lost love

I’m always nervous about posting my poetry. I guess posting it on here instead of filing it away on the computer makes it real. But Michael said “Your next post has to be one of your own poems,” and I promised him. This one came to me at the Natural History Museum in NYC, when I was contemplating someone who had a brief entrance and exit in my life, but whose memory can sometimes consume me.

____________________________________
You are marked in years
like tree rings

Not because you were there, but because
you weren’t:
Each deep breath in,
a span
of knowing that of
All the events in my life,

You should have been
a Circle.

timing, three ways

photo 5:: ONE ::
Me:  Are you humming “Heart?”
Michael, sheepish: Yes. . . .um. . .I’ve developed a love of arena rock.
Me:  Thank the Lord.  Never thought I’d see the day.

I tried to get Michael into “Heart” 10 years ago.  10 years.  I stopped after the first year and consoled myself that my friend Merry shared that love with me.  First Michael got into other 80’s stuff, then he bought a Bon Jovi album last month which he tried to hide from me, then he started humming this. For a guy who listens almost exclusively to 60’s and 70’s rock, it is a small miracle.  I wasn’t even that aggressive with trying to get him to give the 80’s a chance.  I’ve been most aggressive trying to get him to appreciate Thom Yorke’s voice, but I don’t think he’ll ever like that.  Now maybe if I play Radiohead and don’t say anything for 10 years, he’ll be humming it one day. . .photo 1What makes timing perfect?  My master’s thesis was on how objects persist through time (metaphysics. . .don’t ask) so I have a thing for time.  I recently read a lot of articles on balance—how parents can or can’t balance all the components in their lives.  My life doesn’t FEEL balanced. Sometimes I want to fill the car with gas, load up with 80’s CDs and drive into the mountains with no agenda.  Just typing that out made me sigh deeply.

:: TWO ::
My health is still a conundrum and I have more appointments: ENTs, allergists, a neurologist. I’m working 30 hours a week and am Lucy’s primary caretaker 2.5 days a week. And (drumroll) I’m taking a big leap of faith and STARTING MY OWN BUSINESS. Our house is always messier than I’d like, I don’t have the greatest social life (although we threw a rockin’ Halloween party), and I have to schedule all relaxing time down to the hour, sometimes giving Michael the Lucy feedings just so I can read one chapter of a book. We also don’t know if we will be in Pittsburgh next year (though my business partner and I have already planned around that so the business will continue). It is, from all reasonable points of view, the worst timing for starting a business. But. . .does life EVER give us good timing?

photo 2:: THREE ::
When we miscarried our first baby, a lot of people tried to comfort me by saying that we’d get pregnant again when it was “perfect timing.” I still think that’s hilarious, because I next became pregnant ONE WEEK after starting a 50 hour/wk job, in addition to having another part-time job as a personal assistant. I had weekly physical therapy appointments for herniated discs in my back, and we had JUST unpacked our Brooklyn apartment and were possibly moving in 4 months. We were also dirt broke. That’s pretty much the definition of imperfect timing. Whereas we got pregnant with the first baby when my back was OK, we were flush with money, were going to be in the same place for a year, and had spent over $15,000 to have that baby through in vitro. That baby was sorely wanted, paid for, and earned through physical pain and tears. It was “perfect” timing by anyone’s standards, and yet we never got to meet that baby.

Only God knows what perfect timing is. I’m not someone to judge, but I feel vulnerable when life just isn’t balancing out how I hoped. And yet, we get through it. I endured 10 years of my husband hating every 80’s song I sang at karaoke (this is obviously the least torturous example, but I really love “Heart”!) We had Lucy, and with lots of hand-me-downs and us having good jobs until she was born, she was well-provided for. Even now, when I wonder if I’ll get through a week because my schedule looks like a football play, I say to myself “there is no perfect timing.” There is no perfect timing.

Sort of a negative mantra, but it soothes me. Life is screwy. It doesn’t make sense. And yet if we are happy doing what we love and we are loving others. . .timing doesn’t really matter.

photo 4

testimony

552962_10100499038384963_1004193064_nIf tonight the moon should arrive like a lost guide
crossing the fields with a bitter lantern in her hand,

her irides blind, her dresses wild, lie down and listen to her
find you; lie down and listen to the body become

the promise of no other, the sleeper in the garden
in its own arms, the exile in its own autumnal house.

