Dry January

The final days of January 2021 are upon us.

The final days of Dry January 2021 are upon us.

Pictured here a “Virgin Bloody Mary.” It tastes pretty much like a Bloody Mary, less the vodka, of course.

I bought the Bloody Mary mix (Agalima Organic, The Authentic Bloody Mary Mix) back in October thinking we might have one or two on Thanksgiving and on Christmas. In years past, family traditions included a large pitcher of Bloody Mary mix next to a bottle of vodka on a counter.

Because of Covid there were no family get-togethers and no Bloody Mary mix on a counter next to bottle of vodka.

We never did have a Bloody Mary or two but come Dry January, I enjoyed a Virgin Bloody Mary or two.

The month, Dry January, is really about wellness and it feels fine and healthy to enjoy the month without wine at dinner—or a Bloody Mary! I think we will keep it up. Within reason.

Of course, Dry January is all about living an alcohol free month—not dessert-free.

And we have enjoyed a few spectacular desserts.

Susan made this delicious Berry Cake!

Susan also made Fika, a Swedish chocolate treat!

I made a Banana, Blueberry, Chocolate, Coconut, Walnut Bread which was so good!

And a few days ago, Susan made an outstanding Orange and Chocolate cake!

I haven’t lost much weight but once it warms up outside (It was 2 degrees this morning with a wind-chill of -12!) and I start walking again I am sure the weight will start to disappear and I will get back to my college wrestling weight class.

Cheers!

Susan’s Birthday

Yesterday, Friday, January 8th, was Susan’s birthday. When I woke up on the day before, the 7th, I thought the 7th was the 8th.

Before she woke (on the 7th), I scrambled to wrap her present and make her card. (See Freddy above sniffing at her card and present.) Soon she came out of the bedroom and I said “Happy Birthday!” She said, “Today’s not my birthday. It’s the 8th.” I said, “Today is the 8th. Come. Let’s look at the calendar.” Sure enough it was the 7th. This confusion a sign of the times. To misquote a song by Chicago, “Does anybody really know what day it is?”

I know tomorrow is Sunday because the Sunday New York Times is delivered. And Wednesday is garbage day because I see that our street is lined with barrels filled with garbage. And Friday is Brooks and Shields (Now Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart since Shields recently retired). But other than that I am never sure of the day or date. Or time! This a sign of the pandemic and being in quarantine. I need a calendar!

Susan opened her card first upon waking on the 8th, a picture of our kitchen table which I think says much about who we are, our interests, our love of books and beauty. And it reminds me of a painting by French Impressionists. I enjoy still lifes of our home.

Years ago, I wrote:

This is
A Place
A Table
Round, of grace
A flowered tablecloth
A bowl of lemons and limes
Apples and oranges
We hold hands
Thank You God
For these gifts
We are about to receive
From your bounty
Through Christ our Lord
Amen.
A table of grace.
We then enjoyed a cup of coffee and soon I made us bacon and blueberry pancakes.
I spent much time organizing my photos of Times Square @ 1980s for my book, “Famous People Famous Places“. I am happy that I have made great progress on the project since reading about myself in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review section a few weeks ago (See previous post).
This is how the organization comes along. First I printed contact sheets of all the photos, cut them into “negs” and placed them on a large paper board.
Then I spent many hours looking at the images, determining an order, a sequence that made sense to me.
I then took these negatives and taped them into my journal so that I can reference them as I upload to Blurb.
During lunch, Susan suggested we order out for dinner. We often do order out for pizza on Friday nights. But after I walked Freddy in the afternoon, I returned home cold and thought there’s no way I want to go out later for a pizza. So while Susan napped in the late afternoon, I made a birthday dinner for her (It was her birthday!): Roasted Chicken Thighs with Pears and Dried Cranberries; Wild Rice; Carrots.
The recipe is based on one from Taste of Home:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each) (I used 2 skinless boneless chicken thighs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (I used 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (I didn’t use.)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (I didn’t use)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar (I didn’t use)
  • 2 medium unpeeled pears, each cut into 8 wedges (I used 6 canned and drained pear halves)
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
  • Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until a thermometer reads 165°, 8-10 minutes. Remove. (I roasted the chicken thighs in oven at 375 for 45 minutes)
  • Meanwhile, stir together next 5 ingredients until blended. Pour into skillet; add pears and dried cherries. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until pears are tender, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet; simmer, uncovered, until heated through, 3-5 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with additional minced rosemary (I warmed pears, stock, vinegar, cranberries on stove top)
After dinner, we watched Brooks and Capehart and then a fascinating documentary of James Beard. I had forgotten he had a great gift for writing. I once had two Beard books (He wrote 18.): “Beard on Bread” and “The James Beard Cookbook.” I lost them in one of my moves. I will have to see if I can find a few in a used book store.
The show brought home to me the fact that I need, I am called, to again write. To write about food. To write about art. To write about life.
To tell stories. Which reminds me; did I ever tell you the story about the times I had lunch at the Four Seasons bar?

