Ernie and I both felt out of sorts yesterday. We've been closed up for the week and hadn't really been out. Seeing pictures of friends at AMA made us feel a little lonely, and sad we weren't there. I felt restless but I didn't know what I wanted to do. We were supposed to be attacking the problem of the cat shredded wall but I really wasn't in the mood for that. So we did what we always do when we can't figure out what will make us happy: we went for a drive.
We went with no direction, just randomly choosing left, straight, or right at every intersection. As we headed through some fields I told Ernie to stop the car and I took this picture.
And I felt a little bit better. It's as though by taking a picture I had somehow made a mark on the weekend. As we meandered on I thought about it and I wondered why I feel that need to mark things in this way. Why is it that I somehow feel that taking a photograph, albeit a quick iPhone snap, somehow validates my time? It makes me present. It says I was here. It says that this is how I saw this. I'm not sure, but with each picture I felt a little better.
And I gotta say, I didn't realize this was such an old song of Neil Young's....I know it from the early 80's album version. Great song.
I spent much of the last week on the couch feeling wretched. I went back to work on Thursday and lasted over half the day before coming home in a haze of exhaustion. I came in the door and immediately went and laid on the couch. I had that feeling you get when you're really exhausted....that you can't move a muscle.....you feel the weight of your body and the stillness. My dress was twisted a bit but I couldn't move to adjust it. I laid there for an hour or so before I could even do that. Yesterday was much better and today I think I feel back to whatever percent is my optimum. I've still been a bit of a homebody but am starting to get itchy. All the pictures of AMA in Nashville and Nick Rudd and Robyn Hitchcock...good LORD....have me feeling wistful and that I need to get out of the house. I told myself we'd go to the Farmers' Market but here we sit, me on the computer, both boys asleep upstairs, and Ernie watching something political and acerbic on tv. I'm not sure what the day holds for any of us.
Owen has a project due for drama next week. He had to pick a star from the 20s-30s-40s. He picked Harold Lloyd. His teacher just looked at him and said, "In all my years of teaching, no one has ever picked Harold Lloyd." His assignment includes decorating a tissue box to illustrate the life of his star and making it attractive. I had high hopes for Owen and Drama. Sigh. I love that child. It's a damn good thing.
In other news, although outside it has been 90 degrees every day, I am pretending it is fall by staying inside and making things like braised short ribs and chicken cacciatore. I've decided short ribs aren't my favorite thing...or at least I have not mastered them. Even trying my best to defat them as much as possible, they end up feeling too, well, fatty for me. I will figure it out one of these days. I did make nice homemade beef stock though!
Oh, and remember that we stripped the wallpaper that the cats had damaged (and was ancient as well) from the living room wall? It involved moving a cupboard full of glass which, although a pain in the ass, always makes me happy as I get to see all my glass.
Patterns along the top shelf....all 1850/60s: Comet, Bull's Eye with Fleur De Lys, Bull's Eye and Diamond Point, New England Pineapple, Bellflower, Frosted Leaf and a blown and cut one at the end. Ahhhh.
And then there's Bob. He loves those little pompom things. We found his stash when we moved the cupboard. Later he had one stuck to his little butt and he looked like a little bunny rabbit with a blue tail.
Anyway....so the other morning I came downstairs, and even in my sickness, my eyes went straight to the bared drywall (our house has plaster walls but when they filled in the porch one of the living room walls that had been windows is now drywall) where some nameless beast had found a new canvas....
So there you have it, my not-terribly-bad-not-terribly-good week.
Owen was doing some more hunting throughout the house recently and found a box that appears to be untouched since the 90's. Some old jewelry I'd been missing, random ticket stubs, a bolo tie that Ernie had in the 80's and a ring that was my grandmother's. Man, I'd been sick thinking I'd lost that ring.... Among the odds and ends there were also a couple of pretty great souvenirs of my past life.
Ernie and I screamed so loudly when Owen pulled this out that we scared him. It was the little menu from Robert's Western Wear that we had Bob Woodruff sign the night we met him. HA! I knew we had it somewhere! If I'm not mistaken it was the weekend that Red, Hot & Country was filmed at the Ryman....that was realeased in 1994 I think so sometime before that I guess.
And crazily enough, Bob's album out earlier this year is my top fave of the year and he's gonna be here soon....news to follow shortly!
These were supposed to be lifetime backstage passes from the Mavericks. Think they'd work today? Yeah, me neither lol.
