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We have the world’s best dog. (If you have a dog, you probably make the same claim. And I am sure you are right. As long as we can both be correct in making our respective and absolutely truthful declarations! “Best” really shouldn’t be a term used to create an exclusion anyway, if you think about it – it kind of defeats the spirit of its predecessor (in this context), “good”… So excuse the lazy phrasing and understand that I do not say “best” as in others can’t be best, too. We can all have the best dogs, right?)

Two of the Best Dogs Ever

Two of the Best Dogs Ever

But back to the best dog at hand. He is a gentleman. He is often referred to as “The Professor.”  And “Zen Master” and “Rinpoche,” (“Rin-Pocheeee!”) and “The Little Prince.” He has a distinguished goatee and a pensive, curious quality to his expression, and the way he cocks his head and wags his tail. He seems interested in you, what you are saying (and eating), what you are feeling, what you are happy about, or sad about, or why in the world you might be jumping all over the house singing “O Frabjous Day! Callooh Callay!”. If you ask if he wants to go for a  —  he will finish your sentence for you by leaping up (as far as his little legs will allow) and shaking his whole body once, goatee to tail, and then prancing across the floor to where he sits to have his leash clipped on, lifting up that goatee to the sky with a smile.

On said —-‘s (I can’t say the word because he gets so hopeful-  his dejection is so dispiriting) he is very polite in sniffing other dogs’ bums and very good at nuzzling his ears into the outstretched hands of strangers, and he never barks (with one exception: skateboards, at which he flings his entire body and voice at the offender (never getting very close) but that is understandable – they do not behave like humans or dogs: no eye contact, extremely loud clattering, and zooming by without even pausing, rudely ignoring the social code of presenting one’s backside for sniffs.)  He is even discreet about where he chooses to pee (well, at least when the fire-hydrants aren’t the first thing he sees – his poesy has fallen victim to that one, blatant cliche.)

Cliche.

Cliche.

After dinner he sleeps: on his bed, on the hardwood floor, on the carpet, on my lap, on the mountain boy’s lap, on the kitchen mat.  And at night, he sleeps at the foot of the bed and doesn’t move until I am ready to get up – often nine or ten hours later. I’ll get up and shower and he will quietly move to the warm spot on the pillow and curl up again for another half hour.

He is ponderous. Pensive. Thoughtful. He plods onward carefully. Contemplates the grass for extended periods. Quiet. Peaceful. He will pad around the house with just the slightest waddle to his patient paw-falls. I could easily imagine him with a top-hat and cane, flaneurial, or perhaps a sweater vest and spectacles, some leather patches on his corduroy jacket’s elbows, a gentleman-farmer-professor.  His recent carpet excavations would qualify him to be an excellent archaeologist, carefully exhuming fossils and ancient specks of alimentation – and he would look quite smart in an Indiana Jones hat and some exploratory boots.  But sometimes, and this is the most common position for him, I will catch him gazing ahead – watching a cricket, a spider, a speck of floating dust, or absolutely nothing at all – his eyes little blissful slits – sitting on his haunches zazen. The Zen Master. Rinpoche. The Professor. Deep in meditation.

He really did find this.

He really did find this.

In fact, he well may have achieved enlightenment. He is so peaceful that sometimes I take the sense of calm and quiet and bliss for granted. And then. And then. And then. He shows his other side. He is, after all, the keeper of the gates and absolutely MUST let me know when someone is at the door. That is all well and good, except when he has been sitting zazen for two hours and suddenly leaps across the room with a tremendously loud announcement, and my pen, which has been so meticulously controlled, is suddenly jerked in a dark, irreparable zig zag leap across a tiny drawing as I startle. And when he gets going – once he has put himself on guard – anything – any little sound outside the window or outside the door – any footstep or sneeze or raindrop or bee buzzing – he is absolutely determined to announce, amplify, warn me of, protect me from, and scare off with a ferociously loud bark. And then bark. And then bark-bark-bark-hoooooooowwwwlllll! He hears everything in these moments, and every thing he hears, from a baby’s laugh across the street to a handshake on the corner to Phil Collins on a car’s radio becomes a threat, which he dutifully – enthusiastically – announces. And though he is petite, his bark is not.

