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Acceptance Speech April 9, 2015

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(holding gold trophy)

Wow. Thank you. After a couple of sleepless nights, I really wasn’t expecting this! There are so many to thank. First, of course, the Gods of Sleep, who at last saw fit to favor me. I hope you’ll stay with me a bit longer. Thanks to the Sun, whose brightness I soaked in yesterday on my multiple-mile walk—hat tip to Vitamin D! I’d like to thank Alcohol for not messing with my sleep pattern last night, Menopause for few hot flashes, and Fantastic Food for keeping it real. A special thanks to Nausea, who showed up ever so briefly but graciously backed away at my glare. I’d like to thank Unconscious (who probably had a little help from Subconscious) for the successful abduction of Conscious. Gagging her and tying her to that chair was a nice touch, and I only half-awoke when she knocked herself and said chair over in her struggle for freedom. Great job at subduing her, guys. This award makes me feel rested and ready to face what comes next. Thanks, everyone, and (raising trophy high) good morning!

4BY1: Quarterly Report April 1, 2015

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Downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, American goldfinch, tufted titmouse, northern cardinal, blue jay, house sparrow, dark-eyed junco, purple finch, red-bellied woodpecker, mourning dove, hairy woodpecker, common raven, American crow, red-tailed hawk, rock dove/pigeon, European starling, rough-legged hawk, snow goose, osprey, bald eagle, snowy owl, American robin, common eider, herring gull, red-breasted merganser, long-tailed duck (oldsquaw), black-backed gull, mallard, common redpoll, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker, eastern bluebird, American kestrel, northern mockingbird, turkey vulture, Canada goose, common loon, common merganser, common goldeneye, song sparrow, hooded merganser, red-winged blackbird. (43. 2012: 40. 2013: 53. 2014: 40.)

Yes, we had our second snowy owl sighting, in January, in Maine. And I finally heard my first red-winged blackbird two days ago.

Goal March 24, 2015

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I shouldn’t be spending the money, of course, I should be saving up for those Big Things that are to happen this year, but I am here in the City of Food Gods, and my goal is to not put anything in my mouth that doesn’t move past satisfaction into happiness. On arrival we split a dozen oysters, two local varieties and one from away (Nova Scotia, I think), and they send me into paroxysms of joy that bubble over with my celery mimosa. To finish, we order an oyster bun; after all, the chefs are nominated in the James Beard Best Chef: Northeast category, and there is nothing in that room that is not delicious. We follow this with a trip to the new dumpling place (its 26-year-old owner nominated in the James Beard Rising Star Chef category), where we eat boiled peanuts that make us swoon and two orders of dumplings, one lamb/black bean/chili/peanut and one steamed hake/burdock, and these are gigglegood, and we only wish that they’d served them in the opposite order. The next day I have fresh fruit and a hard-boiled egg and a (James Beard–nominated) croissant for breakfast, a toasted almond-and-ginger kale-and-quinoa bowl for lunch, and a lobster roll for dinner. Both nights I indulge in gelato: Sunday my traditional bacio and hazelnut from the Verona vendors, Monday toasted coconut and mango from their competitors, which makes me feel guilty out of loyalty to the there-first Italians, but my friends like the new place, and it was good. This morning I walk next door to the James Beard–nominated bakery for a ham-and-cheese croissant and a cup of strong black coffee, and as I begin to recount my culinary adventures thus far I discover that today is the day these nominees (and the other City of Food Gods nominees, many of whom will be seeing me soon enough) will find out if they move from semifinalist to finalist. I am excited for all these deserving people. But I am most excited for me, who doesn’t deserve any of this, but whose taste buds dance delighted at their luck.

AM4M: Whereabouts March 23, 2015

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I know that I’ve disappeared. I do this. But I’ve been anxious and obsessed, about things I seem to be losing (my keys, my mind, my body, my youth, bits of my livelihood) and about possible future events, the thoughts of which trigger near panic-attack discomfort stemming from childhood (physical chaos of my living space, money worries). But I can’t write about these things without (a) it being one big whine or (b) boring myself silly. Enough already. As to those deaccessioning projects I need to accomplish, I consider writing about those, but then I think, write after you’ve done something, if you ever do. Stop stalling. This is bullshit.

