Posted by smith 3 years ago

It used to be easy to write journals here. Not so much anymore. I have opened this window several times and just left it blank. So, I guess this is a warm up.

Clu and I have been married now for 16 years. (Well...16.5 if you want to be technical about it.
Baby G is 9 now. Almost 10.
Abba Zabba, Jasper and Simon have all passed on. We now serve Mister Fitzwilliam Darcy, Finnegan Seamus O'Malley and Pip.
I still teach, but now I also coordinate a large academic program at my school.
I drink my coffee black now.
I have read a lot more books, though not as many as I should have. Recent favorites include The Night Circus, American Gods, Freedom, Persepolis, and Room. I'm moving back into historical fiction lately.
I love Taylor Swift's 1989 album. No really. And having a pre-teen daughter has totally changed what I listen to, though we have avoided both Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus. Not to worry though, she gets all the classics too.

There are other things, but maybe those are for another time.

Christmas Basket 2009
Posted by smith 9 years ago
Caramel Cashew Turtles  
Peanut Clusters  
Almond Bark  
Peppermint Bark  
Spritz Cookies  
Sugar Cookies  
Magic Bars  
Gold Rush Bars  
Dark Chocolate Crackles  
Maple Nut Wafers  
Russian Tea Cakes  
Peanut Butter and Bittersweet Chocolate Sandwich Cookies  
Chili rubbed sweet potatoes
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Cut three to four sweet potatoes into six to eight wedges each.  
Toss with olive oil, salt, chili powder and a couple big spoonfuls of brown sugar. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, toss, turn and roast another 15 minutes.
The Unified Theory of 50s Casserole: A Primer
Posted by smith 10 years ago
In my mind a 50s casserole is unique for a few reasons. The first is nearly all the ingredients are prepackaged or pre-cooked. Second, they utilize no spices, but rely solely on the seasoning from prepackaged foods. Finally, they are open, mix and bake meals.  
Many of these casserole such as Pot Pie and Chicken Divan have been updated by American-style diners bent on charging you 16 bucks for a reminder of a simpler time. These updates are more labor intensive, requiring bechamel, copious amounts of spices (saffron, curry, etc) and fresh vegetables that have been peeled, cut and blanched. While delicious, these updates aren't really what I'm interested in. Instead, I've begun to consider the long-lost one dish supper. Yes, it's high in fat and high in sodium, but that doesn't change in newer versions and it certainly doesn't change the fact that it's darn delicious.  
The theory: We are looking for a casserole baked at 350 degrees in a 9x13 pan for 20-25 minutes. It must be a meal on its own, though work well with a simple salad. It should rely on common pantry and refrigerator ingredients. It should satisfy both kids and adults.  
Meat: 4 cups, chopped and cooked (chicken, turkey, ground beef, tuna)  
Binder: 2 10.5 oz cans condensed cream soup (cream of mushroom, cream of celery, etc.)  
Vegetable: 1 bag frozen vegetables  
Cheese: 1 to 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, jack, colby jack, provolone, fontina)  
Liquid: 1 c. stock/broth or 3/4 c broth/stock and 1/4 c. wine/sherry  
Topping: 1 -2 cups bread crumbs, panko, crushed chips or saltine crackers, or another cup of cheese.  
Pick one from each group (except topping) and mix together. Dump into 9x13 pan, top with topping of choice and bake.  
Posted by smith 10 years ago
"I feel sorry for the two-hit wonders. They don't have entire specials devoted to them." --Pat MacDonald
Apple Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
Posted by smith 10 years ago
1 15.5 oz french bread batard, really stale and cut into 1 inch cubes  
2 crisp, tart apples (granny smith, fuji) peeled and cut into cubes  
3 eggs  
2 cups heavy cream  
1 c. apple cider  
2 tbsp melted butter  
1 tsp cinnamon  
1/4 tsp of salt  
Preheat oven to 350.  
Beat eggs, add cream, cider, butter, cinnamon and salt. Pour over bread mixture, toss to coat. Let soak for up to fifteen minutes, tossing occasionally. Add apples, pour in 9x9 baking dish, let soak for another 15 minutes, up to 45 minutes, depending on bread. Bake for 45 minutes, until brown on top.  
