Archive for category Home and family stuff
This is a scene that happens about as often as John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi slow dance to Always and Forever (the Luther Vandross version). No really, I think it’s about once a year when all three cats in our home briefly decide to tolerate each other.
No hissing, no wrestling match ending with Violent slamming Oliver to the floor, no streaks of black and yellow with Oliver chasing Figbash from one end of the house to the other, just three cats playing nice. It’s such a strange thing that my usual question as to “where the fuck am I supposed to sit?” when two of them occupy couch space becomes completely irrelevant.
As I take these photos, it occurs to me that unusual animal behavior is often a prophecy. They are getting off the floor and huddling for a reason, and I brace myself for the Midwest-flattening earthquake that they must sense building underneath us. I pause, but feel nothing. I leave them alone.
I took a this portrait of my father a couple of years ago, at his kitchen table on a Sunday morning. I’ve always liked the photo because it feels honest and authentic — to me, this captures “him” better than other photos do, or better than most photos I take of anyone.
It didn’t occur to me until recently that I should place this in my American People series. But it really does fit, perfectly.
Sometimes, there’s just nothing better to post than a cat sitting in the kitchen sink.
I’ll be open about this: I know that I’m not always the nicest person. I can be judgmental and quick to dismiss people for minor infractions. Sometimes I talk poorly about people who probably call themselves my friends. And I’m afraid that I’m capable of being more manipulative than I’m comfortable with.
And then, there was my mother.
The five year anniversary of my mother’s death came and went in January. I was surprised that at the time, this milestone didn’t cross my mind even once. I loved my mother more than most things on this planet, and were as close as I can imagine being with any person.
Some of my siblings joke about me being her favorite. It’s a joke, of course, but I think that at some level, both they and I both know there might be layer of truth to it. My mother and I had a different relationship due to a few circumstances; I was the youngest, an unexpected pregnancy, and a late-in-life pregnancy for the times. I was also a complicated pregnancy. Something (I think it may have been scarlet fever) caused my mother to be bedridden for three months while she carried me. Her obstetrician suggested the complications were severe enough that my mother should consider an abortion. She didn’t want to entertain this, and my father says that because my mom went through more to bring me into this world, she and I shared a unique bond.
I miss her terribly and can still fall into a long cry if I sit back and think hard enough about the fact that she’d dead. But I’ve also always said that every situation in life eventually falls into “normalcy” once you’ve been living with it long enough, and this is no exception. That’s how the anniversary of the day she died could come and go unnoticed.
Still, I think about my mother all the time. Hardly a day passes when I don’t see, hear, or think about something that reminds me of her. She’s been in my thoughts even more in recent weeks. As I consider my own judgmentalism, dismissiveness, and standoffishness, I juxtapose these with something someone said to me a few months after my mom’s death: “I can’t imagine anyone NOT liking your mom.”
Despite any of my own failures to live up to her, this remains, to me, the epitome of the definition of a good life.
Today is my mother’s birthday. I plan to celebrate it by finding a thing or two to do that she would have liked.
I don’t know a whole lot about plants.
But I do know (don’t ask me how) that these things (I think they’re hydrangeas) are supposed to get their color from the kind of soil they are planted in — which would make this scene in our backyard a scientific impossibility.
Whatever, they’re pretty.
The things that I develop a sentimental attachment to aren’t the usual things. I have photos of my mother, and artwork and gifts that my mother gave me. My mother bought a lot of my cookware and kitchen stuff. She gave me some of the furniture that I still use. But if the house were on fire and only had 25 seconds to grab a few things, these aren’t the items I would go for.
I would grab a rag that I keep in my dresser that was cut out of one of my mother’s shirts from the 1970s. I would grab a white oxford shirt with green stripes that’s too small for me to button anymore, and it has a rip in it anyway, but it was last piece of clothing I wore that my mother complimented, as she was lying in her hospice bed. I would also grab these three old mixing bowls, which I liberated from my mother’s kitchen a few weeks after she died.
These three bowls are probably older than I am; at the very least I have clear memories of my mother using them when I was a kid. I can even remember specific food things in each bowl — egg salad in the red bowl, chocolate pudding in the green bowl, dough for homemade noodles in the yellow bowl.
So many of the best memories I have of my mother center on her kitchen and her cooking. I can name several of my favorite foods that I’ve not had since the last time my mother made them for me; and, whether purposefully or subliminally, will probably never eat again — beef and noodles, fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, squash soup, potato soup, rhubarb-cream pie. Even something as simple as an egg sandwich isn’t the same, anymore.
But this isn’t really sad, as I’ve learned to cook my own things. Being in the kitchen making something that other people like makes me happy; she gave that to me. And nothing that I do makes me feel closer to my mother than I do when I use one of these bowls.
When Jay was in New Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I found myself watching this movie not once, but twice on the ABC Family channel.
Photo copyright, The Walt Disney Company
It’s my favorite Disney movie in years, maybe ever. I should just buy it.
And ever since that weekend Jay was in New Mexico, thanks to the movie, I also can’t stop thinking about this.
