Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thinking about Haiku

I find that when I am trying to understand something, if I write what I’m learning and digesting, it sinks into my system better. I enjoy watching the seasons come and go, yet the other day when I passed the park near one of my favorite crepe myrtle trees—it really became apparent to me how many seasons had passed in my lifetime that I had not captured in a way that I would remember. I feel that only within the past few years have I really jotted down impressions on the page that will be there to remind me of the passing seasons and the elements unique to each.

The first time that I distinctly recall being introduced to haiku was in a college English course. The instructor had a fun air about him and you could tell he loved not only teaching but also people—he cared about us. He was trying to be funny and put the class at ease and began reciting a haiku by Basho. I honestly do not remember the haiku he chose. What seemed to stay in memory was the excitement the teacher had for the very short form and all that it contained. He read it again and again. Did we see, did we get it?, he seemed to be saying with his body language, book propped up in hand.

Haiku seems to me like sipping a sweet, strong port—over time and many small sips, the moment penetrates your being: One moment contained inside a seemingly small container—and often that one moment is the whole world reflected back.

I recently started reading a short book for children and adults alike called Haiku: Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids (2003) by Patricia Donegan. Kigo makes more sense to me now. I first came across the word kigo on one of Keiko Amano’s blogs where she was discussing haiku. Ever since then, I have been more aware of the word when I read about and think about haiku. Each part of the world will have its own season words sometimes only making sense to those who live there. It made me start to think of all the critters around here and when they seem most apparent—which time of year, what part of the day—and all the other characteristics of a season.

I love the “checklist” in the book on page 8 (there is a descriptive sentence after each word in the book):

The Seven Keys to Writing Haiku

1. Form
2. Image
3. Kigo (Season word)
4. Here and Now
5. Feeling
6. Surprise
7. Compassion

For many who may read this, you might be thinking yes, we know this already. But for me, having a little more background and having it put forth in such a simple manner, makes me feel like I’ve just discovered something for the first time—as though it’s absolutely new to me.

I like baby steps; I never mind going back to square one again and again.

I respect and acknowledge the traditional form as part of the Japanese culture. I will never be able to fully understand haiku from the Japanese perspective. I will not be able to write it in beautiful Japanese characters, but I’m appreciative that there are ways for English writers to appreciate the form and its beauty—ways to work with haiku in English.

What resonates with me most is my love of nature; how I feel so much; and how I love trying to transfer images and impressions and reducing them to their most true form.

So the other day when I was observing the rose branches that are in the same park and how they were still bare but beginning to show signs of tight buds readying to bloom, I thought about haiku, about kigo—about how the seasons and months seem to go so fast and that the only way to slow them down is to capture them in images and words, especially haiku—because it seems the fewer intentional words, the more the moment is able to be recalled.

I want to remember the seasons, more so now than ever, partially because from one year to the next, they never seem the same. I want to be able to look back.

teardrop falls from the moon
living moment

(haiku written February 23, 2012 without a season).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Citrus Yellow Cake

Last night I wanted to bake a cake. My grandmother used to always have a simple cake on hand that I grew to call grandma bread. I have a thin notebook that I saved where I wrote a few of her recipes down and grandma bread is there. My handwriting confirms I was a young girl—neat and girlish in pink pen. I don’t use her recipe because I don’t trust myself to “add milk until right consistency.” And my Mexican rice never comes out the way hers did. There is something about grandma’s cooking that cannot be matched.

I realize now that for grandma bread I can follow a basic yellow cake recipe. It uses butter instead of lard. I think she melted the lard and the yellow cake recipe has you cream the butter and sugar together. I wonder to myself if I should melt the butter and do it that way. No, I better not. She never used recipes; I need recipes as a guide, they provide a structure and basis to work with and learn, later becoming part of my overall cooking knowledge base. As I’m beginning to cook—and bake again, I’m finding a lack of confidence in my baking abilities. I want to build up a knowing and an understanding of the ratios to later experiment. I realize that with baking, there is a precision and accuracy that needs to be followed, which is why I finally broke down and bought a liquid measuring cup and measuring spoons, which I bought just last night, along with an inexpensive hand-held mixer. I had all of these kitchen items before I moved. I practically donated the whole kitchen, so now I’m gradually inviting these kitchen necessities and doo-dads back into our new kitchen.