1 shot of high quality bourbon  
1 1/4 c of cream  
1 tsp vanilla  
1/2 c. sugar  
4 tsp cornstarch  
Mix 1/4 c. of cream and cornstarch. Set aside. Add cream, vanilla, bourbon and sugar to a sauce pan. Whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking, until the alcohol is gone. Add cornstarch slurry, boil another 2-3 minutes to thicken, whisking the entire time. Serve warm over bread pudding.  
Risotto: Mushroom and Pea or Butternut Squash
Posted by smith 10 years ago
3 c. arborio rice  
6-8 c. stock (chicken or vegetable)  
1/2 c. white wine  
3 tbsp butter  
3 tbsp olive oil  
1 c. finely chopped onion  
Kosher salt  
Pancetta, cut into 1/3 inch cubes, optional  
Mix ins:  
16 oz. sliced, sauteed cremini mushrooms  
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, boiled in 1 c. of the broth, drained. (add broth back into overall total)  
1 lb frozen peas, defrosted.  
2-3 lbs of butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes and roasted  
Heat broth to a simmer.  
Saute pancetta over medium high heat in large, heavy pot ( I use a dutch oven, but not cast iron). When pancetta is crispy, remove and add to your other prepared toppings. Add olive oil and butter. When butter is melted, and olive oil is hot, add onion, saute until translucent. Then rice, stirring to coat in the fat. If your pan is a little dry, add a few tablespoons more olive oil. Continue to stir until rice is a little brown and translucent around the kernel.  
Deglaze pan with white wine, scraping up any pancetta bits. Then add about four or five ladles of the broth. Stir until the rice is looking dry, or until you can see the bottom of the pan when you pull the spoon through the rice. Continue adding a couple of ladles at a time, until the rice is tender. Add salt to taste. (The amount salt will really depend on your broth)  
When the rice is almost tender, and you think you are making your last addition of broth, mix in your choice of vegetables. Cook until everything is warm. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.  
Overheard in my house:
Posted by smith 10 years ago
We are in the midst of New Year's Eve preparation. Our party this year, as always, is centered around video games. This year's multiplayer game is RockBand.  
clu asks: Are you going to dress all rock and roll tonight?  
smith says: I was planning on wearing that t-shirt with the koi fish tattoo design.  
clu says: so are you going to do your make up all dark, with red lipstick?  
smith says: I really hadn't planned on it.  
clu says: no ripped nylons? No bikini top?  
smith says: do you want me to look "rock and roll" or like a groupie at a Def Lepard concert?  
clu says: but you're not old.  
Thanks, clu. Thanks.
Posted by smith 10 years ago
I have been trying in vain to post a journal entry that doesn't reveal too much. Instead: delete, delete, delete. Here's a recipe for New Year's:  
6 large chicken breasts, cut into cubes  
2 lbs. of bacon, cut into thirds (don't use thick cut)  
2 c. of brown sugar (light or dark)  
6 tbsp of chili powder.  
Lots of toothpicks  
Mix chili powder and brown sugar, set aside. Place a cooling rack inside a lipped baking pan. Wrap a piece of chicken in a piece of bacon, secure with a toothpick. Repeat until all chicken and/or bacon is used. (If you have left over bacon, pan fry it and use on salads. If you have leftover chicken, add it to stir fry.) Roll wrapped chicken in brown sugar mixture. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is done.
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Magic Bars  
Glazed Maple-Pecan Cookies  
Goldrush Bars  
Peanut Clusters  
Almond Bark  
Peppermint Bark  
In Process:  
Sugar Cookies  
On Deck:  
Russian Tea Cakes  
Cranberry Struesel Bars  
Lemon Lime Butter Wafers  
Jam Thumprints  
Spritz Cookies  
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies  
Overheard in my house
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Kid: Mommy can I have a banana?  
Me: No. It's almost dinner.  
Kid: Daddy, can I have a banana?  
Clu: No, you heard your mom.  
Kid: Jasper kitty, can I have a banana?  
At least she understands not taking no for an answer.
Glazed Maple-Pecan Cookies
Posted by smith 10 years ago
2 1/2 c. flour (11.5 oz.)  
1/2 tsp salt  
1/4 tsp baking soda  
Sift together, set aside.  
3/4 c. granulated sugar  
1/4 c. dark brown sugar  
1 1/2 tsp maple flavoring  
In a food processor, mix both sugars until blended. Add in maple flavoring. Pulse five times, then blend until all flavoring is mixed in and the sugar is uniformly dark brown.  