In comes the bark collar.  Before you declare me cruel (that can come later in the post) his bark collar is not the mean kind.  When he barks, the vibration triggers a brief spray of citronella – no shocks, no vibrations, no beeps – just a spray to distract him from barking.  He doesn’t like the spray in his face, I can’t imagine anyone would, but it doesn’t hurt him. I even say “bark-collar” and he runs right over, gets lots of praise and I snap it on and he wags his tail and nuzzles my hand and then waddles off again to sit zazen for a while longer without a peep. He never tries to paw it off, I think he and I both forget it is on.

Which is exactly what happened several nights ago.  We decided to take him with us up to the roof to watch the fireworks – surely he would be happier sitting between us as the fire flew and the booms banged and the zooms zanged outside.  Not to mention that we were both a little unsettled from a very recent boom to the back of our (now defunct) car – I have been a bit jumpy ever since and my zen dog does a lot to calm my nerves.

Sitting Zazen

So we marveled at how well “he” handled the fireworks, chin up, curious but not too frightened, making sure he had one paw on each of our laps as he kept watch. As I pet him, I realized his bark collar was still on from earlier in the day (lots of people were out and about, and he wanted to tell me the life stories of each in novella-barks)- but it wasn’t going off so I thought it wasn’t a problem. Until the moment the fireworks, already fervent, picked up, grew more enthusiastic, feverish, and started their climax and the boom-boom-boom-boom grew so loud all at once and in such quick succession (our own bodies vibrating throughout – imagine his!) that it set off his bark collar not once, twice, or three times but at least twenty before I could get it off, frantic, watching the spray reflecting the fireworks and the professor flinging his head side to side trying to escape the assault and figure out what he was doing so wrong. Citronella all over him and the mountain boy and myself and me in tears (yes, please do judge – I am a terrible dog-mamma and deserve to be reprimanded. deserved the face full of citronella – and worse.) I got it off as the five second finale faded into illuminated smoke and then darkness drifting across the city. I apologized over and over and over to the professor and he, enlightened and kind and generous as he is, just gave me a big buddha smile and a nuzzle, licked my face and finally just dropped his always sweet and blissful head onto my lap where we sat together for a long, long time.

The Professor is always kind and deep in thought.

The Professor is always kind and deep in thought.

Chronological Sequence: Northern Hemisphere.

May 9

friday. seventy-nine degrees fahrenheit.

May 10

saturday. fifty-eight degrees fahrenheit.

May 11 no. 1

sunday. forty-five degrees fahrenheit.

May 11

sunday. thirty-two degrees fahrenheit.

May 11 no. 3

sunday. thirty degrees fahrenheit.

May 12

monday. twenty-five degrees fahrenheit.

Hi there! Just a quick post today. I want you to meet Coco and Theo, Coco and Theo, I’d like you to meet your readers.  These are the twins that will be the hero and heroine of my next book, though we’ll see how heroic they manage to be with a baguette and a bag of carrots.   Let me know what you think of them.  Did you notice their little friend by the gate? Guess what his name is…

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Do you remember when you were little and the funny looking fellow in a white cap behind the bakery counter would give you a cookie – a cookie you were allowed to eat right then! while mom chose all sorts of other things mysterious, that hardly seemed edible? While you ran to her (trying to help, of course) suggesting cereals with pretty pictures on the front, apples that seemed too perfect to be real (mommy? is this like the apple snow white ate?) and tried, in vain, to point out the perfect little pastries straight from Alice in Wonderland?

“Mommy, like you just read to me last night? I think it says ‘eat me,’ I’m sure it does.”

“No honey, it says “Happy Birthday.”

“When’s MY birthday mommy? I need one of those for my birthday!”

At the Bakery Counter

And then she would sigh, thank the white capped wizard (surely that is what he was) for the cookie, and move on while you stayed in front of that glowing case, fixated on all of the lovely things inside that surely tasted just as good as the cookie you were finishing. But you couldn’t know for sure because you were only just little then, hadn’t yet had enough years or tea parties to discover the difference between an eclair and a croissant and a tarte tatin; a baguette and brioche and an opera cake.