Last night, after dinner, I had the urge for something close to grandma bread. I flipped to the yellow cake recipe in Better Homes and Gardens. I had everything I needed except baking powder. What the heck? I went out in the pouring rain, jogged to the car to avoid getting too wet. First I went to CVS to get a mixer and measuring spoons. There was only one to choose from. Next stop: the grocery store for baking powder. In the baking isle I saw baking pans and although I have a square one at home, I bought a round one for the cake. I picked up extra butter in case I decide to make another cake soon. Oh, yes, and I needed an orange to zest because I liked the idea of citrus yellow cake as one of the variations listed in the cookbook.

Back in the kitchen, I preheated the oven and set out to bake a cake. I had to make do with a small metal mixing bowl that I use to toss salads. Thank goodness I had a larger plastic bowl that I had gotten at the .99 cents store that is more for serving than mixing. This would hold the dry ingredients and later become the second mixing bowl once the ingredients were mostly mixed and no longer fit in the metal mixing bowl. Images of real mixers sprung to my mind and how, although the cake mix was coming together, it was a challenge to keep the flour from flying out of the bowl. I had to mix slow and careful.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my oven may not bake accurately. I also do not know for sure, and I feel like such an amateur, but the recipe instructions said to use two 8x1 ½ or 9x1 ½ round baking pans or one 13x9x2 inch baking pan. I was prepared to use the square pan that I had if I had to. I would have two different shaped cakes, but the batter all fit into one round pan. Into the oven one round pan went.

Well, the cake took a lot longer to bake and became quite brown around the edges. I had to put foil over the cake to be sure it didn’t brown too much because toward the end I bumped the oven up from 375 to 400 degrees. It finally baked all the way, a knife coming out clean. Forgot toothpicks. The good news is the cake wasn’t dry. It seemed slightly dense, but not too much. It reminded me a bit of a pound cake, which I like a lot. Next time I bake a yellow cake, I will use two pans.

Baking is definitely a very humbling experience and not one to be taken lightly when working from scratch. I feel as though when I was a young girl—I baked better, with more confidence. Maybe it was because most of my baking was done at grandma’s house.

Springtime Rains

Springtime rains
glazed roads wet with small
birds tweeting their flutes into
the breeze catching the notes,
gray sky listens, folded into shades
of varying contrasts and dimensions.

Sweet, wet springtime, we hear you pitter pat,
appreciate the wetness and patiently await warm sunshine
and spring blossoms carried in little beaks, fluttered
on gentle wings.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quiche Lorraine and a Few Books

It was a long Monday, but it was a good Monday. There are times when I drag my feet as Monday appears and even though I went in early—for me it’s early, as I’ve gotten used to a late morning shift—it was fine and I was even looking forward a little bit to the start of the week. I knew there would be lots of work waiting for me and I knew the others would have worked long into the nights and part of the weekend, so they would be in later and I would have the office to myself for one hour of uninterrupted work and catch up.

I thought of cooking throughout the day to help keep me centered. I felt relaxed and I dug into the piles of work, losing track of time. Easter is approaching faster than I realized. Quiche Lorraine floated me through the day. My significant other and I will have Easter at his parents and this year I’d like to bring a quiche. I had thought about making an apple pie, flan, sweet potatoes, and then quiche popped into my mind. The other night I made an apple crisp. It’s been a while since I made a crisp. Last time I did was about a year ago and it was blueberry. The way the blueberries oozed their sweet goodness married with the crumb topping: the memory stayed. The apple crisp was good too. I may still try to make an apple pie with a crumb topping and bring that for Easter as well. Quiche Lorraine—for sure.

