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Oh, how I do love Lock 50 – tucked away in the Canal District (50 Water Street) with her lovely staff and delicious coffee treats, I have found her equally the perfect spot for a work meetup or a relaxing morning.*
Highlights of this film include:
– Audrey gets KISSED BY A TINY DRAGON!**
– Talking Worcester and Second City politics with longtime resident Bill MacMillan and recent transplant Eirean Bradley***
*And I hear that now the café has extended hours in the evening – woot! Also, Lock 50 is indeed a full service (and rather fancy!) restuarant – I have not had the chance to check out the food yet myself, but I keep hearing super good things about it.
**She samples the delicious signature Facebreaker (macchiato with chili peppers!)
***I nearly snorfled coffee out my nose when Eirean said: “I actually kind of view Worcester as the middle sister of New England … Worcester is the one with the tattoos on her knuckles and really bad taste in men..?”
I really wish you could have joined us for this conversation – there was almost 20 minutes of footage by the end, and it was really tough to crunch it all down to just this little bit. But then, editing is painful like giving away puppies, right?
I am guilty of a multitude of grocery store sins: I buy stuff I already have in the house because I forget I have it (hence the three cans of coconut milk in the cabinet). I buy stuff I already have in the house because I don’t want to run out if I decided to make it again (see: cilantro, mint, shallots, limes). I get overambitious in the produce department about our family’s ability to consume greens before they expire. I buy items I have no idea about just because they have pretty packages (your mileage may vary). So, with budget in mind, I try really hard now to make a grocery list and keep to it.
And then there was the last run. We were pretty much out of everything*** and the list got complicated. Lawdamercy, I mixed up two recipes when I did the grocery list last weekend, and wound up picking up stuff for parts of both of them,* tho’ not all the components for either one.
BUT! I wound up with something delicious.
Chinese Napa Cabbage Stir-fry With Pork – serves 3-4
(adapted from two recipes from thewoksoflife.com/)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 small boneless pork chops thinly sliced, sprinkled with kosher salt
5 cloves garlic, smashed and cut in half
5 dried red chilies, de-seeded and roughly chopped
1 large napa cabbage, mostly the white parts, cut on an angle
2 teaspoons mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise
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 Chowder – serves 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
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
Good morning, Get Shit Done day! I’m low on coffee,* high in spirits, and Windows Movie Maker is rendering at the speed of tar.
I’ve done the dishes and set up some tee shirts to dye that I waxed last week and then forgot about. I’ve handled correspondence and cleaned out my email. Cleaned the desk (which is a Really Good Thing, considering the state it was in**). Found my prescription under the pile & renewed it. Started curating the show for Rabbit Heart (hence the rendering stuff). Packed up goods for the mail, both for Apple Batiks products and for the film festival. Ok, GO.
This is kinda wonderful, being in this space today, and I’m stupid grateful for it. I spent the last week in a bit of a slump, dealing with pain management and some psychic turmoil that had me feeling caged. But yesterday the pain started to lift (Tuesday was shot day \o/), and I had the car during the day, and I started to feel like I was more in gear – that lasted until dinnertime, when I just wanted a finished meal to spring forth fully formed from my brow like another coming of Athena, and then gave up and made some ramen. And then this morning, I’m more like me again, equipped with a big can of FUCK YEH. I’m totally ok with that. I let a lot of stuff slide last week while I was uncomfortable, and it’s nice to see it get taken care of. Tonight I may even make some rice stuffed tomatoes and we can sit together and eat like a family.
And I’m blessing the timing on this – September has just begin, and that means I’m moving into crunch time. With the film festival right around the corner, there’s a bunch of bits and pieces that I need to take care of before October comes to knock and things get really real – the show curating is my biggest concern, and it feels good to be digging in after a solid month of being freaked out about all the how-tos associated with it. (What order should I show the films? Who’s going to run the computer? Can I make all the films in each category into one uninterrupted film? What software should I use? How do I use said software??) File under T for Things That Would Suck: having a full house (we’re sold out! OMG!), and not having something beautiful to present. Now that I’m in the thick of it, I’m less anxious, which makes the process easier, and I’ve started far enough ahead that I have time for The Process to work out if/when things get hinky. If I can manage this part, then all I have to do is get the trophies in order.
I cannot believe it’s already a week into August. In a few weeks Our Man Cub will be back to school again, tickets for Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival will be on sale, and blessed cooler weather will be back to calm my shit down. And in the meanwhile, I’m pickling. With the air conditioning running.
It starts with the garden patch on the side of the house, where it’s cozy and pleasant. There’s a little wall that separates our property from the apartment complex, and it feels private, even if it really isn’t. I love that garden patch. But it gets iffy sun, and the woman who lived here before us planted day lilies and hosta to accommodate that. Every spring we put in vegetables, and I’ve been experimenting with what will grow there well.
Tomatoes grow, but generally don’t ripen on the vine. Some varieties of melons grow well, sprawling all over and bearing fruit that takes a long time to ripen. Rosemary and oregano love it. Strawberries loooooove it. And the squirrels love the strawberries – we rarely get to eat any, because squirrels get up earlier than we do, as a rule. Pepper plants come up and thrive, but the fruit is small. Zucchini gets us a big plant, and two or three actual zucchinis. Broccoli is a wash – it gets leggy and blooms. Cauliflower seems to be coming up ok, if leggy and smallish.
