what I hear this body will do come January. Prenatal yoga should help me get closer to grace when moving through those motions. And as evidenced in the recent past, I certainly can use all the help I can get when it comes to getting by without so many bruises. Sometimes walking, for me, is a contact sport.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


What lovely news for a 500th post: this morning I received a phone call, letting me know my chapbook manuscript, The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake, won the Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press Poetry Award (which comes with a cash prize!). My brain is, of course, abuzz, with this news, with my lack of sleep, with my first day of teaching, with five months of incubating the baby, with the I'm getting a chapbook published celebration in my head. This afternoon, I turn in a first draft of my full-length manuscript. I feel as if I'm on a trajectory I only imagined when I was younger, as if I'm doing all those things to make myself A Poet, and I've stepped out of myself, a little trembly and enthralled.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Last night was the program launch, where all the poets and non-fictioners and fictioners and professors get together, have a few drinks laced with vodka, leave ice rings on the tablecloth, eat celery and meatballs on sticks and talk about the year to come.

For us, of course, there was a little tremor of excitement in that this is it. Our final hurrah. Tomorrow afternoon, strange dreams notwithstanding, I will turn in the very first draft of my manuscript, and in April, I will turn in a draft I'd hope wouldn't be far from publishable.

The chapbook continues to receive good news, as if this early-September everyone's cogs are shifting. This time, an editor emailed me and asked if I'd be willing to tweak some poems in order to help it become a better contender for the prize. Indeed--I think any poet would be willing to consider those changes. The nature of the poet's relationship to his or her own work is strange--we can be defensive about specific word choice, we can be such stumbly puppy-types who would sacrifice our lambs entirely in the face of publication. One must tread carefully; one must also feel grateful that any editor would be willing to take the time to dust off a manuscript, to help it become a stronger book.

Tomorrow is the first day of classes; today I spent some time leaning over the warm photocopier, watching my syllabus slip through the machine, staple, staple, staple, staple... the poetry packet for the next class, little binder clips, straight and organized in my expanding folder. My thesis isn't quite so well lined up, but I have a four-hour gap between teaching and studenting, and though I have errands, I know how the time will fill. Collations and binder clips.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

498: random bits

:: My recurring nightmare this week: I am a ways from campus, usually somewhere on the commute, and I'm already late to thesis seminar; I have not printed out copies of my thesis for the first day. I look at my watch again and again, frustrated and helpless.

:: I've been having a Robert Bly marathon, preparing for a packet, beginning my project of introducing a new local poet to my students each Thursday. I finished my syllabus too, and because I am the sort who likes to plan out the scheduled readings, it took a little while. I'm using two books-on-poetry: The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes and Not Feathers Yet: A Beginner's Guide to the Poetic Life by Lola Haskins, which meant I had to synthesize the topics. And make sure we had enough workshop time. And in-class writing time. And time to read full-length books. And student presentations. I don't, by any means, miss teaching high school, but sometimes, when I look at that five-day-a-week contact with students, I feel envious, that luxury of time. There's so much I had to let go of in the want of balance.

:: Minnow moves so much now. Little tail flips and flickers. I cannot wait to nuzzle her.

:: We are a healing household just now. Penelope's front paw limp is fading, though it's mostly because we've had to keep her home when Zephyr romps the bluffs. Ryan will bring her upstairs to nap in bed with me as compensation. Zeph continues to be oblivious to the hole in his throat; Ryan has peered into the maw and claims no-hole. I hide his plastic-coated pills in gobs of peanut butter, and I have not yet lost a finger. My left hand tingles less, but I am reading thinner books. My burn has a bandage on it now, slathered in aloe, so I cannot know the color, if it is still ripe or not. Ryan is robust, though he is about to mow the lawn, and after I spent some time out there in the garden, I warned him of torrential mosquitoes. We shall see if he gets one in the part in his hair as I did--top and front and itchy--and three on the elbow. I am delicious and stumbly.