Half-Assed February 27, 2015

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On Monday, my chiropractor pronounced my pelvis and spine in alignment after a 6-plus-week struggle with a pinched nerve. She said I could go back to yoga if I avoided certain poses. She said I could get back on an elliptical, gradually, in a couple more weeks. She gave me permission to try to ice skate, as long as I didn’t fall (the rink closes for the season this weekend!). And she told me that my right gluteus had atrophied a bit and was not as firm as my left.

In a way, this is puzzling, because all the exercise I’ve been doing—walking and biking at the gym, cross-country skiing on the rail trail—works both sides of my body. But I guess my left side has been doing some serious compensating for the weakness on my right.

She gave me some exercises to do to strengthen my right side. I haven’t done them yet.

I skated for (just) a half hour today. I could tell I’d been three months off the ice. There were enough people there that I couldn’t reverse direction, leaving my left cheek, again, to lord it over the right.

AM4M: Laura’s Sesame Noodles February 9, 2015

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Mali has suggested we share some easy recipes that we enjoy on a regular basis. Here’s one I like a lot, perfected by my neighbor Laura. One reason this goes quickly for me is that after I get my stash of three or four cakes of tofu from my monthly buying club, I cut them into sixths, marinate them in tamari, and bake them at 350°F for an hour. Then I stick them in the freezer. (That said, that first searing step can’t take much time.) I tend to have all the other ingredients in my house (and I always roast all my sesame seeds as soon as I buy them).

Tofu
Pan sear soy-marinated tofu in a little oil until golden brown on both sides.

Sauce
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons grated ginger
1–2 teaspoon tahini
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds (more for top when finished)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Noodles
I use soba noodles, cuz Laura does. They’re good.

Assemble
Cut up tofu, grate a carrot, and mix them with the noodles. Mix in the sauce. Top with scallions and sesame seeds.

 

I’m making this tonight.

500* February 5, 2015

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I might go to London in October. I should go to London in October.

When I realized that this might happen, I had a mini panic attack about when my unused passport might expire. Not til the end of next year, thank the gods.

But now I’m hyperaware of how long it’s been since I was out of the country. Remember when I last publicly freaked out about it? No? You mean it’s not all about me?

I still haven’t headed to Montreal. Sheesh.

All evidence points to my not having left these United States since summer 2002.

It’s not that I haven’t traveled. But all that business/pleasure trekking to Portland, Maine, has calmed wanderlust a tiny bit.

And I have traveled: big trips to Oregon, California, Colorado, Arizona, Utah. Long ago, my annual Adirondack trips. New York City sometimes. Trips to family in Pennsylvania and Maryland. A wedding in North Carolina. Indiana, even!

But that cluster of Italy/Scotland/Baja/Belize/Paris/Nova Scotia? Apparently that was all so 1996–2002.

I should go to London. Will any of you be there then?

 

 

*My five hundredth post here, apparently. That only took seven years. I’m no Vesper Sparrow, for cryin’ out loud.

 

H4H: Helen Replies February 4, 2015

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From January 26, for those of you who haven’t seen it:

Dear Indigo:

I feel your longing, man (woman, gender-neutral term, whatever), I really do. All those nights of getting wasted together on Parisian ennui and Ligurian landscapes and Deloney’s fire escape were, as you say, loud and intense and fucking beautiful. (Oh, mi dispiace, I forgot that I was getting wasted on Ligurian landscapes with someone else. But that’s water under the ponte vecchio, right?)

Hell, you and Mali and the rest of the band are still loud and intense and fucking beautiful. No, make that loud and intense and motherfucking beautiful. But my hearing’s shot, my hair’s gone gray, and no amount of WD40 will revive this rusty machine. And I have to be careful about getting knocked on my ass—osteopenia, you know. All that’s left in me is a banal ballad that’s best left unsung, although I’m trying to sell the rights to Celine Dion.

Mi dispiace, me dispiace, mi dispiace.

(And will you stop harping over that bass already? It’s been a quarter of a century. How many times do I have to say mi dispiace? In fact, you should really be feeling dispiaced for mi because that BradPittWannabe wasn’t even that good. NOTHING like Deloney.)

Oh shit. I swore I wasn’t going to bring that up.

Mi dispiace.

H4H: It’s Time January 21, 2015

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Dear Helen:

It’s time to get the band back together.

I know. You never expected to hear that from me. I never expected to suggest it.

