Unrepentant Bibliophile

Books have been a part of my life since the beginning.

As a child, the public library was always my “happy place,” where I would go for socializing and for fun.

Books provided friendship, escape, knowledge, peace.  I gathered libraries for myself in my room, checked out tall stacks every week.

When I was old enough to pick out a university, I chose the one I did largely because of it’s fantastic, beautiful library.  It was built like a cathedral to knowledge, with stained glass windows and a giant, leather covered, metal studded door.  Come to think of it, I should have spent a lot more time in that reading room.

I met my wisest kendo teacher in the undergraduate library at that same school.  If you happen upon this, Bolling Sensei, I hope you may understand someday what you gave me.

Libraries are places of hidden treasures, ready to be uncovered with a watchful eye.  As I gather facts, I feel like a squirrel gathering nuts against winter’s chill.

When I got my first house, I looked forward to gathering a fantastic library.  I made a good start of it then had to give up almost every book when I had to move five years later…

…it left a hole in my heart, of a size I’ve barely begun to fathom.

I collected ebooks, bought a reader.  It helped.  I wanted a library small enough to fit into someone’s prosthetic leg.  I still have that reader, old as it is.

Two more moves.  Heartache, saving, worrying, and then the break came.  A better job, a very kind offer from my folks, and finally a new home.

As I looked at my fledgling library tonight, I felt a sense of peace and wellbeing come over me that I’ve not felt in quite some time.  At first, I hardly recognized it.  Then I knew I had to share it.  It was the feeling of being around books again.

I was truly home in a way I’ve not been in far too long.

Viva books!

Meditations on an ice cream scoop…and moose poop.

If I’m going to have dessert, I’m going to go all the way.  I don’t have to have a lot if it’s really high quality stuff.  So I find myself scooping out two bowls of Moose Tracks ice cream, into cute little blue and white porcelain Happy Neko bowls from Japan.  The scoop is sturdy, fits well into my hand, carves out the creamy goodness with ease, and never bends.

I think it cost five dollars and I’ve had it for years.

I consider how I have been before.  Whyever would I need an ice cream scoop?  I had a spoon, after all, and so what if it bent?  I could always bend it back.  Never mind the frustration and sticky mess caused by it almost every time.  What a way to begin a dessert.

So I’ve got my scoop.  As I wash it and put it in the drainer, I think about how the difference between an easy time and a hard time can be traced to one right tool or perhaps a right technique.  It’s not about skill, though that helps, or even money.  My scoop was cheap.  But it makes a big difference.

The spouse won’t call Moose Tracks Ice Cream by its right name, because it reminds her of moose poop.  It’s a nasty thing to be reminded of when you’re all warm and happy

from a good meal.

We decided to call it Denali ice cream instead.  That way it can be glacial boulders on clean snow.  No large, aquatic, messy moose needed.  Did you know that moose can get most of their food from water weeds during the summer time, and even dive for them like large ungainly antlered ducks?  Little moose are often frightened to try and often require persuasion.  Go look it up if you want a good laugh.

And here’s to well made ice cream, in moderate quantities, easily served into pretty bowls with a proper scoop.

 

Recipe for Simple Grilled Mackerel

Blue mackerel, cleaned and headless (can use clouded mackerel, Norwegian, etc)

Mushrooms

Kosher salt, black pepper

Heavy duty aluminum foil

Chop mushrooms finely, mix with salt and pepper.  Pack mixture into fish cavity.  Wrap each fish into a foil packet, sealing well at the edges.

Preheat grill to cooking temp.

Set packets on heat, medium works well, and close lid.  Open after five to ten minutes and flip.  Close lid again, cook for another five to ten minutes.  Test temperature according to your preferences, let rest for another ten minutes before unwrapping.

Serve on bed of rice with soy sauce.  Be careful not to swallow any bones.

 

Sunday Morning

It’s quiet, just the way I like it.  I wake up a bit late, maybe a half hour after I wanted, but I don’t worry too much because it’s Sunday after all.  I dodge cats all the way though morning routine – fluid exchange, shower, brushing hair, dressing.  Shinji, my 15 year old Siamese mix, plays his usual game of getting in my way, cris-crossing my path and then running away when I try to pet him.  Silly boy.  I’m glad he’s still capering like a much younger cat.  He was a rescue, his Other Mom died about a year ago.  It took him months to get over his depression.  Amazing how many people still think cats don’t love!

My slightly younger cat, a fine 12 year old queen calico, greets me out in the living room.  Everything is still a little chaotic this soon after my move and the house is still rather empty in certain places and cluttered in others, with painting supplies and tools on the bread making counter and paint cans scattered hither and yon.  Everything will come together, I know.

