Monday, August 30, 2010

496: blueberry recipe: coffee cake

Of course my own mother makes it better. But for my first time, it didn't turn out terribly.

I remember pulling off pieces of the crust when I was little, removing little wedges of cinnamon and sugar; fortunately, the cake beneath is delicious too.

This is my mother's blueberry dessert recipe. I love that we used blueberries from picking together, something I hope will become our own family's tradition, and I love that we are using her recipe, an infusion of generations. She's going to be a grandmother soon, and right now, her gift of ingredients is keeping my babe content.

Blueberry Dessert (Yum!)
Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes
Topping - crumble on top of batter after the batter has been put in pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
Batter (put in bowl in this order and mix after each addition--I use a mixer except for the berries which I fold in with a wooden spoon)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup softened margarine
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I usually leave this out since I don't think it matters and we get enough salt in our food normally)
2 cups washed blueberries
Combine in order given. Put topping on top of batter (I usually do it with my clean hands in order to disperse it evenly). Bake in square greased and floured pan at 375 for 45-50 minutes.

We still have a large mixing bowl full of blueberries to finish off. I have my eye on a few more recipes, including a cream shake (minus the whipped cream; I am not in love with the stuff, which, along with not liking Jello, makes me feel a bit un-American, or at least un-Midwestern; neither do I love marshmallows, though I do very much so love them in hot chocolate) and muffins. I do love muffins and cake-breads, such as banana and zucchini, both of which I'll need to make soon.

The pan, of course, is no longer full; I've already had two slices and I only made it last night. Ryan tasted it and declared it delicious for a fruit dessert, though I suspect it will be up to me to finish off the rest. Which is fine by me.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

495: rush river blueberry picking

Last night, my darling husband spent two hours with me in baby-chaos, registering for all kinds of baby-shaped items, our eyes sleepy, a box o' crib bungeed into my trunk. He lugged that one hundred pound box out of the trunk and up the stairs, giving Kelly's ant comparison credence.

And this morning, Ryan woke me with this adorably wise plan to pick blueberries. Inside the car, I discovered he had filled up my tank with gas. Halfway to Maiden Rock, he said to me, "You're not terribly observant, are you?" Oh woe is the poet who cannot see the world so clearly. It turns out he took my car in and replaced all the tires--and there, none of the previous vibrations or shaking or car misalignment.

And now, I am winter-safe, full of blueberries. We brought three and a half pounds home, and I have plans for a crumble, muffins, freezing some to go with the raspberries that will become smoothies in winter. In Minnesota, it's all about winter-preparation. This one is going to be magical.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

494: this is what it means to be home again

Hay Creek at dusk is difficult to photograph, especially if your subjects are whirling dervishes of adorable energy.

On the morning of our ultrasound, Ryan took the dogs up Memorial Bluff, where he played his standard fetch, using a stick he'd found along the trail. Zephyr, who is a champion stick-fetcher, apparently was simply trotting back to him when he somehow got the stick lodged in the back of his throat--not the roof of his mouth, mind you, but the very back, sensitive and tender. Zeph fought to get it out, but couldn't on his own, and Ryan confessed he even had a little trouble dislodging the troublesome stick from our dog's maw. There was blood, of course, but Zephyr didn't seem fazed; they continued their walk, and we continued our day, cooing over our injured friend. That night, the dogs slept with us, because my mother was sleeping on the futon, and we didn't want her disturbed by our overly-friendly pups, and at four in the morning, we awoke to this strange chuffing and snorting. I turned on my bedside light and Z was pacing the room, trying to dislodge the injury; we decided to call the vet. There was a furious red spot in the back and in the center, something gray or brown, and the only way I could get the kind doctor to see it was by shoving my fist halfway down his throat, holding it open myself; I'm fortunate that our vet allows owner-participation, as I don't think any of them were tempted to dangle their head in front of the lion. She suspected the spot was still stick, and while I rubbed my hands vigorously on a towel (oh, how I loathe saliva and how I need to get over it with a drool-machine on the way) while she went to get a sedative--Zephyr was cathertized in his leg and put into a stupor-sleep, his fat tongue lolling onto my jeans, drool pooling in my socks. Apparently he needed his mama at his head, me constantly telling him what a good boy he was for not snarling or fighting back. There was nothing there, fortunately, and we were loaded down with antibiotics. He's perfectly fine, save the struggle it is to give him plastic-coated pills (we use peanut butter); his energy hasn't waned a bit.

