"It is a beauteous evening, calm and free..." wrote Wordsworth over two centuries ago. His description fits this evening, which has followed a day with many highlights. Beginning early this morning, I taught classes and tutorials for two groups of students at Southern: it's the start of my seventh year with the ConnCAS program. My assistant Katie and I wrestled with many technology glitches but were happy to note that the young women and men in the classes were cooperative.
Today, too, I fed Hobbes, Watson, Fuzzle, Sam, Rosie, Molly, and Mogs, our indoor cats; Trio, our neighbor's old and ailing cat who stops by daily for some tuna juice; and Astro, a shy young stray who comes here for meals (see pic).
I also fed uncounted squirrels and birds and Whistlepig, our small resident groundhog (no pic yet). I may be a cat- and squirrel-whisperer, but I haven't learned the technique on marmots, yet.
We made a colorful and tasty dinner of caprese salad, black bean and corn salad, raspberry-mint-balsamic lemonade, and a glass of Chianti.
For dessert Allan and I each ate a peach and an oatmeal molasses cookie (recipe in preceding post).
I've listened to a cardinal, a mockingbird, lots of cat "talking," and a Bach cantata: one movement with a flute and violin duet was tender and especially lovely.
Once I'd finished writing the week's major assignment, I had a chance to sit in the afternoon sunshine with the book I'm devouring, William Shirer's Berlin Diary 1934-1941...a fascinating up-close view of the era.
Some days overflow with blessings.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
We missed our traditional Saturday pancake breakfast this morning—Allan left at 6:30 for a sailing adventure with Bill Ziegler (friend since our children were very young homeschoolers). I’ll make pancakes instead to celebrate July fourth, when Tory will be here briefly, en route from her studies in Florence and her sojourn in Dingle, Ireland to her home in Boulder and new job in Denver. We’re eager to see her!
I learned the pancake recipe while working on a cookbook in the early eighties with several fine La Leche League women. (Some friends remain dear across the miles and years. Simon and Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” loops through my mind at this reflection.) I maintain contact with two fellow editors of Whole Foods for the Whole Family, Bryanna Clark Grogan, who writes a fascinating vegan blog and has published several cookbooks, and Karen Williams Burdette, now an associate professor at Tennessee Technological University. Though we live half or a whole continent apart, we’ve stayed friends since our work together on the cookbook, sharing challenges—deaths and parenting worries—and the joys of births, marriages, and degrees, and accolades.
In 1980 or '81, our head editor, the late Roberta Bishop Johnson, stayed at my home for a couple of weeks while we laid out the cookbook’s cover and 340 pages (after families and our far-flung editorial assistants had tested and selected 943 recipes from the more than 7000 sent us by LLL contributors around the world). Roberta taught me a great deal about patience and the importance of good tools, about editing and layout. But one lesson has stayed with me most vividly: in the long run it’s easier and more efficient to do a task right the first time, than to do it over. (My father tried to teach me that for years—why do we learn more willingly from friends than from our parents?)
In most instances, I’ve found that Roberta’s lesson, which she taught me by example, holds true. Writing may be the exception, though. A draft always has room for revision; it's one of the main things I try to teach my composition and creative writing students. In fact, my teaching credo has been through perhaps twelve iterations already—elaboration, deletion, reorganization—and it’s still a work in progress. One of my grad school professors at Southern, Dr. Robert McEachern, says it best: “Writing is never finished. It’s just due.”
Bob, Karen, Bryanna, Bill, and so many dear ones unnamed here, you enrich my life, and my family's. I wish you the blessing of good friends--and pancakes every Saturday.
The Church Family Zoo's Favorite Pancakes
1 c [½ pound] cottage cheese or soft tofu
½ c milk, approximately
1 t vanilla
¼ c oil
½ c flour (unbleached and/or whole wheat mixed with rolled oats, wheat germ, ground almonds and flax seeds, opt.)
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
Whirl moist ingredients in blender till smooth. Blend in dry ingredients and adjust liquid, if necessary, so the batter is the consistency of heavy cream. Cook (we like silver dollar size) on greased preheated griddle till golden on both sides. An option is to sprinkle a few blueberries or chopped cashews on the batter just after you pour it onto the pan.
