Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back in time, when a yard was mine.

Le Penseur, 2008

I was recently asked by flwrjane to go back in time and show you my 6th post. I'm not usually up for these sorts of activities, but I do have a tendency toward nostalgia. So I traveled back to the beginning of my blog.

It wasn't always my blog. It used to be our blog. Chez Danisse was my husband's idea. He even came up with the funny name. He wanted to document our experience with our first kitchen garden.

I wasn't very interested in using a blog for this documentation. It seemed cold. I preferred real photographs, the type you could hold in your hand, and a gardening journal, one with pages made of paper. Then I changed my mind. It was a good decision. It turns out I really enjoy this space.

Thank you, Chris.

In the beginning, we both posted. Chris had more time back then. We were living in Point Reyes Station, CA. Life was very different.

I've decided to deviate from the original request and show you our first written posts (two prior posts were simply photographs).

Pt. Reyes Test Kitchen: Radishes and Beets

but i thought you loved my dirty roots...

I won't tag anyone, but feel free to place a link to your first post in the comments section.

Monday, May 24, 2010

4 & 5

What Makes a Home, 2009

Two new chapters available:

4. location location location


5. interior design

have both been added to Worms for Girls.

If you aren't familiar with Worms for Girls you can begin here.

Happy Homemaking!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Box

Quiet, 2010

She sat up in bed and stretched her arms wide. As always, the words began to flutter above her head in a neat circle, but today she did not write them down. She shooed them away. She had big plans.

It was dusk when she turned onto the small and unfamiliar dirt driveway and whispered I'm home.

The first box she unloaded held her treasured rosemary plant. She fumbled and almost dropped it while chasing a fly from atop her nose. The jostled needles released their strong scent into the air. She placed the plant in a small sunlit window, stepped back, and smiled. It was fine.

The next morning she noticed her rosemary had shed a few needles. She bit her bottom lip while picking up the fallen and tossing them out the door.

Her waiting was patient, but the words did not return. Not a single word fluttered. None this day. None the next.

She recalled the writer's trick of busying oneself with another task so the writing feels more like bunking off and less like work and began unpacking boxes.

Around lunchtime she sat down on her sofa and rested her feet beside the plant. More needles had fallen. She clenched her jaw as she swept the needles with one hand into the other and tossed them out the window, loosening her jaw once they were out of sight.

It's really quite simple she told herself. The words are confused. They just aren't used to this unfamiliar territory. They'll be back.

She went out for a walk to clear her head, down Main Street, alongside the creek, and then beside the pond for sunset. She and the air were still and quiet. They'll be back.

She awoke early the next morning. No words. Continuing her strolling and gazing and sighing, weeks passed. Everything was unpacked and in its place. Her energy waned. She began to grow tired earlier and earlier each day. She stopped reclining on her sofa and propping her feet up beside her rosemary. She avoided it. She couldn't bear the sight of the fallen needles and ignored them as they multiplied.

She dressed each day, but only sprawled out on her unmade bed, shoes and all, and stared at the ceiling.

Once in a while she'd check on the naked twigs, formerly her lush rosemary plant, hoping it would come back to life.

The walks through town with now familiar faces and sunsets were like wading through sludge, so those too ceased. No words. She was baffled. She'd left the urban noise and filth to set up her rural life, as a writer should. What had gone wrong?

Sitting up on the edge of her bed, her head heavy and body listless and slumped over, she smiled as she noticed the sun shining on her rosemary. But as she focused her sleepy eyes all she saw were sad dry twigs surrounded by a ridge of faded needles.

Feeling short of breath and a little dizzy, she unfastened the top button of her blouse, and then the next button, and the next, removed her bra, jeans, shoes, and socks.

She drew the curtains and pulled the box she'd used to transport her rosemary to the center of the living room and gently crawled inside. She crouched forward, her back forming a perfect curve, and lifted her right arm to close the box over her head.

Nestled in the small dark space, the flutter of words returned, but not above her head. They now formed a long silk-like string and began slowly and securely wrapping themselves around the curve of her body.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Noro, 2010

The sun is shining today. It showed itself yesterday too. It feels good. It put me in the mood to buy this yarn. It's light, both in texture and mood.

The last time I knit this stitch my yarn was thick and warm and the sky cool and grey. There is no resemblance.

The rain is to return this afternoon, so I must flee. Soon enough, I will be back inside with this yarn and these needles, pencil & notebook, hopes and dreams.

How are you, and your sky?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Pier

Orange Crush, sometime in the late 70s
(Photographer: Brother of friend of Mom's...)
She was in bed, but not asleep. A harsh ray of summer sunlight poured through the long thin opening where the dark curtains almost met in the middle of the window. It hit her right between the eyes. Still tired, she showered with the tiny complimentary soap, dried herself with a thin white towel that smelled of bleach, and dressed herself in yesterday's clothes.

She left the mini-mart with breakfast and a package of bologna in a brown paper bag. A peanut donut rested on a napkin in the passenger seat as she sipped her coffee and boarded the on-ramp.