 

A Favorite Poem; “Kicking the Leaves”

This is a favorite poem. “Kicking the Leaves” by Donald Hall.  

Kicking the leaves, October, as we walk home together
from the game, in Ann Arbor,
on a day the color of soot, rain in the air;
I kick at the leaves of maples,
reds of seventy different shades, yellow
like old paper; and poplar leaves, fragile and pale;
and elm leaves, flags of a doomed race.
I kick at the leaves, making a sound I remember
as the leaves swirl upward from my boot,
and flutter; and I remember
Octobers walking to school in Connecticut,
wearing corduroy knickers that swished
with a sound like leaves; and a Sunday buying
a cup of cider at a roadside stand
on a dirt road in New Hampshire; and kicking the leaves,
autumn 1955 in Massachusetts, knowing
my father would die when the leaves were gone.
2
Each fall in New Hampshire, on the farm
where my mother grew up, a girl in the country,
my grandfather and grandmother
finished the autumn work, taking the last vegetables in
from the fields, canning, storing roots and apples
in the cellar under the kitchen. Then my grandfather
raked leaves against the house
as the final chore of autumn.
One November I drove up from college to see them.
We pulled big rakes, as we did when we hayed in summer, pulling the leaves against the granite foundations
around the house, on every side of the house,
and then, to keep them in place, we cut spruce boughs
and laid them across the leaves,
green on red, until the house
was tucked up, ready for snow
that would freeze the leaves in tight, like a stiff skirt.
Then we puffed through the shed door,
taking off boots and overcoats, slapping our hands,
and sat in the kitchen, rocking, and drank
black coffee my grandmother made,
three of us sitting together, silent, in gray November.
3
One Saturday when I was little, before the war,
my father came home at noon from his half day at the office
and wore his Bates sweater, black on red,
with the crossed hockey sticks on it, and raked beside me
in the back yard, and tumbled in the leaves with me,
laughing , and carried me, laughing, my hair full of leaves,
to the kitchen window
where my mother could see us, and smile, and motion
to set me down, afraid I would fall and be hurt.
4
Kicking the leaves today, as we walk home together
from the game, among the crowds of people
with their bright pennants, as many and bright as leaves,
my daughter’s hair is the red-yellow color
of birch leaves, and she is tall like a birch,
growing up, fifteen, growing older; and my son
flamboyant as maple, twenty,
visits from college, and walks ahead of us, his step
springing, impatient to travel
the woods of the earth. Now I watch them
from a pile of leaves beside this clapboard house
in Ann Arbor, across from the school
where they learned to read,
as their shapes grow small with distance, waving,
and I know that I
diminish, not them, as I go first
into the leaves, taking
the way they will follow, Octobers and years from now.
5
This year the poems came back, when the leaves fell.
Kicking the leaves, I heard the leaves tell stories,
remembering and therefore looking ahead, and building
the house of dying. I looked up into the maples
and found them, the vowels of bright desire.
I thought they had gone forever
while the bird sang I love you, I love you
and shook its black head
from side to side, and its red eye with no lid,
through years of winter, cold
as the taste of chickenwire, the music of cinderblock.
6
Kicking the leaves, I uncover the lids of graves.
My grandfather died at seventy-seven., in March
when the sap was running, and I remember my father
twenty years ago,
coughing himself to death at fifty-two in the house
in the suburbs. Oh how we flung
leaves in the air! How they tumbled and fluttered around us,
like slowly cascading water, when we walked together
in Hamden, before the war, when Johnson’s Pond
had not surrendered to houses, the two of us
hand in hand, and in the wet air the smell of leaves
burning:
in six years I will be fifty-two.
7
Now in fall, I leap and fall
to feel the leaves crush under my body, to feel my body
buoyant in the ocean of leaves, the night of them,
night heaving with death and leaves, rocking like the ocean.
Oh this delicious falling into the arms of leaves,
into the soft laps of leaves!
Face down, I swim into the leaves, feathery,
breathing the acrid odor of maple, swooping
in long glides to the bottom of October —
where the farm lies curled against the winter, and soup steams
its breath of onion and carrot
onto damp curtains and windows; and past the windows
I see the tall bare maple trunks and branches, the oak
with its few brown weathery remnant leaves,
and the spruce trees, holding their green.
Now I leap and fall, exultant, recovering
from death, on account of death, in accord with the dead,
the smell and taste of leaves again,
and the pleasure, the only long pleasure, of taking a place
in the story of leaves.