I cook like Olivia Pope.

Yes, you read that right.

I am a single woman. I live alone. And, while I love to cook, sometimes it’s just too much. With just me in the house, some nights the production of dinner-making is taking up time that could be spent … well … on just about anything else. So, that’s what I’m saying. I get her, Olivia Pope. Popcorn and wine is not a lie.

More often, for me, it’s popcorn and herbal tea. Sometimes popcorn and ginger ale. But you get the idea.

I’ve gone through many popper styles — electric, air, microwave. But the best is made on the stove.

I used to have this old-school beauty:

This is the Wabash Valley Farms™ Original Whirley Pop™ Stovetop Popcorn Popper (they clearly needed to use the word “pop” at least one more time). I loved it. And I used it so much, I wore it out. Now I just use an old stock pot. It’s not as fun as turning the crank, but it definitely gets the job done.

It gets the job done because it’s popcorn, and it’s really not that serious … except that, maybe it is. If you fire up the Google, you will, in fact, get 47,900,000 hits for “how to make popcorn.” Really. Nearly 48 million hits. But sadly, only 3,400,000 returns for “how to make caramel popcorn.” Why so few? How are we living, people? Surely, caramel corn should play a larger role in our lives. And the results tumble down from there. Only 1,880,000 for kettle corn.

So yes, all of this is quite silly. But it’s also reminding me of popcorn balls (7,040,000 hits!), specifically, the popcorn balls my grandmother used to make. She didn’t make them often, so they were an extra especial treat. And they seemed like magic. No one else ever had them, and I never actually saw how she made them, so they just seemed to become … there’d be a big bowl of popcorn, and then <snap of fingers> there’d be popcorn balls! She was a kitchen magician.

And now I have my pick of recipes, and I might have to give them a try.

Um …

But not tonight. If I can’t work up the gumption to boil some pasta and throw on some bottled sauce, am I really going to take on the decadent extravagance of popcorn balls?! I think not.

I am more likely to go on the hunt for the Brooklyn Popcorn truck!


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge — posting a little bit of something every day in March!

Go check out the hundreds of slicers over at Two Writing Teachers!

Eve had her apple …

… so did Snow White. And so do I.

I am allergic to apples. I have been forever. I love apples. What’s not to love about them? Their crispness is a delight. Their juice is so sweet. They’re so good with cheese. They’re so good with peanut butter. They make excellent PIE.

They also make my lips swell and my gums burn and my jaw ache.

It’s not just apples. The list is long: carrots, cherries, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, hazelnuts, walnuts, figs, apricots, green beans. Yes. Some of these are worse than others. Cherries are particularly painful. Walnuts make it hard for me to breathe. And some things have fallen off the list. I used to be allergic to almonds, but that seems to have faded. I eat almonds now without pain and suffering or anaphylactic shock.

Thank heavens this allergy doesn’t extend to watermelon, pomegranates, and mangoes!

I respect my allergy, but come on — we’re talking about apples, peaches, nectarines, plums … am I really expected to never eat them? That would just be cruel. So I continue to eat most of the things on that list, just in as much moderation as I can manage. (And I have an epi-pen prescription.)

Tonight I learned, for the first time, where all this itchy swelling comes from. Apparently — well, according to this totally random website that I’ve backed up with zero research — I am allergic to birch pollen, and I have Oral Allergy Syndrome! Who knew? I just thought I was an unfortunate freak who couldn’t eat a bunch of delicious things unless she was prepared to suffer.

How do I know it’s birch pollen, you ask? Because there’s a handy chart that lists the foods connected to the various allergens:


Happily, I’m not allergic to all the foods listed in the birch/alder category … and praise be that I’m not allergic to ragweed or mugwort! It’s interesting to me that strawberries and peanuts are on the birch/alder list. Whenever people learn that I’m allergic to apples, they always ask if I’m allergic to peanuts and strawberries. I’m not (just knocked wood). And, allergic to spices? That has to suck. Maybe almost as bad as an allergy to apples.

It’s Slice-of-Life Tuesday! Click on the badge to visit Two Writing Teachers and see what the other slicers are writing today!