3/4 c. unsalted butter softened  
In a mixer, cream butter until very smooth. Add sugar in three additions, scraping as needed until blended and light brown in color.  
1 large egg at room temperature  
1/4 pure maple syrup  
1 tsp vanilla  
Add to creamed butter, blend until incorporated, scraping down as needed. Add dry ingredients in three additions, until incorporated.  
2 c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped.  
Using a spoon stir in pecans. Lay out three large pieces of plastic wrap. Split the dough into three equal pieces. Roll into 10 inch logs, about 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for 2-3 hours. Slice into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on parchment lined, lipped baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes at 350, rotating once during cooking. If you're cooking two sheets in the same oven, switch top to bottom too.  
1 c. powdered sugar  
1/2 c. maple syrup  
really hot water  
Mix sugar and syrup and add water until smooth.  
When the cookies come out of the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes. Brush with glaze, transfer to cooling rack.  
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Breakfast time in the clu/smith household:  
smith jr: Mommy, can I have pie?  
me: nope. it's all gone.  
/me points to the table where the desserts were set out and it's empty.  
smith jr: WHAT! NO PIE!
Clu's New Favorite Cookie: The Chewy Vanilla Bean Wafer Cookie
Posted by smith 10 years ago
12 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature  
2 and 1/2 c. sugar  
Seeds from 2 vanilla beans (or 3 tsp pure vanilla extract)  
4 large eggs at room temperature  
3 cups all-purpose flour (13 and 1/2 oz.)  
1 tsp salt  
1/2 tsp baking powder  
Heat oven to 375. Position racks in upper and lower thirds for two trays at a time. Line two cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper.  
Using a hand mixer on medium, blend butter until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla seeds, beat on medium until sandy and well-combined. Add eggs, blend until creamy and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder, then add to wet mixture. Beat on medium until just blended.  
Drop in 1 tbsp heaps onto prepared cookie sheet. (Use a cookie scoop or two spoons). Space three inches apart. Bake for seven minutes and then rotate pans front to back and top to bottom. Bake another seven to eight minutes. Place cookie sheet on cooling rack and let cool on sheet for five minutes then transfer to cooling rack.  
Enjoy with cold milk.
Sweet Chili Chicken and Bacon Bites
Posted by smith 10 years ago
4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs cut into 1 inch cubes  
2 lbs bacon, cut into thirds (do not use thick cut bacon  
1 and 1/3 c. brown sugar  
3 tbsp chili powder  
1 tbsp kosher salt  
100 toothpicks, soaked in water for 20 minutes.  
Insert a cooling rack into a lipped baking sheet. Mix brown sugar, chili powder and salt in small bowl. Set aside. Wrap each chicken piece with bacon, secure with toothpick. Roll in sugar mixture. Set on prepared pan. Repeat until all chicken and bacon pieces are used. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Can be made up to a day ahead. The sheets can be stacked on each other, the pressing of the chicken doesn't hurt it.  
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. You can also set aside about 1/2 c. of the sugar mixture and cook it with 1/2 cup of water to make a dipping glaze. You can also add maple syrup or sugar somewhere in the mix depending on your bacon/maple preferences.  
Orange Cranberry Bread: Tis the Season
Posted by smith 10 years ago
1/3 c. fresh squeezed orange juice  
1 tbsp orange zest  
6 tbsp melted butter  
2/3 c. buttermilk  
1 large egg at room temperature  
2 c. flour (10 oz by weight if you're picky)  
1 c. sugar  
1 tsp salt  
1 tsp baking powder  
1/4 tsp baking soda  
1 and 1/2 c. coarsely chopped cranberries  
1/2 c. chopped, roasted pecans  
Preheat oven to 375.  
Mix juice, zest, butter, buttermilk and eggs in a small bowl. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda. Pour wet ingredients into dry. Mix for about ten seconds. It won't be fully mixed. Add cranberries and nuts. Mix until combined. Don't over mix. Pour batter into 9x5 loaf pan that has been greased (or is non-stick)  
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes or until a golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  
Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Flip out and cool on rack until completely cool. Texture improves as it cools. Don't cut it warm or it will fall apart.
random thought
Posted by smith 10 years ago
I was on msn.com and saw an ad that said "travel like james bond," and I thought, "who wants to travel in cars that get shot at and blow up?"
True Story
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Smith Jr was showing clu a drawing when clu wrinkled his nose and reached down to check her diaper.  