And a sweet note from our beloved Brad Elvis....
I'm not quite sure how it can be Sunday afternoon already. It's been a fast weekend. I worked Friday evening and then Saturday til early afternoon. After that we went to a surprise party for a friend and then meandered over to Pygmalion. It had barely opened so I kind of felt like I was at an earlybird buffet in Vegas....but I knew if I went home I wouldn't come back and I did want to try some of the food offerings. I love that they were doing food this year. Seth Fein and company are so damned smart. We went with Bacaro's Braised Short Ribs: roasted fall vegetables, potato puree, braising reduction (Triple S Farms, North Avoca, Clay Bank Farm, Blue Moon). Sue's take on it was that it was too expensive for something we could have made but I don't know....I thought it was pretty great. Then we did the Jerk Wings (Miller Amish chicken, local habanero and scotch bonnet peppers) from Watson's Shack & Rail. They didn't taste that spicy at first but it crept up on you perfectly. Then we were too full to have anything else which isn't bad for $12 for two people. I accompanied it with a Lemon Bourbon Fizz which was hella lemony as Owen would say. I felt like staying but there was no place to sit (because it's for people younger than me) and my back was bitching at me. We stopped at the Esquire so we could sit, chatted to various friends and headed home.
As we walked over to Fries and Peanuts I admired my favorite street in town and its sidewalks. Those sidewalks are so beautiful that on the right day they will make me cry.
When we got home the morning's morning glories weren't completely gone by....fall is coming....
For the past few weeks I have been having dreadful dreams. They're all rooted in my life somehow....like the one where I had a screaming fight with Michael Pollock and Phil Strang in the Record Service offices and Michael ended up firing me---and I cried and cried as I left because it turns out I was also pregnant and Ernie wasn't well. Or the one last night in which my sister Judi had died unexpectedly and I was in her house sorting through all her things...all her childhood pictures and jewelry, and walking the grounds around her house looking for her missing pets. Others have my parents in them, sometimes my father has miraculously recovered from Alzheimer's, only to be struck down by something else. Over and over, every night for the past month. Sometimes I wake up just feeling devastated and it takes me a few moments to realize that it was a dream.
It's odd. I'm feeling pretty good these days. I have a bit more energy, and although my back hasn't improved, I feel better overall. It's as though I'm feeling better physically and that's giving me the space underneath to have these other things bubbling up.
I can't figure these things out so I will ponder my morning glories instead. Morning glories are one of my most beloved of flowers, right up there with zinnias and nasturtiums. Some years I start them from seed but they can be slow so this year I bought some. Both of these were bought as (the all time classic) Heavenly Blue. Here they are, same morning, perhaps 12 feet apart, no editing....one plant blue, one plant purple....
My beautiful Sweet Autumn Clematis is going by but it was wonderfully, wonderfully fragrant while it was blooming. I also have Grandpa Ott's morning glories all over the place....little did I know when I planted it years ago that it can be something of a weed. I try not to begrudge its pushy tendencies though when I think about all the things I've planted that don't come back. Perseverance is a good trait, weediness, or no. And I guess that is what I am...a little weedy but perseverant.
We are continuing to try to cut out carbs...all grains, sugars, and beans. I feel much better and have lost some weight, so it's going well. The hardest thing for me is the nights where I want to just order out. Pizza and Chinese were our two standard orders and neither one works for this. Last night I wanted to cry I SO didn't want to cook. Ernie found some chicken breast in the freezer though and he started chopping vegetables (the man is great sous chef, I tell you). We ended up with a ersatz stir fry over cauliflower rice. It tasted pretty good. Not one of my best meals, but relatively healthy. Damn it was hard though. Are there any options for healthy delivery? I guess some Chinese would be ok if we don't do rice....and well, rice once in awhile is fine anyway....just don't want to cheat unless I want to cheat for food's sake, not for ease. Does that make sense? What do you all do on the nights you desperately don't want to cook?
Oh, and I felt bad that I left Hattie out of the cat round up yesterday....so here she is.....
Fortunately I just got a couple of small shipments from Amazon, so we'll have almost enough boxes to go around....because there has been a LOT of competition for this box....
I look at Rascal this morning and thought, "Man....I want a box too."
Bob loves the box.
This morning I said to Leo, "Don't you think we'd all be better off if we had a box like Rascal's?" He just looked at me and said, "No." I said, "Well, I guess your room is your box." He just blinked at me.
