Saturday, March 29, 2008


A couple months ago, I made one of what I am sure will be a multitude of parenting missteps; if it's the worst I ever do, I'll be a lucky mother.

One evening as we sat down to dinner, Jimmy informed me he did not want to eat what I had cooked and demanded I make him something else. I knew in the past he hadn't liked that particular dish but I was hoping he would warm to it with repeated exposure, as he can be extremely finicky, especially about trying new things. Feeling exasperated and a little unappreciated, I told him my days of being a short order cook were numbered, and that when he turned five he would be a big boy and would have to eat what everyone else was having for dinner.

Oh, the imminent ruage awaiting me.

As his birthday drew closer, Jimmy began to talk about not wanting to be five, not wanting to have a birthday at all. His anxiety was clearly evident. When we questioned him about it, he cited the impending prospect of having to eat foods he didn't like for dinner. Talk about wanting to eat your words; if I could have, I would.

For the last week or so, I've been in damage control mode. Even after we decided on the guest list, bought Star Wars party favors (including a piñata shaped like Darth Vader's head), and ordered a fancy cake (also with Darth Vader), Jimmy remained apprehensive. If we tried to talk to him about his birthday, he'd clam up and say, "I don't want to talk about that."

Finally, on Thursday afternoon (the day before), I locked us in the car when we got home from the grocery store and forced the issue. Because subtlety is not my strong suit. First, I apologized to Jimmy for what I had said that fateful dinnertime. Then I assured him he wouldn't have to eat anything he didn't like, and I wanted him to help choose what we made for our dinners so he could have things he did like. His outlook seemed to be better after our talk, until he woke up the next morning and when I greeted him with "Happy Birthday!" he responded by yelling "I want to be by myself!" and slammed his bedroom door after my hasty retreat.

A few minutes later, I knocked softly at the door and asked if I could come in. I asked him gently what he was upset about. "I don't want to talk about that, Mom." I asked him if he was worried about the dinner issue, and did he remember what we talked about yesterday? His expression softened, the clouds rolled away, the sun came out, and it was a happy birthday from then on.

Whew. Which is what makes the photo above such a treasure to me: Jimmy had just opened his birthday card from Grampy Trout and Grammy Lo, and was genuinely excited to finally be five and get a super-cool birthday card with a pop-out race car.

The moral of this story: a soft answer turneth away wrath. And ruage. Next time I'll know better.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poetic housework avoidance continues...

Someone kidnapped my vacuum, but do I really want to ransom it?

Dust bunnies run for cover, startled by stampeding dust buffaloes.

Dirty toilet less inviting than a hole in ground; where’s my shovel?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

National poetry month

April is National Poetry Month, and I've decided to embrace it in two ways.

First, I'm going to do something new to me by participating in NaPoWriMo, a gruelling project which will require me to write a poem every day during April (!!!)

Second, I'm going to read some poetry every day. I want to start out by getting back to the roots of poetry I've always loved. First on my list is Carl Sandburg, with Dorothy Parker a close second, followed by Don Marquis. Then I'm planning to venture out into unknown territory and read some poets unfamiliar to me. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American sentences

Learn something new every day: this morning as I was checking out Deb's post for Read Write Poem, I read about American Sentences, a poetic form I'd never previously encountered. The gist of American Sentences: they're haiku-length poems (17 syllables) but without the line break constraints of a traditional haiku. Sounds like fun.

Fingers ripple across keyboard; I avoid real life dirty dishes.

Monday, March 24, 2008


In my trembling hand
an almost empty jam jar
lit with early morning sun
and amber leavings of
plums from four summers ago
mellow sweetness infused
with nutmeg, cinnamon
a breath of cloves
and I know
I will meticulously scrape
every delectable trace
of this one last pint
to expertly spread across
what would otherwise be
unremarkable toast
soon rendered sublime.

Monday, March 17, 2008

To wv or not to wv?

I've never felt the need to use word verification for comments on my blog. Up until now. Sadly, just in the last week I've been spammed by a few too many shysters hawking antivirus software and Brazilian cell phones, so...


Friday, March 14, 2008

Thrall's end

I won’t tell you what, when
or even how often
doesn’t matter
you’d recognize all
those same signs of thrall
marking your own dependence
you’d recognize how
what once was so comforting, so freeing now
leaves me cold, heavy and bound
but I can tell you:
I woke up this morning knowing
my last day in chains
ends at

The prompts this week at Writer's Island were "spellbound" and "awakening".

