About Kathy

creative intuitive architect artist mother healer

the stool, part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a meditation stool that had been half submerged and abandoned in the water of the pond it had been sitting next to for years. Even the word abandoned now evokes a feeling of despair, of some lingering sense of violence that underpinned this stool’s demise. I have been watching for weeks now for evidence of the stool’s presence under the water, where it might have found a peaceful resting place. But there was no sign of it, even through the sun soaked water that could show me the depths of life below.

I was sharing this story with a friend visiting for the weekend as we approached the pond on our walk. My story, and the accompanying question of, “Was it a bear or a human who threw it into the water?” hadn’t changed. She gently offered another point of view. “Maybe it just blew over into the water and drifted there?” I suppose this could be true, I said out loud. but to myself I wondered why was I still feeling the undercurrent of some violence at play here.

We went on to have a lovely stroll through these woods I have come to feel such love in the presence of.

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My friend is a forest therapist.

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She takes people on slow leisurely walks in the woods, laced with invitations to sink deep into where they are and simply notice. She was fascinated with the plethora of fungus life that were living in these woods surrounding my home, and was stopping frequently to take photos of them. I began to see the amazing variety and beauty of this life form through her eyes, faces and hearts and colonies of fascinating shape and color.

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We were benefitting from one of the many aspects of engaging in forest therapy as an exchange, by sharing what we each experienced, creating a wider richer net of awareness for both of us.

Her observation about the stool was an invitation for me to notice the way in which I was making an assumption about what happened. To consider how easy it is to project, not from the energy of what is actually there, but from a distant, disconnected place in me. Because as I was walking the next day, as I was passing the opposite end of the pond that is now rich with green growth, I noticed a dark object. It wasn’t big, but it felt hard and foreign even from where I was on the path hundreds of yards away I knew it was the stool!! Just a sliver of the round seat that was now present above the surface of the water.

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I felt my whole being align with something true in that moment. Now I believed the stool had been guided by the force of nature this whole time, indeed blown in and drifted to where I had seen it at first, then leisurely migrating to these shallows of the other end. I could now let go of whatever illusion of thought had been holding me to the feeling of impulsive anger. Considering ‘what is’ even trumps considering something as good (vs. bad). ‘What is’ simply embodies the energy of exchange. What could possibly be the point of judging that exchange?

“The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.” -James Allen

I had prepared bowls of museli** for me and my friend before our walk. I had made the traditional Swiss mixture of oats, lemon, sweetened milk, a few nuts, and shredded fresh apples on a whim the week before. I had had everything on hand except the apples. I could see them forming on the trees out in the meadow but would it be wrong to try to eat them now? Thankfully, I had by-passed that judgement and went out to gather three tiny apples, two red from one tree, one green from another. I soaked the old-fashioned oats while shredding the tart apples and mixed them with the lemon juice and cinnamon. Preparing this bowl of nourishment now evoked the feeling of whole body peace I had experienced the week before when I made it for myself. The feeling became a thought. I wanted to share this feeling of peace.

The muesli was as delicious and as satisfying as the first time. I had no control over how my friend would respond. But this was a friend with whom I shared ‘parallel life experiences’ with. She was one of the people in my life who made similar lifestyle choices and I could confidently present her with this meal exactly as I would to myself, a meal that embodied energy of the fruit of the trees we communed daily with. It felt like a worthy offering.

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**Museli  (one serving)

1 tablespoon old-fashioned oats soaked in 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon walnuts (lightly toasted)
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1 tablespoon half & half
juice of one small lemon
1 large or 2 small grated (just picked if possible) apples with skins
dash cinnamon
maple syrup (to taste)

Soak oats while preparing apples. Mix grated apples immediately with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add cinnamon. Add apples, walnuts and raisins to oats and mix. Add half & half and maple syrup and mix again. Eat.

playing cribbage

I learned how to play cribbage last week. I’ve always wondered about this game. There is the board with pegs that somehow is related to a deck of cards. It was never a tradition in the family I grew up playing rummy, hearts, and poker with. I had been eyeing the board and three decks of cards that sat on my client John’s kitchen counter for weeks. John is ninety-six years old and sharp as a tack. He has only been confined to moving through his days in a wheelchair for the past three months, after a lifetime of being completely independent, and still living in the home he raised his family in. It was only after six weeks of providing home health care for him, helping with supper and meds, of helping with the transition to a more dependent way of life, of getting to know each other, after him telling me that his grandfather taught him how to play cribbage when he was twelve years old, that I could boldly ask if he’d teach me how to play too. There was a slight hesitation on his part, but he agreed, sent me to fetch the instructions from the box on the bench in the front hall because he knew it wouldn’t be a simple teaching. It is a complex game, and he patiently started at the beginning, let me fumble, watched with amusement as I struggled to count points and learn the rhythm of the two pegs per person circling the board. I learned that there are multiple ways to use cards, to make combinations, and score points and I enjoyed the potential for mind engagement that was possible in this. I asked. why two pegs? and I got an amused smile, with the response of, “So we can’t cheat.” The peg out front becomes the clear and undisputed marker from which the next series of points can be counted out. There is no possibility for ‘he said, she said’ here. It was during this first lesson that I asked if I could take his picture. He was concerned that he hadn’t combed his hair. I said he looked just fine and snapped a few, endeavoring to capture the essence of this proud man, who then looked at the photos I took and said, “Well, I don’t look ninety-six, do I?”

