Saturday, January 27, 2007

Golumpki Day!

Aren't they the cutest little things?

Those are the first three golumpki to grace my pressure-cooker this afternoon. They are so neat, so tidy -- so looking forward to being Lunch!

I saw a cabbage that was really fine-looking the other day, and decided that the winter weather needed golumpki to cheer things up a bit.

Ohhh, I was right. We snarfed golumpki today like it was the only thing to save us from starvation. (and that was after spaghetti for breakfast!)

My recipe for golumpki is over at the Piker Press, in the archives, in an article called "Golumpki: Cooking Under Pressure" but I think it bears a repetition here.

A whole head of cabbage, one egg, and one onion. The onion can be big or small, depending on how much you like onion. (I like it a lot, and use one large yellow onion.)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of hamburger (ground beef) with the finely-chopped onion added to it, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

I cook up a cup of rice, and then add as much as seems good to the beef and onion. One egg makes it all hold together. All this stuff is easiest to mix with a potato masher.

Now, the cabbage. I put a huge pot of water on to boil, and when it is boiling, I add my cored head of cabbage, pulling off 16 leaves as they soften. What's left of the head of cabbage after the 16 leaves, I throw into the Cuisinart and chop up finely, and then mix that in with the meat and rice and onion, too.

I wrap the meat and rice mixture in the leaves, close them with toothpicks, and cook them in pressure cookers, with tomato sauce poured over them, at 15 lbs pressure for 8 minutes.

Served with mashed potatoes, with the liquid from cooking drizzled over them --- exquisite.

I plan on getting up early so that I can have the leftovers for breakfast.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Talk About Feeling Like an Idiot

Three days ago I bought a new printer.

According to the salesman, the new printer would produce a higher quality color and resolution to my ... antiquated ... flimsy plastic beast. There would be no horizontal lines running across images, the color saturation would be better, the paper would feed like a dream come true.

Well, this morning, January 26th, I fired up the new HP Photosmart 8050, expecting miracles.

I didn't get them. The print quality sucked worse than the old flimsy plastic machine, an HP 3745. I tried upping the dpi in Photoshop -- nada, lines like the print was on corrugated cardboard. Also, the 4" x 6" photo paper carrier would not securely lodge in the paper loading tray, and thus the machine would only feed the paper through and then send an error message "Paper size too small printing cancelled." Shithead.

I packed the thing back up and took it back to Staples. Kudos to them, they accepted the full return and I lost no $$ on the mistake. I will deal with them again.

However, in the process of looking for a better machine, they sent me a sales rep who might have been all of 18 years old. I took one look at him and thought, "He could be a geek, but he is not going to be able to understand the demands of Art." He was polite and submissive, but he had plainly taken one look at me and thought, "She's someone's grandma, and has no idea about how anything works." He started lecturing me on dpi, for heaven's sake.

Then he described the print Properties, and how if you choose to run the default "Normal" you get a shitty quality print, but if you choose "Maximum dpi" you get a far better quality print. Hmm.

He was too iffy on the quality of other printers, so I just opted for a full refund, and then went home to curse at the old machine again. I decided to check out Master Young Thing's suggestion and opened a particularly troublematic picture of a red hibiscus. I enhanced its Reds in Photoshop, and then hit Print, and damned if I didn't have a Properties option of "Maximum dpi." I clicked on that, and got a brilliantly-colored picture of the hibiscus.

WhyTF didn't my Photoshop book include that in my first chapter? Stupid old printer can still come up with lovely pics, all I had to do was know how to tell it to do so.

Much cursing, for days.

Mostly at myself, for not figuring out what questions I needed to ask before I set off in search of answers. But who knew? The previous printer's Properties included "Print" and "Draft." That was all it needed to know in those days.

No, they weren't from the Stone Age.


But not.

PS. Consumer Reports says the HP8050 sucks a rat's ass, and is the second lowest printer it reviewed. So I guess I lucked out.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Feeling Like I Let Myself Down

It is not fashionable to have Faith.

People who have faith are stupid and behind the times. They try to follow Rules (and is there any thing more ridiculous than Rules?) and they think more about what will happen after they are alive than what is currently rumbling their jollies in this day-to-day existence. Dumb, stupid, mislead, ignorant, those people of faith.

