Friday, April 30, 2010


i just like to say it: soup. i like the way it feels in my mouth.

...the word. soup itself is pretty good, too.

sunday afternoon i made some soup. it wasn't a classic hot-and-sour, but it resembled a hot-and-sour, only with more vegetables and stuff thrown in for a heartier kind of meal.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

what happened?

yesterday the view from my window looked like this.

today it looks like this.

i'm kind of too depressed to talk about it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

red light, green light, 1, 2, 3!

View river road intersection in a larger map

i use this intersection a lot. sometimes i turn left here and get on the interstate, but most of the time i turn right and go along route two into williston, either to the church or to my preferred mountain biking venue.

used to be you could wait a looooooong time to turn onto route two there, and eventually they put in a traffic light which was very nice if you were turning OFF of river road, but now if you're turning ONTO river road from route two heading east, you could wait through two rotations of the light before you get a chance to break through, and while you're waiting, traffic is backing up behind you.

just wait, i said to myself. they will put in a protected green for turning left. they have to.

and then another small voice said nah, they won't do that. that would be too smart.

and guess what?

this morning i was on my way back from the church and noticed they've put up a second light, so when they get it connected, there's going to be a protected green! hooray!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

dirty hands, dirty pants.

i still won't tell you what i'm working on, but i will tell you that today it involved some sandpaper, a disc loom, and a heat source. tomorrow there will be some power tools, maybe.

power tools are a girl's best friend, nevermind what they say about diamonds.

Monday, April 19, 2010


i have all this stuff that i can't show you yet or can't tell you about yet.

here's a thing, though: i'm working some new reeds. this wouldn't raise an eyebrow from anyone except that i don't think i've worked any reeds since -i don't know- 2001? it might have been earlier, but not much. i remember it because i was working in that room on the back side of the building, and 2001 was the last year i worked there.

i used to work reeds a lot. it's what i did. but a lot of things happened, including a broken right hand and the slow death of my soul and nothing felt right, not even the sweet and chunky feel of the pads of my fingers on that lower stack, and i kind of gave it up.

did you ever come to life after a long death?

last week joan's sermon was all about second chances. bit by bit i think i am returning to life.

and today i opened up that case and i played a little. i don't have the chops anymore, but i can build those muscles again.

do i even dare hope it?

and i had a moment or two of panic.

where are all my reeds? in the early 80's there was a fire in the cane fields in france and before the price of reeds went up, i bought cases and cases and i KNEW i still had them somewhere.

would my mom have thrown them out while i was sick? would i have left them back at the job i lost? would anyone have known they were mine? that they were important?

reed cane improves with age. it mellows if stored right.

so for the first time in years i opened a new box, familiar, purple.

and i set them to soak. just two, just for a start. sweet and beautiful and balanced. they have nice grain to them. they look like they'll play beautifully.

tomorrow i'll soak them again and try them for that first few minutes before i put them out for drying. you have to break reeds in. it's like a courtship. push them too fast and they won't bloom, won't last. take care of them and they'll take care of you.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

bow and balance

this is one of the things i've been working on, hot off the press.

you can listen to it here.

of course it sounds a lot better when connie plays it, but you'll get the idea.

Friday, April 16, 2010

catching up

i know easter was two weeks ago, but i've been busy.  you know, with projects.

i think at some point i threatened to update you with the candle project once i got them all finished.

the idea was that was making some lovely decorated candles (process described here) for people to take home at easter. i made up some of these little slips and put them in random hymnals so that when people opened to the first hymn, they might find that they'd gotten a surprise gift.

i've photographed this year's candles and posted the pictures here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

please, sir, may i have some more?

ok, ok, so i post a lot about custard here.

but i haven't said anything really about custard for DAYS and you can't yet see what's on my work table, and you can't yet see the photo project, and i'm not ready to post the new music i'm working on (nevermind some demure photos that i'm NOT talking about, but you know who you are), and not only is custard easy to make, but it's easy to talk about.

last week i was thinking of making a little dark chocolate mocha number, pure and simple, but then got the bright idea to reserve some of the chocolate base (pre-mocha), mix it with a little caramel milk, whip in an extra egg white and lay that in on top of the heavier, darker mix for a two layer custard thing.

so i did.

lightly sweet in the top layer; dark, rich, and not sweet on the bottom.

good all around.