(Adapted from Whole Foods for the Whole Family, the second La Leche League cookbook edited by Roberta Bishop Johnson (and associated edited by Bryanna Clark Grogan, me, and others; calligraphed by Karen Williams Burdette), first printing 1981.
Instead of pancakes, in the cool of the early morning I made these cookies, another family favorite, to welcome Allan home from sailing tonight:
Oatmeal-Molasses Ginger Cookies
¾ c butter or your preferred shortening
½ c brown sugar
½ c sugar
¼ c molasses
½ c rolled oats
1 ½ c flour (I mix mine with some wheat germ, ground almonds and flax seeds)
¼ t salt
1 t each: baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, ginger
Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and molasses. Mix dry ingredients together and blend into creamed mixture. Either drop by teaspoonfuls or chill, then roll into balls and place on a slightly-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the cookies reach the chewiness/crispness you prefer.
(Adapted from Mother’s in the Kitchen, the first La Leche League cookbook edited by Roberta Bishop Johnson and published in 1971.)
Friday, June 29, 2012
On Wednesday, June 26,we spent a lovely day with our four younger grandchildren! Their Grandma (Edwina Bender) invited Fodda/Howard, Gump/Allan, and Maia/me (the rest of the kids' grandparents) to visit the house she has rented for all her kids and grandies. Pix follow.
Maia and Lilly (almost 2)
Back: Gump and Maia
Front: Zoe (14), Declan (9), Fodda, Mindy, Lilly, Sofia (4)
Zoe and Declan after a swim
Sofia (Fia) before a swim
Fodda pointing out a seagull to Lilly and Sofia
Declan enjoys the hammock
Zoe likes the water
Mindy and Big D compete at croquet
Lilly with a snack
Sunset from the ferry back to Bridgeport
Sunday, June 3, 2012
(for my father. 2007)
You gave me words as playthings,
taught me to read forward
and backwards: wax prolix,
longevity, gnibbur lohocla. But
you put no word to your illness.
You would not name it,
though you gave me names
for the sparrow and nuthatch
perched on the wooden
bird feeder you’d hung out
the second-story window.
We ate breakfast with chickadees.
You named me, your firstborn,
Lelo, Loi-San, Eloise, and sang
My little Louisa, you’re the one for me.
You gave me Thanksgiving
hymns, All good gifts around us,
when I climbed the high stool
in your workshop to watch
your deft fingers repair Mom's vase.
His yoke is easy and his burden
light, the entire Messiah
one Saturday on the Ford
wagon's radio. Beethoven's Ninth
shook our book-lined walls,
Joyful, joyful. And you hummed
Feelin' groovy with Simon,
Garfunkel, and me.
I could not think what song
to offer you in turn. Then
I’d do anything for you, Dad
and The Lord bless thee
and keep thee clamored together
through my taut throat,
while your fingers, long
bent with arthritis, cooled
in my hand.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
It would be painful if I had to choose only one shelf of books for the rest of my life. I'd need a longer shelf than the one above--it would have to include a Complete Works of Shakespeare and a good dictionary, as well as at least half a dozen books of poetry (cummings, Mueller, Kunitz, Auden, many others), and countless picture books. But these are among my all-time favorites, ones I will continue to read over and over.
Between semesters (I'm there now, briefly), I seek the sunlight, knit (recently, Mobius "showls"), stroke my cats, drink in the mockingbird's song, and devour books. I've read through the Guido Brunetti mysteries and am partway through the Gemma James-Duncan Kincaids; I interspersed these with technology texts and other potential readings for the courses to come.
My thoughts return often--when I have time to think of anything other than the next essay assignment or comment on a student's paper--to the Auden poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts" ("About suffering they were never wrong,/ the Old Masters..."). Recently Allan's brother showed us an amazing film, "The Mill and the Cross," based on a Breughel painting, as Auden's poem is (though not the same one). In looking up the exact text of "Musee" I came across another of WHA's poems, "September 1, 1939" at http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15545. He ends,
"We must love one another or die. Defenceless under the night Our world in stupor lies; Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages: May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame."
May I remain one of the just, exchanging messages.