Friday, August 31, 2007

Of Mice and Men

What is in the air, people? Seems like everywhere I turn these days, inwardly or outwardly, sweet souls are suffering. Suffering from loss or loneliness or purposelessness. Some have some real biggies going on: deaths of loved ones, ends of relationships, isolation from their support system. And the rest of us? Just feeling low and lost. Whenever a big wave of a particular emotion washes over, collectively, those I love, I am oddly reassured. What did Anne Morrow Lindbergh say? We are all islands in a common sea.

For two weeks now I've felt a bit out of my body. Maybe because I've been a little ill...I don't know, but my energy level and spirits have been low. But yesterday, miraculously, in the most unlikely place, I was blessed with a little karmic boost, and just that tiny nudge seems to have directed me back to a more gentle path.

I have one friend, Amy, who so intuitively knows when to reach out to me that sometimes it's a bit shocking. She's one of my closest friends from midwifery school and still lives in NY, so our contact isn't terribly frequent. The occurrence of her calls, though, is always so serendipitously timed that I often have that Addams Family sensation - the one where an unsuspecting guest shows up at the haunted house and accepts something graciously from a ghost, and then does a double-take. Nearly every time Amy calls I do the same thing, looking around the room suspiciously and thinking, "Who told her??".

My conversations with Amy are inevitably nourishing, as this is how she is in her life, in all things. She is a Healer, a calm and steady presence. Amy treads lightly upon the earth, lives consciously and with purpose. She cans vegetables and makes her own cheese, all in her Astoria home. How did all this wisdom and tenderness get crammed into a beautiful NY broad? - hard to say. I'm just glad we're friends.

The only creative pursuit I've been able to fulfill is my crochet-frenzy. I found these wonderful patterns on Crochet Pattern Central and have been making Andrew some veggies and mice. I never grow tired of this kind of crocheting, and Pete has even caught the fever. He's getting it down pat, and it's an oddly intimate and enjoyable thing to do together. For a man who's taught me so much, it's fun to teach him a thing or two. About mice. And turnips.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Ails Ya

Just when I thought the worst was over, boom - back to my sick self. However, on Monday I did manage to rouse my couch-bound body from an Anthony Bourdain marathon to make Nigella's Chocolate and Peanut Granola.

Although it seems as if I am endless grocery shopping, I am always surprised when I find a recipe and miraculously have all ingredients on hand. I took this as an urgent directive from the culinary goddesses and went straight to work on the granola, half expecting to see the likeness of Jesus or the Virgin Mother appear within the countours of my baked oat clusters.

It was pretty incredible, I have to tell you, as evidenced by the fact that it is already gone. Just a few suggestions, offered on behalf of my very crude palate: I think that when I make it again, I will use less ginger and cinnamon and maybe leave out the sesame seeds all together. I appreciate this about Nigella - I find her recipes very adaptable and subtly refined, just like her.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On the Mend

Feeling better - thanks for your sweet wishes of wellness.

I've had one of those weekends where I've been really busy but feel as if I've accomplished nothing. How is that possible?

Well, I guess I have accomplished something - I've nearly completed the garlands that I have been making for The Red Hen. They will also will be available on my website very soon. I'm psyched about them - they are made of cloth and heavy interfacing and are appliqued. I will be offering standard phrases (Happy Birthday, Congratulations, etc) as well as custom garlands.

Hope y'all had a wonderful weekend - hard to believe that summer's winding down.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


No wonder I was feeling crabby the other day. You would be too if you were secretly gestating the UTI from which I am currently suffering. Ahhh, the misery. I woke up kind of sick yesterday morning, and by lunch I was really feeling it. My midwife said she'd call in a prescription if I promised to go to my local Labcorp and give a sample. Hard to say which part was more agonizing: suffering through this infection, or suffering through the inhumane treatment at the lab. So now I am chock-full of antibiotics but still feeling kind of flu-y and tired. With no appetite. Figures. The Bacteria-Ravaged Body Diet is the only one I've ever been good at.