I feel fully home again, what with Zephyr getting into things, leaving me an empty box of Triscuits to vacuum up before my mother arrived, selecting random double pointed needles made of bamboo as chew toys. He's our boy, through and through, that ridiculous happy grin and waggy tail, that propensity to fill us with frustration and love simultaneously.

Meanwhile, I am reading books that are too easy to put down, catching up on Netflix (currently: Discovery Channel's Human Body: Pushing the Limits) and thumbing through a baby name book. (I'm sure the process of settling on a name will take some time, but I promise we aren't keeping it a secret until The Day.) I am feeling baby flicker inside of me, loving every moment, precious, thinking about what I want to do with these last four months before freedom is revoked and my world takes on a new tilt.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

493: grrrrrl

And there it is: our daughter. Daughter. What a strange thing to be writing, to say to one another, when we had especially anticipated a boy--from the conviction of friends' "vibes," to the dreams both myself and my mother had, to the timing of the conception, to the way I kept calling her a "he." And I'm relieved to report that, though shocked, and asking the doctor, "Are you sure?," I really, profoundly discovered I would have been happy either way. There were moments when I thought of the adorability of Jack and Jimmy, how another Kiefer boy could charm just as easily, and there were moments, such as the Vida panel at Bread Loaf, when I felt all fierce and feminist and wanting a girl. But ultimately, either sort, or anything in between, would have been welcome and beloved.

After telling Kelly, I'm slowly waiting for the ringing to die down from my ear, my own mother's hand clamped over her mouth at the news, which she received at the same moment as Ryan and myself. There it was--a mover, a manipulator. I wanted the wand to still so I could simply stare in wonder as her fists moved in and out of the cave, as she touched her face, as she bicycled her legs. In the follow-up appointment with the OB doctor, he also noticed the frolicking, the kick into the device that listens for a heartbeat, the having to chase it about to keep it steady. Oh, and how that heartbeat looked like the mouth on a puffer fish on the screen, already mocking me, telling me I was wrong to not let her stay out past curfew and that I just don't understand anything at all.

I'm completely, head-over-heels in love already. I was before I saw her face, but this makes it even more miraculous, that monkey-love, her limbs climbing about, her nose and lips jutting. I keep calling her my minnow; I think this might be baby's first nickname.

My mother and I have been busy making: she made me a second pair of maternity pants in tan corduroy, she also worked on the first version of cloth diapers, I have been knitting the kicking bag, and I finally tamed the bobbin and started making soft stacking blocks out of leftover quilt fabric. It's our sweat shop; Ryan asked me if Santa had arrived in August. I feel that push even more, the desire to make things with my hands, when it's specifically for her. Love, love, love. So much of it, right here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

492: last bread loafian day

Meryl was kind enough to take a photograph of me reading my poem in the Little Theatre during a Blue Parlor one-minute-marathon event. We bullied each other into doing it, and now we can say we read in that famous theatre. While you are at it, see this post on her blog and drool over that last photograph.

This year has been more difficult than last in so many ways:

The obvious is that bump that is ever-protruding. I watched the curve of the desk get closer and closer with each workshop day. The greatest delight (and I hate that this word is so banal, but it's exactly what my heart is saying, exactly with that "light" at the end, the lit-smile radiance) is when I feel the tipsy babe roll in my stomach, a little fish below the surface, skittering around. It's a beautiful sensation, and more than makes up for my trips to the bathroom, my little winces over toilet bowl. And despite the long, dark hallways at night, I'm still grateful for the plumbing in the middle of sleep, when I wake to my shrinking bladder's wails.

