family


What’s this “we” stuff? Well, even though I primarily mean that this blog has moved (to suzancolon.net), I still think of all of you coming with me. I hope! I mean, I don’t really want to be writing into the ether (hello… hello… hello…). After all, in space, no one can hear you blog.

So if you’ve bookmarked this address, un-mark and come on over to suzancolon.net and click on “Blog.” There you’ll find me doing my usual thing: writing about food; sighing over the good ol’ days with my Nana and Grandpa, when life seemed far less complicated; doing more talking about running than actually running; and kvetching about my occasional “feh” mood.

Good times.

Please come visit soon!
xx,
Suzan

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Last night, I went into the kitchen and saw this:

And I thought: Wow, The Hubbins really, really wanted pizza for dinner. Then I looked a little closer and saw this:

Gasp! I gasped. It’s matzoh time! But this is no ordinary matzoh: This is special matzoh that The Hubbins has to get from a special place, where the matzoh is very carefully handmade. It’s extremely crispy and fresh, and TH always makes sure to get several boxes (as you can see) because once Passover is, well, over, so’s the special non-bread of the holiday. No mas matzoh.

As I mentioned in Cherries in Winter, The Hubbins and I love and respect all spiritual traditions, and we especially love all food that goes with spiritual and religious holidays. During this season, we’ll be enjoying lamb for Easter (a little early, as I have to test a recipe for one of the additional chapters for the paperback edition of CIW), and we’ll be enjoying our Passover matzoh. Here’s me enjoying some:

If you can’t get your hands on some hand-made matzoh, another way to try the conventional supermarket type is in spinach matzoh pie. Here’s a great recipe I made last year, and here’s a vegan variation on that same recipe, because why not?

And I think I’ll go enjoy some of of that matzoh again right now.

No more baking this week! I have to write!

Sorry no post yesterday, and it wasn’t just because I was overcome with advance excitement about Jamie Oliver’s new Food Revolution miniseries. Although certainly I could pull a near faint over this. I heart Jamie, I heart his Food Revolution cookbook major (the salmon stir-fry last night: to die for), I heart that he’s trying to save America’s unhealthiest not by making them diet but by asking (politely, because he’s British, after all) to eat real food. This six-episode series will definitely be more popular in this non-Nielsen-rated household than The Biggest Loser fer sher.

But no, that’s not why I’ve been slow to post, and will be for the next few days. As I mentioned, I’m trying to write additional chapters (with recipes containing real food that Jamie Oliver would probably approve of) for the paperback version of Cherries in Winter. What was the key word in that last overlong sentence? “Trying.” As your mother may have told you once or twice, “trying” and “doing” are “two” different things. Perhaps she didn’t put the air quotes around “two,” but I think you get the point of my message.

So, beloved visitors–and I do heart each and every one of all ten of you–I’m going to be a little quiet for the next few days as I try to go from “trying” to actually “doing” or, just for a change, “writing.” I will check in so you know I’m alive, but please lower your expectations for a new essay or banana bread recipe. To tide you over, look up the previous banana bread recipe and add two heaping tablespoons of unsweetened baking cocoa to it for a mocha-cocoa-loco banana bread.

Okay, back to work for me! After all, I’m trying…

I’m supposed to be writing additional chapters for the paperback version of Cherries in Winter, which will be out in mid-October. However, I’ve been doing everything but that, and I can’t even blame it on procrastination, the only sport at which writers excel.

No, this is plain old garden variety interruption. During the Nor’easter, we mopped our leaky living room constantly. Post-storm, the flooded basement had to be cleaned out, which required several visits from the man with the water extractor. And each time, guess who had to let him in? Me, otherwise known as Ethel Mertz.

Then there’s a dog to be walked, mud from the dog walk to be cleaned up, laundry to be done, a Hubbins to be fed (thank you again, Jamie Oliver, for the kedgeree recipe). All this with an hour gone thanks to daylight savings time, the point of which is lost on me and the entire state of Arizona, which refuses to recognize it. I got so miffed and frustrated I almost went right back into my “feh” state, despite the sun shining for the first time since our four days of nearly Biblical rains.

I was driven to pick up my copy of The Merry Recluse, a compilation of essays by Caroline Knapp. She was one of my favorite writers–she was witty while being very truthful, and she had a profound impact on my desire to write memoir and non-fiction essays. (That, and the fact that burnt toast writes fiction better than I do. You’ll see when I post my unpublished novel, one page at a time, this summer.)