I think the crappiest part about being kinda sick is how mentally I am at my most ambitious when my body is ailing. I create lofty aspirations because I know that I have a dynamite excuse for not doing them. For example, right now I am thinking about how I would really love to be cleaning the kitchen floor and folding all the laundry or sewing up new orders, but - alas - I am sick and achy and couldn't possibly withstand the exertion. I can convince myself that if I were not sick and achy the house would shine like a new diamond and my latent craft projects would be nearly complete.

Clearly, I should have been diagnosed with dementia as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Family Reunion

I've worked at the birth center for about a year and a half now, and although most women are thrilled with their birth experience, nearly every woman I've met immediately after delivery swears she is never going to do that again. And then, of course, she is back a year or two later again in the throws of labor. Post-delivery, there are two pieces of Jill-trivia that I like to tell women at the center: 1) My husband weighed 12 (yes, twelve) pounds when he was born, and 2) My maternal grandmother is one of 16 (yes, sixteen) children, all single births. This makes my great-grandmother some sort of fertility-goddess made flesh. No wonder I grew up to be a midwife. Birth was in my blood.

Although my immediate family is pretty small, as an adult I'm touched by the unique experience of growing up with such a large extended family. There are literally hundreds of us on this earth because of the union of John and Jennie Hall at the turn of the century, and I have many cousins I've yet to meet. Every summer, for as long as I can remember, the Sixteen (or what's left of them) meet for a week at a WV state park, their children and grandchildren (and sometimes great-grandchildren) in tow.

My memories of childhood are punctuated with weeks spent at "Camp": my flamboyant aunts and uncles playing practical jokes on each other and the kids; white-elephant sales; dimly-lit late night treks through the forest, "haunted" by my older cousins; square dancing with my uncle Louie - a champion caller who taught me to Texas Two-Step to "Amarillo by Morning". I have memories of my Aunt Oleta and her daughter Naomi, both bosomy women who would miraculously pull two or three metallic tubes of lipstick out of their ample brassieres, my uncle Blaine and his foul-talking parrot Zeke, and most of all - hours and hours of my great-aunts lounging in chairs under shade trees, shelling pole-beans, laughing until one of them had to get up to pee.

Oh, and the food. The food. What an singular pleasure it was to spend a week with my relatives, briefly pulled together from the four corners of the world, and share the foods that linked us all as a family. My grandmother, an unrivaled home-cook, makes hot rolls worth fighting over. My Aunt Norma owned a Dairy Bar (like a Dairy Queen) and would bring her chili con carne, Aunt Dee (from NY - she married in) made 6" high cheesecakes, and Aunt Jessie, who married Italian Louie, simmered vat upon vat on spaghetti sauce. We pot-lucked al fresco, sometimes nearly 200 of us, and as a child it seemed as if the banquet tables went on forever.

My favorite Camp tradition was watching my aunts and uncles make huge kettles of applebutter. It was a colonial scene: a copper pot large enough to boil a small child, a wood fire, and a large paddle to stir the mellow, spicy mixture. In the hot June days, a group would form around the kettle, everyone taking turns with the paddle. A batch took all day to create. The applebutter was poured into Ball jars, sealed, and then distributed to the family.

I haven't been to camp in a long time...the tradition carries on, even though many of my dear aunts and uncles have passed away and the cousins I looked forward to seeing all year are grown with families of their own. Three weeks ago my grandparents came to visit and brought me a jar of 'Camp' applebutter. Eating it is a little like a sacred ritual for me. I can taste in it the summers in the woods, the laughter of my aunts, the soul of my family. I love to share it with Andrew, knowing that with every bite, he's more a part of the generations before him.

So, here's to the 16: Lela, Lola, Oleta, Mary, Margaret, Leslie, Ivan, Blaine, John, Norma, Jessie, Virginia, Kathleen, Charles, William, and Helen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Feeling grumpy. I love that word. It sounds just exactly like what it means. Onomatopoeia.

