Tag Archives: gifts

on moments of time: (story)time: eat this poem by nicole gulotta


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“As for food, simple cooking dominates most days, like jam spooned into thick yogurt, a bowl of popcorn left on the coffee table, or beans smashed on bread. None of it is particularly noteworthy. Leftovers are placed in glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and scraps are scraped into the trash bin. Whole plums, celery stalks, and bunches of carrots in the bottom of the crisper go soft before we can use them. The remains of our meals are discarded like poem fragments we put into a file to look at when we’re in need of inspiration.

A poem stops time, keeping a moment suspended until we’re ready to revisit it. A good meal stops us too, however briefly, reminding us to savor every bite.” – Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem.

I’ve had this book in my hands for a month now, but I wanted to read through it all first, and cook from it as well, before I shared it with you. The month has been very busy, but I’ve pulled this book into my lap for five and ten minute stretches here and there, and we’ve been cooking from it all month. To be completely honest, it wasn’t the first time I’ve read or cooked with Nicole. Her blog of the same name is a staple in my life, and I consult her Literary City Guides first before planning any trip. I even got to test out some of the recipes in this book last year as Nicole was writing and editing her manuscript. I had to dig a little to find the photos I took during that time, and finally found this one.

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Our family tested four of Nicole’s recipes, and the Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies could be reason alone to purchase this cookbook. But don’t let it be.

The only recipe I made for just me was a simple Caesar salad with paprika croutons. I saw this photo and I can remember all the details of that Saturday afternoon. I was home from yoga, and the sun was streaming in the back window of the kitchen as it likes to do on the weekends. Everyone else was eating at the table while I prepped the ingredients; they were scattered again when I finished. I pulled the latest issue of Dwell out of the mail pile, and filled a water spotted glass two-thirds high before sitting down to eat. I ate the whole bowl, and helped myself to seconds. The afternoon stretched ahead of me, glass-spotted, sun-spotted. I packed the leftovers into glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and ate the scraps, folded down the corner of the magazine page, and set it aside to finish later.

…..

Pairing Nicole’s own rich food stories and kitchen experiments with poetry is the magic here. One night I had beets, and I started in an ordinary place – the index, scrolling my finger though the b’s to find inspiration. But another night I first opened and began to read Billy Collins’ writing about a pear, and dinner inspiration started there. Food is temporary, fleeting. A few moments on our counter, and then spent – eaten, stored, discarded. It meets us where we need it, and can be nothing more than that. Which makes the memory of a salad on a Saturday that much more surprising – and comforting. What else did I do that day? I’m not really sure, but I can still remember standing there at the counter, scraping croutons off the baking sheet, and eating scraps as I went.

…..

BASKETS

By Louise Gluck

From The Triumph of Achilles (1980)

1.
It is a good thing,
in the marketplace
the old woman trying to decide
among the lettuces,
impartial, weighing the heads,
examining
the outer leaves, even
sniffing them to catch
a scent of earth
of which, on one head,
some trace remains—not
the substance but
the residue—so
she prefers it to
the other, more
estranged heads, it
being freshest: nodding briskly at the vendor’s wife,
she makes this preference known,
an old woman, yet
vigorous in judgment.

2.
The circle of the world—
in its midst, a dog
sits at the edge of the fountain.
The children playing there,
coming and going from the village,
pause to greet him, the impulsive
loving interest in play,
in the little village of sticks
adorned with blue fragments of pottery;
they squat beside the dog
who stretches in the hot dust:
arrows of sunlight
dance around him.
Now, in the field beyond,
some great event is ending.
In twos and threes, boldly
swinging their shirts,
the athletes stroll away, scattering
red and blue, blue and dazzling purple
over the plain ground,
over the trivial surface.

3.
Lord, who gave me
my solitude, I watch
the sun descending:
in the marketplace
the stalls empty, the remaining children
bicker at the fountain—
But even at night, when it can’t be seen,
the flame of the sun
still heats the pavements.
That’s why, on earth,
so much life’s sprung up,
because the sun maintains
steady warmth at its periphery.
Does this suggest your meaning:
that the game resumes,
in the dust beneath
the infant god of the fountain;
there is nothing fixed,
there is no assurance of death—

4.
I take my basket to the brazen market,
to the gathering place.
I ask you, how much beauty
can a person bear? It is
heavier than ugliness, even the burden
of emptiness is nothing beside it.
Crates of eggs, papaya, sacks of yellow lemons—
I am not a strong woman. It isn’t easy
to want so much, to walk
with such a heavy basket, either
bent reed, or willow.

…..

Buy a copy of Eat This Poem for yourself, but then maybe for your mother next week, or the teachers who share poetry with you and your children, or the newlyweds just filling a first kitchen, or any others who feed your soul.