The long Monday brought me home later than usual. I didn’t feel tired. While I was at work I made my mind up that I would prepare a test quiche that night. I scribbled a list on a post-it. When the workday was done, I headed to the market for supplies. I had looked through a few quiche recipes online, some using cream, and some using 12 slices of bacon instead of the six that I decided on. There were so many variations and comments from reviewers. I’ve only made quiche two times and I wasn’t extremely pleased with the results. The last oven that I lived with was gas and didn’t seem to brown the tops of food very well. I have to admit I was nervous baking in the oven we have now because it is also gas and small. After making corn muffins in it, I see that it browns perfectly and it is sturdier than I thought. The quiche recipe that I followed last time was different than the one this time; to the usual onions and bacon for Lorraine, I added mushrooms and spinach. The aromas and warmth that filled the apartment were satisfying and when I peeked at how the quiche was doing, it was lovely. When it seemed done, I took it out to cool and later cut a slice to share. We agreed that it was delicious. Possibly a bit wet. We’ll see today for lunch how it set overnight in the refrigerator, and then I’ll know if I need to keep it in the oven a wee bit longer for the Easter quiche.

Quiche isn’t difficult to prepare, yet good results make it seem so. I am fully present when I’m cooking and working with food—appreciating the meal as it comes together, savoring each ingredient, what it adds, how it combines. I only hope that Lorraine is well received on Easter; with love and care, I think it’s possible.


I wanted to share three books that I finished recently.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012) by Susan Cain (Audio narrator: Kathe Mazur).  I already shared a bit about my relationship to introversion in my past blog, I started listening to this audio in late January and it came to an end yesterday. This has been a most enlightening book on introversion and extroversion. I’m not one to need facts when it comes to certain things. I rely on my inner knowing. However, for those that need their facts, the book doesn’t disappoint. For anyone that truly would like to have a fuller understanding of extroversion and introversion, I highly recommend this book. I related and found myself within the audio pages. I especially appreciated the section when the author talks to us about how to honor and support our children who are introverts. As with anything, we will often relate to one side of the spectrum more than the other; there will always be varying degrees and situations that bring us out or close us down. On a personal level, I gained more insight into extroverts, which my significant other is. He has moments, but by and far, he is extrovert all the way. This book has helped me to understand his energy source and how it affects him—he feeds on crowds and people; and how it is much different than mine—I feed on quiet and contemplation. I can understand his glazed over drained look better now when it’s too quiet and sometimes he or we need to go out and be amongst the activity. I’ve learned to embrace my extrovert moments through the years; this book has really brought it into perspective and brought me full circle with my memories, childhood, and adolescence and all my introvertedness then and now—How I do love and honor it more so than ever. 

Amazing Gracie: A Dog’s Tale (2003) [Kindle edition] by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff. I came across this book on one of the Amazon Daily Deals. I believe it is still available for $1.99. If you love dogs, you will love this book. Gracie is a sweet Great Dane, albino and deaf. It really is a special and heart warming true story that reads quickly; I didn’t want it to end. There are also pictures of the gang at the end of the book.

The Last Chinese Chef (2007) by Nicole Mones. The moment I laid eyes on Nicole Mones words in her first novel Lost in Translation, I knew I would be back one day. And what a treat that I would return with her to China again in The Last Chinese Chef. I feel changed after reading The Last Chinese Chef, feeling a new appreciation for Chinese cuisine, especially as it related to banquets only reserved for the elite; the literary undertones of meals in and of themselves. This was an exquisite novel—a work of fiction, but the Chinese culinary world depicted—real. It has left me not only with a greater respect and awe for Chinese cuisine and culture, but leaves me rethinking food in general.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just be Yourself

Being positive is a vase of tulips
on the verge of drooping,
then someone comes along,
tosses a penny for your thoughts.

Surrounded by outwardly happy and positive souls,
on days you’re not feeling the same,
you figure, why can’t I feel that way, be that way?

Strive to be happy, positive, balanced. Sure, why not?
But some days, that’s not you. Some days, you may feel
like shit, want to scream, pull your hair out, throw your arms and slam them down.

Look at the feelings, honor them, embrace them—own it. You stuff the feelings down, pretend they are not there; they will find you and surprise you in the worst of ways.

The more we find our inner light—what truly makes us spark and let go of the petty things that we hang onto and allow to annoy us, the more we become in touch with our natural ability to be truly beautiful as vases of tulips, tulips that will spring up, then down, wither, move on, move along.