Clu: (with hand on Smith Jr.'s diaper) Eew. It's warm.  
Smith Jr: (Very serious) No. It's poop.
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Someone should tell Yo Yo Ma that screaming women, bagpipes and cellos aren't the best musical combination. The bongos don't make things better. It's like someone is killing an African Leprechaun.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and Panini
Posted by smith 10 years ago
1 5 to 6 lb butternut squash, cut into 1/2 cubes.  
4 to 6 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock  
Salt and Pepper to taste  
Olive oil  
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with salt, pepper and enough oil to coat. Roast, turning once for about 1/2 an hour, or until squash is tender and caramelized in places.  
Heat broth until it's simmering. Place a couple large spoonfuls of squash in blender. Ladle in enough broth to come halfway to the top of squash. Blend until smooth. Pour into a new saucepan. Repeat, in batches, until all soup is done. Heat soup and add cream to your taste. If soup is too thick, thin it out with more broth.  
Alternately, you could add a couple cups of broth to a new saucepan with all of squash and use an immersion blender, adding more broth until smooth. If you like your soups really smooth, you can use a food processor. As always, beware when you blend or process any hot liquid. Always hold lids down with a dishtowel.  
Ham, Brie and Apple Panini  
Good quality deli ham  
Good quality brie  
Golden Delicious Apples (or Jonagald or Baeburn)  
Spinach (optional)  
Dijon Mustard  
Butter or Olive Oil  
Panini press or two cast iron skillets or two heavy stainless steel pans, or one stainless steel pan and two bricks wrapped in tinfoil and heated in a 400 degree oven.  
Heat your pan and whatever you are going to use as a press. (another pan, bricks, etc.)  
Slice bread of your choice about 1/4 inch thick. Slice brie into 1/4 inch slices. Cut apple into very thin slices. Brush one side of two pieces of bread with olive oil or butter. Add a thin smear of mustard to the other side. On the mustard side, layer brie, ham, apples and spinach (if you like). Place on heated press or pan (about 350 degrees) until golden brown and cheese melts. Time will depend on how thick you sliced things.
Sunday Morning French Toast
Posted by smith 10 years ago
6 to 8 large eggs  
3/4 c. heavy cream  
3/4 c. milk  
1 tsp vanilla  
1 tbsp honey  
zest of one orange  
pinch of salt  
1 loaf of sweet french bread, brioche or challah  
Crushed cornflakes (optional)  
Strawberries (optional)  
Powdered sugar (optional)  
If the bread is fresh, cut it into 1/2 inch slices and leave them standing to stale up a bit. If the loaf is already stale, just cut and use the morning of.  
Mix eggs (use six for a less eggy flavor in the finished toast), cream, milk, honey, vanilla, zest and salt to make a custard. Soak slices of bread for about a minute on each side. When bread is saturated, roll in crushed cornflakes, pressing a bit to help the cereal stick. Then cook on a 350-400 degree griddle for about three minutes on each side or until they spring back when pushed with a finger. Dust with powdered sugar, top with berries and serve.  
For an extra rich twist, don't use the griddle, but fry slices in batches in a mixture of 1 tbsp vegetable oil and 1 tbsp unsalted butter in a non-reactive skillet.  
Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Lemon Cheesecake Bars  
9 graham crackers  
4 Tbsp melted butter  
1 lb. cream cheese at room temperature and cut into 1 inch pieces  
¾ c. granulated sugar  
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice  
1 tbsp lemon zest  
2 large eggs (at room temperature)  
1 c. lemon curd (recipe follows)  
16 raspberries  
Preheat oven to 325. Position rack in the center of the oven. Make a parchment paper sling for an 8x8 square pan by cutting two 8 x 16 inch strips of parchment paper and laying them in the pan, perpendicular to each other, with the excess hanging over like handles.  
In food processor pulse graham crackers until they are finely ground. Pour in butter and pulse until mixture looks like wet sand. Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Wipe mixer clean and reassemble.  
In cleaned mixer combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and zest for ten seconds. Stop. Scrape down the sides and process until smooth. Add eggs and process until perfectly smooth, stopping to scrape down sides if necessary. Pour into prepared crust.  
Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and a bit brown and the center is dry to the touch, bout 40 minutes.  
Once the cheesecake is out of the oven, cool on a wire rack and make lemon curd.  