You have woken. But no one has woken. You are changed,
but the light of change is bitter, the changing

is the threshold into winter. Traveler, rememberer, sleeper,
tonight, as you slumber where the dead are, if the moon’s hands

should discover you through fire, lie down
and listen to her hold you, the moon who has been away

so long now, the lost moon with her silver lips
and whisper, her body half in winter,

half in wool. Look at her, look at her, that drifter.
And if no one, if nothing comes to know you, if no song

comes to prove it isn’t over, tell yourself, in the moon’s
arms, she is no one; tell yourself, as you lose

love, it is after, that you alone are the bearer
in that changed place, you alone who have woken, and have

opened, you alone who can so love
what you are now and the vanishing that carries it away.

:: Joseph Fasano ::

“Though I’ve lived in various cities for years now, I’m originally from a small town in the Hudson River Valley. I wrote ‘Testimony’ after driving north from New York City and walking out into some fields where I’d spent nights as a child. I remember thinking, among other things, of Larry Levis’s praise of the ‘winter stars,’ of Galway Kinnell’s reunion with the ‘wild darkness,’ and of Mark Strand’s wish to ‘lie down under the small fire / of winter stars.’ So I did. And the stillness that I heard there became this poem. Of course we’ve all tried to return somewhere and found it impossible, but sometimes that very impossibility can become its own song.”

I took the picture above during a solar eclipse in Tokyo. The clouds made it even better!

pumpkin zucchini bread

photo 222I know. . .You’re probably drinking a pumpkin spiced latte next to a pumpkin candle, JUST finished carving pumpkins for Halloween, have harvest ale in your refrigerator and are already thinking of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  What is it about Americans?  Why can’t we get enough pumpkin?  This pumpkin bread has a lot of healthy attributes, so if you’re over the richness of other pumpkin treats, never fear. It took three trials to create this recipe—at first I made a regular version, then a gluten-free version, then a vegan gluten-free version, and my friends, hubby and one intrepid baby—who ate a whole slice on his own—whole-heartedly approve.  photo 51photo 41This recipe is the gluten-free one.  To make it vegan, substitute flax seed for the eggs and use 1/2 cup grapeseed or coconut oil instead of the butter.  For a gluten-full recipe, omit the almond & cashew meal and use regular flour (I prefer half whole wheat, half white).  But honestly the almonds and cashews lower the carb (sugar) content while adding protein and fat.  And protein and fat are better for you than you think.  There are very few ingredients in this recipe but I’ll spare you from putting them all in the title.  Let’s just call this “pumpkin zucchini bread.”  After writing my last rant, I found the ideal example and have to share it with you. Here is the recipe title: “Hot Buttered Rum Apple Pie Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Sift Pretzels.”  The length of these recipe titles reminds me of a sign Michael and I saw in Tennessee on the outskirts of Nashville. It pointed to a dirt road and said “River Valley Forge Butte.” Uh-huh.  This is not to say that the length of the title will prevent me from trying out that delicious-sounding recipe.photo 21My friend Ashlee came over for dinner the other night and she eats gluten-free, so I made this for our dessert.  That was the first permutation of it.  But I’ve been battling pretty annoying health issues (facial swelling that I’ve mentioned before, and random vomiting and nausea for the past few weeks—no I’m not pregnant) and eating gluten-free is something I skeptically tried after that dinner to see if gluten was the culprit.  I used to wonder if the gluten-free craze was a stunt done by women who just want to avoid carbs/add one more restriction to what they don’t eat.  Like Gwyneth when she was macrobiotic for a couple years and claimed that’s how her skin looked so awesome.  For sure, there are faddy Gwyneth people, but I’m now sympathetic to people with true intolerances/allergies.  While my gluten-free experiment didn’t help with swelling or the throwing up (sigh), it helped with severe indigestion and spending lots of time reading magazines in the bathroom. . .you get my drift.  I feel MUCH better avoiding wheat.  So there will be a lot more gluten-free recipes on here in the future. And the best part?—wine (my favorite food group)—is completely gluten-free! ;)  Now without further ado, grab that pumpkin that’s about to mold on your porch, and make something delicious.  And if using a real pumpkin terrifies you, substitute 2/3 cup pumpkin from the can for the sugar pumpkin.