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Back in the swim

I started my "all three sports" training at the beginning of this month and all I can say is I'm sore. I've had arthritis in my hands for about six years now, and when I'm not pregnant or nursing, I can manage it nicely by taking glucosamin and chondroitin. Unfortunately, I started to feel the beginnings of arthritis in my knees and hips last month. I'm sure as I lose more weight the discomfort will diminish due to the reduced stress on my joints, and in the meantime I'm taking ibuprofen before and after my workouts.

Even more than before, I'm enjoying my swim days (Tuesday and Thursday) because I'm re-discovering the Zen of my early morning alone time in the pool and the low-impact exercise leaves me feeling invigorated but not aching. This morning I swam laps for 45 minutes, and I've been feeling great ever since. Gotta love endorphins.

P.S. Oh, and I've graduated from the slow lane; I've moved over to medium.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sleep to dream

The prompt this week at Read Write Poem was "dream prompts for a long winter’s nap." My mind took off in two different directions at once: the first being, I rarely dream any more (at least that I remember in the morning) because I fall into bed so exhausted at the end of each day; and second, about a decade ago I had a recurring nightmare from which I used to wake myself up (and poor Jim) screaming, or sometimes crying because I tried to scream and couldn't.

I think I prefer the not dreaming, but I wrote about both.


Soundly is how I sleep
on left side, right knee raised
fingers folded under cool-cased pillow
gratefully cached in crisp cotton stillness
softly snoring
after sustained striving for
serenity, succor, strength
enough to even halfway fill an inner vessel
enough to slake incessant thirst
of ones who cannot quench their own
when waging my daily battle for balance
so each small success is no pyrrhic prize
seven dreamless hours seem
a sublime oasis of peaceful perfection.

Bête Noire

I used to dream of flying
under low and heavy clouds
weaving through naked brittle branches
escaping from a fanged fiend
set on stealing my soul
I couldn’t look behind or
I’d careen out of control
but knew without seeing
cracked and blackened lips
curled back in blood-lust
heard without listening
fierce membrane of webbed wings
furiously churning feeble breeze to gale
sucking me backwards
as it drew ever closer
some nights I couldn’t soar
high, far, or fast enough
and so, as Icarus, fell to earth
tongue and arms bound
impotent to protect myself
I drowned
in bottomless empty well of vampire eyes
my eyes
what terrified me most was knowing
somehow I had willed this when
I started out dreaming
I could fly and
woke up screaming.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I don't believe in destiny

Destiny is fickle: she's a tease and she’s a liar
promise you the world but dull complacency inspire
and worse, destroy your will to choose both liberty and life
trust me, harlot Destiny’s a mistress, not a wife.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Guilt-free less brownies

For the past few weeks I've been fixated on brownies.

It all started because of my church assignment to teach food preservation and emergency preparedness classes. A couple months ago my mother-in-law and I taught an evening cooking seminar called "Wheat 101" about the nutritional value of whole wheat, how to grind flour at home, baking bread, and a few other cooking-with-wheat tips and tricks. It was so popular, I decided to do a "Wheat 102", which I taught two weeks ago. The whole idea was to present fun ways to use wheat in every-day cooking, so as to keep food storage rotating regularly. We had one presenter who did a wheatgrass display, one who showed how to steam wheat and use cracked or puffed wheat, and I demonstrated making whole wheat brownies and pizza crust.

I do homemade wheat pizza crust all the time, but I had never baked whole wheat brownies. I figured it couldn't be too difficult, so I found a couple of recipes online to try and... whoah! Maybe the rest of the whole wheat-eating world just has apallingly low standards, because the first two recipes I tried were nasty: dry, crumbly, flavorless, and completely lacking the fudgy goodness so essential to an acceptable brownie. With only a couple days to go before my class, I started panicking. I needed a really tasty recipe, or I would have a hard time selling people on the concept of making every-day recipes with food storage items.

Thank goodness for Google; I found some great suggestions for changing the consistency of the brownies which helped me to understand the chemistry behind the undesirable results I had produced so far. With a bit more tweaking, I finally arrived at the recipe below on my third try. In all humility, I think it's actually better than brownies from a box, even the Hershey's Triple Chocolate Chunk mix you can buy in bulk at Costco. These whole wheat brownies have passed both the picky husband and picky teenager tests. You'll never notice the extra fiber hiding inside all that moist, rich fudginess! Oh, and if you want a non-stop one-way ticket to a diabetic coma, you can also frost them.