I'm also approaching the last year of the MFA program, which means I've got a book manuscript to worry over. In one frenzied morning, I collected all of my wandering poems that are thematically linked to the thesis, and another was spent tinkering on the organization. I had a conference with a famous-writer, and for the first time, I experienced the tinges of one aesthetic dominating my own. I'm used to instructors who will help guide me toward my own vision, but some of the suggestions completely unmoored me, in some ways a good thing (while I might not take it word-for-word, I do realize I need to use some of the suggestion injection), in other ways it threw me, and Meryl had to remind me to stand firm, that my vision was my own and that it had merit in the world. It's been hard--I've felt in turns deflated and elated while here, and last year, it was so much more even-keel. I'm not sure if I should attribute that to the rollicking pregnancy hormones or the urgency of a full-length book as opposed to individual poems that could come or go.

What's really shook me this time around is the invasive feeling of homesickness. I hadn't felt this on any other writing retreat; this is the first time I've felt achy inside. I miss my sweet pups whose noggins knock me about, I miss my chubby cats who wedge themselves into me when I read in bed, I miss my own bed and the shape and color of my house (so much yellow and green shutters here) and the kitchen and abundant milk, I miss my husband, I miss my husband, I miss him. I miss how he is such a firm comfort: I can wedge myself into his arms when I am upset, I can have him talk me down from crazy ledges, I can cry openly and plainly. It isn't quite the same, especially when you've had this comfort for eleven years.

This is all so very whiny and complaining and I hate that, especially since this experience has been such a gift. I love these mountains, I love these old buildings with their dysfunctional doorknobs, I love the daily conversations about poetry, I love being able to ruminate with one of my best friends, I love falling asleep and being able to turn the lamp off when I want to, I love the freedom to not worry over dishes and what to prepare for the next meal, I love the bookstore beneath our room, I love the books and books I've been reading. I love that each time I come here, it transforms me, pushes me into a new phase of being "a writer" that would have taken so long before, love that I have gotten so much work done and have been given so many things to consider, love that there is some measure of hope that the thesis will become a manuscript will one day become a book.

I'm just ready to come home, to carry this experience with me, to love and love and love.

Oh, and all week, I didn't do any knitting on my little kicking bag (oh, the baby just moved again, just as I was writing this!), but today I picked up the needles again, knowing I was returning home, a little rise in domesticity.

And one more thing: I do love that I didn't have to leave my child behind and miss it fiercely. I could carry it with me this go-around, bring the little secret self onto the journey. Next year, I won't be able to fly across the country; I know I wouldn't be ready to leave that expanded family for ten days. It's truly been a good "last hurrah," especially having the company of someone you love (and in this case, yes, baby could count, but I mean dear Meryl).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

491: hello from bread loaf, happy 3 year anniversary

Meryl and I arrived safe and sound in Vermont; last year, I was trapped at the Newark airport, changing gates, finding out how many rotations of planes they couldn't give us (mechanical, mechanical, mechanical). Of course, it sounds as if Meryl might have gotten the bad luck--her husband's car decided its engine would no longer work, so she lost her four a.m. ride to the airport, the trains were slow, and she just might have been the last person boarding the plane, which certainly kept my knuckles quite white.

Instead of going straight to the conference, we spent the day and evening in rural Vermont, on a large swath of land, mostly wooded, complete with wild blackberries and toads, where Meryl's old college friend lives. Her aunt owns the property and lives in a house with her five adopted boys, and Heather lives with her girlfriend Lori in a camper at the back of the lot. Camper is, of course, being a bit liberal: the inside was plywood floored, the bedding was a camping mat and sleeping bag, the lighting was candles, and the toilet was the woods. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure for me, and I think I could have managed mildly better if I weren't pregnant, but everyone was so extraordinarily kind and generous that the surprise roughness of the accommodations didn't fully phase me. We had plenty of excellent vegan fare, a campfire, a rainstorm, and plenty of storytelling.

