November 30, 2010

Things I've been loving

1. Rice
Now that I've been getting off the couch more and more, the kitchen has become my second favorite haunt. My newly rediscovered appetite also keeps me scrounging around for things that fill me up and make for easy leftovers. Hence, the rice. I love to make a big pot and throw in whatever I have on hand. Basically, everything but the kitchen sink. This week's batch had basmati rice, red and green peppers, onions, and pineapples. Yum.

2. Jordin Sparks
Now that I'm feeling a bit more peppy, I'm really in the mood for somebody who can belt. I like to turn the music up loud and dance around a little, especially while I'm cookin'. And then I like to take a nap. Her last album, Battlefield, has a little bit of everything. Apparently it was released in the summer of 2009. I can't believe it took me this long to add it to my life.

3. Saul Bellow: Collected Stories
I dug this anthology out from my bookshelf one evening last week and was so glad I did. My favorite is the last story, "Something to Remember Me By." When I'm not reading poems, I love short stories, and these are the kind that stick with you forever.

4. Stillness
For the longest time, I had to be still. I didn't really have a choice about it. Sometimes I couldn't move. Sometimes I couldn't talk either. Sometimes I couldn't get out of bed or get off the couch. These days, as I get my strength back, I'm beginning to have some choices about what to do with my time. It's strange. I almost feel guilty about it, or even a little overwhelmed. I still know my limits, and they're pretty limited. But as the possibilities come trickling back in, I'm actually thankful to take solace in stillness sometimes. That's where I sort things out. Or just remember where I am. Or how I got here. Or who I am and what's really important.

November 23, 2010

It would be my pleasure

Dear Readers,

Please forgive me for a moment while I gloat:

I just fixed my own problem. I love it when I do that.

Here's the thing. For two months, things have not being going as I'd planned. I like to keep things in order. I like to put my ducks in a row.

But when everything turns upside down, it starts to become very difficult to arrange your ducks. Or to find them even.

When I first got sick, I discovered that one of my most wayward ducks was insurance. If you're anything like me, chatting about insurance is not your favorite way to pass the time. Especially not when you're trying to keep your food down and your head on straight.

But on Saturday night, when I was cleaning off my dresser, I came across a fortune cookie fortune that turned out to be prophetic: "You are primed to come up with a creative solution."


The wheels have been turning since then. This morning, I stayed in bed longer than usual. I read from a favorite book before getting started on my oatmeal. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I called up Company Number One and told them what I wanted. They said, "We don't usually do that, but let me talk to someone and call you back."

I love it when they do that.

Pretty soon, it was done.

They wanted to know, Could I submit an extra letter?
Could I sign on the dotted line?
Could I include a check for less than I was originally asked to pay?

Of course I can. As Marcel the Shell would say, "It would be my pleasure."

November 19, 2010

From couch to kitchen

snowball cookies (mexican wedding cookies)

Dear Readers,

You're not gonna believe this. Someone has been cooking for me. Actually, a lot of people have been cooking for me.

But someone has been chocolate chip cookie cooking for me. And making waffles. You know what I mean?

Anyways, I thought he could use a break and a little surprise, so I decided to venture back into the kitchen yesterday, when no one was home. I set myself up with a new playlist and a ponytail. I thought a little Lady Gaga might do it. Eventually, I switched to Cuban hip hop.

This summer, I tackled salad and soup. I started to get cozy with my stovetop. During my extended hiatus on the couch, I began to contemplate the oven. I'd been avoiding it for a long time.

There had been many excuses. They ranged from confused mutterings about religious piety and feminism to extensive analyses of my fear of the dark mystery which took place inside. I thought of biblical and extra-biblical stories about ovens. They had never gone well.

As you can see, I am not a very methodical baker. I ran out of parchment paper. I do not own an electric mixer of any kind. I tend to get distracted and make pretty shapes on the cookie sheet.

In my past life, this would probably matter. I might have found myself halfway through a daydream and a half-baked cookie sheet and ended up very stressed out. It would have seemed very important to bake the perfect cookie and to do it fast.

Now that I'm on the couch, though, I seem to have all the time in the world. I have to admit, I kind of like it that way. To be honest, I don't like to be rushed, even in my regular life.