Fudgy Whole Wheat Brownies

1 cup vegetable oil
2¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, plus two egg yolks
2/3 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl add the sugar to the oil and stir to combine. Stir in the vanilla and eggs until mixed thoroughly.
3. In another mixing bowl, sift together the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and flour. Stir into the bowl with the wet ingredients until smooth, then add the nuts and chips, again stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.
5. Frost if desired (see recipe below). Makes two dozen 2-inch brownies.

Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (½ cup) butter
2/3 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt butter in a small sauce pan (or in a glass mixing bowl in the microwave—on high for 30 seconds).
2. Stir in cocoa.
3. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency.
4. Add more milk, if needed.
5. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups of frosting.

So... it was all well and good until my friend Debbie, who was attending the seminar, and who also happens to be diabetic, piped up and asked, "Do you have a recipe for sugar-free brownies?"

In the two weeks since, I've attempted four different batches of sugar-free brownies, which gradually evolved from a recipe I found on Splenda's website. The trickiest thing about cooking with Splenda is it has completely different chemical properties than sugar, and in baked goods especially, it tends to dry things out. The original recipe was for Butterscotch Brownies, but with my first batch I tweaked it by omitting the butterscotch chips and pecans, substituting whole wheat flour, and adding unsweetened cocoa. Success? Nope: dry, grainy and crumbly.

For the next incarnation, I added extra egg yolks (the secret ingredient which helped my whole wheat brownies to be so fudgy), as well as some sugar-free chocolate pudding, to try and combat the crumbly, dry texture. Unfortunately, between the pudding and extra yolks, I wound up with something similar to chocolate soufflé. On my third attempt, I omitted the eggs altogether. Better, but still too oily and gooey (without being fudgy).

Today I finally got it right. I cut back the pudding and the oil by half, and the result was a moist brownie with a rich chocolate flavor. Not as fudgy as I tend to like them but still pretty darn good for sugar-free.

Sugar-free Brownies

1 cup cold milk
half of a 1.4-oz package of sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix (about 1/6 cup)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup Splenda
¼ cup dutch process baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, Splenda, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
3. Combine pudding mix, milk, oil and vanilla in a large mixing bowl with a wire whisk. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
4. Bake in greased 9" x 9”pan for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Now I have the brownie bug out of my system, I'm free to move on and obsess about something really important—like whether I should color my hair for my 20-year class reunion this summer...

Al dente

At last, the culmination of a month and a half's drooling and fussing: Audrey woke up from her afternoon nap yesterday with the first of her chompers.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

San francisco thrice

Let me say in your defense
my first stay was a wondrous whirlwind
Haight Ashbury showered in April
whitewashed gingerbread cupolas and breakfast
overlooking a gated green park’s panhandle
first and only miniskirt (from magnificent Macy’s)
while I still had the legs for it
Top of the Mark one night, Chinatown the next
sixteen, white eyelet outside and in
when I mistakenly believed Sandburg’s fog
came on little cat feet through Golden Gates
before I even knew who Jack Kerouac was.

Thirteen years later but barely wiser
you were my last stop on a road trip
to revisit reminiscences of misty gray Bay bliss
instead, July’s blistering heat burned less
than waking to find bags, clothes, shoes
strewn across a motel parking lot
wallet and checkbook gone, all gone
numbed, violated, exposed
barely enough brass in pocket
for gas to get home
I confess my relief at seeing you
in my rear view mirror.

I’ve heard third time’s the charm
and eager to forgive, I flew to interview
five years more gone, you teased me again
lulled me with soft sunlight of gentle January
almost made me think I could stay
at a dream job in my dream town
only to turn fragile hope upside down
by meager means of a supposed salary
smarter now, I closed a motel door behind me
returned rental car, checked baggage
I’ll not be back, for
I’ll not be Frisco’s fool again.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Drum roll, please!

In collaboration with my techno-guru, we have arrived at what may be a less slick but certainly still a completely functional solution for my audio poetry needs. See, my biggest problem in doing audio files was that B£ogge® doesn't support them... but we came up with what I hope will be a nifty fix: putting my files on YouTube and then linking. My most requested poem is up and ready for a listen, along with some other recent poetry. If you have a favorite you'd like to hear, let me know. And let me know if you don't think this is a viable way to do poetry recordings.

I didn't add video because let's face it, watching me read would distract and most likely detract from your poetry experience. That, and it would detract from my poetry experience to have to worry about whether I'm having a good hair day while reading.