30 June 2008

He Says Yes.

Whereas I say why not. I hadn't realized before there was a difference in these answers. They often get you to the same place. After all, his yes and my why not got us down the aisle. His yes and my why not got us into and through the countless adventures, near misses, hurt feelings, disappointments, tendernesses, breakthroughs, and triumphs that, taken together, are the reasons we hold each other close at night and whisper 'I love you' into ears.

But his yes is different from my why not. My why not still looks for the not; it scans the situation for the answer to its own question. My why not still keeps an eye for the exit.

Not so for his yes. He plunges right in. And when, for example, a vaguely meth-addled bar owner interrupts her rambling, nostalgic monologue to ask, "Do you have 20 minutes?" he says yes. And his yes is rewarded with a field trip to a nearby house and an introduction to a wonderful old lady who is a gardener and an artist and, fortunately for us, lonely enough to take in two strangers and tell them her stories, show them her patio of bricks -- built slowly with the cast-offs of old buildings around town -- and her arrangements of rusty mill saws, engine parts, and railroad ties. His yes stumbles into an oasis of kindness and coolness and earthly toil and calm.

My why not is so lucky to have tagged along. My why not would have found the reason not to a long time before it found that garden. My why not would have missed out on so much.

It's not our anniversary today. It's just that we've had one of those weekends made richer by his yes. And I'm so glad to have him with his fearless and his optimism. So glad for his yes that keeps my life full of mystery, wonder, and awe.

29 June 2008


I'm too tired and droopy eyed even to write an I'm-too-tired post. So here are pictures of biking and kissing and cute couples in Portland staging an anti-car (and apparently pro-love) rally.

I'm not entirely sure I understand the connection between kissing and commuting. Could public displays of affection really inspire drivers to trade their car keys for pedals? But I have too little energy now to allow these questions to rattle around in my brain. Besides, I am overly susceptible to the charm of signs that read "Liplock Not Gridlock." And I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

(Kiss away you happy, zero-polluter commuters. I love you too.)

Now to bed. Goodnight.

28 June 2008

Flights of Fancy

Do you think birds take flying for granted? Or do they sometimes feel terrified, exhilarated as they soar and swerve through the air?

26 June 2008

One Pound of Blueberries. And You Can Too.

At the start, I should get two things off my chest:
  1. I like blueberries, but I don't like them like them.
  2. The blueberries I had spent a two week vacation on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator.
I know, it's a despicable fate for the one pound of fresh, organic blueberries I couldn't bear to leave the farmer's market without. I will confess my sins to the nearest organic farmer and accept my punishment bravely. But here is my point: my one pound of blueberries was quickly going bad -- not Hell's-Angel bad or anything, but they were, let's say, California-rolling-stop bad -- and I needed to use them.

Ah! I feel better now, all my caveats having been established. So let's begin, shall we?

Blueberries! Summer! Easy one-layer cakes!

I admit I'm a bit of a novice here, having no experience of baking blueberries outside of muffins and quickbreads. So I relied on the very scientific method of googling the words "blueberry" and "cake" to get me started. When I found something that looked appropriately rich, I stopped.

And it was rich. Not in the sweet way, but in the good balance of fats way. Like a super-dreamy muffin or quickbread. It even obliged by getting just the slightest bit crusty around the edge, like every good muffin top should. There were some pretty big oohs and aahs flung about the table when I served this for dessert. I even heard a superlative "melt in your mouth."

Oh, and "lemony" -- did I mention that yet? Lemons! Because while I may not be an inspiring blueberry evangelist, I am firmly, persuasively in the camp of lemons. And it seemed a shame to bake a blueberry cake without upping the lemoniness. Also, the citrus masked my less-than-fresh berries nicely.

Instead of powdered sugar, I opted for a healthy dollop of whipped cream on top. A whipped cream that is actually equal parts sour cream, and possibly my absolute favorite whipped creamy topping. Ever. It is lemony and luscious. And very close to standing on its own -- no pesky cake layer required. Even my sweets-averse nephew agrees.

Have I sufficiently whet your appetite? Are you ready to bake?

Good. Because the recipe follows.

Oh, and for those of you who may not have a pound of blueberries getting old in your refrigerator, I'd recommend frozen. You'll never notice the difference. Really.