Eventually I say goodbye to the spouse and make it out of the house.  The morning is still fresh and new.  I back out of my steep driveway, careful to watch and avoid the parents having a morning walk, little kids attached by the oldest leash of all – their hands.  I smile at the pink clad youngsters.  Nice to see people being outside, just to be outside.  I pull out and head to my first grocery stop, gritting my teeth as I pass over the one mile of potholed road that bears little resemblance to a proper city street.  It smooths out just as I get to the store.

The aisles are quiet and the employees are fresh.  I catch a yawn or two.  I love being here at this time, when everything is new and organized and I don’t have to fight for my position in the aisles.  I start playing my favorite bargain game.  Recalling what other stores charge for things, I buy, or don’t buy, crossing things off my list as I go.  This can of chili?  There’s a screaming deal, I’ll buy extra to put by.  That condiment?  Stuff must be made of hand picked saffron for the price they charge.  I’ll get it at store number two.  And so on.  I get out of there with a total that’s way under budget.  There’s only one cashier, at the express line no less, and my cart is way over 15 items.  I chat with her as I help her get things moved through quickly.

On to the second store, where I pick up the things I passed over at the first.  I see a firefighter buying massive quantities of beans, I chat with him as I pick out my diced tomatoes.  Fresh salsa is in the offing, traditional Shaw family Scottish salsa.  Scottish salsa, you say?  Aye, and we used ta make it with onions and turrrnips, but t’was improved greatly after the New World was discovered.  Last minute, I remember the cilantro.  Can’t have good salsa without fresh cilantro.

I come out of the store smiling, still under budget.  It’s a lovely sunny morning.  An acoustic version of “Who’ll Stop The Rean?” comes on the car radio.  I answer the question – nobody stops it, you have to move away from it.  I pull into the drive and commence stocking the pantry, gently shooing cats out of the way, breakfast burritos on the brain.

 

Shaw Family Salsa Recipe

6-8 pickled jalapenos

1 large can diced tomatoes

1/2 small red onion

1 handful fresh cilantro

6 cloves garlic, peeled

Salt to taste

Plenty of Cumin

 

Blend thoroughly, can store in fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Voyage into Suburbia – and bonus recipe!

I’ve bounced around a lot, lived in plenty of different places so far.  I’ve lived in small towns, in huge cities, in a cabin deep in the woods, in a tent in the desert, on an Indian reservation (what they themselves called it, by the way), in a trailer at a trailer park, at a small airport, in college dorms, in apartments both good and bad.

Now I embark on the strangest journey of all.

I recently moved into the suburbs.

It’s a strange world of single family houses, personal mail boxes, polite neighbors, friendly cashiers at the grocery store, remodeling, painting, grilling on weekends, commuting to work, pool care.  Dogs being walked on leashes, people going on jogs voluntarily, kids playing in yards.

Of course I’ve seen many of these elements before but having them all together is quite amazing.

Home Depot and Lowe’s have never been quite so exciting.  With my intrepid spouse at my side, we plan what we will do with our house, and how to make it a home.  We think about painting the living room white and hanging black curtains, or turning it into a small dojo.  We plan our study and our art studio.  We set up our kitchen and actually choose a decorating theme.  We fret over the HORRIBLE colors of paint the last owners put up, and wonder how any sane person could actually like those shades of dirt-green, off-white and off-pink.  We worry about yellow algae in the pool and termites in the beams.  We celebrate every time I manage to grill a good piece of meat.  We have no landlords, no surprise inspections, and no neighbors sharing our walls.  There’s breathing room.  And huge lizards in the shed, and dragonflies skimming over the pool in the morning.

There’s moonlit nights and there’s quiet inside our brick walls.  There’s peace in our hearts.  This isn’t an end to worry, or to trouble, but it’s a different world than I’ve ever known before.

As a reward for reading all this, I’ll give you something.

If you like corn at all, you owe it to yourself to try it grilled.   I haven’t been much of a corn fan but was shocked when I tried it.  I’ve never tasted corn that was so sweet and flavorful!  Here’s my simple recipe.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

You will need:

Corn on the cob, out of the husk and silk picked off

Butter or margarine

Freshly cracked black pepper

Sea salt or kosher salt

Aluminum foil – approximately a square foot for each ear

A grill – gas, charcoal, yours, a friend’s, whatever you can find

Here’s what you do.

Lay out your foil, shiny side up.

Spread butter on the corn, lay it on the foil.

Sprinkle on salt and pepper.

Roll corn up in the foil and close the ends.

Roast on the grill for about twenty minutes.  You can put it on indirect heat next to your main dish if you want.  Turn a couple of times.

Carefully unwrap the corn and eat.  You’ll find that it’s juicy, sweet, and the heat really brings out the flavors.  Enjoy!

 

august sky 1000.JPG