Well, at least that is how I was as a child. As it turns out, I did become a pastry chef, despite a rather unusual aversion to sugar. Perhaps it was the disappointment of so many tiny, wondrous, and beautiful little objects tasting too sweet? Perhaps it is because I love salt just a little too much? Perhaps it is because I love the process of creating ethereal food so much that any flavor it actually possessed would be an insult to its insubstantial reality? (Marshmallows? Cotton Candy? Does it not break your heart, just a tiny bit, when they melt between your teeth? Or perhaps that is the better part of the pleasure?) But I do take great joy in creating them, and giving them to others so that they may, yes, crush them with their teeth, drown them in their mouths, tear them in half, suck them dry, cut and scrape at them – I love for guests to do all of those things.

Caesar Salad

But alas, I married a man who does not particularly care for sugar either. On a very rare occasion, we’ll pull out some ice cream. Let it sit in front of us while it warms up enough to stab with a spoon. Take a bite. Or two. Apiece. Lick the spoon. Declare it delicious. And put it back into the freezer for another month, or three, until we feel the urge for another bite. A pint of ice cream lasts more than a year in our house. Long and short of it, I have baked so few pastries in the past four years that I’ve nearly forgotten how (the pastry chef training did not become my career) – my meringues fall, my icing melts, my lemon curd curdles, my souffles explode… then explode; into tears, into words quite improper for tiny petit-four ears, into despair for a failed ending to a dinner party that was, usually, and by nearly all accounts, extraordinary. Luckily, by the time dessert rolls around, we’ve all usually had enough wine to stay calm, eat the sweet ruins (usually tasting approximate at least) and languish in the memory of my husband’s caesar salad and the croutons he made, the spring pea soup, the cauliflower and hazelnut gratin he has mastered, the shaved fennel salad, the burratta with roe, the quiche, the croquettes, the home made baguettes…

Why did my Souffle fall?

Why did my Souffle fall?

We do know how to entertain. My brother in law is in the wine industry, basically a sommelier. My sister is a wine tasting savante, my husband an extraordinary cook, we have a bathroom full of framed menus from restaurants, we collect cookbooks, buy flowers, light candles… And we always illustrate our menus on a chalkboard, use handmade napkins my mom made, napkin rings my dad made, plate on pretty mismatched china, and I’ve started a small business making place cards, menus and illustrated recipes (invitations and maps, too!).

So the give-away is this: leave a comment below by March 15 (and then check out my other blog, www.thejabberwockscopperpot.wordpress.com) and I will choose one of you, at random, receive an illustrated recipe (one of your mother’s? grandmother’s?) or menu for your dinner party or your wall or scrapbook. Easy as that!

What did I do?

What did I do?

She eats our shoes. She eats our cheese. She eats her brush. She eats the base boards and the coffee table and the bed.

She poops in the bathroom. She poops on the rug. She poops in the kitchen. She poops in the closet. She poops in hiding and in plain sight. She poops in the middle of the street. She pees on beds and chairs.

She barks at bicycles. She barks at people. She barks at dogs. She barks at cars. She barks in the middle of the night. She barks at everything. She barks at nothing.

She snorts like an unhappy pig. She growls like a banshee. She coughs like a man who began smoking in the Jazz Age.

She runs straight towards homeless people. She runs away from children. She provokes pit bulls and shies away from doxens.

Her reach and agility greatly outweigh her diminutive stature.

Her reach and agility greatly outweigh her diminutive stature.

She runs in circles. She chases her tail. She chases animals in the woods. She jumps on top of me when I’m sleeping. She jumps on the other pup when he sleeps. Or walks. Or wags his tail.

She sleeps on the back of the couch. She sleeps on the arm rest. She sleeps on clothes. She sleeps on a pile of anything. She mats her fur into unthinkable tangles.

She is cute when she sleeps.

She is cute when she sleeps.

She is cute when she sleeps. She’s cute when she plays. She’s even cute when she chases her tail.