photo 31Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond meal/flour (this is basically ground, blanched almonds)
  • 2 cups cashew meal/flour (this is ground cashews)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups zucchini (grated)
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup browned butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 scant tbs cinnamon (I go generous on cinnamon—fair warning)
  • 1 tsp cloves

photo 4Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and generously oil/butter your bread loaf pan.  Set aside.
  2. Combine almonds, cashews, and all spices into bowl and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.
  3. Take your sugar pumpkin (they are cheap at Trader Joe’s!) and cut the top off.  Do a combination of scooping out the guts and slashing at the pulpy inside with a knife until the pumpkin is (mostly) emptied out.  Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise (from top to bottom), and then turn each half over so the smooth, curved surface is facing you.  Slice the pumpkin into half-moon strips like you would with squash.  You can also cube it, it doesn’t really matter.  Just butcher that thing because you’re going to make your own pumpkin puree that doesn’t have that tangy tin metal can aftertaste.
  4. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet.  Lay slices/chunks of pumpkin on baking sheet, pour a little more oil on top.  Bake until oil saturates pumpkin and edges are slightly browned.  Don’t freak out that the pumpkin skin is still on.  I think that adds flavor and vitamins.  Also don’t freak out if you forget they are baking and char them slightly *guilty*.  I put the charred pieces into one of my versions and everyone ate it up and never guessed.
  5. Put pumpkin slices/chunks in blender.  Set aside to let cool.
  6. Put one stick of butter in a pan, and let simmer until it bubbles and turns slightly brown. Remove from heat before it gets actual brown pieces floating in it.  Measure out 2/3 cup of the butter, and add to pumpkin in blender.
  7. Add agave nectar to blender, and puree ingredients.  Feel free to eat some of this gooey deliciousness with a spoon.
  8. Remove puree from blender and add eggs.  Whisk until it’s lighter colored and frothy.
  9. Grate your zucchini.  One large zucchini produces about 2 cups.  Add zucchini to wet mixture.
  10. Combine wet mixture with dry ingredients slowly.  You want to make sure everything is well-dispersed!
  11. Pour into pan until it is about 2/3 full.  If you have extra, either eat the batter or make a couple muffins.  Michael and I taste-tested several times to get it right, then I was able to make three large muffins plus this loaf.
  12. Bake for about 40 minutes.  After about 30 minutes of baking time, cut a couple slit into the center of bread so that inside can cook thoroughly.
  13. Let cool COMPLETELY.  Flip bread pan over and gently ease loaf onto cutting board.  When slicing, cut the loaf in half lengthwise so that each slice of bread is small.  This gluten-free recipe does not contain any thickeners like arrow root or corn starch, so it tends to be delicate and smaller pieces are less likely to crumble!

**Modifications for next time:  My end pieces always get slightly crustier than I would like.  I need to experiment with different ways of buttering the pan/different temps.  Thankfully, my husband hates end pieces anyway, and the other slices were perfect.

review: Sephora Favorites Lash Stash

For someone who’s pretty low-maintenance and can get ready for a date in ten minutes, I have a serious Sephora obsession.  Like Sephora is built into Michael’s and my budget, the way that we account for his record collection.  I mostly fall in love with skincare/perfume products, but every now and then I’ll splurge on makeup.  imageI truly believe that if done intelligently, Sephora doesn’t have to ruin your budget.  For example, I wear mascara about twice a week.  You avid mascara users know that mascara breaks down after 3 months and is actually unsafe to use after that.  So in 3 months, I will only need 24 uses out of one tube, and usually a MINI mascara lasts 3 months for me. If you are a heavy mascara user, obviously it won’t last that long, but still. . .two minis can often be cheaper than one full-sized tube.  Sephora often givse away mascara minis as a 100-point reward, or even offers promo codes where you can get one for free with a $25 purchase.  So if you are going to shop at Sephora for other stuff, time your purchase for when they are doing one of these promotions.photo 2My free mascara supply ran out this month, so I purchased this Lash Stash**.  Sephora releases a Lash Stash once a year and changes their mascara offerings and the packaging, but this is their most generous one to date:  9 mini mascaras, 1 full-sized mascara, one full-sized lash primer, and one mini-sized eye makeup remover.  That translates in Heather time to 2.5 years of mascara, for $45.  Or $1.50/month.  With a set like this (when I’m not trying them all to write a review), I will usually keep some and give the rest to girlfriends, which makes my purchase go farther.

Packaging:  I’ve been on an art deco kick lately, and this box is going to be collaged over, with the pink and gold details showing, of course.  The right side large flap opens up to reveal a gold inside.  I’m thinking this will make a cool jewelry box for a friend once I’ve repurposed it.  The Sephora Favorites sets aren’t usually packaged this nicely, but they are stepping up their game.