I randomly opened The Merry Recluse to a list of things Caroline hated. One of them was errands: “Don’t you feel sometimes as though life is simply the stuff that happens during the few small spaces when you’re not doing errands?” she wrote. Another was returning stuff you get from catalogues–which begat another errand. “It is disappointing enough to order something from a catalogue and have it fail on you (wrong size, wrong color, bad fabric), but then you have to repackage the whole thing, schlep it to the post office, and pay to have it shipped back, which not only adds insult to injury but also involves an errand.” And then Caroline hit the nail on the head with my favorite F-word: “Feh.” No wonder the woman is one of my literary heroes.

I’ll admit that this is the first time I’ve opened The Merry Recluse in the several years I’ve had it, even though Caroline is one of my favorite writers and inspirations. She died in May of 2002 of cancer, and, knowing that not much more of her work would be forthcoming, I’ve been hoarding this collection of her essays.

Until now, that is, when I’m being driven mad by errands, when all I want to do is utter “Feh” with the same gusto as Caroline Knapp did in her heyday. If I can’t write because of all the stuff that’s going on around me, I can read what she wrote in between the errands.

Three weeks ago, The Hubbins and I adopted a Bella, a beagle who’d been abandoned in Tennessee. Around that time, I was hell-bent on adopting a dog, and our experience with our neighbors’ beagle, the petite and charming Isabel, prompted me to find a pup of almost the same size, temperament, and even name. Holy doppelganger, Batman.

I can’t even remember why I needed to get a dog so badly, especially now, when actually having one has almost driven me crazy. Not that Bella makes me insane; she’s a very well-behaved dog. But I’m used to having cats, among the lowest-maintenance creatures on the planet. You open the can, they eat, and then they sleep for the rest of the day–until the other can is opened. Then they rub up against you, purr, and go back to sleep.

The dog, though, required almost constant maintenance at first. Where was she? What was she chewing/eating/destroying? Did she know that we were going outside for a reason other than stretching her beagle bones and taking in the air? Did she understand my point about rugs being decorative and not functional (ie, a rather large beige toilet)? Did she realize that I was begrudging her chicken bones because they might cause her serious internal damage, and not because I was just being a puppy party pooper? She most definitely not get the fact that whatever she found on the street was edible. She looked very confused when I repeatedly pulled whatever thing–sometimes identifiable as food, sometimes completely unidentifiable–out of her mouth.

And yet, three weeks and many walks later, I’m slowly learning that Bella is a teacher. While I’m busy rehashing the past, chewing it the way Bella attacks her Nylabone, and forecasting the future with nearly zero accuracy, Bella is very much in the moment. She brings me back to the present, this little flappy-eared Eckhart Tolle, by snacking on street yucks; either I pay attention, or I pay for a trip to the vet for emergency chicken bone extraction.

Unlike me, Bella does not spend her days fretting. Witness a week in the life of a beagle:

Striking a glam pose.

Monday.

"I refuse to give up all worldly possessions. I am a beagle, not a monk."

Tuesday.


"'Cat' bed, you say? Not when there's a dog in it. Then it's a 'dog' bed. Specifically, my bed."

Wednesday.

You get the picture(s). It looks like this for a few hours a day in between walks every day.

I’m trying to take a cue from this Zen master, who seems to have only a few desires in life–kibble, toys, a couch, and to walk without me pulling on her and constantly saying, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” Go where? That’s what I realized this morning: If I’m walking Bella (or, to be more accurate, she’s walking me), is that not her walk, her time, on her terms? Where is it that I need to go? If she wants to stop and sniff the pee on the roses, shouldn’t I let her?

So, I’m learning from my little tri-color teacher. Zen master or not, though, I’m drawing the line at those chicken bones.

Last night, I joined my first Cherries in Winter book group discussion with The Beach Babes of Akron, Ohio (not Baltimore, as previously reported–my bad). Due to the high cost of travel and my low level of glamor, I wasn’t able to be there in person, so the Babes and I did the next best thing: We video-called each other on Skype.

