Wednesday, May 31, 2006


It feels good to give the old blog a facelift. I'm still not totally satisfied with it--I mean, where did that weird dot just above the photograph come from?--but I am leaving it as-is for a bit.

The weekend was ... rotten ... or at least contaminated. . . . A lot of family issues, none of them great, and a disagreement with the old sweetie pie. Nothing feels worse than a disagreement with the sweetie pie. Sigh.

I am currently haunted by a potential writing project. On one hand, it keeps sneaking into my head, taking up vital space. Irresistable. On the other hand, if there's one story I don't want to live with for months and months (and this story would take months), it's this story. It's the kind of story that makes you feel ucky inside. I just keep dragging my feet about it and not getting anywhere. Maybe this afternoon is the afternoon to start it. Or kill it, if that's possible. Somehow I don't think this one is going away. And I also have a feeling it's the story I've been practicing for.

Well, S.P. called in sick to clean house and find some curtain fabric. I should get off the comp and play with my boy!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jak update

My life is boring (I mean, the biggest excitement was making my own seitan from scratch), but my brother's is going well. He called me today, in recovery from a 36 hour "Battlestation" drill. He'd been awake for 36 hours, maintained by one muffin, a bagel, and shouting some song for 34 of those hours. I missed the song title, because his voice was, unsurprisingly, mangled.

Anyway, he's graduating in a week-ish, top of his class. I am so, so proud of him!

Friday, May 19, 2006

PS on books

Here's what I am reading: Dominion

"Dominion is a horrible, wonderful, important book. It is horrible in its subject, a half-reportorial, half-philosophical examination of some of the most repugnant things that human beings do to animals.... The book is wonderful in its eloquent, mordant clarity, and its hilarious fillets of sanctimonious cant and hypocrisy.... Dominion is important in large measure because the author, an avowed conservative Republican and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is an unexpected defender of the animals against the depredations of profit driven corporations, swaggering, gun-loving hunters, proponents of renewed 'harvesting' of whales and elephants and others who insist that all of nature is humanity's romper room, to play with, rearrange, and plunder at will.... This is a beautiful book, and a balm to the scared, lonely animal in us all. -- Natalie Angier, The New York Times Book Review

And it is SO SO GOOD!

A prescription for books

Earlier today, I was reading with Fiona and it suddenly struck me just how excited I am to read her some of my favorite books. I've thought that time and again since before she was born, but today, I couldn't stop thinking about great it will be to share Meg and Charles Wallace with Fiona. I just don't think she can be a fully moral human being until she has read those books. And I got to thinking about all the other wonderful stories that have taken up residence in my heart and mind and created me, and I just can't wait to read them with her--if only so that she can look back as an adult and say: "Ah. Watership Down at age 5. That explains everything." So here is a short list of some of the books I'd like to share with my child over the next ten years of her life. Please post any books that you think are great books for kids, and maybe a suggested age for exposure.

A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, & A Swiftly Tilting Planet, L'Engle. Maybe when she's 7 or 8. What a wonderful portrait of doing right and facing down evil, no matter how much we might want to turn away.

Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery. 6-ish. Anne is just plain funny; I re-read her about once every three years. And she lives in such a wonderful, wonderful world that I wish I could move in!

Watership Down, Adams. 5-7. Because even rabbits can be heroes.

Charlotte's Web, White. 4-5. Eloquence is important. So is kindness.

Bunnicula, Howe. By the end of the year. If it had a few more pictures, I would have checked it out the other day. Under all the humor, wonderful messages of tolerance.

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings: it's hard to know when she'll be ready, but it's the most important adventure in print!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: 6? Some of the language is heavy, but the story kicks @!! The messages about friendship and love are important, too.

Alanna, Pierce. 8. My first introduction to chicks-can-kick-butt fantasy action, and I can't wait for Fi to check it out.

I can't wait to see what you guys will add to the list, but it'll be good. And just so you have a little bit of a grasp on Fiona's reading level/interests (no, she can't read yet, but she holds still very well), is that we struggled through James & The Giant Peach a couple of weeks ago. It took us about 6 days, and she kept trying to turn the pages to see the next picture, but it worked great in the car. She really liked it and followed the story well.

I am really looking for some suggestions of books on that level or a bit easier so we can start diving into meaty reading!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Why is it so hard to find videos of whales and dolphins swimming around and being cute? Here I am, trying to brainwash my child and boyfriend into being animal-loving freaks, and I can't find any movies about animals being cute and adorable and heroic. Sheesh. I guess I'll just rent Free Willy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Full brain

My head has been so full of thoughts lately. Some of the thoughts are simple: must finish reading Nevada Barr mystery, NOW. Must eat chocolate ... Some of the thoughts are ugly: I'm going to strangle that kid if she doesn't leave me alone/be quiet/stop [insert irritating behavior]. (I think that one a lot lately.) Some are useless: Why can't I get Fiona to bed by 9:30? (Usually linked with previous thought.) Some are painful: They do WHAT to pigs who are too skinny? But all the thoughts are crowding together and hurting my head. I feel like my skull is just too small for all of them. I am tired, tired, tired of thinking. I just want to curl up with a (soy) cocoa and read a novel and be lost for a little while.