Lemon Curd:  
½ c. fresh lemon juice  
½ c. granulated sugar  
2 large eggs at room temperature  
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces  
Set a fine strainr over a medium bowl. In a small, non-reactive saucepan, stir together lemon juice, sugar and eggs until sugar is almost dissolved. Then, place on stove and cook over medium heat stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until curd is steaming, but not boiling. When the curd thickens and registers about 175 on an instant read thermometer (about 3-7 min) it is done. Take curd off the heat, add the butter and stir until it has melted. Strain curd to remove any curdled egg.  
To finish:  
While curd is still warm, gently pour on cheesecake starting with the edges and working inward. Do no just pour straight into the middle while the cheesecake is still cooling or the curd will make a hole in it. Spread curd evenly. Evenly space 16 raspberries in still-soft curd. Cool until set. Cut into sixteen two-inch squares. Flatten cupcake liners and place cheesecake square in the center and smooth edges up to make travel and serving easier.  
Goldrush bars
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Gold Rush Bars  
14 graham crackers crushed fine  
1 c. of chopped walnuts  
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips  
1 can of sweetened condensed milk  
1 c. powdered sugar  
Preheat oven to 350.  
Mix all ingredients, except powdered sugar, until thoroughly combined. This takes a bit of work to get all the graham cracker crumbs to mix in.  
Grease a 9x13 pan, line with tin foil, grease tin foil. Grease hands. Press mixture into pan, getting into all the corners. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool until barely warm or room temp. Remove from pan and cut into bars, removing tin foil. Roll bars in powdered sugar.  
Posted by smith 10 years ago
I medium carrot, peeled and diced fine  
2 stalks of celery, diced fine  
1/2 a medium yellow onion dice fine  
1 and 1/2 lbs ground beef or beef/pork mixture  
12 saltine crackers crushed  
2 eggs  
Worcestershire sauce  
1/2 c. ketchup  
2 tsp balsamic vinegar  
Salt and Pepper to taste  
Preheat oven to 350.  
Sweat the carrot, onion and celery over medium heat until vegetables are soft and onions are transparent heading towards caramelized. Mix vegetables with meat, crackers, eggs, and two or three dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Add a hefty pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix until combined.  
Wrap a metal cooling rack in tinfoil. Poke holes in the foil. Place foil-covered rack inside a sheet pan.  
Dump meat mixture out onto foil-covered rack. Shape into a loaf. Mix ketchup and balsamic. Brush over meatloaf. Bake until the internal temp at the thickest part is 160, about 45 minutes. To speed this up, make six mini loaves.  
Vegetarian Lasagna
Posted by smith 10 years ago
4 medium carrots,  
2 medium yellow crookneck  
4 medium zucchini  
1 medium eggplant  
1 small yellow onion  
8 oz cremini mushrooms  
3 cans italian style stewed tomatoes  
1 cloves of garlic  
8 to 10 basil leaves  
Pinch of sugar or fresh orange juice (optional)  
1 c. part skim ricotta cheese  
3 c. shredded part skim mozzarella  
1 lb. no cook lasagna noodles  
Garlic Powder  
Olive Oil  
First make quick marinara sauce. Dice and saute 1/2 of yellow onion in saucepan with one minced garlic cloves. Add three 14 oz cans of italian styled stew tomatoes and puree with immersion blender until you have your desired texture. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt to taste. Add a pinch or two of sugar if necessary or the juice of 1/2 an orange to brighten tomato flavor. Add fresh chopped basil, stir until wilted. Set aside.  
Peel carrots, cut into quarters and then into half inch pieces. If the ends are skinny, just cut those in half and then into 1/2 pieces. Repeat with the zucchini and yellow squash. Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Heavily salt both sides of each slice and leave on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Use a paper towel to blot the moisture off after 15 minutes and cut into 1/2 cubes. Dice onion into a medium dice. Saute all vegetables, working in batches. You can mix them, but I would keep the carrots separate, as they have a longer cooking time. For each batch, using a 14 inch skillet, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, when in starts to shimmer add a single layer of the veggies, salt, pepper and garlic powder. (Do not use fresh garlic at this stage, as the pan gets hotter, it will burn) As each batch finishes, layer them in a bowl and set aside. If the pan picks up to much residue, deglaze with water, wipe out and continue.  
Assemble Lasagna:  
Sauce, noodles, more sauce, veggies, spoonfuls of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, more noodles, more sauce, etc. Finish off top with mozzarella and parmesan.  
Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.  
I make on 8x8 lasagna and use the leftover vegetables for panini or mix them with leftover pasta and olive oil for a quick lunch, but there are enough vegetables there for a full 9x13, though you might need more cheese.  
it explains so much
Posted by smith 10 years ago
"Gravity has the habit of showing up when you least expect it." -- Gary Busey.
Posted by smith 10 years ago
Languishing! Goddamn campaign is  
languishing! We need a shot inna  
arm! Hear me, boys? Inna goddamn  
ARM! Election held tomorra, that  
sonofabitch Stokes would win it in a  
Well he's the reform candidate, Daddy.  
Pappy narrows his eyes at him, wondering what he's getting  
Well people like that reform. Maybe  
we should get us some.  
Pappy whips off his hat and slaps at Junior with it.  
I'll reform you, you soft-headed  
sonofabitch! How we gonna run reform  
when we're the damn incumbent!  
He glares around the table.  
Zat the best idea any you boys can  
come up with? REEform?! Weepin' Jesus  
on the cross! Eckard, you may as  
well start draftin' my concession  
speech right now.  
Eckard grunts as he starts to rise.  
Okay, Pappy.  
Pappy whips him back down with his hat.  
I'm just makin' a point, you stupid  
Okay, Pappy.  
As he settles back Eckard looks around the table and helpfully  
Pappy just makin' a point here, boys.  
Helluva awgazation.  
Say, I gotten idee.  
What sat, Junior?  
We could hire us a little fella even  
smaller'n Stokes's.  
Pappy whips at him with his hat.  
Y'ignorant slope-shouldered sack a  
guts! Why we'd look like a buncha  
satchel-ass Johnnie-Come-Latelies  
braggin' on our own midget! Don't  
matter how stumpy! And that's the  
goddamn problem right there - people  
think this Stokes got fresh ideas,  
he's oh coorant and we the past.  
Problem a p'seption.  
Ass right.  
Reason why he's pullin' ah pants  
Gonna paddle ah little bee-hind.  
Ain't gonna paddle it; he's gonna  
kick it real hard.  
With his mouth forming an O around his dropping cigar, Pappy  
looks sadly from one to the other, like a spectator at a  
particularly boring tennis match.  
No, I believe he's a-gonna paddle  
Well now, I don't believe assa  
property scription.  
Well, that's how I characterize it.  
Well, I believe it's mawva kickin'  
Pullin' ah pants down...  
Posted by smith 10 years ago
I had a workshop with Susan Wooldridge, author of Fool's Gold and Poemcrazy. She's insane in all the best kinds of ways. She taught us ways of helping students tap into their creative minds and generate poetry. At first I was skeptical, but it really was quite an experience.  
One of the activities she taught us uses postcards as a way to create sensory imagery and language. A friend of mine who also attended the workshop liked the idea so well, she bought 1,500 postcards from some guy on Ebay. She brought them to the house and we both sorted through them, taking what we wanted. In the end, we had created a pile of the world's lamest postcards. Next year, I'll post them on my wall as my "Museum of Lame Postcards."
Posted by smith 11 years ago
This is the second, third and fourth part of the freewrites, which are by definition unedited, unrevised and unproofed.  
When my parents got a divorce, I was five. I did not speak again until I was thirteen, except to court appointed psychologists and when absolutely required. My sister was two days old. I still can’t decide if that makes it better for her or worse. Neither can she. She has been far freer than I have been, sleeping on beaches in Spain rather than spend money at a hostel, spending the last of her money to buy Mexican children ice cream, sleeping in a hammock slung between trees on a Costa Rican beach. She has never stayed in one place longer than it took to save up the money to go someplace else. At the time I was standing on the porch at the Bearded Lady’s New Moon Piercing Emporium, my sister already had a nose ring, a belly button ring and was contemplating a more permanent addition. I was still standing on the porch trying to decide what would be the most responsible piercing to get. I settled on the tongue.  
