Monday, December 21, 2015

Poetry Monday: The Hanged Pigeon

OMGYOUGUYS. Favourite day of the week. POETRY MONDAY. This will be the last one of 2015 and it couldn't be a better finish. It's so, so fitting for this year.

Then go and buy Jo Brandon's newest poetry collection because it will give you all the feels, with all the words, that build and make and do.

The Hanged Pigeon, by Jo Brandon

You are more stark even
than the tarot card I turned at fourteen:
the Hanged Man, macabre and ridiculous,
his strangled leg, ankle noose, freefall of hair,
the hard jewel colours I still associate with death
though the book said it represented rebirth 
I heard the elliptical Chorus whisper-sing
first-death, first-death.

I flipped your card walking through the park
on a day when the sky was too blue
to be anything other than an illusion;
you hung like a bauble on a tree, a faded Robin maybe
whose claws should fold easily over the branches, rigid as tradition,
but has slipped upside down – and now nothing looks right 
strung up with tangerine mesh you were an omen
of something.

You wished so hard to avoid the predictable
that your wings had started to come away,
and all the vinegar and glue and brown paper
salvaged from those park bins
couldn’t have put you back together again.

You might have appeared to me as Icarus or
a penny dreadful, but you struck me as the Hanged Man;
not so serene, not so willing to give yourself up as deeper meaning.

As I spoke to you, tried to soothe you up in your tree
I could have been in a fairy-tale asking boons
of any unbelievable creature; you might transform,
burst from your pigeon chrysalis or you might grow still
and provide a medieval spectacle for nine-to-fivers on lunch.

A comic strip of heroic deeds ran through my head; ladders,
broken branches, clambering, soft landing, gasps, free-flight

–  I left unsure of what I did and didn’t do to rescue you.


Big hugs and lots of love,

Monday, December 14, 2015

Poetry Monday: Istanbul

OMGYOUGUYS. It's another Poetry Monday! I can't get enough of these. I don't want to sound like I'm mad bragging or anything, but I know some insanely talented people and their genius has got to rub off on me at some point so REMEMBER THIS FACE.

Today's work of art comes from the indomitable Claire, professional writer, cook, and karaokyer.

Istanbul, by Claire Bullen

We wake sucking on the milkfat mornings,
the hour in its last stage of night-bruise.
Like emperors, centuries ago,
who woke to find their jaguars and take 
them strolling through the rosebushes.

Now the city wakes with a riot of sheep
in the basement, a dusty football, and
taxis that speed up the uneven hill.
We breakfast like emperors: sucking on petals
in tea and cakes and smoke.

On a ferry over bright-dark Bosphorus,
we fly faster than emperors could dream, 
savouring the word like rose candy: Bosphorus, 
Bosphorus, Bosphorus, past the blooming
buses that drop their sweating cargo into Asia.

In the evenings, campfires spill across highways
and birds wheel, crazily, around the minarets.
Like emperors, we sharp-laugh into the night 
from the vantage of our temporary palaces.
First we are timeless. Then we are cargo.


Big hugs and lots of love,

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On France and all the noel

OMGYOUGUYS. We came down to France for the weekend and it turns out it is crazy beautiful in the winter. Who even KNEW. This time last winter we were knee-deep in reno work and dust so we pretty much slept in coats fully clothed and it was all What on Earth Were We Thinking Oh God It's Never Going to End Oh Whyyyy, so there was certainly little to no gallivanting around or enjoyment of the surrounds. But this year the work is nearly done and we have the freedom to beauty that only quiet allows.

When we woke this morning, the back fields and gardens were covered with frost, and in the minutes before the sun crested the hill with all the glorious saturation at its disposal, the world was black and white, glow and shadows. 

Speaking of reno work, we officially installed our wood burning stove yesterday! We got one with some magic level of efficiency and once you get it going, the heat it produces can be felt in the cheeks and toes and you start to get all pink and ruddy like some ice skater in a Dutch children's book.

