Gratitude and Garbage Picks

Thankful for AC! Even today, with less sun, a slight breeze, and considerably lower temps, walking 2.5 miles and re-entering a cooled house is to feel next-level gratitude. Woosh!

Our garbage-picking days are mostly behind us, but a reno around the corner on Cypress Street is spitting up some irresistible items. Took two mirrors last week and, get this, a child-sized upholstered chair.

Would its diminutive proportions accommodate me? Would it feel comfy? Yes and yes! K is fixing the broken leg and then I’ll put it upstairs for zoom calls and writing.

Have any of you read Lessons in Chemistry? My comments, below, will be deleted at week’s end because I don’t generally like to leave negative reviews online.

But boy oh boy. Giving the dog a point of view? Sloppy and silly. Other points of view sliding around willy-nilly? Again sloppy. Making your precocious kindergarten character’s reading materials be utterly, laughably incredible? And then there’s how this is a book about a pioneer in a TV cooking show and no mention is made of Julia Child in the acknowledgments (which ran to four pages or more).

Having said that, I get the appeal. It’s a page-turner and the heroine is an unyielding, outspoken resister of cultural norms in all the best possible ways. Think: Katharine Hepburn.

And of course, I have to applaud the author because this debut was published when she was 65.

From the other end of the age spectrum comes the impressive Nightcrawling, also a debut, written by a 21-year-old. A gritty coming of age story about a teenaged girl whose parents are unavailable and whose older brother abandons her (essentially), so what does she do to meet the rent? She turns tricks. Turns out, a cluster of disgusting and corrupt cops start using her services and she becomes embroiled in the exposee of their criminality. The plot was good, as was character development, but what really stunned me were some of her unusual and starkly original use of the senses to describe ordinary parts of life.

If you’re looking for short and sadly sweet, I recommend Irish author Claire Keegan. I read both Foster and Small Things Like These. These are short enough to be considered novellas and read like long short stories, really. Lovely language, poignant plot lines, and goddamn the Catholic Church.

I’ll save the biography and my favorite book pictured, The Sweetness of Water, for another time or, knowing how things go, maybe not another time.

Mish mash

It’s one of those days where the temperature is [number in the high eighties/low nineties] but feels like [number in the high nineties]. Boston is closing schools because of the heat [cue up local TV footage of box fans arriving at old brick schools in town]. Has that ever happened before? It’s MUGGY out there, a regular swampfest.

Finn and I headed out early and managed to walk the standard loop. My new big-brimmed cotton hat is a godsend.

Me reacting to the heat

While walking, I listened to a couple of episodes of this podcast. A group of us will discuss it tomorrow morning. It’s about the beating of a Black teenaged boy, Lenard Clark, in the late 90’s and the weird alliances that formed in the violence’s wake (not to mention the disappearance of one witness and murder of another and rumored ties of the perpetrator’s family to the Mob).

Calls for reconciliation were made by the perpetrator’s family, Black ministers, and others, even as Lenard remained in a coma. The narrator, a journalist named Yohance Lacour, examines both the impact that had on the community and on him personally. His story telling style is really compelling but you’ll have to listen for yourself because I haven’t yet figured why exactly. I think I fell a little bit in love with him by the end.

But I digress.

Lacour remembers the anger he and his friends felt upon finding out about Clark. He also remembers how quickly the story disappeared in a news ecosystem that seemed fixated with turning the tragedy into a tale of racial reconciliation, he said.

From Block Club Chicago article, 3/21/23

(I remember a similarly weird focus on forgiveness after the massacre at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston).

Here are a few quotes from the series:

“I can’t keep my mouth shut when the Devil got his foot up my behind.” Zakiyyah Muhammad

“Ain’t no reconciliation when Black people only ones wanting it…” Yohance Lacour

“If serious about reconciliation, they’re supposed to wake up every single day with nothing else on their minds but how to repair the damage.” Marcia Chatelain (I think).

Everything else, the script goes on the say, is mere gesture or worse, insult.