Think I need to get out of the house for a bit, before the sun's vicious rays singe off my top layer of skin. This weather's getting to me. A very, very inconvenient truth.

On a more adorable note:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wuv, Trooo Wuv

Well, this was an anniversary to remember. Just delicious. The final installment of my presents was so sweet and fantastic that it made me cry, and really too worthy of extensive description to go into now. Let it suffice to say that after any living thing, it is the one item I would run back into a burning house to retrieve. We spent Friday night, our anniversary proper, making cheese fondue and listening to old standards and just talking and it was wonderful.

Pete wasn't the only one with some tricks up his sleeve, though. We were engaged during a trip to Winston-Salem, NC (where I went to college) and had such a gorgeous weekend there 6 years ago. As a surprise, I booked a night at the B&B where we stayed that fateful weekend, along with an extravagant dinner at an old haunt as well. My mother took care of Andrew and Pete was very surprised - a huge feat for me. Somehow this guy always catches on to the slightest nuances.

The inn is in a lovely part of the town, an old Moravian community that is strikingly preserved in downtown W-S. There's alot to appreciate about Old Salem, but my favorite part has always been the sugar cake, still made fresh every day in the old colonial Moravian bakery. When we went to buy it they sent us straight to the kitchen to get a fresh, warm one. We ate the whole thing in one sitting.

To finish of our anniversary extravaganza, our sweet friends Austin and Melissa gave us Rascal Flatts tickets for Sunday night. I just love that group. Love them. We felt like the oldest people there, but it was magical to be outside in the warm August air listening to one of my favorite bands.

I have to say: just when I thought the weekend was nearly perfect, Melissa called with news that totally gilded the lily - she and Austin are engaged! My heart nearly burst. To see the union of two incredible, beautiful individuals into an even more spectacular's just divine. Congratulations, you two sweeties - we couldn't be happier for you. xoxoxo

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Today Than Yesterday

I don't even know what to say about how much I love this man, so I've attached the Pablo Neruda sonnet which was printed in our wedding program, 5 yrs ago tomorrow. He says it best.

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

My heart just explodes with all the things you are to me, Peter. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Here are some of the very succulent treasures Pete has showered upon me this week, all for being such a good little wife for 5 yrs.


Tuesday (it is the wood anniversary, after all):


Notice the "Take 5" punny, that guy.

Cutest confetti ever. Hard to believe he grew up to be my love slave.

There was more candy but of course I ate it the second it came into view.

Can't wait for tomorrow!

101 Degrees of Procrastination

I am useless. Just take me out back and shoot me.

Every bit of mojo I've had to do even the slightest thing is gone, partly because of the oppressive heat, and partly because I've spent a lot of time at the birth center lately and am just knackered. The birth center work is intense, but I challenge you to find a more delicious sensation than nuzzling the hair of a 30-minute-old baby. I just melt into one big puddle on the floor.

I've been wanting to post a pic of the pillowcases that I made for my niece's birthday. I've had them done for a while, but since she just had her birthday I didn't want to ruin the surprise. This is an old Vogart pattern and it was just about the cutest thing. I don't know if you can tell or not, but I downloaded the font from DaFont and it looks like rope. I tied the package up with a little birthday cake I had crocheted...I think she really liked it.

So let me tell you - if you thought I was bragging about the depression glass, you ain't heard nothin' yet. Pete and I will be celebrating our 5-yr anniversary on Friday and so on Monday evening he comes up to me all serious and says that since we've been married for 5 yrs, he has a treat planned for me every day for the 5 days leading up to the 17th. Kind of like the 12 days of Christmas. Except that my true love gave to me one fabulous book (Monday) and two beautiful earring with wood inlays (Tuesday). Oh - and he gives me a little clue earlier in the day to get me thinking. What a man. I told him that I thought this was a wonderful tradition because by the time we're married for 50 years, it will be solid treats for almost 2 months.