She couldn't tell a soul what she was thinking. The truth was that she wasn't at all surprised things had turned out this way. The news hadn't really shocked her. It seemed to make sense. It had been a strange feeling, sort of numb or blank. She thanked God for her dark sunglasses. She hadn't cried. She'd never even felt sad. This callous feeling was foreign to her, something she'd never felt before, and she'd wondered what's wrong with me?

She hadn't thought about him in so long, but as they began lowering the casket into the grave, it all started coming back to her. That one summer. She was 8 or 9 years old and he was about a year or so younger. So long ago, but still, she'd never forgotten.
She sat up in bed and scanned the camper. Everyone was still, eyes closed. Nothing but the hum of slow steady breathing. Perfect! she whispered to herself. She pulled her nightgown up over her head and tossed it onto her pillow, stepped into her shorts, and pulled on a t-shirt. Swiftly. Silently. As if it were all one graceful move. Before departing, she took the hidden plastic sandwich bag from beneath her pillow and slipped it into her pocket. Stepping as lightly as possible, she made her way toward the door, opening it just enough to slip out, and closing it gently behind her. She wiped the dew from the outside doorknob onto her shorts and jumped off the tiny camper patio onto the sand.

The birds were still asleep, but the fish weren't. She breezed past the array of tents, coolers, lawn chairs, and sandals as she made her way toward the pier. The morning sand was still cool on her bare feet, but the wood planks of the pier had already been warmed by the sun and they felt good. Her pace slowed as she walked purposefully over the wood, feeling each warm knot and each cool space between planks.

She settled down at the end of the pier, seated as if poised in a throne, her spine perfectly straight. Her bare feet dangled over the edge and she looked out across the lake. This early, it was all hers. She owned it. She removed the slice of bologna from the sandwich bag and shoved the bag into her back pocket. The lake was calm and the sandy bottom visible through the pale green water.

She tossed a pinky nail sized piece of bologna into the water and watched it as it slowly began to sink. About halfway down a beautiful streak of blue and gold swept past and devoured it. A bluegill. She recognized some fish from fishing with her dad and her uncles, but she knew this one because it was the state fish of Illinois, her state. The fish tracked back in search of more. She dropped another bit and watched the bluegill dart toward it. He was so quick. He seemed to be inhaling the bologna. Curious, she tossed the remainder of the big round slice into the water, wondering how the fish would handle such a thing. The larger slice floated on the surface of the water. The bluegill pecked at it briefly, like a hen, and then gave up. She felt bad and decided to revert back to bite-sized offerings tomorrow. The bologna drifted away from the pier and out into the lake and the bluegill disappeared. It was obvious that he was not entertained. She was sure he'd looked up at her and frowned before moving on with his day.

She heard the echo of a motor boat engine being tugged on the other side of the lake and then, footsteps on the pier. She sighed unhappily as she turned around. Oh, great she whispered beneath her breath. The last time she'd seen him he'd pontificated on the joy of pinching his baby brother each time he'd fall asleep, causing him to wake crying. He'd taken great pride in getting away with it without his mother ever figuring out he was the cause.

If she'd been wearing her bathing suit she'd have jumped into the lake and swam the way of the bluegill. But here, fully clothed, and at the end of the pier, she was cornered--forced to socialize with the runt. She couldn't recall exactly what runt meant, but she remembered it being used pessimistically in Charlotte's Web, and the little nt sound at the end of the word felt appropriately curt and condescending.

Most disturbing was the story his brother had told her. Last summer the runt had buried a live toad and turtle and let them die beneath deep mounds of sand. She imagined their gasping for air and inhaling the dry granules. It was horrifying. What type of person was capable of such things? He was a bad seed. She thought of this incident each time she saw him and always looked at him with disdain. He seemed to enjoy it.

He'd come to inform her that her father was looking for her. He wanted to discuss the stash of bottles she'd been collecting at the dump. How could Dad have found those? she thought. He grinned like the Cheshire Cat. Runt! she thought as she stomped away, up the pier, and back toward the camper.

She'd been warned about wandering around the dump and especially about collecting items there, but she loved it. It was like visiting a toy store where everything was free. She'd been collecting empty soda bottles to surprise her mom. The bottles would serve as vases. She'd fill them with wildflowers and place them all around the campsite. It would be like a wedding, but better.

Midway to her campsite she decided to turn around and head up to the outdoor church. Dad might cool down if I give him a little time. The church was empty. She'd never been to a service, but she loved visiting the quiet space when it was vacated. She sat down on the concrete theatre-like steps and looked at the stage. I could pray... No, if any of that stuff actually works, I should save it for something big, something really important.
After hours of driving and a quick stop at a deli in town, she pulls up to a log in the campground parking lot.

She walks toward the pier with two brown bags in her right hand, one with a package of bologna, the other with an Orange Crush and salami sandwich (for old times sake).

Her black dress and high heels are glaringly out of place, but she doesn't think of it, not even for a minute.