Photo copyright, Smitten Kitchen
I’m not sure I would even like it, but I think I might attempt to make this “peasant food” for dinner either on Saturday or Sunday night.
(Found on a site called, Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant (my store sells these “Italian Eggplant” that are less than half the size of regular ones; it worked perfectly)
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
- Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
- On a mandolin, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
- Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
- Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
- Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)
- Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
- Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.
Personally, I like the idea of the dab of soft goat cheese on top, and the polenta on bottom. But we’ll see what Jay says.
And as a side note, based on all the testimonials I seem to be really late to this game, but I must spend some time investigating this Smitten Kitchen site. The first three recipes on the homepage are for asparagus pancetta hash, oatmeal pancakes, and leek bread pudding — all of which sound divine. The site is also beautiful and the wife/husband that run it look like people Jay and I would like. It seems to have a Julie and Julia tone without the endless whining and profound bitchiness that was Julie . . . but that’s enough about that.
. . . white boxer briefs that don’t quite hide things because they were clearly designed for fashion rather than function. I am wearing this even though I am sitting in the den, at the front picture window of our house, with the windows open as wide as possible to let the summer breeze come in and massage my chest and back. It feels nice.
I am wearing this because I can’t decide what to wear tonight. I want to look like a trendy, urban photographer so I am going back and forth between the usual jeans-and-black or a pair of shorts, cool sandals, and a long-sleeved shirt, rolled up.
We are going to dinner at a fancy sushi/martini place, partially so I can deliver a disk of photos to my latest model and partially so we can have martinis and sushi, and then we are going to some First Friday gallery openings. I think we might hit a couple of places along Mass Avenue, but if you ask me, the best art in this city these days is in the Murphy Building in Fountain Square, so we plan to close the night there. The Murphy Building is what I vaguely remember the Stutz being when I first moved here. The Murphy is edgier and hipper and younger and more unexpected, and where my preferred art is these days, in Indianapolis. Mass Ave, despite the city’s blessing as the “Arts District,” is usually a little bit predictable to me, and the Stutz seems to have turned pretty commercial . . . not quite sofa art but fairly traditional at the same time.
Next, I need to decide which of the photos of the aforementioned model are going to make their way onto my web site. This was the first model I shot with my new camera, and I am thrilled with the results. I think the biggest difference is the lens. It’s been hard to go through the model’s proof page and pick the best, partially because of the camera and partially because the model is smoking hot. I have one shot of him that just might be the sexiest photo I’ve ever taken.
If I don’t check in with all of you before tomorrow, enjoy your Independence Day. We plan to put Lucy in the car and go up to my brother’s house for his annual cookout. July 4th is Lucy’s favorite day because she gets to spend it outside, being taken for walks by my other brother (who also loves beagles) and having small pieces of chicken and hot dog handed to her when I am not looking. She also has a thing for my brother who hosts the cookout’s dog, a large black Labrador named Ernie. Lucy is a bit of a size queen.
Jay’s mother passed away yesterday at a few minutes after noon. This is the last photo I took of the two of them, shortly after Jay’s last birthday. His mom made the quilt they are posing with for our guest bedroom, which is where they are in this photo.
If I have my dates correct, it was April 15th when Jay’s mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, meaning that she lived one day short of nine weeks following her diagnosis. There must be a better way to say this, but all I can think of is, that sucks. But the last few weeks were painful, agonizing, and traumatizing for Joyce and her family and everyone who loved her, and so at least the speed at which cancer took her was also quick to bring her peace.
I get the house to myself for the next four days, as Jay’s heading north to stay with his parents. I wish I could say that this is going to be time for a nice repose, but I’m sure Jay will be on my mind 24/7.
It’s hard to imagine that it’s been barely two months since Jay’s 40th birthday — a day he described as one of the happiest days of his life — and then a week later his mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and now we’re here already. Her decline has been unbelievably dramatic: two months ago, she was fine; on Mother’s Day, she was notably tired but still went out to lunch and carrying on relatively normally; now, she is on oxygen and morphine and needs help to stand or walk. The hospice workers suggested that this might be the last few days she will be able to talk.
Having lost my own mother to cancer, I can understand what Jay’s going through, to a point. But this is happening at light speed compared to my mother’s case, and while my mom’s case was by and large a peaceful decline, seeing what Jay’s mom is going through is pretty traumatizing. She certainly doesn’t deserve this.
I am going to make the most of my four days alone. I am considering going to a Mexican restaurant for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, I am going to Bloomington to spend a few hours at a Buddhist center that’s operated by the Dali Lama’s brother. Saturday is the Gay Pride parade/festival. And I have photos to work on — a paying client who’s waiting for his final photos, and a few things to wrap up the galleries on my new website, and my first shoot with a new camera that I bought two days ago.
The new camera, by the way, is unbelievable. Its lens is just incredible. I would show you an example from my first shoot with it, but my subjects were two little girls and I don’t post photos of children on the Internet without permission from their parents. (And I forgot to ask.) I really want to take the new camera to the Buddhist center and to Pride, but I promised myself that this was to be my “studio” camera and that tired piece of junk that I’ve been shooting with is now the “road” camera. We’ll see if I can make myself stick to that rule.