Monday, April 12, 2010


for easter i polished the candlesticks and the plates at the church, which amazed people in how shiny they were and (i hear) prompted someone to ask if we'd gotten new plates.

no, just cleaned the old ones.

i also cleaned up the baptismal bowl, which nobody will notice but me and God, because it's pewter and therefore not all shiny when it's clean, but what was on it couldn't be described under any circumstances as "patina" but instead grotty filth. and pewter's soft, so the finish damages easily and it had acquired some bad scratches.

now when you're working with antique pieces you don't want to clean them up too much because that diminishes the value of them, but this is a contemporary piece and if someone doesn't clean it up and buff out those scratches now, it isn't going to develop a nice finish over time, you know?

the thing is that the "stuff" of the church should be kept beautiful and shiny. the things in and of themselves aren't important, but what we use in services to worship the Lord should be kept beautiful. it is part of our offering. we do not bring second best.

yesterday i took home the candle snuffers. they needed some polishing. they're not perfect, but now that i've taken on the job (and i told myself i wasn't going to do this) i'll just take home some of the pieces every week or so to maintain them and over time the last of the staining will come out and nobody will remember that they ever were nasty-looking.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


today we all trooped out to my grandmother's 90th birthday party.

the old girl looks pretty good, eh?

yeah, she does.

Friday, April 09, 2010

cattin' about

neighborcat is a friend of mine.

i used to think she was a stray in need of a place to crash, but it turns out she not only has a home, but she has a very busy social calendar, as well. she comes to my house, gets stoned, does a little light mousing, and has a nap.

and then she leaves.

she has never accepted food from me, although if i put down a saucer of milk, she will drink that.

i know from talking to the neighbors that she eats at some of their houses, and that she hangs out in over a half dozen homes; there are probably more. these days she's very busy cozying up the the men in my neighborhood; as i'm sitting at my desk i see her waiting for guys to come home in the afternoons and when they do, she puts on her pretty face and gets all touchy-feely, way more friendly than she usually is and they bend down and scratch her belly and she happily trots behind them and waits at their front doors for them to let her in.

i'm pretty sure that yesterday i saw her look back and wink at me.

today she was out in the driveway hunting and i couldn't see what she was stalking (she's not very good at it), but there was this moment in which she looked up and saw me watching her and i almost swear i heard her think "do NOT screw this up for me", so i moved quietly behind the window and didn't open it up to get a really clear picture.

ok, got yer back.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

basket case

ok, so instead of giving you all the latest pictures of views from my desk -and there are a lot of them, since the fog is burning off and i've been taking pictures all morning- i think i threatened to write about last week's picnic baskets.

see, i have a lot of friends who are artists. and i was with one of them out in her studio recently and i was thinking about some things i've heard artists say about the basket lunches at the macdowell colony and i thought it would be a brilliant idea to make some picnic lunches and bring them to my artist friends when they're working.

and i have this friend who's trying really hard to do a lot of work in a hurry for a showing that's about six weeks away and she's kind of stressed about it. so when she said she was going to retreat to her workroom for a few days, i thought: basket time!

one thing you need to know about me, a thing you might already have guessed, is that one thing i can do (and there are a lot of things i can't do) is pack a picnic lunch. if you're ever road tripping with me, you would be smart to let me handle a lot of the refreshments.

and this artist friend of mine would have been happy enough (all right, overjoyed and overwhelmed) with a nice sandwich, but for the kind of money i'd spend on really nice cold cuts and a few amenities, i could "whip up a little something" that not only would give her several meals, but myself as well.

granted, it's time intensive, but one thing i have a lot of is time and if a thing is worth doing, it's worth overdoing.

one really great thing about chinese cooking is that a lot of the prep can be done way ahead of time, and aside from dishes that must be served NOW, fresh, there are a bazillion little side dishes and picnic foods that are simple to make (if you've got time, see above) and keep well for several days under refrigeration.

and they're only properly served as a collection of little dishes and not, say,  a big bowl of radishes, so when you make them, you have to make a lot of them, even if you're only serving up small portions of each thing. that's where the festivity is: the riot of tastes and colors and textures.

so i got to work.

if you can't follow the sequence of foods in the slideshow, bear in mind that in order to bring all the dishes off at once, there's a considerable amount of multitasking that needs to be done.


start three days ahead of time.

cut the cabbage and salt it, leaving it in the bowl overnight. same with the radishes.
partway peel and slice cucumber, salt it, and set it aside. salting may or may not include sugar. it's a verb.
cut the carrots, and simmer them for hours in that lovely rich master sauce that just happens to be around.
drain cabbage. squeeeeze out as much water as possible!
add the remaining ingredients to the cabbage, put it in a sealed container, and set it aside.
make radish seasoning. set it aside to develop.
unpack and drain tofu. it needs to be pressed before it goes in the soup.
add seasoning to radishes. seal them and set them aside in with the cabbage, in the fridge.
remove carrots from sauce. put 'em away. you know, in the fridge.
strain sauce.
turn right around and simmer the mushrooms in the sauce. let them steep a loooooong time.
squeeze the excess water out of the cucumber slices. sauce them. put them away.
boil and cool eggs.
periodically return to the fridge and toss any dish sitting in a sauce to distribute the liquid evenly.
put the mushrooms away, strain the sauce, and return that to the freezer. you can use it again later.
crack eggshells; let eggs simmer three hours in tea mixture.
make the sesame peanut sauce. put it away to develop overnight.
make two kinds of custard (detailed elsewhere). let it set overnight in the fridge.
put tea eggs away to steep. eighteen hours, two days. whatever.
it's time to get going on the soup!
soak daylilly blooms
cut tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, whatever's going in.
soup is a process; some things go in sooner than others, but they all go in.
beat eggs, cut green onion (these are added to the soup last)
cook noodles. still warm, they go under the peanut sesame sauce.
assemble bean buns.
pack the cold dishes for transport.
simultaneously put the finishing touches on the soup and steam the buns.
pack it all up and out the door with you!