I love that boy.
Lovely quietish weekend. I have to work a bit this coming weekend so I savored the lack of events. Friday night was Krannert's opening night which I knew would be good but I also knew from experience that there would be nowhere to sit near the music and standing for long just doesn't work out so well for me. That, and the stormy weather, which made it delightful to be home cooking, kept us in. If I'd been a bit more flush I would have gone to see the great John Anderson at City Center. It would have been $40 each though, and although he well deserves that and more, it just wasn't the time. So we stayed in and made a pork, olive and pepper stew for the next night. Delightful. Pam Anderson's recipes are so freaking reliable. Just amazing. Strangely, I took no pictures.
PORK STEW WITH PEPPERS AND OLIVES
Pam Anderson, via Three Many Cooks
You can make the stew a couple of days ahead but don't add the peppers until you're ready to heat and serve.
Serves: 8 servings
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1½ to 2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 each: yellow, red, and orange bell pepper, stemmed seeded and cut into 8 wedges
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
Finely grate zest and juice from 1 large orange
½ can (2 ounces) anchovies, finely minced (or 2 tablespoons anchovy paste)
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry red or white wine
3 bay leaves
½ cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat a heavy-bottom soup kettle or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over low heat. Meanwhile, place meat cubes in a medium bowl; coat with 1 tablespoon of oil and season generously with salt and pepper. A few minutes before cooking, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot; increase heat to a strong medium-high until wisps of smoke start to rise from the pan. Add peppers; sauté until lightly brown and tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove from pot; set aside. Working in 2 batches, add meat; sear, turning only once until 2 sides form an impressive, dark brown crust, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a bowl; set aside. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the hot empty skillet; add onions; sauté until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, herbes de Provence, orange zest, and anchovy paste; cook until fragrant, about a minute. Whisk in flour, then broth, wine, and orange juice, seasoning with salt and pepper. Return pork to pot, along with bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and using a potholder to protect hands, press a sheet of heavy-duty foil down so that it touches the stew. Seal foil completely around the edges. Place lid snugly on pot, set in oven, and cook for 1½ hours. Remove pot from oven and set over low heat. Carefully remove foil; stir in peppers and olives. Remembering that kettle and lid are hot, re-cover pot and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Serve.
I actually followed the recipe pretty closely, except for sizing it up a bit. I even made some homemade chicken stock to use in it, completely forgetting that one of the people I was making it for is allergic to chicken. Geesh. I remembered the next morning and quickly made a weird cauliflower pork stew. Eh. You know, win some, lose some.
The stew was for getting together with friends to watch the last of Outlander. Alas, we still have one episode to go...we couldn't do four in one sitting. The highlight of the evening?
Heather, you are an amazing giver of gifts.
Sunday morning I got up and the day was beautiful. I ate leftover stew for breakfast and laid on the living room couch reading a novel. The peeling wall paper was right above me, just taunting me.
I started pulling a bit of some of the torn (thank you very much Hattie) wallpaper and it started coming off in strips. Owen was distraught. He is very attached to items. He actually hugged some of the strips of wallpaper coming off the wall. It made me think of him cuddling the rearview mirror of our old van, or when he wouldn't let me throw out a pair of old tights because I "had memories with them." Anyway I employed what is know as the time tested Cynthia Technique in which one person gets up and starts doing a project, normally yardwork or some sort of house project. Then the other person in the household good-naturedly joins in the work. Shortly thereafter the first person sits down and watches the other person work, giving helpful suggestions and encouragement as necessary. I highly recommend this technique.
I'm waffling between keeping it roughly the same color...I do love that gold, or going white. What say you?
I've been struggling a bit with some of the Facebook posts I have seen from many, many friends that absolutely celebrate the death of Phyllis Schafley. I somehow can't go there. I can completely hate the philosophies she spewed, hate what she did, feel contempt for the person she was, but I just can't celebrate cancer and death. I go around in circles thinking, well, how bad would someone have to be for me to celebrate that...and I just can't pin down the answer. Could I be relieved at someone's death, that they are no longer doing evil or harming others? Yes, of course...but to take joy in death....?