-- Or fresh blackberries! I bet some blackberries in here would be like heaven.

For the cake (adapted from Simply Recipes):
1 cup and 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan (and use parchment on the bottom too, if you're more comfortable with that).

Combine 1 cup flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in a bowl. Set aside.

This creaming of butter step is my all-time favorite part of baking.

Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in each until blended. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mix, blending until smooth. Pour batter into pan.

(Now, once you reach this point, you will think that I am crazy. You will think that I have forgotten to tell you to add milk or sour cream or lemon juice or some other wet ingredient that will make this batter lighter. And I know you will think this because this is where I started to become skeptical and mistrust the authority of the recipe myself. But have faith.)

In a separate bowl (or reusing the dry ingredient bowl), combine the blueberries (either the official 2 cups, or the renegade as many as you can) with 1 teaspoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. The extra flour is supposed to keep the berries from falling to the bottom of the cake while baking. My batter was so dense it probably didn't need the precaution. Be as brave and cavalier as you dare. Oh -- and if one whole tablespoon of lemon juice seems extraordinary to you, feel free to use as little as you like. The original recipe calls for only 1 teaspoon in the mix.

Gently spoon the blueberries over the top of your cake batter. Bake 1 hour.

For the whipped cream (adapted from Bon Appetit, via epicurious):
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest (or the less precise zest from 1 lemon, which is always how it works in my kitchen)

Combine all ingredients in a chilled bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Dollop generously on absolutely everything you can think of, and devour in heaping, Nigella-esque mouthfuls.

25 June 2008

Smoky. Muggy. Hot. Ugh.

There are 700 wildfires burning in California. And one big-rig fire on the freeways of Sacramento.

I wish I was here instead.
1. Untitled, 2. 3lanterns, 3. Untitled, 4. balloonsonastring

24 June 2008

The Boss Lady

The tomatoes are staging a revolution. Militias of whiteflies are invading. I can see their armies pouring across the terrain in increasing numbers every day.

I am doing everything I can to quash this coup. Because -- uh-huh, that's right -- I rule like a dictator over my tomato minions. Mount an insurgency against me?! I'll squash you like the little asshole bugs you are. Mwah-hah-ha!

And every morning, after my exercise in power, this is the face I see in the doorway. My little one, waiting for me to be done with this already. It's just that, I can't tell if she's thinking:

a) I can't believe the nerve of those stupid flies. Daring to cross you! Don't they realize the cunning, the greatness of the leader they seek to overthrow?
b) Cut the grandeur Mom. And what's so interesting about those damn plants, anyway? All they do is sit there. Now get your ass inside and pet me!

Um, nevermind. I know exactly which one it is.

23 June 2008

Our Late Friend, the Semi

It's Monday. I'm all ajumble. And sorry to report that I have nothing for you. Except for maybe some musings on semicolons. Um, not that I spend much time thinking about them in general, but Rick forwarded me an article examining the demise of the tadpole-y punctuation mark. I'm surprised by this, but I feel a little mournful about it all. Though I guess I do that; I'm still not over the death of the hyphenated adjective. (Writing is just so much clearer when adjectives are connected properly.) But then, I've always been closer to the hyphenated adjectival phrase than the semicolon.

I suspect our estrangement -- the semi and me -- is traceable to the legacy of that darned 1903 textbook advising teachers to steer students in the direction of periods whenever they were "tempted to use a semicolon." You know, I actually do remember high school writing teachers discouraging their use. Like they could be dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced. Like they belonged in those categories of subjects we should only broach once we got older, like alcohol or sex. Funny -- isn't it? -- that punctuation can conjure such visceral memories.

I suppose I should respect the fact that this is unlikely to be interesting to anyone other than fellow editors and grammar geeks. Ok. Yes, I do happen to find it endlessly fascinating when the forward motion of real life (especially legal cases; they get life-and-death dramatic) gets stuck in the snare of misused punctuation. I collect those stories like precious gems. But maybe it's better I leave all those sweet nothings for Bryan Garner's ears. (Oh! Bryan! And then the lawyer said, "Clearly the ruling finds my client innocent. These clauses were separated by commas -- not semicolons." Mmmm...Are you close sweetheart?)