She sits down at the edge of the pier, places her bottle of soda beside her, and bites into her salami sandwich. Her beautiful black shoes fall from her feet and drift out into the lake. She watches them float away.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's good to be home.

It's good to be home.

My bed, my kitchen, Caffe Trieste's coffee, and my market. Returning to them reminds me how special they are to me.

After a delayed flight and a late night, I woke up a little crabby today. A morning walk with Chris, a little sunshine, and a nice cup of my favorite coffee helped.

Next, I walked over to the Tuesday Market at the Ferry Plaza. Sometimes I forget just how good I have it--a market full of beautiful produce 3 days per week. It's truly incredible. I brought home peas, leeks, chard, lemons, strawberries, and such. To top it all off, I discovered Il Cane Rosso just started serving weekday breakfast from 9-10:45am. I thanked them by eating their housemade yogurt with roasted strawberries and granola--all with a view of the bay. It was creamy luscious good.

Then I came home to my own sweet kitchen and gave Erin's apricots a go. I love this simple yet inventive idea. They are now resting in a small jar on the counter and softening. Oh, the anticipation...

I have so much to do, but my mind keeps drifting toward my grand plan for the 2 pints of strawberries I brought home with me. I woke up this morning thinking about this plan, before I even laid eyes on these berries. Is it odd that I often wake up with half hatched recipes I've been creating in my sleep?

I want to make a cheesecake of sorts. The idea is to make some homemade ricotta, sprinkle some strawberries with a little sugar (orange zest?), and then somehow combine the two inside a gingersnap pecan crust.

We'll see how it goes. I better get started (on something).

It's good to be home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Island. Recipe. Worms. Guitar.

Man Reflecting, 2010

I'm in a really beautiful place right now. A cottage on a little island. The air is crisp and the view is amazing. It's a special place, sort of magical. Good things happen here. I saw my first Bald Eagle two days ago.

Yesterday I learned that my latest rhubarb recipe had been selected as 1 of only 2 finalists on the food52 website.

Head over there and cast your vote! It's a really cool site and worth exploring. A fine example of crowdsourcing.

I was in absolute shock when I saw that Amanda Hesser, a food writing idol of mine, along with her partner in crime, Merrill Stubbs, had prepared MY rhubarb recipe and selected it as a finalist in their rhubarb competition. On food52 you'll find a slide show of them preparing my recipe, notes they wrote about their experience, and a beautiful finished photograph of the recipe too. I still can't believe it. I'm grinning from ear to ear. I wonder if I should be thanking the island...


I've posted another chapter of Worm for Girls and cleaned up the blog a bit--added a little color, a few photographs. I like it better now. I hope you do too.

Learning to play the guitar is something I've been considering for a long time. Chris finally pushed me over the hump. We were walking past a little music store near our cottage this morning and Chris said he was going to go inside and see if I could schedule a guitar lesson. I said no no, I'm not sure if I'm ready. He said I'm going in. I followed. We met the instructor. My first lesson is in about an hour. I'm happy. This is a template that explains a lot about our relationship.

Don't forget to check out food52 and Worms for Girls.

And most importantly...enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Pause

Grace, 2010

And there she was, in the midst of it--the pause.

Everything else continued moving. It was only she who stopped. The commuters commuted, the birds ate their worms, and the sun made its way across the sky. She stood absolutely still. She could hear her breath, feel her hair falling across the back of her neck, and she could smell the salt in the air.

The silence was hollow. It was like running out of gas on an open country road. A beautiful, yet unsettling quiet.

What was she to be cultivating in here, inside this pause? She couldn't be sure, but she didn't want to resume her life-as-usual when resuming resumed. No. It would be such a waste. Progress must be made! This experience had to mean more than a fad diet, a vacation romance, a (fill in the blank) retreat. All of them filled with so much promise, such beauty, and a happiness so grand it is impossible to believe it will ever fade. But then life returns to life.

So she held very still, her eyes closed. She would come up with a solution.
If I can't take something with me and incorporate it into my real life, well, there's no point. It's like anything else. I've immersed and shimmered and floated high upon that proverbial cloud with so many anything elses. Still, somehow, I arrive home with the same old me. My curiosity racing full speed ahead, earlier questions remaining unanswered. Puttering too late and waking too early. Continuing to douse my meals in Sriracha, knowing my belly will burn.

What's to be learned here? What is my lesson, my take-home?
She stayed still.
Could the lesson be that there is no lesson?

Is the pause simply part of the rhythm? The same rhythm that includes the racing and puttering and belly burning? Does analyzing the pause, or forcing it to be what it is not, disrupt this rhythm? This rhythm that creates movement, tension, and develops the plot or storyline otherwise known as life?

Should it all be embraced? Observed, accepted, and embraced?

No one knows for sure, right? So why not just say "yes", be my own Buddha, God, Higher Being of choice? Maybe I'm the "awakened one"..."the enlightened one." Maybe not, but I like this idea...for now.
She opened her eyes.