Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not quite the carpet I imagined...

...but the crocuses I planted in 2007 are beginning to appear.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday, Pastitsio

This month's challenge in the Mediterranean food contest is Greek: Pastitsio.

I thought, "Greek? I don't cook Greek food, except for the little lamb pita sandwiches I make sometimes." Those sandwiches always explode right out of the pockets.

I went to and looked up "pastitsio": a Greek version of lasagna.

Game on!

I decided to find a way to take the flavors that I love in my little sandwiches and put them into a layered pasta dish.


Pasta layer
Cook 1/2 pound of tube pasta, such as penne or ziti, according to directions. Drain and cool slightly, then mix with 4 oz. hummus.

Lamb layer
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 pound lamb
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the leeks and garlic. When they are soft, transfer them to a bowl. Add the lamb to the pan, and brown it. While it's cooking, season it with salt and pepper, add the cumin, and add the herbs. When the lamb is done, remove it with a slotted spoon and combine it with the leeks and garlic.

Cheese layer
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 lb. ricotta cheese
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Chop or mash the roasted garlic and then mix it with the cheeses.

Tomato layer
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2Tbsp. sun-dried tomato paste
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the tomatoes, vinegar, tomato paste, and thyme to a simmer. Add the olives. Season with salt and pepper, and continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced. Turn off the heat, and stir in the parsley.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly oil an 8-inch-square glass baking dish. Spread half the pasta on the bottom, top with half the lamb, then half the cheese, and half the tomatoes. Repeat, and then sprinkle the top with 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese and some sesame seeds.

Bake 30 minutes, and then let it rest for 10 minutes, at least.

I realize not everyone has roasted garlic sitting around, but we've taken to roasting three or four bulbs at a time and storing it in the refrigerator so it's always ready.

If you want the layers to stay intact, you can let it cool completely and then bake it again. On a Friday night, after a long day at the end of a long week of work, we skipped that part.

It isn't a light meal and it isn't a quick meal, but I had a lot of fun making it, and eating it (I admit, I had seconds).

Monday, February 23, 2009

To eat or ... to eat

Tamara tagged me for this on Facebook, and I thought I'd post it here, too.

25 Things: A Foodie List

(Note: I still have a hard time with the term "foodie"—but that isn't one of my things.)

  1. I'm not Italian, but I strive to cook like an Italian.

  2. I could eat pasta every night of the week—even though my diet advises whole wheat pasta only.

  3. The last good meal I had: last night's Oscar fest. Even though it was just three of us, we had caramelized onion tarts, curried prawns served on greens, and salmon with mashed potatoes and green beans (somehow ice cream was added to the menu, but I take no responsibility for that).

  4. Yes, I am supposedly on a diet. When it works, it works really well.

  5. I follow cookbooks (and I have shelves full of them), recipes from the newspaper, recipes from the Food Network, and recipes I find on—as long as I can define "follow" loosely.

  6. My favorite restaurant in town: Serafina.

  7. My favorite fast food: Drunken chicken sandwich from The Baguette Box. (Note that we have no traditional fast food joints in the neighborhood; we have pizza, but it isn't my favorite.)

  8. My favorite ice cream is homemade--honey bay, honey lavendar, scented rose geranium, or scented rose geranium and strawberry.

  9. I like to have a lot of vinegars on hand: Balsamic, White Balsamic, Red Wine, White Wine, Champagne, Sherry, Cider, Rice, regular old White, and sometimes Fig Balsamic. For some reason, this comforts me.

  10. I like dark chocolate, especially dark chocolate from Theo's.

  11. Pie is a food group —and one that I've been neglecting.

  12. Most nights, I don't feel like I'm cooking; it's more like I'm slinging hash—perfunctory and obligatory rather than creative.

  13. These days, I'm like a short-order cook: One person who should eat only whole-grain pasta and bread (me), two people who loathe whole-grain pasta and bread, and one of those is a vegetarian (although she will eat fish). Either I compromise, or I run out of burners.