Short Take:  For work, I nanny for six different families’ children, plus am my daughter’s primary caretaker (thankfully none of these jobs are simultaneous!).  My days are physically demanding—lots of outside play, running, lifting, and sweating involved.  I’m the most critical person of SHOES and MAKEUP for this reason.  In testing these mascaras, my main concerns were:

  • Does it wear for a long time with no flaking/under-eye dropout?
  • Is it buildable without being clumpy? (good for daily wear and can be layered several times for a date night)
  • Does it have a quick drying time?  (I put my makeup on right before running out the door, and don’t want to have to readjust!)
  • Can it be removed easily (for reference I use Almay waterproof eye makeup remover).

4 of the tubes of mascara wore for a long time and I liked their application (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent, Clinique, and Josie Maran).  The rest were good conceptually but just didn’t work.image

Reviews, L-R:

Sephora Outrageous Curl Mascara:  I didn’t get “outrageous curl,” especially since the wand is just straight across.  This was buildable but only wore on me for 3 hours before flaking onto my cheeks. On the plus side, it came off easily.  Not the worst offender in the set.

Lancome Excessive Black:  I surprisingly loved this.  You only need one coat.  It goes on slightly clumpy unless you rub the wand along the top to get the excess off, but this was the blackest of the bunch (true to its name) and lasted on me for 8 hours, plus still looked good the next morning (yes, I unfortunately often sleep in my makeup).  Unfortunately it was hard to take off, even with several swipes with my waterproof eye makeup remover.  It also made my lashes slightly “pointy,”–think Liza Minelli–but this was fixed by quickly doing a second coat and just separating the lashes a bit.  It made my lashes very long as well, to the point where I couldn’t wear my glasses!  Quick drying time.

Urban Decay Perversion:  I loved the applicator, but that’s about it.  It claims to be very black: “Bigger. Blacker.  Badder.” is the tagline, but I think Urban Decay is just trying to compete with BadGal Benefit Mascara.  Even the mascara wand is designed similarly.  This flaked quite easily after only 2 hours of wear.  Not impressed!

Kat Von D Immortal Lash:  The wand was interesting–spiraled for the outer lashes, and then dense bristles to get the inner corner lashes.  I loved how it made my lashes look initially–separated and very black–but it flaked after just 4 hours.  On the plus side, it was easy to take off.  I think if you have an eyelash primer this would be a good look for a more dramatic eye.

YSL Volume Babydoll Mascara:  This had the same kind of wand as the Sephora Outrageous Curl, but it DID curl my lashes, so go figure.  I’ve always liked YSL mascaras and find that they wear a really long time and come off easily, although usually I have to have a long drying time.  Very black and buildable.  Didn’t clump!

Benefit They’re Real!:  I’ve gotten this sample before and hate it.  It looks fairly natural and separates lashes well, but I always get major flaking and end up looking like I have a black eye.  Don’t get the hype.image

Buxom Mascara (from Bare Escentuals, of Bare Minerals fame):  This was also a big surprise to me. Good separation, buildable, and lasted 8 hours without flaking and even into the next morning.  But very long drying time–4 minutes.  On the plus side, it came off like butter with two swipes of my eyemakeup remover.  This one is a keeper.

Josie Maran Black Oil Mascara:  I love anything Josie Maran–even put her Argan Oil on Lucy to treat eczema.  (I get the oils for free because of Sephora’s perks!)  I don’t know how to say this, but my lashes looked MOISTURIZED, and I don’t think it was psychosomatic!  I was able to do several layers without it being clumpy, and it came off more easily than the other mascaras.  LONG drying time though, and flaked after 6 hours.  Then again, I was rough on my eyes that day.  I’ll probably keep using this one.  Very black!

Smashbox Full Exposure Mascara:  Smashbox was the only makeup I chose for my wedding day, so I TRIED to like this but it was a no-go.  Non-clumpy, but flakes super easily.  Like after 2 hours.

Clinique High Impact Mascara & Primer:  I’ve tried this mascara on its own and have been underwhelmed—it flakes like crazy and takes forever to dry.  The primer changes EVERYTHING.  This was my favorite mascara out of the entire set, which is odd considering I hate Clinique mascaras.  The primer is white and dries very quickly, and then one swipe of the mascara, 30 seconds of drying time, and it will last for 24 hours.  And come off easily.  I put this one in bold because it’s the holy grail of mascaras—lengthening, buildable, very black. . .give it a try, but not without the primer!  I might even try the other “duds” in this set with the primer and see if they become better.photo 1

The Sephora eyemakeup remover is nothing to write home about.  It does the job but takes longer than my Almay wipes, despite being for waterproof mascara.  I’ll probably just take it on trips.  So how about you?  What are your favorite mascaras?  Sound off in the comments!

