Hello, it’s still cold here. Apparently, as of this printing, Worcester, MA is one of the snowiest cities in the US because of this winter,* with somewhere in the area of nine feet of snow on the ground (and more expected tonight – whee). It’s a bit disconcerting that the piles to either side of our driveway are taller than me.** Pulling out into the street requires some faith in other drivers and a keen respect for taking things slow.

Also, I have a new red cast iron, enameled dutch oven. Put these two things together and it’s time to stay in and make soup. Last night I made a fish chowder that was Damn Fine, and I’m here to share it with you.

This baby started with a recipe from Martha and then got manhandled just a little bit. If you look at the original recipe, you’ll notice that while thyme is not listed in the ingredients, it is mentioned in the instructions;*** I improvised. Also, I added shrimp because I like a more stew-like soup, and I pumped the garlic and the bay leaves a dab.

Fish Chowderserves 4 handily

2 tablespoons butter
6 scallions, chopped thin-ish
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
16 oz clam juice
3 medium pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped medium
2 bay leaves
1 pound cod pieces
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Read the rest of this entry »


In less than two weeks, submissions open for the 2015 Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival, and sister, I am STOKED! Guidelines are right here. How’s your poetry film coming along?

So January was a wash. I spent as much of it as I possibly could curled up in bed. I slept like a champion sleeper. I dragged my laptop into the blanket nest and worked on film festival stuff there. I read books in bed. I watched Netflix while working with yarn in bed. I looked at blogs in bed. I snuggled down with Man Cub and watched an entire season of Bob’s Burgers.*  I got intimate with a friend’s (really good) poetry manuscript while wrapped in my orange quilt. Mostly, I got out of bed to handle emergencies involving heating oil** and houshold chores, to play WoW, to go to yoga on Thursdays,*** to grocery shop, and to cook dinner.

But it’s February (white rabbits, white rabbits!) and I’m ready to emerge. I started out the month right yesterday with a delightful breakfast with the afformentioned author friend, and then off to run an assortment of errands. Today I’m going to spend some quality time binding books. February is looking up.

But what I really want to talk about is sauce. Did I mention that I spent a bunch of time in bed reading blogs? One of my favorites is Smitten Kitchen. I’m prone to go fangirl over Deb Perelman – I’ve served her recipes at the family Thanksgiving table for the last three years and it’s gone brilliantly, and her cookbook  is outstanding. Which is the only reason I attempted a sauce that I avoided because every description of it looked like clickbait.****

For serious – this sauce claims to be Something Very Special while being created from the mundane. A can of tomatoes, some butter, and an onion. There is no garlic, there is no basil, there is no stock or glug of red wine, nor is there any olive oil. You don’t even dice the onion. WTF. But Deb Perelman praised it, and that got my attention. She doesn’t publish clunkers.

And I have a new red pot. A Dutch oven, to be specific, but it’s a heavy-bottomed pot (emphasis on heavy – cast iron don’t fuck around, y’all) – Will Dearest gifted me with it after seeing me get wistful over a Le Creuset display last December. So curiosity piqued and red pot in hands, I went to it.

Holy. Carp. Something magical happened in the pot. So I made it again, this time with another brand of tomatoes. Slightly different, but again, freaking magic. When we went shopping yesterday, I bought no less than three cans of tomatoes and three boxes of pasta. The next two weeks hold serious promise. Here’s the scoop.

Three Ingredient Pasta Sauce – will feed four comfortably
(from Tomato Sauce With Onion and Butter on smittenkitchen.com)

1 28-oz can of whole plum tomatoes
5 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, halved

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This fucking mess of a day.

Shit breaks – I know shit breaks. I know how to fix, replace, move on. I do this stuff. I get annoyed when it costs money, especially when money is tight. But we need a dryer, so I bought a dryer. The plan was that Will Dearest would pick it up tomorrow.

Only that’s not a great plan anymore, because I picked Will up from work today, the poor thing suddenly down with something terrible that involves vomit. Also, I am terrified of germs that cause vomiting.* Which makes me a dreadful nurse, and then a guilty wife.

Additionally, I am currently afraid of our apartment. Will is curled up in bed, and with any luck, will stop getting up to puke, and get some sleep, and then feel better. I picked up juice for him and set it on the counter. I can’t go in the bedroom. I am worried that if I take a shower, that the steam will turn the bathroom into a giant petri dish. I keep my toothbrush in there, yo. Is it safe to touch the cat that’s been sleeping with him?

So I fled the house to get him some juice. Also the cupboards were bare with after-holiday and all. So groceries – Man Cub and I had at it. And the grocery store was bizarre. They had almost none of the things that we usually get – the whole list had to be refurbed. I’m not sure what ended up in the cart, to be honest, except for the corned beef. I know about the corned beef, because I cannot stop thinking about it. I would not have bought the corned beef if there had been any chicken. And I’ve been wanting corned beef for, like, weeks, but haven’t been able to justify it until now. I cannot wait for WIll to feel better so we can eat corned beef.**

As we pulled into the driveway, Will texted simply this: We’re out of oil.