  14. I'm still learning how to cook for only three—an apprenticeship for when I'll be cooking for only two.

  15. Finding the Herb Farm cookbook completely reinvigorated my cooking. Even under obligation, I can throw in some fresh thyme.

  16. I now have thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, parsley, and mint in the garden. In odd stretches, I have lovage, cilantro, and dill. I also have lavender—but it came with the house and, if left to itself, would take over the entire yard.

  17. In my youth, I was a vegetarian for more than a decade.

  18. Now, I can do some pretty damn fine things with a piece of pork (chop, loin, tenderloin, bacon, prosciutto, pancetta).

  19. I am scrupulous about not wasting the grains of rice that spill from the container when I'm measuring, but I inevitably throw out some of the rice after it's cooked.

  20. I enjoy wine—tasting it, savoring it, pairing it with food (I'm not so good at this yet, but I enjoy trying).

  21. I own a crockpot, but I've never used it for slow cooking. It is quite effective, however, for keeping soup, mashed potatoes, or risotto warm.

  22. When I was younger, I used to want to do everything myself—no electric mixer, just a whisk and a wooden spoon.

  23. I waited years to use my food processor (too much noise, too many parts to clean). Now, I use frequently, especially for pasta dough and anything involving butter that needs to be cut into flour—think biscuits, scones, or pastry dough. (I also use my electric mixer.)

  24. I am the Queen of Cholesterol. I blame it on my Scandinavian heritage and the associated hereditary love of cheese—and let's not even mention cream and butter. (Did I tell you about the vanilla ice cream in Copenhagen--so rich it's yellow?)

  25. I grew up thinking I needed to stay thin, and over the years this has constantly conflicted with my love of food and flavors and eating—a constant conflict. After decades of this, I'm going to try to write my way out.

P.S. I just realized that of course we have fast food in the neighborhood: We have Dick's. Yum!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Premio Dardos!

Weeks ago, Premium T. bestowed upon me a Premio Dardos award. If I am slow to respond, I am none-the-less honored and grateful. And with the Oscars airing tonight, it seems like a perfect day for awards.

Premium T.'s post:

The Premier Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

The rules:

1. Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the
name of the person that has granted the award and a link
to his/her blog.

2. Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy
of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each
of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

Here are the five blogs that I want to recognize:

Blue Positive: Always well-thought and well-written, with good ideas and good reading recommendations

First Drafts: Leonardo Likes Gulls: The tagline "Poetry and life in a small town—thoughts before revision" says it all. Plus, the gratitude journal and Tuesday confessions. (I admire anyone who can commit to posting regularly on one day of the week and come through—and First Drafts does.)

Office OFFline: Extreme wit with extreme brevity.

The Nut Bar: This blog is new to me—but so delicious, with pictures and writing to whet the palate.

Cuoche dell'altro mondo: I admit that I can't vouch for the language here—except that it's Italian, and the pictures always inspire me. Now, I just need to figure out how to tell them that I'm giving them this award.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spring training

It's that time: The players have reported for Spring training.

I've often wondered about how to transfer the athletic training concept to writing poetry.

And speaking of training, isn't it about time to get back on my bike? I've been thinking about it, and about trading in my heavy tank of a mountain bike for something much sleeker and lighter. But thinking is as far as I've gotten.

In the meantime, I've been going through
The Artist's Way. I bought the book a few years ago and didn't get very far. Too much work! Too much time required. A little too hyped-up and woo-woo.

But back in January, I decided to give it another go, working through it as much or as little as I could and figuring that was better than nothing (a favorite concept of mine, especially with exercise: anything is better than nothing).

I've had a lot of time while riding the bus, and now I'm on week 7! Granted, I started earlier even than the pitchers and catchers—but I'll bet they start a bit earlier too, getting loose, getting strong, warming up.

Finally, I realized: This is my training! I don't know whether it's making me a better writer, but it's focusing me on my writing—and it's helping me in other ways.