But one particular thought in the article struck me as being universally poignant:
[in 1943] the Times editorialized against 'the war that is being waged in some quarters on the semicolon.' Their favored villain was now 'the writer of action fiction. ...The semicolon is the enemy of action; it is the agent of reflection and meditation.'
The semicolon as an agent of reflection and meditation; how lovely a thought is that? In fact, even hoping it could be true makes me want to interject semicolons everywhere; there I'll go; dropping them now with devil-may-care abandon.

Shameless! Rebellious!

Oh, I know.

22 June 2008

Oh Yeah. And Summer Too.

In all my haggard prattling on, I totally forgot that yesterday was the first day of summer. Hooray! (Watch me get all festive and ! for the occasion.)

There. That's better.

Water the tomatoes! Apply sunscreen! Linger over a picnic! And if you pack the champagne that comes in the little aluminum cans (like this) your local city parks officials may not know you're drinking.


21 June 2008

Step in Sh*t and Land in a Shower

I am not naturally a tidy housekeeper. In fact, tidy and me only rarely appear in the same sentence. Generally, under duress. Or lately, Saturdays, as the new custom around here is to invite the whole family over for dinner on Sunday.

So this morning I am wrestling a hangover and the mess of not-quite-emptied plastic containers and piles of newspapers that we've left in heaping stacks on the floor. It's amazing, actually. When you factor in that we cleaned to a shine just last week. It seems to defy my grasp on what is possible, this mess that Rick and I are able to generate in only six days.

Anyway...other than the colony I found thriving in the sink, I discovered a rogue among the cookbooks: Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. Now, I know very little about wabi-sabi. Really only what it says on the back of the book:
Wabi-Sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional...
Aside from my instantaneous and abiding respect for people who still spell aesthetic with an 'a' -- I don't know; it's just prettier that way -- I was taken both by the simplicity of the philosophy, and the fact that I discovered it, misfiled, among the cookbooks. Was I just tired one night, returning books to their places? Did I read only the 'Wabi-Sabi' part and think, "Oh this must be about grilling?" Could it be that I figured this book was filled with Japanese-style fish recipes?

In my defense: oy. Let's just blame it on the ghost. Yes -- let us just close our eyes and believe for a moment that a 17-pound cat-turned-ghost made the climb to the Eastern philosophy shelf at the top of one bookcase (hey! I never said I wasn't organized -- just messy), grabbed this book, and moved it across the room to live with the cookbooks. Perfectly plausible, no?

I had a little dilemma about whether or not to return it to its rightful place. I mean, this is a book that celebrates imperfection, and who am I to argue? Oh right. I'm the asshole who thought this was an Asian-style cookbook.

I did, though. Move it back. Because my Virgo drive for order trumps the beautiful perfection of a simple mistake. If not moldy Tupperware.

But there could be mischief afoot. Who's to say? Maybe this time the ghost will be a little more direct. Maybe this time he'll just slip the book into my pile of summer reads. Maybe that would be just the sign I need.

20 June 2008

Deep Breath. Jump In.

Hi. This is me, the creator of odd pear.

Beginnings tend to make me clammy. I've spent some time rehearsing a breezy, buoyant "hey there!" to you, but it seems I've lost it just as the moment for hellos has arrived. Which, I guess, is this moment right here. I've been dreaming and wondering about odd pear for a while now. And I've been waiting for just that right omen to get it all started. You know? Some event to tell me, unequivocally, "Now is the time."

But I think, instead of all that, I will simply begin. Because I would rather live a life chock-full of small moments than one punctuated with a handful of big occasions. And because I am haunted by Lillian Hellman's prosaic, two-word dictum: writers write.

Ok. I get it.

What is it that I'm looking for? I would like to learn to tell stories well. I would like to live more intentionally, more thoughtfully. I would like to remember to go slow. I would like to grow vegetables and pink peonies. I would like to craft things with my own hands. I would like to train my eyes to the small special that is everywhere. And I would like to have a place to put it all.

Those are my hopes for odd pear, and here is my plan:
  1. Write (mostly) daily.
  2. Be intrepid enough to hit 'publish post.'
If you're out there (is anyone out there? will anyone ever be out there?), welcome. Thanks for popping in. Thanks for saying yes.

big dreams and butterflies,