She does not have an umlaut over her “e.” As much as I would have loved to bestow this gift upon a new pup, her previous owner did not. I kept her name the same so that when I got her records it would be easier to find the Zoey without the umlaut.

Except  it turned out she had NO records. No shots. No spaying. No training. No discernible breed. No socialization. No manners. (An umlaut would help with manners, surely?)

Only a very cute pink nose. Only that sweet moment when her eyes begin to close. And the ability to sit and stay for at least one second, working towards two. Occasionally two. As long as her long white tail doesn’t touch the ground.

And still no umlaut.

She is possibly the world’s worst dog. Until my sweet friend decides to chronicle her dear Lucy. With drawings. Please do.

She thinks the street is the optimal poop zone. And I have to pick it up.

She thinks the street is the optimal poop zone. And I have to pick it up.

Vintage Copper Pots and Bowl

Vintage Copper Pots and Bowl

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. The weather is changing and I’m restless, caught somewhere between apple picking, pumpkin patches, the first snow, and the intense desire to hibernate. I’ve been traveling. Texas, New York, Bermuda, and California next week. There have been birthdays and our first anniversary, and really, too much joy in every day to even begin to express – and sometimes some sadness, too.  But I wanted to check in here, to tell just a little story, and to share a few small pictures.

Texas. Funny how I feel about east Texas, and my godfather. Almost like I knew them before I was born, but in this lifetime I haven’t caught up to them yet – completely backwards from the way things are.  But that is how it feels in the labor day heat, making jam, meeting people who knew my grandfather, who knew me before I could remember them, told me how very much I look like my mother, and slipping into an accent I never really could call my own but is, inexplicably, perhaps playfully, and perhaps intuitively or even presumptuously just there when I least expect it. (Darlin’ and sweet pea for the pup, names my mother used for me when I was but a wee one). It is, after all, and after asking everyone I could, the South.

Sitting with my godfather, in his home where the great great grandmothers and great great aunts are always referred to by name, as if still living, and where every item has a personal history that really should be given its very own short story (in honor of Alice Munro I say short story instead of novel) I mentioned how much I love vintage linens. Next thing I knew, I had armfuls of beautiful hand embroidered linens and aprons – all of which I have carefully removed the stains from as best I could, wrapped in acid-free paper, and carefully put away – except for two aprons, which I wear.

And then, the crock pot fascinated me. I’m not quite old enough to have lived through the crock-pot phase of the 70’s, but I’ve seen (and tasted) the rare magic of the funny old ugly (and beautiful, really) thing. I’m sure quite a few things could go wrong with the crock pot, but if you want to smell something secret and warm all day long, I recommend it. I was given my very own avocado green crock pot. Actually, it was a gift from my godfather to my husband as well, though he couldn’t be with me in Texas. Coffee the next morning? I chose a percolator from the collection he had on his counter. Also avocado green. I took them home to my husband, with my linens and jam, and, funny thing, he must have been meant for me because he loves them, too.

And then, in the mail, so many surprises since. I feel like I’m unraveling some sort of mystery with each surprise my godfather sends. Again, almost like I am going back to a place where I planned to go, one day, before I was born, and a sort of backwards sense of going home.

I’ll share just a few of my treasures below, and then a few drawings of other vintage kitchen items that we cherish as well. A place so safe, so warm, and so very much home.

1933 Pamphlet: Facts worth knowing about Arm & Hammer Baking Soda as a proved medicinal agent.

1933 Pamphlet: Facts worth knowing about Arm & Hammer Baking Soda as a proved medicinal agent.

This 1930 pamphlet teaches you about the genius product called Ice Cream Powder by Jell-0

This 1930 pamphlet teaches you about the genius product called Ice Cream Powder by Jell-0

1949 tips for Bride from Aunt Jenny

1949 tips for Bride from Aunt Jenny

 

And the recipe

And the recipe

Percolator

1950's Bun Warmer

could a crock pot really  get away with any other color?

could a crock pot really get away with any other color?

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Spring came late to the mountains this year.  Our last snow came after warm days, a big snow, 12 inches and two days of it in May. But it is a lovely spring now, where the leaves on even the largest trees look tender, translucent, as if looking up at them you are seeing water suspended in a child’s hand, and the way the faces of children look, too, water and blood running in warm and cool currents, just below the surface, glowing with a delicate network of capillaries and emotions – if children were a different color, I could swear that chlorophyll filled their veins.