And they said we wouldn't make it....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Envy and the 8-hr Quilt

My mother's birthday was last week, and I love to hear her tell the story of when she was about 8 yrs old and she got a new bike for her birthday. She just loved that sucker. The afternoon of her birthday she was riding it around the neighborhood and one of the little kids next door was admiring her new treasure and she said to him, "Don't you wish you had a bike like this?".

To hear my mom tell it, the question was asked not in a boastful way, but simply with the intention of expressing gratitude for her enormous blessing. Unfortunately for her, her father overheard her comment, interpreted it as a completely snotty statement, and took the bike away from her for a month. This is the same man who to this day will drive his pick-up to church because he can't bear others knowing his dirty little secret, his hidden shame.... that locked up in his immaculate garage is a $50K Mercedes. What would God think??

So after receiving 2 huge boxes yesterday from my grandmother marked "fragile" and then unwrapping them to discover a staggering collection of pink depression glass, it really is all I can do not to say, "Don't you wish you had all this pink glass? Don't 'cha? Don't 'cha??".

I am willing to concede that you may not love depression glass as much as I do and therefore have no more envy than if I had suddenly come into the possession of the TV Guide collection my husband procured as a child. But if you do love it, you will understand my glee. And if you come visit me, I promise we will eat truffles and lace cookies off of it.

On another note, there are things people could say about me that would hurt my feelings. For example, if you said I have bad teeth (not true). Or if you said that I have B.O. (mostly not true). However, if you were to spread the nasty rumor that I am the World's Worst Quilter, I would have no option but to agree. I am.

I decided on Friday afternoon to piece together a quilt from my scraps, kind of borrowing from this color scheme. I'd found this really gorgeous flannel fabric a while ago and wanted something simple for the top - something to cuddle up under this winter.

I cut out all the squares and started to sew them together, and by Saturday evening the whole things was pieced and ready to be sandwiched and quilted. That's when it went south, simply because, to be blunt, I don't give a shit. I cannot seem to sew a straight line when I have about 30 lbs of fabric on my lap and scrunched up in my machine, and then I just don't care. I let the needle go where it may, bunching what it will. I told Pete it was in the quilting style of "Rustic Chic". He believed this is a legitimate genre of craft.

My friend Kerri makes quilts that will be honored as heirlooms. I make quilts that you throw in the back of your station wagon when taking the dogs to the lake.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rock throwin'

So tonight I am walking into TJ Maxx and this woman is walking out toward me and I think, "Boy, that outfit really isn't working for her." And then I look down and realize that I am wearing the exact same outfit - a purple tank and khaki shorts.

You know what they say about folks who live in glass houses...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hinges of Hades

It is 8000 degrees here in NC. It's true - I saw it on the thermometer.

Well, maybe not exactly 8000, but definitely over 100. When I got in my car this afternoon it was 120. Lawhdy.

I took the sorbet over to our new neighbors last night, and they are just the sweetest things - going to get married in October, so he's moved in now but she is going to wait until after the nuptials. So old-fashioned....I love it. I mean, I lived in sin with Pete for 2 years before he "bought the cow" (as my mother was apt to put it), but I still love the idea.

Anyway, I couldn't help but think how lucky they were to have me bring sorbet, because for goodness sakes, who in the world can eat lasagna in this weather?!? I just want to crawl between cold sheets, a George Pelecanos novel in one hand and some frozen grapes in the other.

So you want to hear a funny story? Well, I have this friend - a new friend - who isn't too much older than I am but has a daughter in her late teens and another baby on the way any day now. I taught her some childbirth education classes a while back, and when I discovered that she lived right around the corner from me I invited her over for dinner. It was supposed to be on Saturday but I had made myself horribly nauseated on too much BBQ and sweet tea, so we postponed it for last night.

Her daughter is really cool and I invited her along as well, but my friend said she'd be unlikely to make it, so I prepared a small dinner for just the three of us (Pete included). I set a pretty table and had everything ready to go, so all I would have to do was barely lift my hand to combine the topping for the pasta (as my other hand was busy tending to a wine glass).

