quick & tasty

Easy Garlic Lemon Pasta

  • pasta of your choice (last night mine was rotini)
  • olive oil
  • one large clove of garlic, peeled & smashed with the flat of a knife
  • kalamata olives, pitted & halved
  • half a lemon
  • grated parmesan

Boil pasta until al dente; drain and return to pan.

Drizzle with olive oil and turn on lowest flame.

Add garlic and toss.

Add olives and squeeze lemon over; toss.

Remove from heat, sprinkle generously with parmesan, and savor.

the avoidance two-step

it’s back and forth and round and round I go. some things get accomplished, some things accrete, and I circumnavigate them. I wake up again and again in the middle of the night and read and write words with no particular path or agenda. refuse to evaluate relative success too closely. have meaningful conversations with friends, in person, by phone, via email. feel marginally saner. do some prep for annual salary review, plan to do more, and retreat soundly into fiction for the duration of a sunday. fail to take any photographs. okay, enough, this is not going to devolve into a litany of failures, which is always far too easy. sometimes the gorgeous world sucker-punches me. sometimes I manage to feed and clothe and care for myself somewhat like an adult. sometimes I lie awake long into the night and wonder what equilibrium looks like. most importantly I keep going in some direction that looks something like forward.

for undoing the winter blues

at least this is a sathead’s happy tactic.

A Delicious Cup of Cocoa

  • 2 heaping teaspoons of cocoa powder– I use Droste, or else, if I must, one of the standard available baking brands, Hershey’s or Nestle
  • milk– I prefer 2%; just, I beg of you, do not use skim
  • a pinch of salt
  • one large cup or mug
  • one soft throw
  • one good read

Pour a goodly measure of milk into a saucepan– for me there is no measuring this, but then it is my Tiny Talent. Say, enough to fill up your favorite big mug.

Turn the flame up high, even tho all the books say low– milk scalds faster with more heat, and I am preternaturally impatient. Simply stick very close by to catch it before it boils over, because that’s just a big mess all over your stove; trust me.

Dash in just a splash of warmed milk, and stir to a rich paste. If too pasty, dash in a splash more.Mix your cocoa, sugar, and salt in the bottom of your big cup.

As soon as the milk begins to rise in the pan, turn off the flame and pour into the cup. Stir mighty well. And you might want to hang onto your spoon, since it tends to settle.

Install yourself with throw blanket and book.


oh, hello

NYTimes, 1/1/08:

A Clutter Too Deep for Mere Bins and Shelves

Excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem. People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding, a condition many experts believe is a mental illness in its own right, although psychiatrists have yet to formally recognize it.

Ms. Johnson says she often sees a link between her client’s efforts to get organized and weight loss. “I think someone decides, ‘I’m not going to live like this anymore. I’m not going to hold onto my stuff, I’m not going to hold onto my weight,’” she said. “I don’t know that one comes before the other. It’s part of that same life-change decision.”


Dr. Peeke says she often instructs patients trying to lose weight to at least create one clean and uncluttered place in their home. She also suggests keeping a gym bag with workout clothes and sneakers in an uncluttered area to make it easier to exercise. She recalls one patient whose garage was “a solid cube of clutter.” The woman cleaned up her home and also lost about 50 pounds.

“It wasn’t, at the end of the day, about her weight,” Dr. Peeke said. “It was about uncluttering at multiple levels of her life.”


highlights from a thursday

  1. received yet another ticket for expired plates.
  2. drove to the secretary of state’s office at lunchtime and renewed them in about :30 seconds with a machine.
  3. reviewed my tally of tickets online. realized I had been cited by a camera for a red light violation. got the phone number for setting up a payment plan. will call tomorrow and pray to vehicular gods not to get booted.
  4. learned that since my car insurance check cleared, my rent check won’t. not sure how to solve that one.
  5. while driving to and from car reg lunch excursion, ran through a homeric catalog of possible second jobs, meanwhile decimating cuticles.
  6. wished for the gazillionth time that I were smarter and better at making/managing/saving (ha!) money.
  7. driving home from work, felt about .5 inch tall. 20 degrees and wicked windchill. knew I should go to the gym, that it would be the Right thing to do. wanted, fervently, only to crawl into bed. reminded myself of a certain donkey-photographing promise, so instead made a couple of stops and operated the camera with icy fingers. afterward felt enormously happier and calmer, nearly even sane.
  8. then the car engine started making an unsettling high-pitched noise.
  9. watched people bicycling down the frozen chicago streets and thought, what virtuous people. and then soon that will be me.
  10. saw a woman pushing a shopping cart and wearing a black plastic garbage bag and drew the line right there.

deja vu

I’ve been here before. called to account for some indiscretion I’d posted on my web page by my sister after some Good Samaritan had forwarded her a link.

the truth is I know I air too much in this space, and for the most part it is mine to air. but certain details may not in fact be mine to air, for all that they are mine to process. and my intention is not to cause pain or shame to anyone I love. it never was. but my actions, making public what is private, can tend toward that end.