Not pictured: ice skates, children. Tulips.

Curtains finally up! We're no longer a show for the neighbors!

Yesterday we took a walk around the village and this is the view from the front of the mairie. See the little house immediately to the right of the church? That's ours! 

I like to think before we had curtains the mayor was the one watching our show.

The front of our house is what was historically the market square, and as a result, all SORTS of shenanigans can happen there. This is what we were greeted with upon our arrival on Friday:

This pretty much trumps any decorations we had in mind. Also, is Santa supposed to act as the angel that's traditionally over the nativity? Well played, Mayor.

In a few minutes we're off to check out the village Christmas fair! Doesn't this look awesome? It's clearly sponsored by Microsoft Word Art. We don't actually know where the barn is, but you've seen the size of the village, how hard can it be to find?

Famous last words. If you never hear from me again, look for the clowns.

I hope you're having a lovely Sunday!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Monday, December 7, 2015

Poetry Monday: Dear Samuel

News has come of a dear friend suddenly, incomprehensibly no longer with us and in the gasping grief of it all, it seems fitting that today is Poetry Monday and this was the poem I had planned.

Know that you are loved.

DEAR SAMUEL, by Manuel Camacho, previously published in Yellow Chair Review

I will love you forever

Your brother saw you
Or did he see Death?
He stared into that dark empty
Room whimpering scared, scared

The next day they told us
Your heart had stopped
You were floating inside
Your mother, loose weed
In a fish bowl
Her cervix the dirt
Above your coffin

She and I held hands
Through a Hades of beige
Halls and white laser lights above
To watch you born
A floppy salamander
The clammy skin, the squishy chest
Startlingly hard bones
The bud of your penis, the open
Mouth, your little tongue

The placenta that failed
You picked apart, immortalized
In the literature, your mother as well
A curious case! 300 AFP!
And I’m another father
Of a child like you
Initiate to that grim fellowship

Where is God? God has a reason
That’s what people want to say
God was your mother
Wrapped with me in the shower
Her head at my back as I wept
Into the sink.


Love and strength,

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

On Wednesdays, wonder, and walnuts

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
- Leonard Cohen, Anthem

YOUGUYS. It's Wednesday here and I'm in my favourite spot on the rug in front of the fire and I've caught up on emails and prepped dinner and I get a quiet night in before the rest of the week kicks off with a Guild dinner and a brewery birthday party and then the weekend, crazy on its own for existing. We're planning on spending Sunday afternoon wandering through Victoria Park's Winterville, so join us if you're around and want to eat pies and spin on rides until you get sick. I'm also getting us tickets to the Circus just to capture the full terrifying experience of so much wonder.

I'm making a Brain Food meal tonight since Wolf has his last MBA exam tomorrow and I want to make sure he goes in at his mental peak rather than in the sluggish state I usually equip him with thanks to a steady diet of pasta and cream. We're having salmon with blueberries and avocado and walnuts and feta and lots of greens and according to the internets this will make him a regular Einstein. For breakfast he's getting a red pepper scramble with a side of cottage cheese, blueberries and whole grain toast. All this is guaranteed to help him ace his test. Superfoods, amirite?

I leave you now with this photo of our neighborhood bus stop, because it shows a lot of what our neighbourhood is like and also it's just pretty:
Do you think she'll be my friend?

Okay, I'm off to enjoy my last hour of solitude before dinner. Wish Wolf luck tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy St. Andrew's Day!


Oh, the glory of this moment makes the entire month worth it. Is completing MyBloWriMo as good as NaNoWriMo? I like to think if you cram all my posts together, we'd have a REALLY rubbish novela, so I'm down to claim that.

NOW, today is TECHnically Poetry Monday, but I'm going to put it off for a week because the poem I want to share next is special and heartfelt and I don't want its poignant thunder lost in the nonsense parade that is today's post. Between this being the last day of November and also ST ANDREW'S DAY (GUYS IT'S SAINT ANDREW'S DAY), it's a HOLIDAY here!