So yesterday, I baked cookies for my sweetheart, and it took all afternoon. Today I'll probably write a poem. Or maybe I'll just sit back and read one. Along the way, I think I might just get better too.

snowball cookies (mexican wedding cookies)

By the way, you can check out the recipe for these babies here. I used to call them "snowball cookies" until I learned their real name, "Mexican Wedding Cakes," from the author of Sweet Amandine. They're fun to make and surprisingly simple, even for an amateur like me.

Happy Friday.

November 12, 2010

On Beauty

Lately I've been fascinated by the world of beauty. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been outside in the past seven weeks. I can count on two hands the number of times I've walked into the bathroom, stared at the make-up drawer, and had to mumble to myself under my breath, Don't even think about it.

I've never been one to paint up my face. For school dances and ballet performances, my younger sister practically had to tie me to a chair to get a little blush on my cheeks. I could see her coming a mile away with that dangerously pointy eyeliner.

"I already did my make-up," I'd tell her, inching away.
She'd shake her head at me, unimpressed. "Mmm hmm. Great job, Lis. Now, sit still and let me do my work."

These days, if I can manage to get dressed and eat breakfast before noon, I'm lucky. Nevertheless, I find myself eyeing not only my tried and true mascara and eyelash curler, but also the sea of new beauty products appearing on the scene for the holidays.

I can't remember the last time I've worn eyeshadow, but wouldn't you know it, I can't stop staring at Tarte's fancy Lock and Roll Eyeshadow Wand. Isn't is beautiful?

It has cream shadow on one end and a rollerball with loose shadow on the other. I just lie here with my laptop on my stomach all day ooing and aahing. And speaking of sitting still and painting my nails, Essie Nail Polish has all kinds of tempting Fall shades, as well as standbys like this beauty, "au natural."

I'm not sure whether it's pride or vanity or cabin fever that keeps me rummaging through the makeup drawer—even to the very back, to the lipsticks and the eyeliners I haven't seen in ages. Perhaps I'm preparing for my debut back in the outside world. Perhaps I'm fumbling around for memories I had thought were long gone. A lipstick I wore only once transports me to a ballroom downtown. A dusty, deeply used, golden eyeshadow puts me on a stage. Somehow I'm glad I haven't tossed them yet.

Don't worry, I probably won't be playing dress up most afternoons, while no one's home. And I'll probably save the Marilyn Monroe bombshell lipstick for another occasion. But I will be worrying about my eyebrows and painting my nails. I hope you don't mind.

November 3, 2010

Local things I've been loving

Since last Wednesday was devoted to decadence, today I thought I'd finally get around to sharing with you some of my favorite local treasures. They're just as decadent (if not more), but perhaps a bit more globally-conscious.

1. Taza chocolate: This chocolate is unlike any other chocolate I have ever tasted. It also happens to be locally produced (at their factory/store in Somerville, MA). If that weren't enough, it's also organic, direct trade, kosher, pareve (dairy-free), soy-free, gluten-free, earthy, intense, delicious, and incredible. Basically, it is everything you ever wished for, packaged neatly in a cute little round disk. My favorite flavor is Guajillo Chili. My roommate recently brought me some from the farmer's market in Harvard Square. It is the key to my heart. Along with chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin ice cream, and matzo ball soup. Actually, there are a lot of keys to my heart, and they are almost all food.

2. La Tuza is a Mexican roots band, based here in the Boston area. I heard them first at the Harvard Peabody Museum's Dia de los Muertos celebration last year. (By the way, it took place again last night, La Tuza performed, and I heard there was a waitlist for tickets). I liked their sound so much that I tracked them down again when they played at Toad in Porter Square. Listening to the album tracks on their site will give you a better sense of their "infectious spirit" than any description I could provide. My favorites are "El Colás" and "La Petenera." They also have a song about chocolate, which you could potentially listen to while consuming Taza. I won't say I haven't tried it.

