Not an ordinary day

My son, an excellent bridge player, convinced me to compete with him in the Nationals bridge tournament, being held in San Francisco this week. We spent Sunday playing 48 hands of competitive bridge (at the lowest level), and for the last half, we competed as a team with a father and son we met and played against that morning.  We won our section, which was terrific, all the more so because the son on the other team was 11 years old! To give you a sense of how intimidating this event was, here is one of two ballrooms full of competitors:

Continue reading “Not an ordinary day”

Another by Marie Howe

At my piano lesson early this week, my teacher’s dog saw her dog friend and the dog’s owner pass by the window.  She often walks with them, but not that day.  It was hard for her to understand why they were going without her, and she pranced around unhappily, left behind. It made me think of this poem, from What the Living Do, by Marie Howe. The book deals (for the most part) with poems about her brother’s death.  What I love about this one is it’s oblique approach to mourning.


Andy sees us to the door, and Buddy is suddenly all over him, leaping
and barking because Andy said: walk. Are you going to walk home? he said.

To me. And Buddy thinks him and now, and he’s wrong. He doesn’t
understand the difference between sign and symbol like we do–the thing

and the word for the thing, how we can talk about something when it’s not
even there, without it actually happening–the way I talk about John. Continue reading “Another by Marie Howe”

Cheese straws

Twice now I’ve made these for friends’ open houses. They take a few minutes to make and are a big hit. The recipe is from Kevin Lee Jacobs–he has wonderful photos, too.  I use Dufour frozen pastry dough. I don’t know why Kevin calls these paillettes, but how can a French name be bad? Paille means straw in French, but pailletté means covered in sequins.  If you add sesame seeds, these are sequined straws.

Paillettes (Puff-pastry Cheese Straws)

Ingredients for about 30 cheese straws.
1 package (2-sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold
1/2 cup finely grated Asiago (I used cheddar)
1 cup finely grated Swiss or Gruyere
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Grinds of black pepper

You can add any of these: black or golden sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds; fresh or dried thyme; cayenne pepper, or whatever herb or seed appeals to you. And you can really use any cheese(s) you like. Continue reading “Cheese straws”

Forget Paris!

Once in awhile you see an art exhibit that changes the way the world looks to you afterwards. This has happened to me twice before: after a show at the ukiyo-e (woodblock print) museum in Tokyo and an Edward Hopper show in San Francisco.

It happened again last night after seeing the show of Roberto Chavez’ work in the beautiful gallery at Santa Rosa Junior College. While I loved all the impressionist art I saw in Paris, after this show, it seemed merely decorative. The work here had a breadth and depth that was more powerful, more moving than anything I saw in France. Some paintings were hard to look at, some lovely, but the vision of the world they convey has added something to my perception of everyday objects.

No catalog or slideshow can really do the work justice; these just serve as reminders of the power of the work itself.  So if you can get there before it closes on December 13, you won’t be sorry.

Withering toward winter

I love how poetry can enhance a moment. This weekend, winding through the vineyards on the way to the coast, this poem of Robert Mezey’s came to mind:

Touch It

Out on the bare grey roads, I pass
by vineyards withering toward winter,
cold magenta shapes and green fingers
and the leaves rippling in the early darkness. Continue reading “Withering toward winter”

Election reflection

I’m not a politically engaged person as a rule, but once in awhile something grabs my attention and moves me to action. Two years ago, right around this time, it was the management of our local famers’ market. The terrific market manager was suddenly and inexplicably fired, and I worked with a few other local residents to stage a takeover and transformation of the market. Today, the manager (who we restored to his role) has made the market a thriving local community resource. It was satisfying to effect a positive change in my neighborhood.

This year, we have a similar situation on the governing board of our town. Continue reading “Election reflection”

Calamondins, epigraphs, and Destiny

My neighbor has a tree of tiny, seedless, tangerine-like fruit, called Calamondins. Another neighbor had a grandmother who supported their family through the Great Depression by selling Calamondin Marmalade, so that’s what I’ve been making today–a wonderful fall treat.  You could probably use the same recipe for kumquats or key limes. Let me know if you want a copy–it’s really delicious, and I don’t even like marmalade as a rule.

Larry’s contribution was to read to me while I sliced. My favorite was an article on epigraphs, and my favorite epipgrah was one from Vladmir Nabokov’s The Gift, taken from a Russian grammar book: “An oak is a tree. A rose is a flower. A deer is an animal. A sparrow is a bird. Russia is our fatherland. Death is inevitable.”  Continue reading “Calamondins, epigraphs, and Destiny”

A murder of crows

This morning, Larry noticed a group of crows on top of the oak behind our house. They were grabbing acorns, holding them on the branch between their feet, and stabbing at them with their beaks to get to the acorn meat inside.

Larry wondered if you can’t consider that using a tool. I wondered about that noun for a group of crows, a murder of crows–which probably comes from their role as scavengers. Continue reading “A murder of crows”