Remembering

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First onion!

cod + pineapple salsa

C A S S A T A ! !

I FINALLY remembered to take a picture – Michael, Mary, & Greg
Jesus & Juniper under foot!

When Greg and I first moved to Portland (1998!), and Hawthorne only had a handful of restaurants where we would actually eat, Bread & Ink was among our favorite places, one of those we enjoyed on a leisurely walk. A saunter of about two miles each way, depending upon which view or which house or which garden I felt like seeing that day – Greg never really cared. Their food, up until we left in 2014, was very 90s and always good. Fun cocktails, excellent coffee, nice servers. My favorite had a tattoo of a sparrow on her forearm, after the bible verse, she said, and to this heathen, non bible reader, a bit of new information, and a lovely revelation (Psalm 84:3).

But the reason for my choosing to go was always the Cassata. I remember reading the description the first time: ricotta, candied orange, & chocolate filling, chocolate frosting, and thinking, hmmmm. Could be alright. It really, really was. And so it became my dessert there, one that was not always on the menu, which was always a major disappointment, of course.

I hadn’t had any since leaving Portland (almost six years now – GOSH), and it, like every memory, came bubbling to the surface, out of the blue, and I had to have it. We were hosting Michael and Mary, and I fashioned our menu around it. Problem was, I needed to find a recipe. Type cassata into ye ole search engine and a couple rise to the top, neither of which is the cake I want. Add chocolate, and bingo, at least closer. I ended up making a 1-2-3-4 yellow cake, read through some cannoli filling recipes and got a feel for what I wanted to accomplish, then candied orange peels and made a dark leaning fudgy frosting. It gave me so many problems, but after literally jumping up and down in rage and frustration, it finally adhered to the cake. It wasn’t much to look at before slicing but made up for it, in spades, once it hit the tongue.

I also made a tomato tart, two kinds of crackers, a cheese spread, apricot mostarda, and blueberry gooseberry (home grown!) preserves. Then, for dinner, because this was a marathon, grilled rosemary chicken, grilled asparagus, a salad entirely grown by farmer Greg (two varieties of lettuce, carrot, onion, radish!!).

Of course we put together a puzzle, as we always do, talked and talked, and talked some more, and walked the dogs. The best of times among the best of friends – twenty-six years strong.

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This post begins with a lament and too much information. Our middle-aged bodies are no longer as friendly with lactose. We take the little pills, which are super helpful, but don’t do ALL the work. But dang, how I love a little cream in my Saturday coffee and find the substitutes pretty darn awful in taste, consistency, or both. So I made almond creamer! It was truly delicious and the perfect consistency, without any added sweeteners. I soaked almonds in water overnight, slipped the skins off before putting them in the blender with just enough water to keep them whirring. I squeezed and Greg squeezed, and the pint jar is the final product. It’s a little work, of course, but worth a tasty cup of joe!

I also made another batch of peach jam (after realizing I overshared and we only had one jar left – a tragedy) and some red pepper jelly. It was my first time with the red pepper, but it was as easy as can be, and tastes wonderfully spicy and fruity – on a grilled pork chop (with grilled peaches), on chicken, over a bit of cream cheese, and spooned decadently from the jar and into my mouth.

The white mess in the bowl is what the almonds look like after being soaked and whirred and squeezed into milk. Since I am ever thrifty and abhor waste, I used it to make the dough & streusel for the pretty peach cake and the bit of toasted goodness just below on the tray. A bostock, normally on brioche or some equally decadent bread, but we only had homemade white, so that’s what I used, with chopped almonds & powdered sugar sprinkled over top. And the iced coffee has THE creamer in it. My good-ness.

The adorable tray was my grandparents, emblazoned with gold stars and a very patriotic bald eagle with the flag of the good ol’ U.S. of A. When my grandparents died, and everyone visited the house to select furniture and treasures, I chose, according to my family, the most random. But if you know anything about me, I am most definitely odd, but also quite calculated.

These items and more like them. A toll painted trashcan that sits in my office, because I always liked the look of it. The tray with the eagle because it was one I used the whole of my life and could still perfectly envision Grandma’s hands, nails long and pointy and laquered, carrying it. A wee stove top pot, with lid, that Grandpa worked for and used most days of my memory. Carvings of a duck, eagle, and geese – made by Grandpa. A statue of the Virgin Mary that lived my whole life atop Grandma’s dresser. A chest of drawers that held Grandpa’s clothes. Every item of little monetary value, but so rich with memories as to make them priceless to me.