When I was almost two, my mother was preparing dinner. Her back was turned to the table, which had been set with plates, glasses and silverware. I was supposed to be in the living room with my father, but I was at that tetchy walking stage that say me escaping the watchful eyes of adults more frequently. I climbed up on one of the oak dining room chairs with their geometrical finials and black spotted stain. When my mother turned around, I was already falling backwards with the knife in my mouth. The scar tissue remaining in my tongue was still a pink divot. Getting it pierced again, this time professionally, seemed like merely a recapping of an old injury. My father and mother till argue about who’s fault it was, but I don’t think blame can be equivocally decided in such accidents where the willful curiosity of a toddler brings truth to parables and proverbs. No matter what history my tongue had with holes, the fact was tongues heal fast, and though the Italian I was taking might suffer for a few days while my swollen appendage healed, the dance class I was taking could hardly tolerate the six week healing process of a belly piercing.  
The Bearded Lady was not a gimmick. It was truth in advertising. A robust woman, with a scraggly, but well articulated beard ran the shop from behind a school teacher’s discard desk. It’s yellowy stained was dulled gray in the places the varnish had chipped and flaked off leaving the wood grain exposed to the omnipresent oil of fingers and palms. At the desk we discussed price and procedure. Though dingy, the desk was clean as were her hands. The white moons of her nails stood out against her olive skin. The rest of the shop was split into different piercing areas. In 2000, a year after I would graduate, Massachussetsn would lift its tattoo ban and a room that had been intended as a parlor in more Georgian times would be converted to a tattoo studio. But when I was there, the kitchen was converted for piercing. A modified, ancient dental chair was bolted to a yellowed lineoliuem floor that was so clean my rubber soles squeaked without any effort.  
Lined up along the wall were cheaply framed prints of fifties icons and cheesecake pinups by Vargas and Saroyama.  
My father had included a note with the cash. He was hoping I would get some friends together for burgers and Cokes. The notion seem antiquated and out of touch. My women’s college was a staunch bastion of feminism and vegetarianism. We did not eat burgers. We did not drink Coke. We went to the Haymarket for cowboy coffee and made fun of The Red Bean which was widely recognized as the impending home of a new Starbucks. My father had never been to Northampton, and even my graduation from college, would not bring him out to the east coast or in the vicinity of my mother. His detachment from my life at this point made him quaint and an interesting talking point. Getting a piercing here, in this place, seemed far more normal than a fast food meal.  
For each piercing, special tools are required. The Bearded Lady set up a dental tray and opened sealed bags of medically-sterilized equipment. I began to realize that this was much more sophisticated that sewing needles, ice and potato rounds. With ringing plinks she set the instruments down on the metal tray: A long hollow needle like that on a very large syringe, a pair of pliers that ended in a ring rather than a point, a barbell that measured 2 inches, a smaller one inch barbell, blue ink, two toothpicks and a jar of lavender oil. She began to explain the procedure. First she would mark the bottom and top of my tongue using the toothpicks dipped in the ink. She would also use the toothpicks to insure that the top and bottom holes were perpindicular and far enough away from the frenulum linguae. She then explained the pliers, which were really clamps, to press my tounge flat and firm and would keep me from jerking away at the punch. It was here when part of my more responsible self snuck up and pushed my heart up and made my breath bubble in my throat. That was what the lavender oil was for; I sat and breathed deeply of the dusty, sodden smell and looked at the needle lying on the medical pad.  
I’d had stitches scads of times. My body is marked and traced with scars denoting tree-falls, dusty fist fights, and run ins with pavements. My sense of rule following and responsibility never managed to trump my temper, which always managed to get me into trouble. My lack of speech, my inconsistent awareness of style and music, and my strange love of books separated me from my peers in the painful and obvious ways that led me to the emergency room on several occasions. By the time I was sitting in the Bearded Lady’s chair, I had accumulated 12 visits to doctor to receive a zig-zagging collection of 57 stitches. Some of these badges remain more obvious than others, and were the final reason my adrenaline addled brain offered up as logical proof that a tongue piercing was nothing to fear.  
We went over cleaning instructions while I deeply inhaled the oily preserve of lavender. The mouth is filthy, she explained. Easily the dirtiest part of the human body. It’s not really a muscle, you know. It’s more like a sac of fluid controlled by muscles, like an earthworm. None of this seemed particularly helpful or comforting. She instructed me to rinse with Listerine hourly for three days and after I put anything in my mouth that wasn’t water. She handed me a pamphlet on thrush and another on recognizing the signs of infection. Stapled to the infection pamphlet was the business card of Dr. Green, D.D.S and a map and phone number to the local urgent care, should swelling happen. Swelling was natural she said. That’s why she would insert the longer dumbbell and in three days, when the piercing had healed, I could exchange the shorter. She then gave me her last piece of advice: piercing are temporary. Teeth are permanent. I was not to click or flick the metal against my teeth. The jewlry’s weight would cause the hole to move forward, the anatomy of tongues being what it was. She instructed me to remove the piercing as soon as it rubbed against my gums rather than sat obeidiently on the floor of my mouth. I took a drag of lavender and clenched my hands on the padded armrests. My palms were sticking to the fluff that was insinuating itself through the cracks.  