I am OBViously celebrating St Andrews Day in true Scottish style - haggis is on the menu, a finger of whiskey may find itself swirled in a glass of cut crystal (just kidding, Grampa! I don't have any cut crystal!), and per Wikipedia - which we all know is a good source for facts - we should also take part in a ceilidh and possibly slaughter some animals. Winter is coming, and the Scots know how to ring it in.

Thank you so much for tuning in this past month - each of you that bothered to read all this performed a huge kindness and I can't thank you enough for giving your time to my words.

I look forward to seeing you in a week, and until then

Big hugs and lots of love,

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This should be illegal

OMGYOUGUYS. Only one day left of MyBloWriMo. I can't believe it's nearly over. What on earth will I do with all the freed-up hours come December?? Take up knitting? Read the classics? Start cooking through Hawksmoor at Home? Napping? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

Speaking of endless possibilities, today I combined two of the best foods of America and Great Britain and made them EVEN BETTER. Biscuits and gravy and sausage rolls have officially gotten married and now we have sausage rolls and gravy to celebrate until the end of days. I wanted to complete their union with actual sausage gravy, courtesy of the suggestion of top chef Jimmy (a sausage roll! covered in sausage gravy!), but I ran out of sausage meat so I made bacon gravy instead. I like to think it's pretty much the same in the sense of delicious pork on top of more delicious pork, so still a win. And it was DELICIOUS. Sinful, and not to be done frequently unless diabeetus is on your to-do list, but DELICIOUS.

Don't judge me for this.

This indulgent breakfast was a requirement after yesterday's incredible Thanksgiving To End All Thanksgivings. There was too much goodness in that room and Wolf and I left there after eight hours absolutely high on life and duck and card games and pie and the joy of meeting new people, all of whom were so interesting that eight hours didn't feel like nearly enough time. Claire knows how to throw a FEAST, youguys. Waking up this morning felt like a call to arms (or at least to sausage and gravy).

After the joy of meat covered in meat, we went to meet the newest member of the Sporting Hackney Football Club. Meet Aurelia, firstborn child of Chris and Maria, a beautiful example of what happens when an Irishman and a Spaniard love each other and decide to make the world a better place: Aurelia is only three weeks old, and she's already propping her chin on her hand like some kind of Old World Philosopher, ready to hear about your problems:
Her eyes. They Know Things.

Between her being teeny and me having Giant Man Hands, this was a photo op begging to happen. I could palm HER ENTIRE HEAD. (Not that I did, Chris and Maria! At least not when you were in the room!)

Time to climb into the couch and call a night a night: the roaring wind outside has quickened our fire, causing the embers to rage and the flames to whip, and it must be appreciated. 

Big hugs and lots of love,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Let's get this day STARTED!

GOOD MORNING, YOUGUYS! Saturday, 9 a.m. here, and absolutely nothing new has happened since I've last seen you so who knows WHAT blog-puke is going to come out today.

So we've got this high-up tiny window in our bathroom that is too small for a curtain but too poorly placed to prevent our back neighbors from being able to see in, and this has caused Wolf some consternation. (I forget it's there; also, I'm shameless.) As a result, I ordered some frosted window film that I will attempt to cut and stick on there today. I'm not handy but I am OCD, so this is both the best and worst task I could ever assign myself. It's got all the elements of the perfect storm: cleaning, measuring, cleaning again, straightening edges, lining things up, cleaning again, getting rid of bubbles/that one random hair that came out of nowhere/dust - then stepping back and seeing it's not perfect and tearing it all down and starting the process over again. There may well be a lot of cursing in our bathroom today, and I am excited about it.