My earliest memory is of pulling myself up on the side of my crib, under the open window of summer and sky, and somehow wrestling my chubby little un-walked legs around the bars and up over them and crawling onto the roof where I could watch my dad in the garden, looking as small as I was beneath the trees and over the plants he put in – babies themselves, like me, that I wanted to make friends with – touch, talk to, confide in. I saw the Easter bunny, too, in the way that our earliest memories form themselves, where magic goes unquestioned and reason doesn’t exist, but images do, what we create from the half words we hear.  With thanks to the-gods-that-be and a chastising and the terror that must have taken years off the life of my poor dad when he saw me on the roof, that adventure was quickly put to an end, and I was sat upon a blanket outside, watching him create the wonder that he did every year – hundreds and hundreds of bulbs among the trees and small animals in the garden.

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As I got older, he explained how to pull a weed, tugging gently at the root until it let go, and how to handle a seedling as you ease it out of its pot, how deep to plant it, how to make a little well around it once it was in the ground for water. And as I watched over the years, I learned the succession of spring flowers: snowdrops first (I added them to my list many years later, when I moved to Ohio and they pushed themselves up right through the snow, looking like suspended snow themselves), narcissus, daffodils, tulips, wisteria, then gladiolas, iris, roses, and lilac.  I watched the wildflowers, too, when in May the hills of the central coast of California would turn bright orange with poppies, and my best friend (now a botanist, of course!) could find the first wild strawberries near the ocean, so tiny, just the right size for a fairy’s dinner. Then lupine later in the summer, and then the wild blackberries would ripen and stain our hands and arms and mouth with something wild and uncontrollable – something that tasted like sun-warmed honey and blood and saltwater, like sage and magic – sweet beyond anything that existed anywhere on earth. To this day, I can’t eat a store bought blackberry, for they taste like nothing. Nothing at all.

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In Texas, when I was younger, I remember my dad digging up the wild iris on a stretch of road that was going to be torn up. He took them, replanting them every year, from house to house to house, all the way across the country, one coast to another. And when I was small, I learned Texas wildflowers, indian paintbrush, cherokee roses, bluebonnets. My mother would take me, when I did learn to properly walk, on nature walks, where we collected leaves from all of the trees, and thanked them for each, and then to a nature museum each week for forest walks. In East Texas, I visited virgin prairie, and learned that an eggplant is a terribly frightening thing to see growing in a garden. I canned wild plums, wild grapes, and made pesto from the rows of basil plants that grew in my adopted God-father’s garden. And here, spring seems like a miracle, green seems to fall from the sky, and the peas are growing and the tomatoes are starting, and the cherries are sweet and taste like roundness itself.

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In Switzerland, I found an edelweiss. In my first house, I planted a vegetable garden among the calla lilies. In Ohio, I had a rogue tomato plant that grew to the size of a car, and not a small car, either. Now, I have no yard, but a window full of herbs, succulents, geraniums, and on the roof I’ve put some tomatoes and peppers. We have an airplant suspended in glass over our dining room table.

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And I watch these plants. And, as much as I know they don’t think like we do, they don’t see like we do, or experience emotion in any way I could ever begin to understand – I do see a will in them. A will towards the light, and faintness without water – the creation of something, an intentional something, out of nearly nothing. There must be some kind of sentience and wisdom there, at the very least, desire exists in these tiny, slim slips of green. The purity of it is breathtaking – to think of a seed in the darkness righting itself pulling itself up as it pushes roots down, looking for nutrition, for light, for water – and experiencing the world in a way that I will never come close to understanding – they breathe, they drink, they vibrate, they reach up and out- the ivy twines, the succulents fatten, the basil grows new leaves each day. I have to think about how to brush my hair, how to cut it, but they know, and they do, and they are beautiful (do they have aesthetics?) and I can’t help it but think that they have secrets locked in each of their cells, and stories to tell if only I learn how to listen.

I’m listening.

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