Satisfied that we’d covered the basics, The Bearded Lady instructed me to sign several forms including a waiver and then settled her considerable bulk on a black stool, while instructing me to lean back against the faded cracked vinyl backing of the chair. Reclined a bit like that, it was difficult to see the pinups, or her beard, or anything really other than the startling white plastered ceiling, where a placard hung with heavy, black calligraphy stating “This will only hurt for a second.” I kept my eyes glued to the inky strokes of the font, and offered my tongue for the blue ink dots that with a clamp, a prick and a punch became a hole.  
Some things hurt a lot, but then they are over. Other’s hurt forever. I can’t remember the pain of my tongue ring. Only how the metal conducted body heat to make perfectly round divots in popsicles. I can remember speaking cautiously and carefully in student teaching to keep it hidden. I can remember telling my mother and hearing her click her own tongue and laughing. I can remember calling my father and hearing his disbelief crackle in the line. Neither believed me until I sent them a picture of me laughing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a metal ball sitting cleanly and clearly in the center of my scarred tounge.  
Posted by smith 11 years ago
I'm taking a course on teaching writing this summer. This is the first freewrite for the draft of my autobiographical rough draft that is due soon.  
When I was younger and company came over, I would hide under the green, brown and orange crocheted blanket, and peer through the holes. I would watch my mother serve iced tea out of tall glass with gilt filigree patterns flaking off from too many washes in an avocado green dishwasher. Ice clinked and conversation buzzed about like lazy flies. Looking through the holes, and being generally unnoticed, it is easy to see things in bits and pieces that approximate the whole, but are more expressive than the whole, because they are “not entirely innocent of symbolism.”  
The white brick fireplace and its brassy screen, the grimy laces of yard-work tennis shoes, strangely placed ruffles on early eighties blouses with turquoise patterns and too short running shorts. And then company would leave, and the middle class utopia that was created when seventies crashed headlong into conspicuous consumerism became a fight over dishes and credit cards and whose friends were sitting on the couch earlier. Everything should have been marked his and hers. In the end it was an inamicable divorce, the first of most of my friends that sent me shuffled off to an even smaller town with even more cows. It was not a tragic event, as many would characterize it, but it did create a need to see things as part of a whole. My father’s new family. My father’s new home. My father’s weekend. My father’s money. My father stopped paying for anything but child support somewhere around my tenth birthday and it became an ongoing war which rather than be a soldier in, I became an embed correspondent.  
Being a middle child, and my father’s girl, I became obsessed with perfection and the beautiful order of rules. It occurred to me, watching my new second grade class swirl in paisley patterns around Mrs. Vergotten’s classroom before the bell rang, that if rules were followed there would be fewer problems. I lived my young life on the straight line of right and wrong. I loved school and its clear expectations of when to talk and what to say, when to line up, when to eat and what to do in case of emergencies. Conversely, I hated recess and it’s constantly changing social orders and the messy fashion guidelines and the chaotic energy release of tag and the monkey bars. I brought this love of rules home with me, and in so much as it’s possible, my parents, separately, thought I was a good girl. Perhaps it was the last thing they ever agreed on.  
All of this is what I was thinking as I stood on the fading whale grey porch of a patchy old farmhouse with missing or mismatched gingerbreading, looking for all the world like the teeth a third grader’s school photo. My father had just sent me a hundred dollar bill for my nineteenth birthday. It was the only money I could ever remember getting from him, except for the occasional quarter to buy myself candy down the street at Ali Houssmeni’s corner market. It was fall break, and I was at college. Being Columbus Day Weekend, Northampton was flooded with tourists out to see foliage, buy art, and pass through on their way to the Norman Rockwell museum, Historic Deerfield or the Yankee candle company. Having a job at the library, I found myself stuck in town with 100 dollars, no friends and few acquaintances. I had decided to pierce something. And it was at this moment that rebellion and rule following met to decide which part of the body was most suitable for man-made holes.