And a couple more delicious dazzler meals. I bought the fabulous Sababa Cookbook and made the matbucha – tomato & red pepper spread, along with the golden onion & chickpea dip (though mine looks very different from hers), and my own favorite hummus & pita. The cheezy asparagus pashtida is from the same book on a different day. Um, yes, more please.

How cute is Greg enjoying a prickly pear margarita last weekend? I made tamales, red chile, and Anasazi beans to go with them, which was marvelous and photographed poorly, but who really cares with that dazzler of a smile?

How are you? We are at day 15 without leaving the house besides a dog walk. Our food supply is pretty good, except for fresh produce, with three apples, three carrots, and one jalapeno and poblano left. We have plans to get rid of our thorny blackberries (OUCH!!) and replace them with lettuces and spinach, maybe some carrots, too. Though I am sincerely hoping it will be a bonus rather than a necessity, but who knows? These are such strange times.

Our health is good, some sniffles after a super windy walk yesterday, so hoping that doesn’t equate to anything serious. I am worried for my friends in the medical profession, as they are already having meetings about not having enough personal protective equipment to get through the crisis, despite government reports saying there are plenty to go around. And then there is every last person suffering financially. I know my prayers mean not a whit, so we are helping those we can how we can. May it be enough to sustain them until government money arrives.

This is Texas Sheet cake, also made last Sunday (p.s. – If you decide to try it and don’t like a cloyingly sweet cake, cut the sugar in half – you won’t regret it!). My friend Whitney was the first (maybe only?) person to make it for me, way back when I was a whippersnapper of twenty-two. I remember being in her kitchen on Albion Street in Denver, us chatting while she washed dishes, waxing poetic about how easy and delicious it was. I hit the pause button the moment she said it contained cinnamon. My rather unworldly upbringing had never-ever put cinnamon and chocolate together. How weird would it be? Would I like it? The answer was a resounding yes, and now, twenty-six years later, I cannot recall the number of times I have made this fabulous flavor combination.

After lamenting the soy flour contained in the blue corn pancake mix we bought in Santa Fe, I ordered some plain blue corn flour (masa) from Gold Mine and made a batch of pancakes the day the box arrived at our door. They were delicious! If you’d like to try your hand at them, they’ve been added to my long list of pancake recipe combinations that can be found here. Enjoy!

Feeling grateful for our every day walks, this beautiful city, and every moment that makes me smile, like this wee one on his way to work!

Whenever I feel overwhelmed with the news, I think on my light and inspiration, my Great Aunt Mary (who would have been 112 on St. Patrick’s Day!). The oldest of seven, she lived through the death of every one of her siblings, save my Grandma Tess, by 1975, the youngest at the age of twenty-five.

Her faith was boundless, and she was the most selfless, loving, and giving person I have ever known. Though she suffered many a heart break and disappointment, she never let her feathers ruffle, never uttered an unkind word. A smile was never far from her lips, nor a chuckle or a prayer. She walked her talk to the utmost!

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I get aura migraines. A fact of my life for more than thirty years. The tiniest dot of light that grows into a wild snake, gradually engulfing the whole of my vision. A beautiful menacing messenger commanding me to slow down, better yet, STOP, get to a dark place and observe. My latest got me thinking of how it resembles Acoma pottery, delicately bending lines of turquoise and white, rust and black. Beautiful really, despite what it really means.

Not only am I temporarily blinded, but pain is imminent. I have been warned. What better way to ride the wave than by getting lost in music, as singing is one of the best avenues I know to forgetting pain. And since I mentioned a 70s Playlist a while back, here goes, complete with a disco interlude!

This is a L O N G list, and equally notable for what isn’t here. Every time I thought I had it, I remembered something else. I think there’s got to be a part two.

Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band

That’s the Way – Led Zeppelin

Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic

Angel from Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt

Southbound – The Allman Brothers

L.A. Woman – The Doors (one of my top karaoke songs!)