But cucumbers? Holy carp, cucumbers love the side garden patch. And so every year we put in a few more plants. We plant pickling cukes, because they just taste better to us – Man Cub and I have discovered that we can eat something like our own weight in salted pickling cucumbers. Lately he’s taken to forgoing the salt part and just biting into them in the middle. Last year, in spite of our intentions, we ate all the cucumbers – not a one made it into the pickle jar. So! Good! -urp-
So this year we made a conscious decision to plant enough cucumbers for pickling and eating. We put twenty-odd plants in the ground and let ’em go.
Hello, hello! I am arrived home from NPS 2013. Dearest Will and I spent two days (that’s what we could afford for hotel) out in Cambridge. This was a huge decision, not just because it was expensive monetarily, but because it’s expensive emotionally – I’m anxious in cities and always afraid of getting lost or left behind, bars freak me out (and both our bouts were in bars), and slam judges frequently disappoint me. But it turned out to be a good couple days, in spite of the judges and the traffic and the booze
Favorite frames from the last couple days:
Karen G hugs. Omg, Karen G hugs when she arrived at our hotel room.
The Tribute reading: Weeping silently through the whole thing. Matt Richards reading for Ken Hunt. Talking with Gerry Hardesty about Brenda Moossy. Bill realizing that he was wearing Jack’s socks.
The tiny tiny rabbit in the courtyard eating grass as three of us tried for photographs – and then Dearest Will pointed at Liz’ tattoo for Gabrielle, and we all gasped.
Ok, so can we talk about Mystery Gardening?
It happens almost every year: at some point in March, Man Cub & I take over the kitchen table with packets of seeds, dixie cups and any seedling trays we happen to have, and a big bag of potting soil. We fill the cups and trays and stick the seeds in the dirt. Invariably we wind up both planting the same seeds in different ends of the trays. We have full intention to label what we stick in the dirt – it’s just that that doesn’t really ever, well, happen.
What does happen is that we shrug and tell each other that once everything sprouts, we’ll be able to tell a tomato from a cucumber and a melon from a pepper, and then we cover it all with plastic and stick it in the window and wait.
And we can, in fact, tell a cucumber sprout from a tomato sprout and a pepper sprout from a melon sprout – that’s no problem. On the other hand, telling cucumbers from melons from zucchini is a little bit harder. Also, tomatoes and peppers require a few extra days to tell apart. But, fuck it, it all has to end up in the ground anyway, so as soon as the garden is ready, in it all goes. About three weeks later, the real fun begins, when we realize that there are at least two patches that are complete mysteries, surprise! there are jalapenos among the bells, and we may or may not have planted watermelons, but we have no idea what seeds we planted, because we threw out the packets when they were empty, so it might be pumpkins? Lol, whoops.
Oh, vacation. As of 3 o’clock yesterday, both Will Dearest and I are on vacation for a week! To celebrate, after work yesterday we grabbed some grocery store lobsters (they’ll cook them for you – joy!) and I steamed up the corn from the farmers market*, and we had a family picnic on the living room floor – which was truly lovely.
While I’m wrapping my head around the idea of a week without waking at six and going in to work, the smallest cat is laying on top of a handled bag from Old Sturbridge Village. He has killed it two tiemz, even tho’ he was frightened of it when it first arrived because it smelled strongly of fudge. I’m impressed with his fortitude and bravery. I am planning to channel his osm spirit in the coming days.
I have some plans for the week: I’m thinking about taking everything out of the sun room and reorganizing it. We are going to paint Man Cub’s room at some point. He and Dearest Will have already taken advantage of the weekend and the good weather to build a (gorgeous!) fire pit in the yard, and we are all eagerly awaiting the cement’s curing to test drive it. I would very much like to get back into my yoga practice, which has derailed over the last month because of Busy. I want to pick up some big pots and some soil, and replant the english ivy that’s looking droopy. I’m looking forward to sleeping in a few days this week.
But first, I got things to do. We have a 2 o’clock slam practice that we’re looking at ending around six tonight. We have a slam team send-off tonight, as they’re to Boston for Poetry Slam Nationals on Tuesday, another practice tomorrow night, and laundry and sundried other odds and ends to handle before we all depart.** Also, I have to order oil and pay the bills sometime today. So I think after Thursday, it will be about really digging into the move-stuff-around-in-the-house business. And going to the movies with Man Cub. I’m looking forward to it, just bringing the focus back home for a little bit.
My latest fixation right now is about throwing out less stuff. Part of it is guilt, straight up.* Part of it has to do with seeing what I can do with things that grow . Part of it is about sheer craftiness, seeing what I can re-use or repurpose in kickass ways. Part of it is thriftiness (see also: the brown bananas in my freezer, awaiting three like comrades).
This afternoon I turned a decadent little trick with the two dwarves, Guilty and Thrifty,** and just had to share my victory with you.
Dearest Will generally overestimates my morning coffee consumption. We’re both big fans of coffee, but while he’s a guzzler, I’m more of a sipper.*** And he’s sweet and kind, and he makes a fresh pot for us just before we leave for work, topping off our go-cups for the road. But my cup never needs more than an inch or two, so there’s always some left in the pot as we’re about to leave the house – the last 2 cups or so in the carafe, not enough to fill another go-cup, but what feels like too much to throw out.
So yesterday, in anticipation of the heat wave, I stuck it in a container in the fridge. Then this morning I poured in the leftovers again. This afternoon we came home to a roasty house,† I poured the coffee over ice into big mugs, added some sugar and some milk, and whoa, Fanceh Coffees \o/††