Monday, September 1, 2014

Ten Books that Haunt

Maybe the original prompt from Eleven was "ten books that stick with you" but since I don't seem to see any tomes actually stuck to my person, I am going to narrow it to the books that come to memory in those viking-saturated gloamings of dusk (and, less often, dawn).


Was it the Infinite Library, or the deadly labyrinths on imagined rocky coasts of an England that only existed in Argentina?  Can't say.  But it's in his collected stories.


While I am thinking about libraries, hauntings and infinity and Italians Who Owe Borges, this is the moment for Umberto.  My copy of the Name of the Rose came from a house of a smoker, so, in my mind, those sneaky monks always had a Marlboro hanging out of their lips.

Searching For Anna, by Michaele Benedict

Because neighbor.  Because friend.  Because heartbreak and parenthood can take the floor out of the firmest bedrock.

The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

If the monochromatic ink 'n paper page of a cheapo Penguin Edition can burst with color, then...
How many eye-breaking synonyms for "red" does the English language have?
Are all anarchists ginger-haired?
Does cinnabar taste like cinnamon?
Is the Back more interesting than the Front?

Til We Have Faces by CS Lewis

Was written after CS got acquainted with an actual woman.  (it shows, marvelously, thank you, Joy).

The First 3 Installments of Stephen King's Dark Tower Series (but not the whole thing)

I haven't read a lot of King, and I liked how these books seem like he didn't really plan ahead, but just followed the long. loping strides of his imagination.  But then, his imagination got tired at book 4, and so did I.

Sea and Poison Shusako Endo

Maybe he was just following orders, but the doctor of the Sea and Poison was haunted by more of what he did than was ever done to him.

Mark Twain

Why, of all the Twain I have enjoyed, the only title I can think of is the brown, canvas copy of Christian Science that I picked up at Bell's Bookstore (in Palo Alto) as a 16 year old.  Twain is universally loved (at least here) and my copy of his Complete Works is thoroughly thumbed.  Maybe it was the smell of his his story-loving, cult-hating soul that seeped through the yellowed pages.  Or maybe its the description of his broken leg that takes up the entire first chapter.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Gravity's Rainbow Thomas Pynchon

I am putting these two books together because I checked them out of the same library (the Richmond Branch), I read them in the same basement at 419 11th Ave, I was pregnant with the same person, they have similar themes (war, absurdity, magical realism), and the same barf bowl rested on the pillow next to my head.

2666 by Roberto Bolano

Another pregnancy read (maybe its the hormones that haunt), this one on the shady porch of a St Helena farmhouse.  A great spot to read about unsolved homicides, frustrated professors and shady German serial killers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Too Tart Rhubarb Pie

I am always losing this recipe. So I'm going to post it here so I don't forget it.

Martha Stewart pie dough via Cooking for Geeks.

300 grams flour
Two cubes Butter
59 grams ice cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Grate the butter into a bowl.

Add flour, sugar and salt.


Sprinkle the water on mixture. Use hands to knead until it holds together.  Roll into two balls, wrap in plastic and put into the fridge for a half hour at least.


2 pounds rhubarb chopped
Scant cup of sugar
Third of a cup of cornstarch
1 teaspoon good quality cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Stir until all of the corn starch is dissolved.

Roll out one ball of dough put into the pie pan. Pour in the filling. Bake at 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit 4 about an hour.

I was originally inspired by Michael Ruhlman's Bebop a rhubarb pie recipe in his book Ratios. But it never ever quite worked for me. I usually burnt the pie and it was far too sweet.  Then I read about making pie dough in Cooking for Geeks. I grew up hating pie crusts because my mother always skimped on the butter. I didn't know what the problem was all I knew was I really hated dry, tough crusts.  This recipe actually makes enough pie crust for two pies. I usually freeze the extra dough for a later pie.  It's the entire cube of butter in the crust that makes this so delicious. If you were trying to cut back on fats I recommend just baking this filling in ramekins.  It's better to just skip the crust then to make a bad crust.  I forget how much sugar Ruhlman originally called for it in his book. 1 cup of sugar still leave the pie painfully tart but I like it that way.  Another thing that really irritates me about the original recipes is that they call for using a food processor for the pie dough. Obviously ladies have been making pie dough long before the food processor was invented.  Normally I love to buy ridiculous kitchen appliances. But for some reason I haven't gotten around to getting a food processor mostly because I don't have room for it. And I have been able to get along without it. This is not a plea for a food processor. Just make sure your butter is very cold or possibly frozen before you start grating it.