Then of course it will be Casserole Prep Time, then Get on Train with Casserole time, then PARTY WITH CASSEROLE TIME! I'm super good at parties because I am really awkward initially and then as soon as I'm comfortable I lose my filter which makes everybody else awkward and then I try to recover the situation by changing the subject and I'm pretty sure it always works.

Time to win the day!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Friday, November 27, 2015

Nothing black about THIS Friday

HAPPY DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING, YOUGUYS! This day is almost as good as Turkey Day itself. Back in Merka, this was the day Christmas decorations made their way up (versus here, where I think there's a rule - or like a law or something - that Christmas decorations can't go up before the 1st of December), and there's leftover turkey (currently substituted by macaroni and cheese) and if you actually leave the house, it's to go see the release of whatever Christmas blockbuster is much-hyped-about (we've got Netflix so that's sorted).

You know what's even more exciting? Tomorrow we get REAL Thanksgiving, at the home of an expat friend who apparently throws the most NOTORIOUS of Thanksgiving meals. Like the tastiest, most innovative mains and sides EVER. I cannot be more excited. You couldn't cater in the likes of what I've heard she's prepping. I'm sure I will bore you with a million photos of it tomorrow. I'm personally in charge of the green bean casserole, mostly because it's my favourite Thanksgiving side but also because I grew up in a place where most food came out of combinations of cans so I don't shudder when I see the ingredients (for those of you who may not know, it's basically two cans of green beans stirred up with a can of cream of mushroom soup - all American casseroles must include a cream-of-something soup - stirred, then baked with a covering of cheddar and fried onions). I suspect making such a thing would hurt my friend's culinary soul and so I will protect her kitchen integrity and do all the stirring here. I will admit I am making a fresher version - fresh green beans, real mushrooms and cream - but French's fried onions will have to make an appearance and also All That Cheddar. Fresh doesn't have to mean healthy, after all. Where there's a will, there's a way.

I'm going to leave you now with this cosy picture taken from the kitchen window of our French house, back when it was still lush and green. We're going back there in December to see how it looks when it's all dead and brown. Can't wait!

Big hugs and lots of love!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

How to celebrate Thanksgiving on your own

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, YOUGUYS! I am loving this day so far. Thanksgiving may very well be my favourite holiday. It's so HEART-warming. And even though I am celebrating on my own today because everybody else is working, I am doing it in STYLE. I cleared my to-do list of all but the necessities (you don't even want to know what tomorrow's list looks like now) and I am determined to luxuriate and celebrate with glorious slothfulness. I'm going to light the fire, take a bubble bath, read my book, and as a special treat, I think I just may forgo the seventeen kilos of veg clamouring in my fridge and have some macaroni and cheese for lunch. USA! USA!

Ah, who am I kidding? I am buried in gourds, I have to eat one of them. The last thing my Thanksgiving needs is to be tainted by Gourd Guilt . . . Maybe I'll compromise and make a squash mac n cheese, like some combination between this one and this one . . .

Okay, it is HAPpening. Some sort of squash (why so many VARIETIES, England??) is roasting away in the oven while onions caramelise on the stove and soon it will all get put together in a creamy cheesey frenzy. . .YEAH, holiday!

GUYS. My squash mac is done. And it is AMAZING. Just LOOK at this gooey gourdy goodness!

I felt guilty at the lack of greens so I threw in some green chilis and parsley and now it's totally healthy.

Now for my day's gratitude before I leave you to stuff my face and then roll my engorged self into the bath tub:

I'm thankful for having the Wolf.

I'm thankful for good friends and a growing community.

I'm thankful for having enough food, and a sweet home, and a roaring fire, and lots of blankets, and all the cosy things that make winter seem like the warmest season of all.

Big hugs and I hope your day is full of love,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Because Sundays are made for long, happy meals

OMGYOUGUYS. Have you heard of the terrific concept called a Cookbook Club? I first heard about it through my foodie friend Claire, who read about it here. The premise is this: you and your friends pick a cookbook, everyone cooks a dish from it, and then you bring all of it together for a potluck-style meal. Amazing, right??