Of course what might exist beyond the gulps, snores, farts, and shits of everyday life HAS to be daydreams or phobias or fantasies. Surely farts and shits are the be-all and end-all of human life.

Oh, that, and sex. Don't forget sex, it is more important than any rule ... and if you don't believe that, then watch some TV. TV will show you that sex is more important than anything else in the world, including hunger or education -- or faith.

So we got farts, shits, fast food, and sex. That's it. That's the human condition, the most important things, the most acclaimed things, the most cared-for things -- and if you think that there is another life beyond this all, why, then, you must be a primitive idiot who not only believes in God but also in pixies and the Tooth Fairy and a fat old man in red trimmed with white faux fir called Santa Claus.

I had the opportunity to talk with someone the other evening about writing, and this person stated that he/she was writing a new version of the Bible from his/her own viewpoint: that Jesus was a sadist, forcing people to pledge allegiance to His teachings or be condemned to Hell.

Here, all my ignorant, confused life, I thought Jesus the Christ was offering people an alternative to Oblivion, showing them a way to find fulfillment, a path to reunion with God the Creator.

In a world where riots break out when a cartoon of Mohammed is shown with a bomb embedded in his turban, I remained silent when the Lamb of God, the Perfect Recompense to the Ultimate Offense, was reviled. I don't feel good about that. No, not at all.

Why didn't I say what I was thinking, that I was offended by the subject? Gays are supposed to be militant about slurs against gays. Women are supposed to stand up for themselves and proclaim themselves the equals of men. People of color are supposed to leap up and challenge stereotypes that sneer at them. Why is it so politically incorrect for me to step up and say, "Get off Christianity! If you don't like it, then at least have the courtesy to shut up about it????"

Yet it is considered politically incorrect to do so. If you defend your Christian faith, you are a Cro-Magnon bigot of all that is shit, farts, and sex, the triumphs of Humankind.

I'm very, very tired of being expected to roll over and play stupid about theology.

God Is. One can slap one's hands over one's eyes and say, "I don't see God." One can turn his or her back and say, "I refuse to see God." One can even fumble through life, hands outstretched, and say, "I have not encountered God." But none of those things change God. People cannot make God not exist.

And Hell? Yes, Hell exists, too, but not as a garbage can that non-conformists are stuffed into like the cast-off cartons of Big Macs or as a cosmic shredder for lives whose script has read like a tragedy bereft of hope. Hell is a choice. A deliberate choice.

We call it "The Afterlife" as though it was the Next Thing we get to experience, complete with our cell phones and nail polish. But in reality, it is all around us, every minute, no matter where we are. What we see and hear in this life is a muffled echo of what really is.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thoughts Too Early For Sense

At four-thirty in the morning, some things are oddly clear.

I woke at a quarter to three this morning, pulled the blanket over my head, and went back to sleep, feeling more tired than I have in a long time. Yesterday I worked on the Press all day (yes, 8 hours for this allegedly retired woman) and went to sleep exhausted. But I'd pledged to Bernie that I'd get up with him if he went to the day shift, so I staggered blearily into the kitchen at 3:50 to keep him company (and what good company I am when I'm exhausted and bleary) and make him a sandwich for his lunch. (I hope it tastes good to him. I layered white American cheese, cotto salami, bologna, and turkey sprinkled with Italian spices on a sweet French roll, condimented with mayonnaise and bread-and-butter pickles. Not a dish that I myself would eat except gaggingly at gunpoint. Sweet pickles, too gross.)

After Bern had left for work, I fired up my computer (this is me on the said computer) and had a look at my 2006 NaNovel. After three paragraphs, (after what, almost two months of not looking at the manuscript?) I was very surprised to be able to identify a defining style, one from 40 years ago, that impressed me mightily then and apparently influences me even now.

Kenneth Roberts. God rest his soul, I hope that doesn't make him turn over in his grave, but those first paragraphs, my first novel-writing escapade in a year, sounded like I was attempting to imitate him. Which is not a bad thing, just astounding. I only wish I could write whole novels as eloquently and as accurately as he did.

My father and I occasionally lamented that we ought to have traveled to New England and retraced the route from the Kennebec River where it meets the Atlantic all the way to Quebec, as described by Kenneth Roberts in his book, Arundel. (Mom, of course, would never have gone for it, so we didn't.)