Today is a combination of odd and even numbers
switching and dividing—adding and subtracting into each other

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Thoughts - Gestalt

“Awareness is therapy per se
—Fritz Perls

Since reading this quote from one of my daily calendars on February 23, 2012, it has stayed with me. Volumes are spoken in these five words. These words brought me back to a temporary office job where I was the receptionist and would occasionally type up a document or two. I didn’t like the job for many reasons, but I needed to work and it was the best the temporary agency had at the time. I was much younger, in my twenties. I had to dress up for this one with nice shoes, skirts or slacks, and blouses. I couldn’t look as though I had just rolled out of bed. I also didn’t enjoy being isolated up front, architects and engineers coming and going. I did like the idea that I worked with folks that designed and executed the machinery for mass production. I imagined the process that cereal would go through before it reached my bowl. I still can’t imagine how you get this process with all of the pipes and tubes and in betweens onto paper and then build it. I also liked that it was fine for me to bring a book to read when the phones weren’t ringing and I didn’t have much else to do.

I might have had a psychology book one day and this is when I first remember really hearing Fritz Perls’s name. The engineer saw my book and told me that his wife was a therapist and she liked Fritz Perls. When I saw the quote that day in February, it rang true for me on many levels and it brought me back to this engineer and the first time I remembered hearing Perls’s name. I searched the library for any books by him and found one: Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1969). Shortly after beginning the introduction, I immediately felt a kindred spirit and I recognized a way of being that already ran through my blood—that of wholeness, growth, and self-responsibility. I also responded to his words, his almost aggressive candor in pulling the wool from our eyes.

In reading a little bit from Wikipedia, we learn that he also had Zen influences and “incorporated the idea of mini-satori (a brief awakening) into his practice.” Wikipedia also notes that he also traveled to Japan, where he stayed in a Zen monastery, eventually settling at Esalen (Esalen Institute), later leaving Esalen to start a Gestalt community in Canada.  

An oversized photo of Perls adorns the cover of his book. It’s an older Perls, white beard growing into a white moustache, forming one; white hair, handsome wrinkles; eyes looking away, but gentle and knowing, even playful. He looks as though he is about to speak to his readers from the cover of his book. His fingers look graceful and strong.

In his introduction he states, “In Gestalt Therapy, we are working for something else. We are here to promote the growth process and develop the human potential. We do not talk of instant joy, instant sensory awareness, instant cure. The growth process is a process that takes time.”

There are many theories and ideas from which to draw upon in life and often times there is intersection. For this moment, right now, Perls resonates with me. I’m also brought to a memory of a student therapist who was my therapist for a short time back also during my twenties. She and I were not a good fit, this became apparent quickly. I felt as though she was too eager to practice what she was learning and did not herself experience enough growth and maturation at the time to be effective—at least with me. And she was too bubbly in her personality for my low mood at the time.  Without realizing it, she was treating me as though I should be more like her and she was not respecting who I was as an individual and was trying to provide me with a quick mental fix. She could not grasp that I was who I was and not more like her on a social level. I hung in there a few more sessions and then had to terminate the relationship for my own well being.

I appreciate Frederick (Fritz) S. Perls’s Gestalt prayer:

I do my thing, and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.


What do I believe? “What we believe is what we see.” I’m sure that various people in different books have said this, but I remember first coming across it in an astrology book. I don’t usually talk directly about what I believe and I don’t think I’m going to start—at least not in this moment. This question and other questions are always alive in me. Right now, I am thinking out loud and right now the question holds for me more a curiosity for how each moment that I interact with life, there is a clue for how I feel inside and for my state of mood depending on how I interpret my situation—my body, my emotions, the exterior world, interior world— at any given moment. To some degree, it seems that humans are mostly out of control, yet maintain a semblance of control. We are a continuum of emotions where anger can turn to excitement and the other way around; and where joy can fast become sorrow.

It’s difficult to observe our growth when we’re still growing. One of the reasons I enjoy writing is that it’s one small way—to happen upon an old journal entry, musing, or scribble, I can see—I can be reminded of the slow wonderful trickle of growth—the never ending process of growth, learning, sharing, and discovery.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Memory Catchers

Light-Brite, paper dolls, fashion plates, play-doh, Major Morgan, finger paints, and a wooden doll family that my father made me—these are childhood toys that I remember with fondness. I’m certain there are many that I’m leaving out, some that I’ve forgotten.