Heaven on the Vine

Today is National Watermelon Day. No, really.
Who knew?
So, in honor of this, here’s a watermelon story from my June trip to Florida for VONA: There were a lot of different camps happening at the University of Miami while the writing workshops were in session. Ballet camp, football camp, etc. So we were often surrounded by kids when we were in the dining hall. One morning, I saw a tall, slender, bored-looking, blond girl at the salad bar filling an enormous bowl with watermelon (in other words, doing exactly what I was approaching the salad bar to do!). I smiled and told her she was a girl after my own heart because I so love watermelon. Her whole demeanor changed. She smiled and laughed and told me that she is from Serbia and how her mother always teases her because all she ever wants to eat is watermelon. She will spend her last money to buy the biggest one to bring home, just for herself (definitely sounding a lot like me), and her mother will ask her how she expects to eat such a huge melon herself, and she always just says, “Watch me!” I’m telling you, it was as if I was talking to myself!
And here’s a roundup of watermelon things I’ve had to say on this blog:
Source: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

(I don’t know why the spacing is off in this post, why I can’t get a blank line between paragraphs. I’ve messed with it for more than half an hour, and I now officially give up. Feh.)

Not exactly ready for my close-up, but …

In Providence, there is a restaurant called Haven Brothers.  I had a burger there a couple of years ago.  How could I resist such a funny little place?  And that burger was excellent.  Thursday night, I went back after setting up for the conference.  I wanted the quick, easy comfort of a burger and fries.  I walked in, read the menu for a minute, placed my order (murder burger, no lettuce, no mushrooms) and turned around to find this guy:

How could I have stood for even a second in such a tiny space and not have noticed that movie camera?  In any case, this is Jeff, and he’s making a documentary about Haven Brothers.  He wanted to interview me, so I let him.  Silly, really, since that was only my second visit.  And, too, I was so tired I was practically brain dead.  I gave him all kinds of wacky answers.  Maybe the best one was when he asked me to describe Haven Brothers to someone who’d never been there.  I said something like: “It’s everything you like about your favorite taco trucks rolled into one little sit-down place. On wheels.”  What?  But I think I stand by that one.

I have a feeling my interview might just wind up on the cutting room floor … If not, I’ll be the sleepy-eyed woman in the black velvet coat talking about taco trucks and burgers!


I haven’t quite recovered from my trip north, still want to sleep for about 27 hours.  I’ll get back to richer posts when I’ve gotten some rest.  In the mean time, see the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.

The Island of Lost SOLs: Kitchen Magic

Heh.  My computer hasn’t been playing nice with me lately: freezing in the middle of things, announcing that it is infected by some evil malware.  The result, aside from my utter frustration, is that I couldn’t get my SOLs posted for the last part of the Slice of Life challenge. Fox, in her online savviness, found a DIY article about the exact malware that’s hobbled me.  Last night I bought an external hard drive, and tonight I’m taking all my writing, music and photos off the computer and attempting to erase the badness.  (If that doesn’t work, there’s still the Geek Squad at Best Buy.)  It’s weeks now that I’m sans computer.  I have my mini, but it’s just so small to be an every day machine.  My big hands want a full-sized keyboard.  My aging eyes want a bigger screen.  Churning out grant proposals on this little machine made me tired.  But I’ve decided to stop whining.  I have a working computer, so I’m using it.  I missed the last weeks of the Slice of Life challenge, and I refuse to miss my month of poetry.

But what to do with all the SOLs I wrote in the last half of March but never got to post?  I like some of them.  A lot.  So, giving in to my love of the silly blog post title, I’m going to put them up over the next few weeks under the perfect-perfect heading: Island of Lost SOLs.

Here’s Lost SOL #1 from March 21st:

And the kitchen magic?  Well, actually just cooking.  The real magic of today is that we somehow managed to get all three proposals out the door with only an hour to spare before the deadline and got them all submitted.  I still can’t quite believe it.  If not for Mopsy and my boss, it would never have happened.

So, after more than a week of not enough sleep and almost no time off (Back to back weekends in the office is a bad plan, people. Learn from the error of my ways!), I came home tonight and … worked.  I am tired enough to just have walked in the door and gone to sleep, but instead I decided I needed to make some soup and do some baking.  Cooking always makes me feel better.  And not just because I like to eat.  I really like making stuff.  And baking … baking is all that times 10.  So, even on a night like tonight, cooking was a kind of relaxation therapy.