And I think I'll be done by Opening Day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I need a new image

It's a little thing, but do you have any ideas?

I've been sending my manuscript out everywhere. Really, everywhere. Chapbook, full-length, everywhere.

At some point, I'll cringe too much at all the entry fees and the postage (which we now know is going up). But for now, I'm still sending it everywhere. And the image I get is "carpet bombing." But that is not a good image. I don't support any image of bombing, and that's even worse than the others.

But "leave no stone unturned" makes me think of moss. A little too passive.

Got another good way to describe blanket submission? (That one isn't working for me either.)

Show me!

The winter issue of The Missouri Review arrived in the mail, featuring a cover photo that looks, to me, inspired by Wyeth (a combination of Christina and the sea) and poems by Alex Grant (who is a Facebook friend).

Alex's poems visit the circus, with tantalizing imagery. I especially enjoy the line

She looks at you the way a man with gray hair looks at the ocean

from "The Fortune-Teller." I also was swept away by "The Clown," "The Acrobat," and "The Magician."

Another treat: the bus poems by
Alexandra Teague.

Check it out!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Art no one could stop

Or a woman no one could stop.

This morning at breakfast I opened the new issue of
Weber to find an interview with artist Pilar Pobil and gorgeous full-color pictures of her work.

Pilar grew up in Spain, and the introduction notes that, in that patriarchal society, she was discourage from pursuing her love of creating art. But when I read through the interview, it turns out that the two most important men in her life—her father and her husband—encouraged her art and her creativity. It was Pilar's mother, determined to raise a dutiful daughter, who discouraged her and threw away her work.

Pilar married, moved to the United States, and raised a family before she began to sculpt and paint. It appears that she has been making up for lost time ever since. Read the interview!

This issue also contains poems by Sunni Brown Wilkinson (and others). I was especially taken with these lines:

Annie whispers to the flies
aujourd'hui terre chanson.
If there were oranges on the trees
I could eat and never die.

(from "As Annie Walks to the P.O." by Sunni Brown Wilkinson)

I just checked the website, and the new issue is not listed yet. I hope they put it up soon—but if not, Weber is worth a subscription.

A little bit of island life

Lummi Island, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hunting the wild series

That's what I'll be talking about during the Writer's Craft part of this Thursday's It's About Time Writers Reading Series.

Interested? Here are the details:

Thursday, February 12
6:o0 PM - 7:45 PM

Ballard Public Library
5614 22nd Ave. N.W.
Seattle , WA 98107

The evening's featured readers are Elizabeth Austin, Sherry Reniker, and Jack Remick.

Plus, there's an open mike, so bring your poems.

Our Monday morning surprise

Late afternoon, and we still have a little snow left.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What would you do?

I have a small-to-midsized dilemma, and I'm looking for advice.

Say you sent a manuscript by email into an open reading period and paid your reading fee. Say you then went to a workshop and had a mind-blowing, poetry-expanding experience, and you were inspired to revise (and, you think, truly improve) many of the poems in that manuscript.

Do you send email (politely, deferentially) offering to send a copy of the new (and, you truly think, improved) version—if the publisher hasn't read the original version you sent anyway?

Or do you say nothing, and hope that in the extremely slim case the publisher accepts your original manuscript, you'll be able to send the new version then?

The slim case makes it the small dilemma—but what if those few revisions made the difference?

What would you do?

And if you're a publisher, what's your preference?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009


It's a day for a little writing, a little poetry-packaging (trying to find good homes for poems), a little chili-cooking and cornbread, a little resting, a little (more than that) football, and Ricola cranberry vitamin C cough drops.

This birthday has smacked me more than others, something about that number. Now that the day is here, I'm ready to revel in it.

And I was working on my poem about my blast-from-the-past poetry teacher. I'd started a serious version and a funny version. My head and my throat are still stuffed up and I'm certainly not feeling coherent, but even I could see that the serious version needed to go right out the window. Vindication must be good-natured all the way. Lead the laughter.

Yes, revel in it.