Maybe I could have thrown some nasty comments in the past, trying for a quick laugh. I am a different person, in many ways, than when I was younger however. I have my caustic side and I can be as unfair as anybody else, and I admit I can hate...and many things are worthy of hate. But when you start celebrating death...and pain...it just seems you are bringing yourself down to the level of those you are against. I find myself bristling in the same way I do when some people lump all religious folks in the same basket. Personally, I am not particularly religious at all, yet as I used to argue with Ernie, "If you are assuming that every religious person is a certain type of person, then you are being as narrow minded about them as you are saying they are about you...."
I don't mean that what she stood for should be sugar coated now that she is dead. I just mean that we have to be careful of what kind of spirit we give out. Cancer and death are so completely uncaring about politics and what kind of life a person has lived, or has yet to live. To celebrate it seems foolish.
1. Sunday night. You can tell Owen has been down in the basement again. Look at that slide projector---it looks like an old car!
Ernie and I had a golden little getaway. We snuck away to St. Louis to see an exhibition, Self-Taught Genius, organized by the American Museum of Folk Art. It closes next weekend and I really wanted to see it so even though we shouldn't have gone, because money is for some reason particularly tight this month...we said, "CREDIT CARDS" and away we went. We got the boys off to school and I cooked a few things to have in the refrigerator for them and we took off mid morning. The day was gorgeous, sunny and cool and well, golden. We drove down listening to our current in-repeats of Bap Kennedy and Bob Woodruff and watched the fields go by. It felt so good.
I poked around online and found that Friday was the museum's free day for the exhibit so snobbily decided I'd rather go the next day since it would be less crowded. We bought a couple of tickets online and then realized we had absolutely nothing planned. It felt delightful. It was so beautiful that as we swung by the Arch I googled 'restaurant patios in St. Louis' and we ended up at the Royale. We sat next to a fountain, nibbled a bit and had a drink. Then we meandered over to Forest Park so we'd know where we were going the next day. We haven't been there in about a million years. The last time we were there was for a glass exhibition that Lowell Innes had organized...and hell, he died in the mid 80's. Wow. That's kind of shocking. Anyway...we'd scored a cheapish room at a hotel that is normally far beyond our budget using the Hotel Tonight app so we checked in early and collapsed from a general state of well being and the feeling of not being worried about anything. Crazy. I'd picked a restaurant or two that I wanted to go to but we didn't feel like getting back in our car so we just walked a block or so down and had a drink at a nondescript but ok place. Then we went back to the hotel and sat outside at a restaurant next to the pool and watched people. We thought about getting in touch with St. Louis friends but it just felt so damn nice to have no plans.
The hotel's windows even opened...so nice. We were on the seventh floor and it was lovely to hear city noises.
The next morning I wasn't in the mood to spend $14 on an omelet so we skipped breakfast and headed over to the museum early. We wandered a bit...I love old City parks...and were waiting when the museum doors opened at 10 am. We trotted over to folk art exhibit and oh good god in heaven it was so freaking wonderful. I know I should be more articulate but I just can't. It's highlights from the collection of the Folk Art Museum, much of it from a relatively recent gift from the Esmerian Collection (interesting side note here). The works ranged from the 19th century items that I grew up on, as well as more contemporary. It was absolutely stunning. I'm usually a pretty quick viewer...not one to linger but we spent a good hour and a half there. Just amazing...and it was so wonderful to be there with Ernie so we barely had to have words.
I must admit that I am drawn the most to the 19th century classics but there were some great contemporary pieces I loved as well.
I felt like I was going to burst when I saw the Ammi Phillips of the Girl in the Red Dress.
The sculptural works always speak to me too, and for someone who abhors snakes, I do seem to like sculptures of them.
Of course, at heart I'm a decorative arts girl, so I think my very favorite piece....well a tie between two pieces...the incredible grain painted chest and the box of grain painting samples!!!!!
There's more but I've inundated you with enough...if you made it through all I commend you. We had planned to see a few other things at the museum but our eyes were full, and we were hungry so we headed over to Frazer's and had an utterly delightful lunch. Lovely, comfortable place.
We headed home, driving on small highways part of the way.
All iphone pics...should have brought my camera...but it was fun to catch a few things along the way. And then, suddenly, we were home.
I don't take the opportunity for little trips like this lightly. I remember once, years ago, asking a colleague what she was doing for some holiday or the other, and she casually said, Oh, we might do this...or maybe that.... And the casual acceptance that she could just do whatever they liked made me almost want to cry. At the time the boys were little and my parents not in good shape and I couldn't imagine every being able to casually take off again. And then...suddenly, you can...and you miss the reasons you couldn't.
This little weekend-ette though, just golden.