Friday, October 26, 2012

Subsonic love-making

We were both sick (GI – nevermind the details) and Leslie was much sicker than I. After a few days we were able to get out of bed to somewhere other than the bathroom… after we could move around there were many hours that we still lay in bed together, one or the other dozing, awake, not talking, holding hands, and even though neither of us felt well, it was a sweet time, together.

Last Friday I went to a huge luncheon at the Anatole (long gone the days of big room bad food). The theme of the event was Each Moment Matters and it was all related to Grace Presbyterian Hospice. I was blown totally away, tears in my eyes blown away by the announcement that there is 30 million dollars in the bank toward a goal of 45 million to build (Dallas’ first) inpatient hospice. An inpatient hospice has been a dream since 1978 when we started the first hospice in Texas!
Main stage at Art Outside

From the luncheon I was on the road to near Austin where I went to something called Art Outside. I camped with the Atrium Obscurum crew, hung out at the campsite, spent some brilliant time with Asa of Hyperdimensional Space Exploration Foundation, danced and danced and danced…

And went home to Leslie early Sunday afternoon. The perfect ending to an epic several days.

Sometimes at night, when you’re asleep I whisper things to you, like, “Leslie, I adore you… My beautiful Leslie… Forever and ever... I love you…” Adore - a perfect word for all of this. Subsonic love-making.

These are the days.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


This post is dedicated to Henning Wessel, a friend who recently died – a good guy who helped a lot of people passing through Phnom Penh and along the Mekong. Henning loved food and I think he would have enjoyed this post. Brokedown Palace (going home)
The hailstorm repairs are allllmost done, summer heat is finished, and it’s time to bake again. Over the past few weeks I’ve made pear preserves, strawberry preserves, triple chocolate cookies, bun cha, lahp, a country French boule, and a country French cheese (pepper jack) boule. For breakfast this morning I had bread, preserves, and almond butter – all homemade.  
Here are three good preserves recipes:
Strawberry on left, pear on right
Strawberry Preserves 
Recipe from Martha Stewart, with increased sugar
Super-sweet berries are not necessary. The main thing is good flavor. The sugar takes care of the sweetness.
2 pounds strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon, freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar
Put strawberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until juices are released, about 40 minutes. Stir in sugar.
Can take berries out, put in jars, then cook the syrup down and pour over berries. This will result in firmer berries.
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture registers 210 degrees.on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Original recipe says “Let cool completely; skim foam from surface with a spoon. Preserves can be refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 2 months.” I pour them up hot, jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. 

Amber Pear Preserves
Printed from COOKS.COM
□   4 c. under-ripe pears (I use 4#)
□   3 c. sugar (try a little less – with 4# pears, I used 4# sugar)
□   1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice (3 T if increasing as above)
This recipe is about 75 years old. Peel and chop under-ripe pears. Let stand overnight with sugar and lemon juice. Stir then put on low fire and let simmer until pears have turned amber color, about 2 hours (BUT do not over-cook). Go by color. Stir to be sure it isn't sticking. Pour in prepared jars and seal. Use all juice. Boiling water bath for 15 minutes. You are really in for a treat.

Orange Marmalade
From About British Foods
Seville oranges are smaller and not as “pretty” as the usual oranges seen in stores. But they are the right (bitter) oranges for this recipe. Usually available December-February. Need ~12” square of muslin, large non-reactive stock pot with 4 liters water, sterilized jars.
5# Seville oranges
2 large or 3 small, unwaxed lemons
6# sugar (original recipe calls for a little more)
4 liters water in a large pot
Almond butter, strawberry preserves, country loaves (cheese on top)
Halve the oranges and lemons and juice them. Add juice to water. Put the pips and rubble onto muslin, tie it off, and put into the water. Pull the membranes out of the oranges (reserving the pith and peel) and discard. I think the membranes add a stronger bitterness. Cut orange and lemon peel into strips. If too thin will dissolve. Put into water. Bring to boil, then heat, and bring to boil. Boil for about 20 minutes, removing any scum – until setting point* is reached. When setting point reached, turn off heat and let sit for 20 minutes.
Pour into sterilized jars (I use a sterilized 1/3 cup measure). The original recipe doesn’t call for a 15 minute boiling water bath, but why not.
*Setting point is determined by putting a couple plates into the icebox for 15-20 minutes. Put a spoonful of marmalade onto a plate and back into icebox for 5 minutes. Then push the edge of marmalade with finger. Wrinkly = set.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thoughts on writing

Someone (T) asked me about writing… I can tell you what worked for me, but first, T, I didn’t ask if you’ve thought about writing a book about your life. I asked, “Have you thought about writing about your life?” The point of writing about yourself is to understand more about yourself, how you got to where you are, where you might be headed, to tell your story, and maybe, if others read your work, to change people’s consciousness. (If you write truly you’ll certainly change your own consciousness!) I’m well aware that the first part of your life was extraordinarily difficult. I was seeing writing as a means of discovery and ultimately, healing. If a book results, well, great.

The way to become a writer is to write – several hours a day, five days a week if possible. Maintaining a blog is a good way to get started. I write about people I meet, things I do, my past, whatever. I’m writing a lot less these days. FB posts lead to nowhere in terms of writing.
Most people need coaching or editorial help, especially early in the process of becoming a writer. For many people, it isn’t easy to hear that their writing is lacking in grammar or style or whatever. But there is no avoiding correction if one is to be a serious writer. 

Related to editorial help is a constant effort to improve one’s writing. I always revise and correct my work several times over. One curiosity I discovered about my writing is that fairly often, the last sentence of a paragraph actually should be the first sentence.
Intentions are of little value. Actions matter.
The problem of “writer’s block” should be ignored. If you can’t write, work on the table of contents or clean your desk or change the oil in your car or something productive. Waiting for inspiration while staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper is a waste of time.
Read other people’s work. I’ve learned a lot from skilled writers like David Sedaris, Elmore Leonard, Harry Stack Sullivan, and countless others.
I carry a pocket notebook almost everywhere I go. I write down things I see. things people say, my thoughts, quotes from things I read, whatever. I use less than 20% of what I make notes of/on. I’m still waiting to use these quotes: “Onward, toward our noble deaths” (title of book by Misuki) and “He despised all cant and pretentions, and he never called himself an artist” (from the forward to the Aperture book on Robert Capa).
This is a lot of work, but if you do it for several years, you’ll be a writer.
I wrote because I had something to say and there was some degree of I wrote because I couldn't not write. Thanks to my coaches and editors: Joe Bob Briggs, Jennifer Donovan, Linda Garner, and the editors at Lippincott and Elsevier Science.