So she was a tiny bit late, and when she arrived I saw that she not only had her daughter, but her daughter's sweet boyfriend in tow! I was thrilled to have more company (really, truly - I was), but historically I have not handled last-minute changes to plans very well. I'm kind of rigid about stuff like that, but I have to tell you - you would have been proud. I nearly effortlessly rearranged the table and rustled up some more eats. The only glitch was when I was about to serve the crab-dressed pasta and the boyfriend shyly informs me that he is deathly allergic to shellfish. Oops. He graciously dined on a frozen pizza with fresh basil instead, and it was an all-around lovely, fabulous evening.

If there is anything better than sharing a delicious impromptu dinner with delightful friends, I do not know what it is.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Scoop

I guess I must be about to ovulate, because I can't think of anything else that would account for my recent burst of domesticity, an urge so strong it has me just short of propping Pete's feet up on an ottoman, scotch-on-the-rocks in hand, when he returns from work.

Some time last week I borrowed The Perfect Scoop by David Leboviz from our local library. I've mentioned ice-cream making before, but I am a bit suspect of new recipes, especially ones that call for things like Jello and pudding mix. David's recipes are fantastic and inspired by his life in Paris, and it wasn't until I read the back cover that I realized that this was the same David whose blog I just love and have been reading for the last 2 months. Cyber-world and real world collide once again.

Saturday I whipped up a bit of Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbet and then yesterday concocted Toasted Coconut Ice Cream. Both were so good I wanted to hit the container face-first. It made me a little sad to eat the coconut one because my dear, dear friend Bo just loves coconut and I wish he'd been there to share it with us instead of all the way across the country. He would have flipped. Today I've made some strawberry sorbet for our new neighbors.

Pete even got into the action and whipped us up some DIY pizzas for last night's dinner.

I made this little tablecloth for our kitchen table. I love the ruffle but forgot how tricky they can be to thread kept breaking. To be honest, I probably would have rather bought one, but I looked and looked with no success. Why is it so difficult to find a decent-looking tablecloth out there? They all look like they should be on some banquet table at the Sheraton.

Today Andrew and I were returning from our early-morning jaunt to Trader Joe's and I suddenly became obsessed with the sensation of entering our house and having it smell clean. Like, really, really clean. And cool. It's about 100 degrees here today and I just ached for that feeling I used to have when we'd go to the beach and be tired and hot and then walk into our hotel room which would be almost icy and smell so sanitized.

This could also be due to the fact that I was raised in the Church of Bleach, a cult in which my mother and sister are still active followers. Nothing in our house was clean until it had been doused with Clorox. Today I returned to the fold. I scrubbed our kitchen to within an inch of its life and when I was done, I actually stepped outside on our porch for about three minutes and then walked in the front door to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Heavenly.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


I've been feeling just so totally icky and grumpy this week...lots of mental eye-rolling coupled with a very short fuse. In other words, tons of fun.

Some folks, when faced with the doldrums, do emotional eating, which boils down to cramming in as many fist-fulls of high-caloric shit as they can while watching The Girls Next Door. Instead of testing my junk-food limit this weekend, I have had a compulsion of another sort: junk shopping.

I kid you not when I tell you that today I have darkened the door of a mega-Dollar Tree, a Burlington Coat Factory, two huge Asian markets, and a Big Lots. And our local Hood Lion. I didn't end up with anything even remotely sexy - just some deodorant and kitchen towels and a scrub-brush, but I was on the prowl. Since I am a total crap shopper because I hate to spend alot of money, potentially going for broke in a discount store is, for me, the equivalent of a dieter tearing through a church pot-luck with no witness. My heartbeat quickens a bit in the Dollar Store...What do I want? What do I want? With a twenty in my pocket I am on Supermarket Sweep.

I never really end up buying much, but that feeling of indulgence, even if it's mostly on crap, makes me feel a bit satiated, much like a full pan of caramel-pecan dark-chocolate brownies.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Too Much

I started TiVo-ing all of the Sex and The City reruns, and a few days ago I watched one of my favorite episodes: the one where Big and Carrie try to be friends as he marries Natasha, but everyone knows how that works, and Miranda says that it reminds her of The Way We Were. Carrie then concludes that the world is made of of 2 types of ladies: the Katy girls and the Simple girls.