**In an effort to be honest and maintain this blog as a hobby, I do NOT do sponsored posts.  All my opinions/reviews are unsolicited.

healthy gluten-free pumpkin sugar-free zucchini agave brown-butter baked bread with. . .

Crotchety old lady time: is it just me, or have recipe titles gone haywire?  By the time I get to the “with” part of recipes, I’m gasping for air and wondering WILL I HAVE ANY FOOD LEFT IN MY KITCHEN IF I MAKE THIS?  and SHOULD I HAVE DONE A MASTER’S THESIS ON THE COMPLEXITY OF RECIPE SYSTEMS?  Here are some real-life examples.  These aren’t even the worst offenders because I threw away/stopped following the worst offenders.

  1. Spiced Sweet Potato and Roasted Broccoli Toasts (know how to make toast, roast broccoli, and add spices to sweet potato?  You got it!)
  2. Spicy Lime-Ginger Grilled Shrimp (No, Lime-Ginger is not some mysterious hybrid.  To make recipes look shorter, cooks have started adding hyphens.  This recipe requires you to marinate shrimp in lime, ginger, and spices, and grill it.)
  3. Asian Glazed Salmon with Roasted Broccoli and Asparagus (Asian-glazed, or is the salmon Asian?  Again, the problem of too many words. . .)
  4. Aleppo Pepper-Roasted Pork with Shallot Vinagrete
  5. Strawberry-Brown Butter Banana Bread (again with the hyphen?)

Recipes are like old friends.  My brownie recipe has been re-written and folded over and over, and passed around to various people.  OK. . .maybe like slutty friends.  It has a butter smear on it, a speck of vanilla and, of course, a couple drops of chocolate.  But you know what it’s called?  “Heather’s Brownie Recipe,” just like Betty Crocker used to name them.  Don’t you miss the chance of reading a recipe like a delicious secret that’s going to unfold before you?  For example, Recipe #1 above could be titled “Vegetable Toasts” or “Sweet Potato and Broccoli on Toast,” and then you would read on and find out how everything is spiced, and roasted (ooh, yay, roasted!) and that not just any kind of toast will do.  I’m much more likely to read someone’s recipe if I can’t figure out how to make it from the title.  Then the ingredients/how to lists read like a mystery I can’t wait to dive into.

Pet peeve #2:  Jane Austen said “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”  This always convicts me because I try to be too agreeable, but that’s another blog post.  Recipes can be too agreeable, especially when they are labeled “healthy.”  Healthy is such a relative term.  It’s so agreeable.  It’s the new kale of the culinary world, right up there with aleppo pepper.  I’m pretty sure fatty foods are not healthy for people with cholesterol problems, and even desserts heavy in fruit sugar are not good for severe diabetics, and banana nut muffins aren’t healthy for people with nut allergies, etc.  “Healthy” has become a marketing tool.  Let’s all agree that anything with lots of unprocessed ingredients is better than the McDonald’s egg sandwich and large coffee I had yesterday for breakfast, mmmmmkay?

Pet peeve #3 with recipe writing: when foodies wax philosophic in a really weird way.  Like one food blogger who shall remain nameless compared a dead friend to spiced meat, because this friend had the spice of life too.  Not. Kidding.  The post was really about the friend but the blogger had ten photos of this dish, complete with a full recipe.  I want that to be my legacy: “Heather was hearty and comforting, just like these Healthy Slow-Cooker Parmesan-Aleppo Pepper Chicken Dumplings, which you should TOTALLY try this weekend.”  Americans are one of the few cultural groups who can elevate a necessity like eating into an art form, while so many people lack access to food and water.  Let’s not add insult to injury by making recipes poetic.  Complex dishes are a privilege, fun to eat, and fun to share.  That’s about it.

And in conclusion, it does NOT say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty. . .sorry, I can’t say “In conclusion” without hearing Cher’s voice in my head.  But in conclusion, I will be posting a recipe for Pumpkin Zucchini Bread soon.  It’s gluten-free, has browned butter and all those other lovely things.  But it’s a recipe worth reading!