Bitch – The Rolling Stones

Hello It’s Me – Todd Rundgren

Hollywood Nights – Bob Seger

Love Reign O’er Me – The Who

Low Down – Boz Skaggs

Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens

Saturday in the Park – Chicago

Lost in the Supermarket – The Clash

Easy – The Commodores

Take it Easy – The Eagles

Come Down in Time – Elton John

Fernando – ABBA

Night Fever – The Bee Gees

Heroes – David Bowie

A Song for You – Leon Russell

Old Man – Neil Young

Time Has Told Me – Nick Drake

American Girl – Tom Petty

Sweet Thing – Van Morrison

Every Kinda People – Robert Palmer

Sara Smile – Hall & Oates

Poetry Man – Phoebe Snow

Us & Them – Pink Floyd

It’ll Take a Long Time – Sandy Denney

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Greetings! Oh, gosh, whenever I type that word it gives me a start, thinking of my Grandma Frances, and how later in life, she would walk into a room and say “Greetings and hallucinations!” I never found it funny because she was such a complicated character in my life. As a little girl, I adored her. She was clever, adventurous, generous, fun, funny, and let me stay up impossibly late to color with markers or talk and play King’s Corners and Concentration. She took me to the dime store where we bought shockingly red pistachios from the heat lamp carousel and shared Russel Stover salted nut rolls. She loved to take me to the movies, to the show as she would say.

As we both got older, I would meet her for the first time, meaning, her faults and idiosyncrasies came into full view.

My Grandmother was bipolar and likely a borderline personality, but it didn’t become fully evident to me until I was nine or ten, though there were plenty of signs. Like the fact that she reamed my Dad for not doing her bidding, or that she so fully believed, as an old enough to know better girl, in her ability to FLY, that she jumped off the roof of their house and broke her collarbone. Or that she had shock treatments. All of this, she told me as if it happened to everyone, all the time.

I have told you about my sister, the harsh words, the beatings, the fact that I had to have a lock installed on my bedroom door to keep her from me and stealing anything she felt she deserved more than I did – clothes, money, jewelry, trinkets. So, as you might imagine, any time away from my childhood home was a gift, where I could be guaranteed a day without my sister’s abuse, the loudness of my parents and brothers. Where I didn’t have to hide in my room to feel safe.

On the occasion I met Grandma Frances for the first time, I went her house for a weekend. She lived with my Great Grandma Tillie (her mother), and unbeknownst to me, they had hatched a plan for me to spend the time with my cousin Becky. Bless her heart, Becky was kind, but I only saw her as an awful interloper. She was nothing like me. I have no idea how she turned out, but at the time, I didn’t find her terribly bright or interesting or fun. A dud. She breathed heavily through her mouth and smelled funny. It feels cruel to type the words as an adult with hopes of all children getting along, but, through the lens of a little girl looking for escape from her family, my heart can’t help but break a little. No one ever asked me what I wanted or needed or felt. I was crushed. My time with Grandma was ours, special. That she would do this, however well intentioned, felt like a betrayal.

I asked my Grandma to take me home. Thankfully, she did, but oh, oh, oh, the litany of abuse I got during the car ride home. You’d think I’d committed a mortal sin. The twenty minute drive stretched into what seemed like hours.

And so, I became more guarded around her, made decisions that would make me safer from her vitriol and unpredictable moods. Which only became more erratic and cruel, her mind vacillating from what was mostly normal to the awful psychosis of bipolar disorder. She literally became crazier and crazier, hurling insults, believing impossible lies about friends and relatives, getting in trouble with the law, being institutionalized. It was a terrible time, especially considering all she had endured and accomplished.

She was widowed, quite tragically, at 32, but found the strength to raise three children and have great success working at Sears. A master at bridge and a devout Catholic, she did much for her local parish. A dear friend to many, driving just about everyone without a car wherever they needed to go. She loved music and parties and politics and volunteered for the Democrats. Her favorite drink, a Brandy Alexander. Her scent, White Shoulders. She chewed Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum (I do too!).

But her illness and her lack of belief in it, there was absolutely nothing wrong with her, destroyed our relationship. A death by a million cuts, from the moment I met her that first time, as a child. It is the greatest loss of my life.

And so this post, where I started with a cheerful picture of pie (delicious and wonderful cherry), and thought about that first word, greetings, turned so dramatically. A bit like life, I suppose.

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