I debated with myself the ethics of posting the item under question. there were a couple of days where I really didn’t know how to proceed and at first proceeded privately, with this material viewable to friends only–a small subset of people who, I hoped and trusted, would take their dismay up with me directly should they feel the need to express dismay.

generally speaking, my family does not observe what I do. I am aware of this. so after a time, after I’d posted a few other things and superficially buried this piece, I deemed it safe to change the post to viewable by anyone. why? arguably, that was thumbing my nose. but ultimately I wanted to own the project fully—as a project.

to which I truly felt (perhaps mistakenly) there were not people attached– until someone outside my family, observing silently, opted to step in and forward the link to my sister– thereby throwing her into embarrassment and concern on behalf of other family members.

I do know that no one in my family would have likely taken any notice of this project of mine without the intervention of a third party.

well and good. this is a fine lesson to me that I don’t operate in the vacuum I tend to assume. that the gossipy world I was raised in persists. it reminds me that I do not in fact intend harm or shame to my family members by my personal, processing project, despite the fact that it might seem to be “about” them– and reminds me to revise my actions to suit this intention. and it teaches me to remember that the web is in fact a public forum, as enclosed as the process of writing and posting might feel, at times.

as the process of living might feel, at times.

it is worth noting that people are quietly judging me.

for good luck in the new year!

here’s what I’ll be making today:

Hoppin’ John

1 lb dried black eyed peas
2 T olive oil
1 smoked pork jowl or 1/4 lb thick-cut smoked bacon
Andouille sausage
1 onion, chopped
1/2 t black pepper
1 t crushed red pepper
1 t salt
1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 c uncooked rice

Presoak black eyed peas. Brown pork in olive oil. Add onion, and cook for 5 minutes. Add 8 cups of water, black pepper, red pepper, salt, and bring to a boil; cook for 10 minutes. Add peas, and cook on low boil, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Add tomatoes and rice, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Turn off head, let stand, then fluff. If you used a jowl, remove, shred meat, and add back in.

(Note: you can sub in frozen black eyed peas, if you, like I often do, fail to plan sufficiently ahead. Ahem.)


wishes for a new year

2008, yo. so has the novelty of being out of the 1900s worn off? not for me, still. the digits we’re in continue to give a little tweak somewhere. and then there are the other digits, the 40s, whose tweak is more directly personal.

I rang in the new year with some truly delightful creative chicago people at a mustache-optional party in a flat still bearing remnants of 1980s well-heeled decor and walls of polaroid-immortalized friends– floated past midnight on a gin wave, eating my weight in stuffed mushrooms and meatballs on toothpicks, upper lip raw with the piney stink of spirit gum, dancing up a storm and smoking exactly one quarter inch of an absolutely disgusting chinese cigarette– and now…

bring on the resolutions. yesterday, at the 11th hour, as it were, i actually joined a gym. good heavens. but it’s easy walking distance from my house and crazy cheap, so it seemed like a no-brainer. and now, still dark on the morning of january 1, but quickly getting lighter in the snow-white world out my window, here are a few wishes I make for us collectively for the coming year–

may our conversations be rich and either swiftly to the point or luxuriously circuitous.

may we honor those who’ve come before while seeking our own, right ground.

may the roller coaster ride bring views of distant lands and plunging, beating hearts that assert life above all– and may we all successfully keep our hands and heads safely within the vehicle.

may we continue to strive to find creative solutions to adversity, never despairing.

may this brilliant world and its kooky and gorgeous inhabitants keep us feeling a part of an immense living family– at times fraught with dysfunction among our closest siblings, the human kind, but boisterous and persistent and riddled with grace throughout green and swimming and creeping cousins.

may we love as much as possible and beyond and continue to open and open and open though daily experience might make us want to shutter and fold, may we go on opening.

xo to all.