hot and sour cabbage
soy-dipped radish fans
salt cucumbers
carnelian carrot coins
master sauce mushrooms

peanut-sesame noodles
marbleized tea eggs

hot and sour soup

steamed red bean buns
banana custard with carmelized molasses sauce
dark chocolate coconut custard

black lichee tea

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

same day, three views

so, like, it's a riot of color out there. you know, if you have an eye for it.

i like the view from my desk, and i keep a gallery of that view over here, but i haven't decided yet if i'm going to post all three of today's pictures.

still, it's a nice view to have from one's desk. it really facilitates the staring-out-the-window-not-doing-anything process.

maybe if you're very nice to me, tomorrow i'll post my latest custard news, or the dispatch from the picnic baskets.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


i'm always working on something, even if i have little to say here.

ever since snohaus fell in, i've been taking a picture every day of the melt of the last of this year's snow.

no surprise: i took the liberty of stringing them together into a video.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lumen Christi

today i left my darkened house and went up into the woods. i stopped and was very still for a long time before moving again, up and up into the notch and then back down. coming to a living body of water i stopped again to pray, and to wash my face and hands.

i don't know about the rest of you, but i'm a small soul in need of a lot of scrubbing up.

and then down and down and down, off the trail and onto the road, fast and faster, mud kicking up and we always say you know you've had a good day if you come home covered with dirt, smelling bad, and bleeding just a little.

so apparently i'd had a good day even though i was feeling kind of wrung out. but the sun was just sinking beyond the horizon as i racked my bike and i thought i had just enough time to take my new candle and catch the first star.

i had a while to wait yet, but it was warm and sunny here and the breeze blowing was warmer than the standing air because here at the foot of the mountain there's a temperature inversion.

so i'm outside, leaning back on the grass and then standing, waiting, craning my neck to see those first stars, waiting for that one moment, as if i did not know, could not comprehend that Christ will rise, has risen, that one night and this night now and always.

when you're looking for the first stars to appear, you never quite know when or where. for sure you ought to look in the darkest parts of the sky, and out of the sides of your field of vision, where you have the most light receptors, but atmospheric conditions have a lot to do with it, so you never quite know.

where will it be?

and you scan the darkening sky, over and over and there's nothing; nothing and more nothing and then suddenly, as if a great switch had been thrown, you see that one first star. you almost don't believe it; you maybe look away and then look back. but there it is!

and while you're double checking, a second star blinks on. how did you not see it before? and now there are three, four, and they're all coming out, clean and bright and you know the new day has come.

i lit the one new candle i'd brought out with me, raised it up and sang lumen Christi, Christ, the light of the world!

and i carried the new flame into my darkened house and lit new candles in every room.

today i have three things to offer you:

a fanfare for orchestra brass for which i am only giving you an audio link even though sheet music does exist for it if you want it, and two new songs.

cliffs at brandon   listen
Deo gratias           listen    preview sheet music
heal me up            listen    preview sheet music

Friday, April 02, 2010

good friday

my Lord has died.
and after we lay him down,
after the weeping
there's nothing we can do
but return to his house
his father's house
and because it seems impossible
that we will not see him again
because he would want his home well-ordered
i can only go,
fold his tablecloths,
clean his plates,
straighten his candlesticks,
and fish that paperclip out from under the cushion.

i cannot speak, cannot sing, cannot sigh
i am weak
i cannot think, cannot believe that he is gone
gone for good
and i clutch to my heart
the things of his house
as if by the work of my hands
i could make this right.

i would listen to music
or birds
or sing
or something
but instead i strain my ear to hear
is that him?
is that him on the stair?

and i try to remember his face, his voice
every word he said
and later, when i'm done working here
i will go out into the street
looking for him
in every face
of every person that i meet
in every place
for signs of grace
and i will ask:
did you see him?
can you remember what he said?
can you tell me?
can you tell me that he isn't gone?
can you tell me that he isn't dead?

he will come, he will come
i know he will;
i know he must
i've things to polish
and things to dust
i'll make this clean; i'll make this bright
but there's no power in my small hands
to turn a bit of this to right
and yet i'll put things in their place
his dishes clean, my heart made still
his table set, awaiting grace
my Lord will rise;
i know he will.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

my mistress' face

well, it's april.

...which means i've clocked the march photos and edited them into a short movie documenting my life at thirteen hour intervals.


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