On Saturday we went to a toy show. We’re not toy collectors and we were originally going to go with my significant other’s friend who is a collector. He couldn’t make it, so we decided to explore for ourselves. We waited in a long line to enter and once we did, it was fun entering the fairground space. Inside, rows and rows of vendors were selling a variety of toys, vintage and new. There were also comic books and miscellaneous odds and ends—something for everyone. It’s hard to believe we were walking and stopping for about three hours. We became lost in memory; time wound back, stopped, and moved forward. Kids became tired, asleep in their strollers, while parents still looked and searched for toys. It seemed no one left the toy show without a bag in hand.

In my treasure chest of childhood toys, Mr. Potato Head was nowhere to be found. I’m not sure how that happened. Several months back I read a short summary on the history of Mr. Potato Head, and it reminded me that I might like to buy one for the novelty of it and for never having one. When I stopped at one of the vendors, I saw a strange looking Mr. Potato Head. It was a Star Wars version: “Darth Tater.” I couldn’t resist, so Mr. Potato Head came home with me. I also bought a few packs of “Garbage Pail Kids” stickers with gum; a small snoopy in an ice cream truck; and a TV Guide from the 80s. I must say, I don’t think I liked “Garbage Pail Kids” but they remind me of a similar type of oddball sticker and gum combo that I remember before GPK. I don’t remember the name and I’ve never seen them since. It’s as close as I could get. I almost bought a pair of roller skates—Darn, they were too big.

It was a good day filled with sunshine, toys, and memories. It seems everyday is filled with memory. I find great joy in jumping in—catching, finding, collecting—connecting with memories—I am a memory amongst memory and memory catchers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Morning light

The jazz of Stan Getz plays into the morning light
above the rim of the teacup,
steam swirls,
saxophone notes glide and tease,
before lifting upward.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Living in the Moment of Gumbo

The workday yesterday was long, one continuous loop. It was a fine day and I lived in the moment—the moment of making gumbo! Ever since my trip to New Orleans I’ve wanted to make gumbo. All day yesterday, I thought of the items on my list. I knew it would be a late workday. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to come home and cook gumbo, to enjoy the aroma of lard and flour slowly cooking, stirring and stirring, forming the roux.

I mentioned before that I watched the movie, Julia and Julia over the weekend; I feel that this movie has had a profound affect on reigniting my passion for cooking. I still enjoy watching cooking shows and looking through cookbooks, though this time, there was a new pizzazz in me after watching this movie.

So there I was at moments throughout the day dreaming of making gumbo. I let any trace of stress blend into the aromas and rich brown of the roux—all the while thinking to myself about what the chef at the New Orleans School of Cooking reminded us about in the demonstration: You have to use lard or it will not be the same. I believed her. I grew up on lard (manteca in Spanish) and the aroma once it hits the pan is like no other and my taste buds watered, so while I was there at the demonstration, I was also transported to my grandmother’s kitchen. It was a heavenly intersection of cooking memories of the past with new memories of the present and future.

After the workday was done—later than usual—I headed to Safeway for the gumbo fixings. I realize too there are many variations of what you can put into a gumbo. I chose andouille sausage, small shrimp, okra; garlic, onion, celery—the holy trinity—as the chef deemed these three lovely ingredients; and bell pepper. The last item I needed was lard. I didn’t see it in the section with all the other oils and shortenings. I asked someone. “No, we don’t carry it anymore. We used to,” he said.

Well, I had all the items in my basket, and it was already late and I wasn’t near a Mexican style store and I just wanted to go home by this time.

Part of the joy of cooking is that it reminds us that often we’ve got to improvise in cooking, as in life. Things change, we adjust, we improvise, work with what we have. I had all the other items in my basket and, though I wouldn’t be going home to make a roux or a true gumbo, I would still set out to make a modified gumbo stew with the ingredients I had. This wasn’t going to be dinner, but for our lunches and any leftovers for the following dinner or another lunch. When I got home, I didn’t even feel the need or want to rest after a long day at work, I simply wanted to be in the kitchen—after greeting and kissing my significant other and chit chatting about our days.