On the other hand, here's a thought WORTH thinking about, and I really hope I can go down and visit this place: This is a farm in Salem that rescues animals from abusive situations and gives them a new life. And boy are the critters KEEY-UTE!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Get your bonsai on!

John bought me a bonsai yesterday! It is soooo cute--it's a dwarf Japanese Holly tree, and it has these tiny little shiny green leaves, and I love it. It is still in its baby pot, so now I can start browsing for a cooler pot. I've probably got a year before it'll need replanted. Also, it looks like it's already developing little exposed, fat roots at the top of the soil, so I am very happy.

We really looked like Japan nuts yesterday. I was wearing my Japanese clogs and buying shiso seeds, and John was buying bamboo stakes and two baby bonsais. Wow. We're seriously geeks.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Today, while puttering around in the potted plants, I decided to take the shears to the bee balm. I mean, 2 foot tall bee balm is just ... unnatural. Creepy. And smothering the dill, too. Anyway, I think that plant is possessed. I put the cut parts in water and within half an hour they were just as perky as they were on the plant. It's a little disconcerting. I've never even fertilized the dang thing!

Speaking of fertilizer, I've decided that's just what my baby apple tree needs. The poor thing has spider mites and looks kind of terrible. I'm going to make it some seaweed plant food and see if I can perk it up any.

That's right, I said 'make it some seaweed plant food.' I went online and looked up vegan organic fertilizers, and that's the quickest, least stinky one I found. See? I'm serious about this no animal business. And while I've had some unsuccessful cooking experiences this week, I am still feeling pretty good. The first day, I just focused on the fact that beer is vegan, nobody has ever made genetically engineered barley, and that hops prevent osteoporosis. Then I cheered up when I discovered that tofutti cream cheese is signicantly tastier than nonfat cow cream cheese. Then I tried my first 'cheese' sauce made from soy milk and nutritional yeast. Um, yuck. (Although I'm blaming the soymilk. 8th Continent = weird tasting) But today's pancakes totally rocked, and the vegan corn chowder I made for lunch was great, too.

While I'm really excited about this new cooking experience, I do want to make it clear that my family is not going straight-up vegan. John gets to eat eggs, and I'm not going to fuss about them too much, especially if they come from less-cruel sources. And we're still eating cheese, just not as often. And when we're out, nobody is going to flip out about non-obvious animal products (such as those in baked goods and dressings and the like). So the goal is about 95% vegan, which still isn't great, but is obviously way better than our mostly lacto-ovo-vegetarian-but-once-a-week-or-so-meat-eating past.

One side note about veganism: I have always found vegan cooking fascinating and attractive. To a food-nut like me, it's like the haiku of the culinary arts. You purposefully limit the possibilities to spur creativity. Now that's beautiful.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On my mind

Animals have been on my mind lately. I haven't been up to blogging about it--I still don't feel ready to write it through--but I have come to one certain conviction: it is wrong to eat animals. There are times and places where necessity can override right and wrong, but we lucky 21st century humans have the luxury and wherewithal to choose our foods. Maybe Ice Age people lacked vegetable foods, but we don't. And for us to torture, rape, maim, confine, cut up, brutalize and deform creatures who share 90+% of their genetic matter with us--for us to do such terrible things to life forms that are all but our family members--for us to do such terrible things for the sake of flavor and fun and convenience is completely sick, fucking sick.

I've spent the last couple of days having spontaneous sobbing fits about it. Oh, and spending a lot of time on

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Eek, eek, whew ... yum?

I have spent my life feeling iffy about fish. There were fish dishes I tried and enjoyed, but there were also bad memories of aging smelt and dolly vardens that I usually just try to push out the back door of the mind. Suffice to say that as a child, I learned the hard way that there are some flavors nothing can aid or cover up, not ketchup, not tartar sauce, not even Tabasco. Now that's knowledge I'd spare my kid.

That said, Fiona likes fish--she gorges on tuna salad and fish sticks, the fish things I can be persuaded to cook. So I walked down to New Seasons last night and let Fiona pick out some fish for dinner. She picked a trout. With its head still on.

The fish guy obligingly cut off the head and threw it away, and we finished our shopping. Fiona wanted to carry the fish packet for a while, until we picked up a cucumber, which she adopted as a new baby doll. The I brought the groceries home, whipped up a salad and prepared the silvery swimmer of lakes.

I rinsed it and patted it dry and seasoned it with kosher salt and pepper and placed some onion in the cavity and wrapped it in bacon and placed it under the broiler. I only gagged twice (and my friend Elizabeth, a vegetarian, was kind enough not to laugh at me as she listened on the telephone). Discarding the wrapping from the fish packet was pretty ugly, but I kept my gorge controlled.

It actually tasted pretty good. Bland, but good. John loved it. Fiona ate a couple of bites. I even had seconds. So I guess I'll try making fish again some time, although next time, I'm putting parchment paper down in the broiler pan.

No way am I scrubbing fins off of that thing a second time.