Call them Simple girls, call them Cornflake girls...they're all of the same sweet-ish tribe. But me, I'm a Katy girl. Sometimes I'm kind of self-conscious about this. I feel like I'm too much. I'm kinda funny and kinda intense and you either love that in a broad or you don't. I'm also nearly 5'10" with huge, curly red hair that's all over the place.

Last night I had a long-overdue evening with my fabulous friend Brandee, who is just what the doctor ordered when one is feeling self-conscious about being Too Much. She walks into a room and people notice her, not just because she's beautiful and her retro-styled hair is brightly plum-colored, but because she has alot of succulent energy that just exudes from her. She tells funny stories and laughs loudly and drinks beer. She drives a PT Cruiser with orange flames painted on each side and a vanity plate on the front that reads "Elvis".

Brandee and me (in one of my rare un-crazy-hair moments)

We're quite a pair together, let me tell you. Last night she nodded toward a group of three very pinched-looking women at a nearby table and whispered with a laugh, I swear, those girls are staring at me!! Who could blame them? I bet they wanted to be her friend too.

A few days ago I forwarded a picture of a project I've been working on to my friend Kerri and she wrote, So, so cute. You are too much. No, not too much... just the right amount, really. ; )

Thanks, girl.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Devil Buys $180 Secret-Santa Gifts

Anne Hathaway was on TV this morning, and even though I'm not a daytime-watcher, I did manage to catch her on both GMA and Live!. Just love that girl. First, I think she bears an enviable resemblance to Nigella Lawson. Second, Kelly Ripa (whom I find very tiring) was asking her dumb questions and she responded to them with a thoughtfulness and integrity that almost seemed out of place among the scads of mindless talking heads that usually appear for interviews. I am going to round up girlfriends and go see Becoming Jane.

Thinking about Anne makes me think about The Devil Wears Prada. I loved both the movie and the book. Show me a fledgling career-person in NYC who has not had that kind of job and I will show you a liar (or someone with a very rich Daddy). My first job in Manhattan was for a very large pharmaceutical advertising agency, based in Times Square. I didn't do the advertising - I got to work for the "medical education" department of this agency, which was FDA code for "Bribe-the-Doctors-with-Expensive-Lunch-and-Learns-and-
and-They-Will-Feel-Guilty-and-Prescribe-Our-Drug" department. I was working crazy hours with even crazier people and making slightly above minimum wage. The offices were always filled with an anxious, uncomfortable energy and the employees took out their frustrations on their subservients. Since I was literally the lowest rung on that nasty ladder, you can just imagine the hell.

My most vivid DWP moment was around Christmas time. We had drawn names for the office Christmas (er, Holiday) party and had capped the price at $20, but since I hardly had money for groceries that seemed like a total extravagance. I had umpteen supervisors (Pete would say "too many chiefs and not enough Indians"), mostly all flamingly gay, yet contrary to the population's reputation, completely void of any lusciousness. One such supervisor, I'll call him Dean, called me into his well-appointed office one day to ask me to accompany him during his shopping expedition for the holiday party. The request didn't make sense, as we weren't friends, but clearly I had no choice but to go.

I hated walking around NYC in the cold, and I hated being with that man. He marched me straight over to 5th Avenue, and preceded to very obviously drop $180 on a Secret-Santa gift! I was so young and cold and poor and bored that I didn't figure this out right away, but when I reminded him that the cap was $20, his MO became disgustingly clear: he just wanted to rub his wealth in my minimum-wage face. Even worse, he insomuch said so on the walk back to the office. Looking back on it, I should have felt angry with him or even sorry for him, but for some reason I just felt ashamed.

I quit the job 2 weeks later.

It was in the elevator of this office building where I met my sweet Peter. I saw the value of Dean's Secret-Santa gift and raised it. Exponentially.