One of my favorite cooking shows is Chopped, where the contestants are presented with three mystery baskets. They begin with an appetizer, the winners moves onto the entree course, and finally, the two contestants left standing, battle it out in the dessert round. The mystery baskets are revealed at the start of each round, each containing oddly paired ingredients, where the chefs then have access to the pantry and their own experience and creativity. This is a show demonstrating the true art of cooking improvisation. 

Into the kitchen I went—wash, wash, rinse, dry; chop, chop; chop, chop. The ingredients sizzled away, wonderful aromas wafted. I tasted in intervals of simmering. Mmmm. The okra was emitting is sappy juices, mingling with the others. It felt done and I let it cool. This morning I cooked some white rice and last night I cooked more corn muffins, so that will be lunch for both of us today. Now, what will I cook next?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Night Walk

I don’t usually take night walks alone.

Inclined to join the crisp night air,
I turn off the stove. Dinner will stay warm.
Flashlight in hand, bright stars,
movement in the shrubs sends a shutter, then
the familiar sound of startled deer—two of them,
as they look up to see who’s there, only their dark outlines visible in the darkness.

Usually a scardy cat at night, but this night: determination in each step,
vigilance tucked in my pocket.
I walk and walk down dark, house lined streets. At moments
when I don’t need the flashlight because there are no cars, I
feel as though with each step, I can slip at any moment into an abyss.
And then I wonder, what would it feel like to step into the darkness—disappear and reappear?

With each step,
darkness—the lack of shadows, only dark outlines and moonlight—almost full.

As I amble from the dark and quiet street, I meet the main road, well lit.
Two stars—like eyes—the moon a far removed mouth of surprise, a disconnected face and then the scene changes and the moon is just a moon gliding along the tops of trees—It peeks through, the wind grows stronger and I hear the ocean, only it’s not the ocean, but the palms and other leafy trees mimicking the sound of waves crashing.

I steal one last look at the moon, listen to the waves, and feel the night air on my face, knowing the special connection to the moon—its, his, hers—many shades of emotion.


Sunday, will you stay a little longer?
Molasses inches out thick and
slow like a snail 
nibbling on a leaf.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Purple Pot Roast

I wasn’t sure what Saturday would bring. The day unfolded, another change from winter weather back to spring. A late start to the day; uncertain of our plans and then learning that we had the day to ourselves, yet we seemed in different moods, so we went our separate ways for the day.

I thought of a few things: A walk, a drive, a solo adventure? Decisions. I had the day to myself, and it was too nice of a day outside to stay inside and read the day away. I went to my recipe box and looked through “My Great Recipes” recipe cards. Each card, a color image with many possibilities. A few that stood out: beef and cheese turnovers, sesame peanut butter cookies, pineapple muffins, pumpkin-pecan pie. I’ve had these recipe cards—those that I salvaged from the set—since childhood. I wish that I had kept the entire set, but at least I have a small batch of cards left. I’ve looked at the beef and cheese turnovers card and the others several times over the years, pulling and putting back. Of these particular cards that caught my attention yesterday, I have only made the sesame peanut butter cookies, which were delightful—the added flavor, crunch, and texture of the sesame seeds make all the difference.

After looking through recipes and finding nothing that I was certain about, a spark lighted: I would make a Pot Roast. Not a typical day for a hearty winter meal, though, a fine excuse to finally buy the cast iron Dutch oven that I saw at World Market; and at last I would make a pot roast, a craving I’ve had for some time now, and only my second time making one. I followed the recipe in The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Once I knew I was going to prepare a beef pot roast, I wrote a grocery list and off I went. My first stop was World Market and while I picked up the Dutch oven, I also bought a new cutting board for veggies, since I had used the other one for meats and have been breaking the rules of keeping the meats and veggie cutting separate.

Next I took the scenic route to Safeway— always the scenic route. I went to a different Safeway this time for a change of pace and I’m glad I did. After winding through narrow hilly roads, admiring homes; taking it slow; smiling at trees flirting with spring, and ending up on the long stretch of road that would take me to my destination, I arrived.