I know, I’m having my own little Oprah moment similar to when she did a whole show on that crazy, newfangled Twitter thing. I’m a little behind with Skype, as was evidenced by the hour or so it took me to figure out how to do it. Even my Dad was like, “You don’t have Skype yet? I’ve been Skype-ing with your brother for months now!” I know I need to do some major catching up when my father is more geek-savvy than I am. Then again, Dad’s no dope, and I’m so tech-know anemic I could be Amish. I think I’d look great in one of those bonnets.

This could be me! Then I'd work in Reading Terminal Market and eat apple dumplings for lunch every day.

The point is that I had a great time with the Beach Babes, and not just because they were talking about my book. It was so cool to “be” there with them as they described the dinner they’d had, a chicken meatloaf adapted from Mom’s Meatloaf recipe in the book. We talked about where we lived, the idea of instilling financial responsibility in kids from an early age, the difference between thinking one deserves something and the good feeling of earning it… You know, life.

So, thanks to a slightly vexing but ultimately cool online video calling site, I got to spend an hour with a group of awesome women in another part of the country. Many thanks to Lory and the rest of the Beach Babes for asking me to join in their discussion of Cherries in Winter and for reading it in the first place, and to Skype for making it possible. (That’s just props, not a plug.)

If you have a book group that’s reading Cherries in Winter, I’d be happy to Skype my way in to your discussion. But only if you want me to.

I was thinking about Nana this morning. She was so self-possessed; she really knew herself, was comfortable in her own skin, made decisions and stuck with them because she knew her truth. She wasn’t wishy-washy and limp-noodle-y like I am. I aspire to be the kind of woman Nana was–mature, honest, right with herself.

Lately I’ve been in a funk (of my own making; nobody to blame but myself), and frankly I’m sick of trying to turn my frown upside down. Another beautifully self-possessed woman I know, Amy Gross, my former editor in chief at O, the Oprah Magazine, had a saying: “Fix it or forget it.” I’m in the process of fixing what’s ailing me, but it takes time. And in that time, I need to be honest with myself. I’m not in a great mood, and I may not be for the next week or so.

I’m not taking it out on The Hubbins–he works too long and hard during the day to come home to a wife who has the corners of her mouth turned down all hag-like. Any cheer I can muster is channelled into the hours that The Hubbins is home and awake. He’ll come home to a smiling wife, chicken fajitas for dinner (thank you again, Jamie Oliver and your amazing Food Revolution cookbook), and we can watch whatever he wants to watch on TV.

But during the day, I have to be honest with myself: I’m feeling “feh,” and I want to own my “feh” mood. I’m just going to feel my “feh” so it can work its way through my system like a bug, and then I won’t explode five years from now. I heart giving myself permission to do this, and here’s how I’m doing it:

9 Tips for Owning Your “Feh” Mood

Caveat: For those of you who wish to get out of an icky, “off,” funky mood, please pick up any women’s magazine for suggestions. This article is intended strictly as a guide for your care and maintenance while you go through a funk.

1. First, assess. Is this, in fact, a “feh” period, or is it something more serious? Use my handy “5, 5, or 5” guide, which is not recommended by any medical association: If you’ve been feeling kind of low for about five hours or five days, this is just a funk. If it’s been going on for five years or more, this is likely not a funk but a serious depression for which you should seek professional help.

2. Stay comfortable. Once you’ve ascertained that this is, in fact, a mere funk, there is no need to progress from pajamas to street clothes.

3. To shower or not to shower? The funk-afflicted can find getting clean to be a Herculean effort. When pondering whether you have the strength to do this, ask yourself: Do I live with someone I love and whom I want to continue loving me? If the answer is yes, shower. If you live alone but wish not to add to your list of things that are funking you out, perhaps you should consider making the effort anyway. Feeling bad is one thing; smelling bad is worse.

4. Be honest. When people ask how you’re doing, tell them: “Feh.” There’s no need to lie and say “Fine!” when you know very well that you’re not fine. You own that funk, honey.

5. Eat. There’s no point in being down and hungry. Put something in your belly, and make it something nice. Try to stay away from too much sugar, though; that’ll just bring on The Blues, which is the next stage down from Feh.

6. Funky loves company. Invite a friend in a similarly “feh” emotional state over to watch reality TV, so you can watch miserable people together. Perhaps you can watch The Biggest Loser while sharing a large vegetable pizza. That way, you can congratulate yourselves on making the first steps toward positivity by eating your veggies.

7. I’m sorry, but being in a funk myself right now, I’ve run out of steam and tips. I hope your funk is meaningful and brief (see tip #1).

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