:: I dropped my poetry workshop in want of sanity for the fall semester. I didn't need it to fill any slot on my "tan form," though I wanted to work with Joanna Rawson before thesis credits in the spring. Instead, I have prenatal classes at the hospital and prenatal yoga classes with Emily. Now I'm only a grad student and a half; I still have an overload of credits. Manageable. Needed. Spring is going to be easier, save the whole baby-thing.

:: I'm so excited for this book to come out. (Congrats, Stephanie!!)

:: My chapbook received an honorable mention at Accents Publishing. Another editor emailed me telling me the chapbook was close. That's two runner-up type nods and two notes saying it was close. My quiet wishes in my head involve it finding an acceptance by the end of 2010. That sand in the hourglass is fast running out.

:: I'm amazed at how quickly the calendar is filling up. I'm most looking forward to Colleen's alchemy: poetry + yoga event. Also the Healey and Conoley reading, but still, mostly Colleen's event. Last autumn, we went to see Kate Greenstreet and Norma Cole read at Micawber's and it was amazing. It helped that I had fabulous company, and autumn was in the air with the best sort of energy and potential.

:: Autumn is most often my favorite season, mainly because I love going back to school so much, and the summer has done its job recharging me. I love wool sweaters and fall leaves and chowder soups and baked bread. It's all rooted in seasons for me; I think this is a turn the manuscript might take in revision, finding its way into a stronger sense of the full year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

497: klutz

They say, with pregnancy, your sense of gravity, your center of balance, is now officially off, particularly as that fifth month settles over you.

I would argue, however, that I was hopeless from the start. Case in point: I "broke" my elbow when jogging on gravel with the dogs, just two months shy of my wedding.

When Meryl and I were at Bread Loaf, some insect bit me, and the itching and whatnot swelled the ankle up so much that when my husband emailed the photograph to my mother and his, they thought I had broken it.

Upon returning from my Vermont adventure, I jokingly asked Ryan how many times he thought I'd "bump" baby's head into doorways; I have a habit of shoulder-checking them as I walk through and hip-checking any countertop or dining room table. I used to come home from work at the bookstore with little bruises, and it took me a while to place them--oh, those tricky sharp-edged display tables at the end of the bookshelves.

I sprained my ankle off a two-stone ledge while moving into the house we had just bought. I sprained my ankle again a few years later while walking the dogs. On a sidewalk. On a clear autumn day.

The top photograph: I don't know if it was too much knitting or too much book-lofting (my left hand being my "reading hand," after all--my right being the one for page-turning) in the past week or two, but suddenly the fingers on my left hand tingle whenever I do anything that involves pressure on that hand, and when I wake, it feels as if I've beaten my lovely new pregnancy body pillow to tufts of fluff.

The bottom photograph: One of my favorite kitchen appliances, the waffle iron. We were having breakfast for dinner, and when I reached back to pull the plug, I caught my arm. I'm mildly amused at the dividing line. And I also must note: this burn is not, by any means, new. I've had it for nearly a week now, and it's still an angry brick-red. Ryan says I've been branded.

When I was in elementary school, my friend's mother asked if I was a dancer because my calves were so muscular. No, my mother told her, it's because she walks on her toes (like a weirdo), just like her father. My legs are useless, just pretend-strong. My legs are cloaked in pants, long skirts; I will never wear a cute sundress, unless I also wear high high heels. And we all know what kind of a danger that could be. No, I've never been a dancer, cannot dance at all, even though there was a period in high school when I loved to go to the gay bar on "juice night" and wiggle with my girl friends (and girlfriend), all of whom actually had a sense of rhythm, and I had no sense to be embarrassed. I'm sure I danced enough on my wedding night too; I still have no sense of shame.

I don't mind my lack of grace; I make up for it in other areas of passion. I'm amused more than anything else, so much so that I take photographs of my blunders, and with a total of six bits of evidence thus far (think of how much I missed by simple neglect), I've even created a photoset on Flickr, for your amusement. This also includes the photo where I decided that canoeing in quicksand was a wise plan. (This, said with an edge of sarcasm: I actually got out of the boat to pull us from a shallow spot and hadn't realized how loose that silty sand was, which began to suck me under; fortunately, we were very close to shore, so I literally swam through the lake's bottom--in a lightning storm, no less--and clamored back into the canoe.)