But after twenty-five years, maybe it’s time to let bygones be bygones. I mean, we were good. We were really good.

It’s not fair to the world, keeping separate those parts of a whole that, when merged, become a raging, well-oiled talent machine. We were loud and intense and fücking beautiful.

I can barely remember why we broke up. Maybe some of us didn’t handle the drugs as well as others. Maybe some of us got a little cranky when hungry. Maybe when that BradPittWannabe you slept with in OK City stole my bass I got more than a little pissed off. Maybe when a person rents a Tuscan villa, she should invite the entire band to join her.

But that’s all water under the bridge. We’re reuniting, and we are gonna rock. We still look good. All of us. And now that we’ve matured a bit, we’re better prepared to deal with the stress of your superior beauty. We’ll keep our jealousy on a tight leash with a studded collar. Pinky swear! I mean, looks aren’t everything, right? Not all of us can have hair like yours. (Bitch.)

Mali and I have been working on some stuff that will knock you on your ass: “Fish Runner,” “Stick Shift,” “No Kidding.” Your voice is perfect for “Mi Dispiace.” I know you say you’ve stopped writing, but that can’t be true. We need you back in it, with more songs like “Procrastinitus Interruptus.” Or “Paris Rumble.”

Ah, Paris.

Can you start rehearsals next week? Wednesdays are good for the rest of us.

Face it, Helen, we were freakin’ epic, utterly great together. This is going to be extraordinary. It’s impossible to think that we’ve wasted this much time. It’s impossible to imagine that anything could have ended the wonder that was us.

Of course, there was that thing with Deloney.

Shit. I swore I wasn’t going to bring that up.

AM4M: Tree’s End January 19, 2015

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As my core group of readers may or may not recall, there have been many years when I do not get a Christmas tree. For instance, if we spend the week of the holidays visiting family, it seems like a lot of work to put a tree up (and take it down). We put one up in 2009, but then not again until 2013. We managed to be home for the holidays both in 2013 and 2014 and amazingly have had a tree both years.

I used to worry about the whole annual-tree thing environmentally, and on some level, I still do. All these people cutting down a tree to put in the house for a few weeks, then discarding—it seems crazy and, depending, expensive. Frankly, an upside of traveling was not dealing with what I thought about the Christmas tree industry.

But I love ornaments, and I love the smell of balsam, and I sometimes love a tree in spite of myself.

Early on in our Vermont days, if we decided to get a tree, we’d go to a nearby farm with a cut-your-own patch. It felt like we were helping out with the local economy a bit (and it was fun). The past two years I went to an expensive nursery but got really beautiful trees; as a bonus, a wonderful man was there to wrap the tree and put it on the car (I dutifully cut the plastic wrap up with scissors while watching TV). I justify the expensive tree by reminding myself that it costs less than ordering flowers.

This year I heard radio stories about how much greener it is to support the Christmas tree industry (growing trees is good!) than to buy a fake tree that would someday be one more thing in a landfill that will not break down. I want to believe this story.

Of course, after you get a tree, you have to dispose of a tree. We have done this various ways: dropped it onto a neighbor’s burn pile, taken it to the dump to have mulched (allegedly), dropped one down by the creek behind our house for the birds and animals to deal with.

But I recently learned that goats will eat Christmas trees—including the goats right down the road at the cheese farm. We got permission to leave our tree there, “with the boys” (the pregnant females’ diets being closely monitored). On Saturday, after at last disrobing our tree (my pinched nerve had delayed that task by at least a week), Tim threw the tree on the car roof, tied it on with twine, and we drove down to the farm.

The tree approaches the goat pen.

The tree approaches the goat pen.

There appears to be interest.

There appears to be interest.

The boys immediately tuck into the balsam snack.

The boys immediately tuck into the balsam snack.

Hipsta goat posing with our tree.

Hipsta goat posing with our tree.

And here’s a short video. We live on a quiet road, but apparently a truck was going by right at the moment of filming. Sorry about that. The other sounds were worth retaining, I think.

I was texting with a neighbor after Tim posted this video. She said, in part, “This has significantly helped to tip the scales in favor of a tree, as we have an annual angst-ridden debate over whether or not we should get one.” (Apparently, I am not alone in my angst.)

Indeed, the goat option makes things much less angsty. And if we’re lucky, maybe we have a new end-of-holiday tradition.

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