3. Formaggio Kitchen: This is the kind of place that would normally intimidate the heck out of me. I would stare at it longingly from across the street and think, well, gee, I'm not that gourmet. I probably can't even read any of the labels. They're probably all in French and Italian, and I only read Spanish and Hebrew. Oh well. But thanks to my roommate's splendid parents, I tiptoed inside one time, and boy, am I glad I did. Turns out, there is nothing to be afraid of. They do carry all kinds of very incredible, very delicious things, from all over the world, but there are always friendly people around to translate or help you find just the right thing. On one trip this summer, I discovered champagne grapes. On another, grapefruit sorbet. On another, the best crackers I've ever eaten in my entire life. Their specialties are wine and cheese, of course, but they also carry a dazzling array of baked goods, produce, tea, spices, and other wonders you'll just have to go in and experience for yourself. Yes, there are samples. They also carry, guess what, Taza chocolate.

November 1, 2010

The secret to seeding a pomegranate


Ladies and gentlemen, I have another confession to make. There is a portion of this blog which I have been neglecting. It is the "pomegranate" portion. You may remember it from my very first post, back in June.

This past weekend, my frustration finally came to a head. I ate a lot of cookies. I took it out on you. I took it out on the floor. I decided to do a little frustration-sweeping, even though I could barely hold myself up, nevermind a broom. Actually, it was a swiffer. The wet swiffer is my favorite, because it has a little button you can push, and it sprays things.

Anyways, in the wake of my silent, pathetic attempts at a tantrum, my loyal roommate returned from a grocery run. I was lying on the couch, exhausted from my efforts, and she plopped something down in front of me.

"I think you know what to do with this," she smiled, and then returned to unpacking her bags.

I stared at it for a while. It was round and pink. I was too tired to reach for it. It was my favorite fruit. Eating it would require some effort and my special secret. That's what she was talking about. It was a pomegranate.

The pomegranate is my favorite fruit for a number of reasons. This is a fruit which actually has no edible flesh. Just a tiny little bit of bitter-sweet nectar, which is next to impossible to extract from its tiny, ruby-colored seeds, firmly planted inside of a completely unforgiving shell.

Ha! Now that is a badass fruit.

If that weren't enough, the pomegranate has been for ages a symbol of seduction, fertility, and temptation in a number of different mythologies and religious traditions. I love that kind of thing.

But I've been flat on my back—no end in sight—for five weeks with a very serious case of "kissing disease." Whether or not that's how I got it is beside the point. Wouldn't you like to know.

Anyways, I haven't really been in the mood to talk about love. Nevermind seduction. Or fertility. Can you blame me?

I'm usually feeling particularly fruitful if I can make it through the day without crying about the number of times I've had to switch to lying down from my preferred upright sitting position. This does not bode well for my dating prospects, my seduction rating, or my fertility meter.

When my life came to a crashing halt a little over a month ago, a lovely expanse of reflection time opened up before me. I wasn't particularly thrilled about this. I was ambivalent at best.

Past loves and losses were still looming on my horizon. I figured I was going to have to face them if I wanted to get on with it. Hence, the pomegranate.

It wasn't that I'd been avoiding dealing with the past. I'd talked with friends. I'd eaten my fair share of Ben & Jerry's. And then some. I'd watched Bridget Jones. I went on a trip. I wrote poetry. I painted my toenails.

And just when I thought I was all better and could move on with my life, I landed in the infirmary. I stared at my honeymoon red toenails. It wasn't over. There was still more work to be done. Still more thoughts to think. Still more words to be written. Still more peace to be made.

The weeks wore on, and things started to happen. Wheels started to turn. Doors creaked open that had been closed for a very long time. Light came flooding in. From the outside, it probably looks as if I've just been sitting here on the couch the whole time, getting up every now and then to have a fight with a broom.

As I marveled at that pomegranate this weekend, I thanked my lucky stars that it was mine. All mine. I had learned to like it on my own one day. I had done my own research on its symbolism. I had googled "how to seed a pomegranate" by myself, dammit.

The point is, I may or may not have just seeded a new pomegranate today. While listening to Cuban hip hop. See for yourselves. The evidence lies before you. It had been a while. It felt good.

Pomegranate seeds

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's time to turn a new leaf. Or a new fruit, rather. I think the couch is as good a place to start as any. Wish me luck.

If you would like to seed a pomegranate of your own, here are the instructions:

1. Cut it in half.
2. Submerge it in a big bowl of water.
3. Allow some of the seeds to float to the top, and gently loosen the rest underwater.

As always, this blog is dedicated to all the little things. Until next time...