Monday, August 31, 2009


Yesterday, after sleeping poorly, I awoke in a terrible mood. I poked unproductively around the house in a terrible mood. I waited for our afternoon guests in a terrible mood, and spoke to my husband in a way reflexive of my terrible mood. I hosted in a terrible mood, and bid our guests goodbye in a terrible mood. I started dinner in...well, you get the idea.

Instinctively, I boiled some water and poured in the Quaker grits in a slow steady stream. I watched the tiny particles swirl amid the boiling bubbles and gradually sink to the bottom, mimicking the movements of the lighter-than-air milkweed seeds I watched floating and dropping in my parents pasture growing up. The feel of a wooden spoon in my hand as I slowly stirred the smooth thickening, velvety mixture was so familiar, although in my mind it was my mother's hand, not mine. Two cups of sharp cheese, a handful delicate green and white scallion rings, and lots of freshly ground white pepper later, and I was home. (The accompanying bbq chicken didn't hurt. Neither did the wine my darling husband offered as an olive branch.)

Moving from my childhood home in Texas to Chicago for college in no way prepared me for living here in Connecticut. Chicago was both exotic and familiar, a place I idolized and also felt I knew from ancestral vibes I received via my grandfather's reverent accounts of living there. I was a stranger in a strange city, but it was a city which my soul recognized as one of its own.

Connecticut was, and is, an acquired taste for me. I feel guilty about it, because the people I love are here, but it's the truth. The landscape is so beautiful, and my love of all things winter is readily appeased. It's just that what brought me here was not my love of Connecticut, but my love for my new family. I struggle to relate to the culture here, from the architecture to the politics to the daily personalities of the Connecticut Yankees. It can all be very overwhelming, especially when combined with my new roles of wife and stepmother.

And yet, perhaps somehow, Texas and Chicago did provide. Chicago taught me that it's just me against the world: it's a cold winter out there, but it's beautiful and full of adventures. I loved the city. I loved my apartment. But most of all, I loved learning self-reliance.

Growing up in Texas, my mother taught me to love sewing and gardening, and how to (try to) deal with difficult situations with grace. But most of all she taught me to cook!

And while I was still in a terrible mood while I ate the grits, they were delicious.

Carpe Weed'em

So after seeing Julie & Julia twice in a week at the darling independent movie house down the street, I'm officially inspired. I am no less interesting than that Julie Powell! So here goes somethin'.

Yesterday was A's birthday, and after spending several (also Julia Child inspired) hours preparing boeuf bourguignon for the big 18th, I needed a break. So, discarding the apron and hot-pads in favor of gardening gloves and a healthy dose of sweat and dirt, I tackled The Weeds.

The Weeds have been celebrating their 1st Amendment right to assemble in my courtyard like it's their job. Then again...they're weeds. Maybe it IS their job. Maybe. Although I heard once that any plant qualifies as a weed if it's in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let's just say, IT'S THE WRONG TIME.

So while the boeuf minded its business in the oven for a few hours, I took great pleasure in ripping them up, tender little weedy roots and all, and leaving them, wilting and confused, on a pile of their brethren. It was a beautiful thing.

Well, it wasn't actually. It looked like a tornado and come for tea and forgotten to wipe its feet on the way in. I had to stop halfway through the job, right at the point where I stop weeding and start hauling the weeds away, to carpe cake-yuuum. So, while we serenely ate Julia Child's delicious recipe, cheerfully sang happy birthday, heartily wished good wishes, festively offered toasts and relishingly ate HC's delightful Boston Cream Cake, the scenes of destruction and root-shed were only feet away, easily visible through any one of our over-sized windows. Heartless, we were.

This morning I hauled them away to a more dignified location. May they rest in peace.