[Gift pairs well with the aforementioned cookies.]

our portrait collection continues

Hi! It’s good to be back after the holidays. I hope you had a nice one, maybe a change of pace for a bit. We traveled a lot as we always do, but we’re home now and I’m actually home-home for a day with no work. A rare treat for me these days. The girls start back to school on Wednesday.

So today will be a day of unpacking and packing. Actually, we’re pretty much unpacked, just not fully put away. That seems to always draw out for awhile, particularly after the holidays when we come back with extra goodies in our bags. But there will be some packing up as well – I think I’ll start to take down some of the Christmas decorations, although I’m sure we’ll leave some up through the weekend. And then I have to somehow wrap my head around packing up more of our house – as we live in it – we don’t completely know how the phasing of these house projects is going to shake out, although we should have a clearer idea about that soon. Regardless, there’s going to be a big push to clean up and clear out, and Januarys are good for pushing me in that direction.

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You might recall that last Christmas the girls and I gave M two custom oil paintings – portraits of both girls for our portrait wall. I decided to keep up that tradition and build on it this year.

Funny story though…

I contacted local artist Cbabi Bayoc back in late summer about doing a piece for me because – get this – I was SO on top of my gift game. He graciously agreed to the project and then asked me to send him a few photos for ideas. I was catching up from vacation and busy at work, and so I sort of forgot about my return email. (For a few months.) I felt terrible about it, but it didn’t even jog my memory until early October when we were eating at SweetArt for breakfast. M mentioned to me that he’d love to contact Cbabi sometime to see if he had a print of the alphabet painting (slide 11 in that link) he had done for a library branch M built last year. (His actual piece was produced at a large scale on glass.) Outwardly I told him that was a great idea; inwardly I remembered that I had never followed through on the portrait piece.

I sent off an apology email and waited to hear back – but I didn’t. Fall marched forward, and I tried again. Still nothing – I knew he was busy. I looked into Plan B, and found an artist, June Chang, working in watercolors, that I liked through Minted’s custom artwork service (scroll down and you’ll see the girls on June’s page – I highly recommend working with her!). I sent June one of my favorite photos taken by Yvonne Niemann for our family, and she loved it and got to work.

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I sent her a deposit… and then Cbabi emailed me the next day. (Of course!)

He found some time, he loved the bridge photo I sent him (my favorite as well), he could do the piece sometime in the next week and a half – what could I say?

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Well, yes.

So that’s how I ended up with two paintings this year for M. OK, three. Because Cbabi also gave me that alphabet painting M had wanted!

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I just adore this watercolor by June – she said it was her favorite piece all year, and I think it’s so perfect. The original photo by Yvonne was taken on the lawn outside of Central Library – you can see all of those photos here. (Do you see the little mouse in F’s hand?)

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And when I picked up the piece by Cbabi on the morning we left for our Christmas travels, I almost started crying right in the restaurant. It was just so perfect.

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I love this photo of the girls at the garden – he captured their round cheeks, and the light of the day, and it’s such a special place and memory to me. I love his style of painting and I love everything that he does, but this has got to be my favorite piece by him. I love having one of our garden mornings captured this way.

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So cheers to more lovely art to adorn our walls – whenever all those walls are finished! 2017 is already off to a colorful start.

holiday wrappings

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I’m never really sure where I’m going to end up each Christmas when I start putting packages together. This year I found myself gravitating towards these ‘peacock’ colored envelopes for my cards, and so I ended up picking up some wrapping paper in the same color. I had some gold twine on hand, and some coppery paper scraps that I thought might look good with it, so I decided to fully embrace the metallics and picked up a long (and slightly tacky) garland that I cut into smaller pieces. I think they sort of resemble feathers.

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They work well for traveling – they stack easily and don’t get smashed in the process. I went looking for boxes for baking items, and found these shiny peacock colored ones – only they photograph as bright blue because of their shininess, so they don’t look so matchy in these photos.

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We packaged up a dozen of our ginger-apricot-chocolate cookies with some Naughty Vicar from The London Tea Room for friends’ gifts, and I delivered most of those last night before heading over to watch the rest of the family, and E’s youth group, ice skating in Forest Park.

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I have the teacher gifts put together as well – I’ll probably send those with E tomorrow, even though school’s not out for another week. These are good sizes for middle school teachers – it gets a little trickier when the kids have eight teachers, but we still like to so something sweet for them for the holidays. We made a holiday assembly line on Tuesday night and knocked out all the string tying and box assembling and labeling, and yesterday afternoon was a marathon baking session at the house. We had girls scouts making six dozen cookies for a local charity, and then I also made the majority of our baked gifts. Just a couple more making items for next weekend, and we’re wrapped up.

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