We had to do it. We chose Ottolenghi's Jerusalem (because obviously) and came together last Sunday for a FEAST. And it was SOMUCHFUNYOUGUYS. Like, there are not words for how wonderful it was. It was good friends, it was being crammed around a folding table set up in our living room, it was gorgeous food, and warmth, and so much laughing and so much eating and then food comas and then the revival that comes with a cheese board and then more food comas and then everyone piling up in our den under blankets and binge-watching Master of None and the whole day was an expression of joy and sharing, a sort of rejoicing in Togetherness, and we had our fill.

So much sharing. So much caring.

And because one can't have a dinner party blog post without the obligatory looking-down-at-table food shot:
From left to right: roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar, hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce, zhoug, and roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs with goat's cheese.

I KNOW. Make them quit.

I'm off to the premier of a documentary tonight - so excited, made by friends, starring friends, what's not to like? - and look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Keepin' it real in London-town

OMGYOUGUYS. You know how if you don't pay attention to something for a while you're like, oh, that's not a thing that's happening any more, problem solved, and then you open your cupboards and there's another chewed up bag and you're like, no, wait, it's definitely still a thing, that didn't go away just because I've been pretending otherwise. That's like my daily journey right now. Denial is by far my best mental handicap, second only to the dementia.

Exciting* day ahead! Going to visit my local library (mostly because my book is due and I couldn't renew it because someone ELSE has reserved it, ugh, what a jerk) and then I'm off to hit accounts in the Deep Dark South of the River, where I NEVER go, because SOUTH OF THE RIVER, and it should be wonderfully freezing and wet so I am really looking forward to it*.

I'm going to pause the post here because I am pretty sure I will have some grim photos of The South to share when I return this evening, and photos of London just make every post shine so I don't want to deprive you of that.

YOUGUYS. I'm back. My time in Clapham was just FULL of all the wet and green and grey I could handle.

One in the afternoon, AGAIN. By three it's like midnight over here. 

General prettiness, because it exists, because Clapham does have really lovely bits.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, and if you have any requests for Things I Should Talk About, feel free to throw them down in the comments! After all, I've got like a WHOLE WEEK LEFT of this madness.

Big hugs and lots of love,


Monday, November 23, 2015

So many reasons to love today

OMGYOUGUYS. I'm currently sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the fire, the washing machine is humming, all the dishes from yesterday's dinner party have been cleaned and put away, and on this cold, cold night, all things conspire toward lovely lovely loveliness. And on top of that, it's POETRY MONDAY!

Today's featured poet is a good friend of mine from back in my San Francisco days, Annelies Zijderveld. She has the gift of knowing the heart and soul of things, and time with her is always fulfilling and bountiful. She also happens to be the author of one of my favourite cookbooks:

It's this one, youguys.

Two of her main loves - food and poetry - come together often in her blog, which you should definitely check out - and also in today's poem. So without further ado...

To the Next Superfood, by Annelies Zijderveld
To whom it may concern
and who has ears to learn,
what passes the test one
day will fall out of favor.
Even now, I try and savor
my name in newsprint,
the widespread popularity,
my far-reaching availability,
and the rich talking points
that come with this gig each day:
high in iron! Vitamin C, A and K!
Carotenoids! Flavonoids! Iron!
I can’t shake that while it’s all true
why you buy me is because I’m “new.”
Ask acai or broccoli, salmon or spinach.
Every superhero has its moment
to be eclipsed by what’s current.
I will still be as valuable when I’m
no longer en vogue. Just look at
my role in the Middle Ages, what
a supplement I played in WW II.
So even when you say you’re through
with my curly green edges or you’ve
tired of crisping me into cheesy chips,
I will keep growing and begin to regale
because nothing not even turmeric
can take on brassica oleracea, the mighty kale!