And upon arrival, my whole body felt like the mountain looking back at me, beginning to show its verdant vibrancy through the sleepy browns; tree stumps all around were like happy people; other trees blossoming yellow puffs of brilliance. I sat in my car and soaked it in—life all around me—tingly with the beauty that surrounded me; when I heard the crow caw, I said hello softly. I let him know I hear him and I always look to find where he is, and I see another and they are conversing from the small distance between them.

Slowly, coming out of my reverie…I pull myself along and I walk into Safeway with a light step. I made it through my list and the last item I needed was a dry red wine for the roast. I’ve come to the conclusion that though I’ve enjoyed the few wine tastings I’ve been to, and enjoy a glass of wine here and there, I’m truly not a wine drinker. I tend to prefer beer, but only certain beers—a very small pool of beers.

In search for a dry red for the pot roast, and having no idea and forgetting to look this up before I left home, I asked the person working in the beer and wine area. He was stumped. He was still helpful and went to ask someone else, but came up empty. I thanked him anyway and said I’d have a look and hope for the best.

The wine isle was too crowded for the cart. I swung around and entered the isle from the other side, parking my cart out of the way. I was still puzzled when I saw a gentleman with white hair, a handsome man of 65 or 70, a sparkle in his eyes and friendliness in his face. I asked him if he happened to know of a good dry red for a pot roast—for cooking and drinking. He thought about it a moment and then said that he and his wife had actually enjoyed a Bogle Petit Sirah recently with a pot roast. I remembered having had a Sirah once and I liked it. I thanked him and went in search amongst the many reds. He was edging back that way to meet his wife and he pointed it out.  “Ah, there it is. Thank you,” I said. He saw his wife and told her what I was looking for and she smiled in a way that made me feel he made a good recommendation. I said thank you again and was so pleased at how helpful the man was.

Safeway is known for their customer service. This particular store had the friendliest group thus far and they seemed genuine: The young man who gave me a cart on my way into the store; the woman in produce who went out of her way to help me find the type of apples I couldn’t find; and the older gentleman bagging my groceries who asked my name before then thanking me by name and bidding me a good day in a truly blissful way. How could one have a bad day when so many others are filling it with their good nature and joy?

Back at home, I unloaded, and set to work. The second thing I did after getting the meat in the refrigerator was to open the wine and have a glass while I prepared the meal. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the wine went down, but on weekends I still prefer a cold beer during dinner preparation. I took the meat out and began browning each side in my new cast iron Dutch oven. Once that was done, I poured the mixture of heated red wine, Worchestire sauce, beef bullion, and crushed basil over the top as instructed. The aroma was heavenly.

Between cooking, I finished watching the movie, Julia and Julia, a compliment to the pairing to the day’s meal and mood.

For the most part, I was pleased with how the pot roast turned out, though the color of the juices, which became the gravy, looked a deep blackish purple. It wasn’t a bright gravy as I’m used to seeing and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gravy look like this. This is a case where it tasted much better than it looked and I found that it didn’t look as bad when poured over the top of the roast and vegetables. I do wonder if the deep wine color and the cast iron together caused this odd color?

I kept the meal simple and served the roast and added vegetables of potato, carrot, and celery, with “Jiffy” corn muffins. I cheated a bit on the muffins. “Jiffy” makes it easy and tasty.

I was pleased and felt much better about the meal when my significant other raved about the flavors and said the meal was delicious. Because this wasn’t a roast cooked all day, it didn’t become fall apart tender, as I would have preferred, but he assured me that it was tender enough. He wanted seconds and enjoyed it a lot more that I expected. That made my night.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I simply cannot choose

Red Room Hero Blog

For me this question is difficult: Who is my Red Room Hero? There are Red Room members and authors that immediately come to the forefront of my mind, but then to select only one or even two excludes all the others, excludes all those whose rooms I have not entered.

I simply cannot choose.
We are all heroes in our own right.
Some are in clear view,
while others follow a quieter drum beat.

For to choose one, would be to exclude another.
We are all heroes in our own right,
quiet heroes and loud heroes.
I simply cannot choose.