Here at Bread Loaf, I will be slowly updating this blog on the trouble that Meryl and I get ourselves into, though one qualm is that I have lost my dear camera battery charger somewhere in my summer travels, so I am not certain if I will upload pictures as I go. The toad above was actually found in our backyard before I left, as opposed to the wilds of Vermont, but I will let it substitute charm you in the meanwhile.

I am tired but content. From what I remember of last year, these ten days feel both an eternity and the briefest flash of time. It's a good way to end the summer, even if the baby sometimes decides it's a good time to wallop me with a sad stomach. I've been warning the other women on the floor that if they hear someone getting sick, it isn't a drunk at ten a.m. or a bulimic, but instead a four-and-a-half pregnant person who can't seem to get into the swing of things. (And for the record, my only moment was still at the camper, just after the sun rose, and with the sweating and trembling and urgency, it felt more like the flu than morning sickness, so I'm not sure if was something I consumed in the past twenty-four hours or the heat, but I'm grateful I have managed to gracefully survive campus without any upsets.)

I already miss home, but I think that's the wonkiness of the hormones; once the conference begins to swing, I will be too distracted to think of how much I want to fall asleep next to Ryan or tell him in person about my day and how today we are missing being with one another on our three-year-wedding anniversary (Bread Loaf, by the way, is having its 85th anniversary, so they are winning), will vaguely think it would be better with Penelope by my side or Zephyr to entertain me, will only ache a little for the cats to curl up in my armpit as I read volume after volume of poetry in bed. This year, too, I have one of my dearest friends with me, which is the biggest gift, since this is my last hurrah for some time. Baby will keep me planted, which is fine. I have a book to write.


Monday, August 9, 2010

490: two birthdays, a dinner on the farm

Last night we joined the Urtels and Chris for a dinner on the farm (a summertime organized picnic where chefs and sustainable farms are paired together for an evening of education and good food) at Thousand Hills Cattle Company, located in Cannon Falls, where the cows are not only grass-fed, but sustainably-so. The cows only graze one or two days in an area of the pasture, and then that grass is allowed to recover, and with the natural cow-fertilizer, there is no need for additional harmful fertilizers to be added to the mix. Todd Churchill, pictured above, is especially interested in raising cows that produce gourmet-quality beef, and though I am taking a break from vegetarianism during my pregnancy, I do want to be more mindful of the meat I consume while I'm journeying into the world of rich proteins. Aside from the sweat bee and ant stings I acquired, and that sweltering walk up a hill (oh, out of shapeness!), it was a gorgeous evening--I felt pretty cozy and content.

For Lane's birthday, we headed into the farms of Wisconsin to Dave's BrewFarm, which is wind powered. The boys got tipsy after their eight-drink sampler, and yes, I did take one sip of each, and I do have a favorite, and I tell you, this baby needs training early for alcohol tolerance anyway, so no worries.

For Angie's birthday, of which I have no photographs (earlier in the pregnancy--was feeling pretty ripely nauseous and had to focus on being present), we went to Nosh in Lake City, a fancy seasonal restaurant, where I tried squash blossoms for the first time and had the best potato soup ever. After, we went to Falconer Vineyards, which has recently added a back deck and has applied for a permit to sell wood-fired pizza, for a Justin Roth concert.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

489: michigan in july

We went to Michigan for the 4th of July; the 5th of July was my grandmother's 89th birthday. I love going to this lake: I meditated at the edge, wrote some poems, canoed at dusk, cooked dinners with my husband, many with vegetables straight from my garden and hers.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

488: up memorial bluff

One of the million reasons I have such a big continual crush on my husband:

We tried to take a photograph of the dogs together in the grass.

They just wanted to play. Or eat the grass.

These photos were taken a little over a month ago, when I was wallowing in nausea and completely drained of energy. Ryan convinced me to head up to the bluff with him, just a wee walk, to get some fresh air, which felt so good, even if I came home to drain. I love this guy so much.