I have never seen a rhubarb plant. If somebody would ask me to describe what it is I would say its a cross between strawberry, lemons and celery. When I was young my mother's cousin Marla  would send these ridiculous boxes of things for the holidays. Most of the time we weren't sure what to do with the odd assortment of treasures and garbage. Occasionally included in the box would be a jar of her homemade rhubarb preserves. The preserves were a wonderful combination of tart and sweet and other flavors I couldn't put my finger on. She said that the rhubarb plants grow like weeds in her St Paul backyard. I imagine that Minnesota must be some sort of Garden of Eden if she considers a magical plant like rhubarb to be a weed. I just paid for $4.99 a pound for rhubarb this week. I probably wouldn't torture a rhubarb virgin with this version of pie.  Just as I have learned never to waste artichokes on artichoke-rubes.  (Twice I have had people turn their noses up at artichokes, oh the horror!) I usually get my rhubarb at the Andreotti Family Farm. Terry says she grows it right there.  So maybe there is hope that I can turn my yard into a rhubarb Garden of Eden.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Good Bye Little Bean

I was 11 weeks, 6 days into my pregnancy.

Nov 5th, morning. I had some mild cramping, some spotting and a brown discharge. I was late for work and I had a prenatal appointment that afternoon. I figured whatever it was, it could wait.

Had a sh*tty day at work.

Went to the clinic early, when cramps got sharp and I could feel blood coming out.

Saw my OB and, not surprisingly, he had sad news.

There was a lot of blood and material. Thank God, I didn't have to see it. I went home with a heavy heart, picked up hubs from work and we walked a little. My OB prescribed something that started with an M and codein.

I bled a lot more, and passed more clots.

I have such mixed feeling~~ a little irrational guilt, sadness, relief to not have to wade through the beaurocratic red tape of Kaiser and SFUSD, relief of not having to take maternity leave or go through labor.

I have tried to give myself space to cry. My body is recovering quickly-- besides some GI upsets caused by codein, I physically feel OK. Its so strange to not be pregnant.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013



I dreamed I was late for work, in La Honda, and my only vehicle was a broken down VW Scirocco (sp?) And as I stumbled through the trees there was a huge school clock hovering over my head mocking me with my lateness.

This morning

I was so excited because I was going to take Joe to my special place in Grammie's house ~ the secret room in the attic (this is a reoccuring dream). When we got there, there was a new gate, but the lock was open and we pushed through. It had been remodelled as an Asian mall with throngs of people, a theater and a fresh prep restaurant where you could order pufferfish sashimi. I was so disappointed.

Second dream

I was wandering through a sculpture gallery (another reoccuring dream) and I ran into Paul Simon and we started chatting and he asked me if any of the art was mine. I admitted that I hadn't done any art in 6 years since I had kids. I asked him to dance and he said yes, and we twirled and spun through the gallery. The floors had been newly waxed and it smelled lemony and woody and I led.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What started off as a half-facetious Facebook status

File under "confusing student questions"
1) Mrs Daniel, is this an art project?
2) This thingy isn't working. (Okay, it is a statement, but still, how am I supposed to respond to that?)
3) I can't put this kid's question into a pithy quote, but what I understood (or rather didn't) was that the digital file he wanted to turn in was on his Xbox and he wanted to "remake" it in the lab and what was I going to do about that. To which I tried to make him understand my powers of omniscience, telepathy and teleportation were actually quite poor, and while I was flattered he thought so highly of me, he would simply have to follow my directions for making a new digital file.

The reason these existential kid question were notable (especially #1) is that the deep reason I love teaching kids and not adults is that I am deeply deeply existentially lazy. I love teaching technique and processes. I love explicating tools and procedures. I love getting to know the kids and being a part of their lives. But please please don't ask me to put a lifetime of philosophical questioning and private ponderings into a 54 minute format with 33 squirming tweens. Additianlly, maybe I should be thrilled, but this is the first time in my kid-ed career where I was challenged at an intellectual level I just can't reach myself.

Did I just admit my teaching praxis is intellectually shallow? Well, don't worry, dear reader, I am not about to spiral off that existential cliff. I will show up to class on Tuesday. I will keep plugging along.

Ha ha, nice segue Mrs Daniel

GL has been watching a lot of Thomas the Train lately. To be honest, I enjoy watching it with her. I would love to build those models, that would be such a fun job and I enjoy seeing how creative and clever the model builders are. I love Alec Baldwin's voice. And the stories are great-- a cross between Austen-like comedy-of-manners and literal trainwrecks. And the theme! I can send G into paroxisms of glee when I pick it out on the penny whistle.

The engines are like kids. They try hard to please Sir Topham Hat, the director. He is liberal with his praise-- its clear he likes the engines to be obedient, useful and hardworking. Which is totally fair, he's got a train company to run.

And that is as deep as it is. Far be it from me to criticize Thomas.  My teaching is about as deep as Thomas's rails. We have our schedules and our rails. We have our Sir Topham Hats, and our Sir Topham Hats have their Sir Topham Hats. We have places to be and milestones to meet. We have our equipment that is unreliable, we have our trainwrecks, we have our comedies of manners and cross-purposes.

The obvious critique is, of course, where everything falls apart. The kids aren't engines, and neither am I. And sometimes they ask sticky questions that seem simple, but that I have no pat answer to. And at those points, I am reminded that there is a wild and exciting world, beyond the edges of Sodor.

Friday, April 26, 2013

perfect Mexican hot chocolate Icecream

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gracie on the BART

Gracie on the BART, originally uploaded by camille94019.

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