What was on the menu tonight? Baked Winter Squash Soup and whole wheat rolls.  This time I took pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have recently felt the urge to bake yeast bread.  I bake relatively often, but I’m queen of the quick breads, the ones that require baking powder or soda, not yeast.  I made a spicy loaf of white bread a couple of weeks ago (really: it had cayenne in it!).  As I was kneading the dough, I realized I hadn’t made yeast bread maybe since I was a teenager, still living at home.  My mom was the bread baker.  She used to make several loaves of delicious whole wheat bread a week — the family supply.  I baked a little then, but never felt any pressing urge to do it.  That was my mom’s territory.  Then Fox started baking, and she was really good at it, so bread baking became her territory, too.  Fear not, I had some territory of my own — lasagne, in particular, macaroni and cheese more recently.  And I like quick breads, but they aren’t the same as the yeast ones.

With both Fox and my mom living three states away, I figure it’s high time for me to step into the territory I ceded to them so many years ago.  And, while I’m not sure where the bread-baking yen has come from, I’m enojoying both the process and the yummy results!

Thick dough yielding under my hands
minute after minute, again.
Smell of yeast is a memory —
my mother and sister knew how,
knew this quiet ritual. Now
that knowledge comes at last to me.
My house smells like family, like love
steam from fresh loaves rising above
warming my face with history.



My eyes need
something easy
come rest yourself
by here

— Ruth Forman

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the day’s slices at Two Writing Teachers!

Love Affair

… with Google.  Really. It’s me and the internets, our initials carved in some innocent, unsuspecting tree.

On my way home tonight, thinking about what to have for dinner that could carry over to lunch tomorrow. I wanted to do something with lentils. Oh, what about those carrots and the rest of that flat-leaf parsley?  And wouldn’t I like some bacon (because everything is better with bacon, n’est-ce pas¹)?  What on earth can I make with all of that?  I’m sure there’s nothing.


Typed that laundry list into Google and found half a dozen excellent-sounding recipes!  I always forget about this option until I reach a point of desperation (read: when I’m too tired to think and can’t bear the thought of lifting a cookbook and searching).

I went with the straight-to-the-point “Lentils-n-Bacon.” All those ingredients plus thyme, onion, garlic and pepper, a few alterations that I thought of in process … et voilà²: a yummy-like-nobody’s-business dinner!

There are plenty of things I don’t love about my new paramour, but I can’t think of any of them tonight!  What dining delights has Google revealed to you?

Check out the rest of today’s delicious slices at Two Writing Teachers!

¹ Ok, what was that?  I pretty much never randomly insert other languages into my posts.
² Clearly I am over-tired.

My Sweet Lord

When I first started teaching, I was surprised by a recurring set of questions from my students.  How old was I?  Was I married?  Did I have any children?  Why did I smile so much?  Did I believe in God?

I’ve been teaching for a lot of years now, but the questions haven’t changed.  The God question has always been an interesting one for me.  I don’t really want to discuss my religious beliefs — or lack of them — with my students, but  I want them to feel free to ask their questions.  Where’s my happy medium?

Aren’t there watermelons?

Yes, that’s right: as with most difficult questions, good food is the answer.  My students ask if I believe in God.  I say, “How can you ask that question?  Aren’t there watermelons?  Aren’t there mangoes?  Aren’t there pomegranates?”

Because mangoes, watermelons and pomegranates are, of course, the three fruit proofs of the existence of God.  I’m sorry.  Didn’t you know?  How can anyone doubt the existence of a higher power when there are watermelons in the world? 

My students, understandably, never quite know what to make of my answer.  Maybe I’m mocking them with a silly response, or maybe I’m nuts.  Maybe I’ve just said that I do believe in God, maybe I haven’t really said anything.  It works for me.

And the three fruit proofs idea works for me, too.  If mangoes aren’t manna from heaven, I don’t know what is.

Then yesterday, WordPress highlighted a little foretaste of paradise in the form of mango mousse.  Yes.  Ms. Chef It Yourself  has shared this fruity pleasure and totally made my day.  Can’t wait to try it.  Existence of God, you ask?  Just put a spoonful of this treat in your mouth and try to deny it!