It's 5am now, and I'm still tending the fire we had to re-start because I didn't wake at midnight to restoke it. Only semi-coherent, I wanted to pay tribute to K. Roberts and recommend to all and sundry his books Northwest Passage, Arundel, and Rabble in Arms. He wrote others, but those are my three favorite K. Roberts books, and I've re-read them many times, always enjoying dropping back into his stories.

Thank you, Mr. Roberts, for the stories and for the influence that helped me hop back into the writing saddle again this past year.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What Happened?

At four-thirty this morning, something happened.

I became possessed of a scene, and nothing would do but to snatch open my laptop, review the couple paragraphs I wrote last September, and hammer away at a story I've been thinking about writing for years. Not just a story. A novel. One not associated with National Novel Writing Month, and so one not bound by the need to pump aimless word count into it.

For two hours I dragged words from somewhere and wrote them down.

After five novels, two anthologies of short related stories, and a host of other fiction, non-fiction and bullshit articles, you'd think writing would feel like an everyday occurrence. But this time was different. There were no deadlines, no challenges, no empty spaces in the Press that needed to be filled. It was just writing.

And when I couldn't stand the intensity of it any more, I crashed back into bed and slept without anxious nightmares for the first time in ages.

I told this to Bernie when he called on his break from work at 8:30 am, and his first words were, "Can I read it?" God, how flattering is that? He doesn't even know what it's about.

I don't recall him being that excited about my poetry ...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ice, and More Ice

There are reasons I've neglected my blog.

They are called "degrees" and the lack of them has distracted me substantially. We're in the grip of below-normal temperatures, and while it is sad to have to accept that we're losing plants in our landscaping, it is also a rare opportunity to experience ICE.

We moved to this place in the summer of 1997, and once or twice, we've seen skim ice on the birdbaths or at the edges of the pool. Somewhat differently this year, what we've seen in the back yard is not skim ice, but solidly frozen birdbaths and ice on the pool from rim to rim over 3/8 inch thick. Easily thick enough to hold a couple drinks at pool-side.

The first morning that the pool froze, I went out and gingerly poked a finger at the ice, thinking that I would encounter slush. Not so, not so. It was hardened ice, and a little more pressure created a crrrrraccckk-ing sound I remembered suddenly all too well from my childhood, of testing ice on the creek with a gingerly placed rubber boot. Oh, irresistible. I had to play with it.
And picking out a sheet of the ice, I tossed it across the pool and watched it shatter against the surface and skitter, making a very agreeable kash-chinkle.

When is the next time this kind of freeze is going to occur? When granddaughter Lillian is maybe, 16? She's not going to think it's a cool winter sport to skate pieces of ice across a pool by that age. So of course I alerted her and her mommy to come play with the ice.

That was yesterday, and lest you think that it was really nice out, I will admit that shirt I'm wearing in the pic is good to 40 degrees for short stints, and is really too warm to wear indoors.

When I invited Lillian to come toss ice today, she wasted not a single second in donning outdoor clothes and coming to play.

I wonder how much of this icy event she'll remember? She's not quite five ... and that was as good a reason I could think of to have Bernie man the camera and take some pictures of this strange season. As Lil prepares to pitch her chunk of ice across the frozen pool, I have both a grip on the back of her sweater to make sure she doesn't accidentally fall into the icy water, and the other hand has hold of Howie by his ruff, to make sure he doesn't try to chase the enticing thrown object into the pool.

Best of winter sports, in many years.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The End of a Great Christmas Season

This has been one of the most wonderful Christmas seasons I can remember.

The finches, the great parties, a beautiful tree, the laughter the dogs provided with their antics ... but none of those were as heart-lifting as the sight of this stamp on an envelope that arrived the day before Christmas, accompanied by a postmark that included the words "Royal Mail."

The envelope contained a Christmas card from my friend Terri in London.

Merry Christmas to me, and Happy New Year to all.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Christmas Season

The tree is down, the lights all put away.

But one display remains. It is still the Christmas Season, and those three little Magi on the right have yet to find the Child who is the Christ.

They're coming from the East, and an angle is helping them find their way. I didn't have a star to hover over the manger, but I'm sure the Magi can home in on the light from the candles.

Two more days, and then, if you wish, you can remember how Gentiles found and paid homage to the One who reconciled humanity with their Creator.