For Black people, Pulitzer-prize winning author and historian Marcia Chatelain continues, life is “a series of negotiations that force us to evaluate what our life is worth.”

“I’m not gonna move along. I’m gonna be right here standing in my rage, unreconciled. Because I didn’t see nothing. I saw something.” Yohance Lacour

Serendipity and not

Once upon a time I stitched up a bunch of abstract squares. They were covered in black nylon tulle, because that was a thing I did early on, and they were close enough in size to potholders to have an unshakeable resemblance to them. In other words, I soon hated them.

What does a quilter do? Cut them up, of course.

The row houses above came from one such “potholder.” A series is born, I thought.

Two problems. One, I can’t at the moment find the rest of the potholders. Two, the simple selection of ground, sky, and moon rather instantly became more complicated.

Because I let it, I know.

No worries! I’ve found other rectangles to cut up. Also, the way I allow various permutations to have a say is endlessly interesting to me.

The detours don’t help finishing a series (or to be honest, perhaps prevent even beginning one). But there you have it. This is who I am.

This one started w/crazy quilt appliquéd square

Any previously-worked square cut carefully enough ought to yield two rows of houses.

Back tomorrow!

Look what I found

Woke to neighbor’s yard crew roaring just below my bedroom window then for hours endured tree work two houses over. Incredibly punishing. Finally put in ear buds and listened to a box fan. Whir, whir, whir. Then I could think and turned to sorting study papers — throwing out old chapter lists, old word count tallies, old email lists. A purge. Then vacuumed. Always feels good.

It is blessedly quiet now.

Dead Northern Flicker and rusted iron disk found within steps of each other on dog walk.

He was 23. John Lewis was 23 here.

Help with the puzzle yesterday.

I made company another version of the quinoa salad. This one had the same mix of wild and white rice but with barley and fresh corn in lieu of the quinoa. It wasn’t as amazing as the day before but still yummy. Is it because I served the quinoa salad while it was still warm? Maybe.

Already sick to death of Ramaswamy. Why is the press giving him so much air time? The man is a creepy fraud and a lunatic who makes Elon Musk look like a moderate.

Younger son has gone back to college. Starting today. Thoughts and prayers appreciated, especially since they won’t help the most recent victims of Nazi terrorism.

One of Paris Collage Club digital collages for week

Food as ballast

Food as sanity. Food as pleasure. Food as ballast, continuity, novelty. To prep food is to focus. That’s benefit enough, but there’s also how assembling ingredients performs a kind of magic, a magic that is at once artful and one of the most pedestrian domestic chores going. How is that possible?

Furthermore, because we get hungry over and over again, there’s no scrambling for motivation. It’s built in. How great is that?

This year has found me regularly trying out new recipes. Nothing as disciplined as working through a cookbook, but still . . .

4 garlic cloves, sage, mint, oregano, S&P, EVOO, and lemon juice

Sage and mint from the garden, oregano from the cupboard. I cooked the quinoa with a little saffron. The recipe didn’t call for that but one a few pages later did and I don’t know about you, but I often fudge things that way.

Since I don’t always have some of the more exotic ingredients, I apply a loose standard and that’s fine, since it’s not about perfect replication but rather about stretching my palate and experimenting a little, getting out of my domestic ruts.

For example, this Ottolenghi dish called for Persian dried lime powder and sweet potatoes. I used fresh lime zest for the former and left out the latter. I can see how sweet potato chunks would be a tasty addition, but the salad was PLENTY good without them (see what I did there?)

I gushed over this one in my usual over-the-top way. Oh my god — this one’s restaurant worthy! [Moan] Wow, this is good. Too bad we don’t run a B&B! Served a little bit warm, rice on the toothsome side, the feta adding a luscious creaminess, trust me when I tell you it was outstanding.

A few cherry tomatoes gifted from a friend’s garden added a perfect dash of color and acid, tasting like summer and sunshine.

My husband doesn’t say much (and I guess I gush enough for the both of us), but when he gets up for seconds, his opinion is clear enough.