Read the rest of this entry »

Doublebunny holiday cards for 2014 by Sou MacMillan

I can tell it all in one sentence: upgrade the hardware.

Really, it was that simple. And, really, yes, it did cost money. But because the cost of more ink v. the cost of a new printer, which comes with some ink, and a scanner, to boot, made the difference negligible, I’m just not down that much from the starting line. My beloved Canoscan no longer sits to my right, and Our Man Cub has inherited my old printer, because to replace the scanner, I decided to go with a printer/scanner combo that also prints on dvds.*

And then I pushed buttons and tweaked settings for, like, three days until the scanner did what I wanted it to do. I still have a little bit of foolery to commit in order to print discs in a program other than the one that came with the printer,** but printing to paper is doing quite well (settings matter, sister!) In fact, I like it enough that I’ll be printing the Doublebunny holiday cards in-house this year.

So all’s well in the office today, and the paper being pushed is pretty paper. The engine can, friends. The engine can.

***

*Yes! I can make dvds now! Turns out that, well, you pretty much get what you pay for with this stuff. It was a shame that the free program that came with 7 won’t burn the disc, but, on the other hand, it’s also pretty wonderful to work with a program that has options. I chose Nero Video in the end, and it made a rather lovely product, relatively in budget, even.
**One bit of disappointment with Nero is that its label maker program does not print right. I’m hoping it’s a setting – I have some screwing around to do.

This is ridiculous. I have better machine juju than this. I am a fairly up-to-date, tech-savvy woman with a pretty good well of patience and the willingness to troubleshoot. I’m a child of the 70s who grew up with squealing, non-digital modems and those terrible Atari flat keyboards. I started learning back with BASIC on TRS80 stuff, and I have a solid decade or so under my belt of screwing around with external zip drives on some Macintosh business, and I can make an outdated version of Pagemaker stand up and sing. I have ProTools experience. I have been using a PC for over 15 years with a better-than-good success rate. I know how to use a soldering iron. I’m telling you, I have a looooong history with sussing out bugs and getting up to my elbows in workarounds and solutions. Also, I am priveledged to have Our Man Cub’s deep reserve of current computer know-how at my disposal. It SHOULD NOT BE SO DIFFICULT TO BURN A DAMNED DVD, Y’ALL.

Early on in the open submission period for Rabbit Heart 2014, I started to get these emails – submitters wanted to know what I recommended for burning a dvd that would work in the regular teevee-ready dvd player and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I had No Idea. Seriously, sister, I was clueless about the degree of difficulty involved. When I got these emails, I told the senders not to worry, and just send me an MP4 file, and that I’d take care of it from there. Probably the smartest thing I did through the whole festival, as it turns out. Midway through the judging, when swapping out dvds turned into a tedious process,* I turned all the videos into MP4s anyway and stuffed them on a thumb drive. And then I stopped thinking about it.

But the current project on my desk is making Rabbit Heart 2014 dvds. And I want them to be beautiful. I also don’t want to spend more money on software to make them than they will generate in dvd sales.

So I started with the software that comes with Windows 7. The design looks lovely, and I got really excited about it – I picked a front menu template that even has these sweet bunnies on it! It looks great! I can assure you that, but I can’t prove it, because it won’t burn. At 99% the dvd drive pops open and vomits up a blank disc.** The burner literally Can’t Even.

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Update from the office: I am stunned. Absolutely stunned. Kneeling in the middle of a valley of chaos, attempting to coax our most reluctant cat out from under the sofa

The office is a wreck. Every carefully stacked pile has been toppled. We will have to replace a carpet. Houseplants have been de-potted and there is dirt in every crevice. Gunther is under the sofa growling and moaning something like no-no-no-no-no, and it roughly translates into I’m Never Ever Coming Out From This Safe Place Ever Again. #catladyproblems

HO Tanager has been here.

It’s not so much HO – really, I’m sure she’s a very nice person – but that she stormed the office to drop off promo material* and a copy of her new book,** and apparently it was Bring Your Badger to Work Day, and no one notified me in advance. Did you know that badgers bark? And did you know, also, that cats do not appreciate badgers?

A badger! She has a badger – on a leash! Or, rather, she had a badger on a leash. Well, technically, the badger stayed on the leash, but the leash did not stay in her hand, and #omigod, sweet #motherofgawd, this office will never be the same.

Needless to say, I won’t be heading into Cambridge tonight, as I’ll be piecing the place back together. #truestory But you can catch up with her at the Cantab tonight, as I hear she’s going to see Cheryl Maddalena perform. #youarewelcome

HO has left for time being. Right now, I think I’m just going to pour more coffee on it.  #soblessed

***

*Please note, Doublebunny Press is not her publisher.
**Autograph Penis. Actually quite good. Did you miss 2011 Nats in Cambridge? It’s all right here, in living, vivid color.

Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival was huge, and beautiful, and there were no tech hiccups, and there were glamorous gowns and Tony wore a tux, and the venue was perfect, and people came in from New York and San Francisco, and omigod omigod omigod, I am over the moon. Bursting with gratitude to the filmmakers and the people who made it happen, and the people who came out to see it. Over. The. Moon. It was exquisite to watch these films again, and now on the big screen – I saw things that I had missed in previous viewings, I got chills, even. Because look! Look! Look at what happened! Look at what happens when poems and films collide!

This took years for me. It took something like two years worth of just thinking about it before something snapped in me last winter and I pushed my shoulder into it to make it real – just like that. I decided to say yes. Hello, we have a film festival. I am still astounded, and gleefully gobsmacked. No really – I don’t know how to put the words in order.

One of my favorite things about last night was that I got to sit with the filmmakers and the poets after the show was over. And it wasn’t just the finalists – people came in from all over to see the screenings. It was a bar full of people who live art.

At one point I found myself at a table with Josh and Chris, who had come in from New York, Carolyn, who just moved back from the Cape, Lauren, who had come down from NH, and my brother, and I realized, Hey – this is how it happens. Here I am at a table with filmmakers, poets, musicians, dancers, and book-binders. Here I am with the makers. And it is SO good. I was relaxed like I rarely get to feel, and right with the world.

This afternoon I am exhausted. Last night I came home late from the show and did about a zillion web updates before rolling into bed, then got up early to work on a grant app, and have been knee-deep in it all day – there’s still a LOT to do before Wednesday’s postmark – but I don’t feel gross. I feel good on so many levels. Tired, indeed, but honored to be in the work.

What’s say we do this again next year? Yes?
Yes.

It’s tonight. Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival is tonight.

I have the trophies packed up and I’ve signed the checks for the winners. The tickets have sold out, and we’re expecting a packed house. Dearest Will has my back. Our Man Cub has set me up/schooled me in the tech we need & promised to stay at my side through the show. Nick’s has the popcorn machine and the PA under control. Our beautiful ushers and photographers are ready to rock. We have a Plan.* I have a dress picked out and an hour or so to kill before I need to get into it. I took the guys out to breakfast this morning. The post-show web page updates are written as much as they can be pre-show, and the YouTube channel is ready to go live when we get home tonight. Mischief has been managed as well as can be, and tonight we’re going to have a couple hours of Good Times – watch some movies, hand out some prizes, revel in the company of good people. I am so full of gratitude, I am near to bursting.

It’s real, and it’s beautiful, and it’s ON, sister. It’s on.

 

*Is that better than a Way?

My dad’s hi-fi, circa 1973 or ’74

DJO2is tagged me on Facebook for a meme about music – your personal 15, “platters that matter,” and I was all like, Oh, I can do that in my sleep, right? Yeh, um, so, not so much. Turns out that picking out music favorites is even harder than picking out book favorites – because the time reading the books is the time reading the books, but the time spent with a particular album as your life soundtrack could be years – decades, even. And the music colors those moments, and those moments color the music. This exercise was Hard, with a capital H. It took me 3 days to narrow my list, and I’m not sure it’s anything like perfect.

But, here’s my top list today. I reserve to right to change my mind as nostalgia strikes or new stuff is released.

1. Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
I just always come back to this one. Rough day, happy day, protracted project, doesn’t matter, I just keep coming back to it. It may have been one of the first albums I remember my dad playing on the hi-fi. And then it came back to me again in the Clinton era when Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow was a campaign win song. And then it came back to me again five years ago for no particular reason and stayed. While working at Higgins last year, I would start the morning with it while I cleaned the gift shop. It comes on the radio and I fall in love all over again. I can spend the whole record singing along, or just listening to production.

2. Cat Stevens – Buddha and the Chocolate Box
My dad’s hi-fi again. And later with the Harold and Maude Soundstrack. Cat Stevens comes on at the grocery store and I can’t help but sing along. It hits me on a physical level – I immediately calm down when this album is on.

3. Patty Griffin – Living With Ghosts
Favorite to sing along to in the car, like whoa. Also, I have a delicious memory of sitting on the couch in Hilary’s living room with her and Matthew, just soaking it all in together. This album is all kinds of roadtrips across Texas and morning coffee. It inspired me to relearn to play guitar after decades away. One of the sweetest gems in my heart box.

4. Soul Coughing – El Oso
I didn’t know about Soul Coughing until a few years after the band broke up, but when I found out about them, I listened to everything I could get my hands on. This one stayed in the car for years (it may still be there, actually), because, as it turns out, it can calm a driving-triggered* anxiety attack for me.

5. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again: this album changed my life. Steve gave me a cassette tape in 1989 with Surfer Rosa on one side and something by Sonic Youth on the other. I listened to Surfer Rosa until the tape snapped, and started playing in my first band, of course with Steve. Read the rest of this entry »

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