Isn't that terrific? The wit, the insight, the loving tribute! *happy sigh* She always makes me hungry.

Now I leave you with this photo taken earlier this afternoon at Leadenhall Market, which, like the rest of this glorious country, is in full Christmas Twinkle Delight. The magic, the way the heart skips this time of year in London. (It's probably what makes January such a miserable affair.)

Big hugs and lots of love,

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mavericks Praetorium

OMGYOUGUYS. Best night ever, in the form of friends, food, and all the home comforts associated with such.

That said, last night - in the course of that insane Alice in Wonderland exhibit - Wolf, Hall, Katie and I watched a 3D 'experimental' - read, 'INSANE' - film and the resulting photo from the moment was so perfect I had to dust off my Master Skilz in Photoshop to play with it. So here you are: Wolf and Hall, Maverick Cops:

Great, right?? These guys.

See you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Oh yeahhhhh Saturday. Oh yeahhhhhh.

OMGYOUGUYS. It SNOWED this morning! I SAW it! It was the best ten-minute blizzard ever. Ferocious snow-blasting and then *nothing to see here.* Totally makes being up before 8 almost worth it. Also, is it too early to light the day's fire? I am feeling very primitive, very old world, wanting to make porridge on the cast iron wood-burner's top and pull a woolly wrap around my shoulders and scatter corn for the chickens, disregarding that I have none of these things. I am Ancient, I am standing on England's Rich Green Island, It Has Snowed.

Speaking of ancient, Wolf is on a call right now with a bunch of other business-y types and they're working on an MBA project together and just now they are discussing social media strategy and it's all the lolz. OLD GUYS, AMIRITE. The five seconds they just spent on the topic included the words 'expansion' and 'robust.' Then they quickly returned to the finance sets and supplier networks that they love. DUNZO.

Every time I listen to these guys talk, I realise I could never run my own business. I'd spend all my time working on my 'brand' and no time making actual money. But MAN, how satisfied I'd be with my website's font choice. 'Looking SLICK, champ,' I'd tell myself every day, not even worried about financial viability.

Today is going to be excellent: I'm going to catch up on laundry, get my read on, maybe take a bubble bath, and then tonight Wolf and I are going to join a couple of friends at the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library as part of their Late Night series. It's Fairy Tales and Wonderlands, youguys. FAIRY TALES AND WONDERLANDS. A live Mad Hatter tea! Hand-made book art fascinators! Hidden corners of the Library in which they've created magical immersive tales! EEEEE!

Now if you'll excuse me, it's nearly breakfast time and I should get cracking - this fire isn't going to light itself!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday spirits

HEY CHICKLETS! It is Friday, blessed Friday at long, gorgeous last! My house is a mess, my cardigan is nobbly, and I have a conference call in an hour, but BABIES WE ARE IN THE HOMESTRETCH. When I'm off of that call (my input: 'Sounds good. Yup. Sounds good. No, don't mind me, just eating a cookie. Yup. Sounds good') I'm going to tidy up, move the bags of firewood - currently stacked three deep and neck high in the living room - to the garden shed, boil some cinnamon on the stove so it smells like I've been cooking, then act entirely natural when our visitors arrive at 8, swanning my hand, 'Oh, this old place, it's always like this, thank you for noticing!'

My friend Annelies is doing a month of gratitude and each day on Facebook she posts three things she's thankful for and every time I read them, it makes my heart warm. Conscious gratitude is such a lovely thing. I would like to do something similar today, because there is so much to appreciate:

1. That it's Friday, and there is a weekend ahead with just the right amounts of quiet in and social out.

2. The friendship of a beautiful set of women and a Thursday night together, complete with Chinese takeaway and period dramas involving codpieces, ruffles, and (our) laughter.

3. The first truly cold weekend of the winter ahead, and a warm fireplace to get us through it.

Let's pretend this is our place instead of a lodge in the Argentinian rainforest.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,