Now our time after his supper is spent either going outside to sit in the sun, where John will light up the cigar that is typically clenched between his teeth, or spent sitting at the kitchen table playing cribbage. I’m getting better at playing this game now. We have very different ways of counting points, but it is fun comparing and realizing we always come up with the same answer. I asked him if he is competitive, and this brought another smile as he said, “I suppose so.” No doubt my childlike enthusiasm when playing clued him into my own competitive nature. I am having fun, and I think he is too.

But he is on hospice after all, with a cancer that is being left alone, becoming a little weaker each day, reckoning with who he is becoming in relation to his family and life as he has always known it, and I feel the bittersweet acceptance of this. It is humbling to become part of someone’s life at this stage, to develop a genuine relationship, to find meaning and joy in the interaction. Is this the reason to get out of bed in the morning?

I finished the quilt I have been working on all these weeks of getting to know John. Like the cribbage, there is a surface simplicity to the design, but there are layers of complexity built in too. The quilting is both hard line machine made and softly felt hand made.

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The four large blocks inspired by dramatic skies each have an integrity and life of their own. I can look at each one individually and get lost in the infinite combinations of color and line and curve and texture.

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Bringing them altogether in a swirl just reminds me that there will always be different ways that we are all intimately connected to the same place.

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I don’t know how long my journey with John will last. Like all relationships, one aspect of it will end, but I know the energy of what I have learned and touched in the process will be part of me always.

burying threads

I took one last look at the new quilt on the table in my studio, shrouded in dark, but with enough light to see the texture that was beginning to form on the surface from machine quilted lines meeting the hand quilted lines. I was just a day into the commitment to give this piece my all until finished. I went to bed knowing I’d be up at the crack of dawn to begin adding more.

In the morning light I saw it all a little bit differently, where the curved lines wobbled just a tad too much, where a pucker would have to be smoothed out, my eyes scanning for the next place to go. So much more to do until the alchemy of fabric and thread became the feel of finished quilt. This part of the process always evoked the need for faith. I turned on my sewing machine, sat down and immediately added a new line. Like most of the others, it began somewhere in the middle, at the edge of a piece that would become the pivot point for catapulting it across the surface. The first line I made ended up being all wrong, it would have to be ripped out. But I needed to attend to the dogs, make my coffee, so with one last look at the energy that was brewing in this quilt, I left with resolve to come back and get to it.

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It is best to rip out stitches from the back of a quilt. Here, it is just the purity of line on a (mostly) solid piece of fabric. I lowered my stool, took off my glasses and got up close and personal with the tight even stitches confronting me. Methodically wielding the seam ripper in and out of every third stitch or so lasted about a minute before getting abandoned in favor of pulling, tying off, and burying all the unresolved thread ends that I was now seeing from yesterday’s work.

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This act of isolating both threads (from needle and bobbin), tying them together in a small knot at the surface of the fabric, snipping them together to make a clean single point for threading a needle, and then working through the hole from which they came back into the batting with a satisfying little pop, is one of my favorite things to do. Go figure. It is grunt work after all. But it also creates a great deal of space in the process for meditation and reflection. What threads of my life have I been burying so I can have the semblance of an ordered and tidy emotional life? I worked, and felt the space of intimacy I was creating for myself at the same time. Much to the dog’s dismay (it was time for our walk in the woods after all), I stayed at the task until every last thread was buried.

I was looking forward to a long and leisurely walk. After so much rain and the excitement of my parents visiting, walks in the woods with the dogs during the past week had been short. Walking the familiar path this morning, I felt the intimacy of the woods collide with the intimacy of my engagement with the quilt this morning. This feeling of touching and being touched, bittersweet and full of emotion, triggered a trajectory of thought not unlike the way the edge of a piece of fabric was triggering the trajectory of curved lines in this quilt. The dangling ends of these thoughts would get buried soon enough, but for now I let them wave freely. I missed being touched. I missed the feel of another’s loving hands. I missed the intimacy that can be triggered by just a simple touch. All of my past lovers were now buried threads, but there would always be continuity in the longing they left in me. One in particular came to mind, the one who came into my life as my first post divorce lover, the one I felt compatible with in so many important ways, but who wanted a very different path than the one we could have had together.

As I approached the pond, I remembered bringing him here, how we had sat together on the meditation stool that lived here, back pressed to back, the characteristic crackle and fizz of our shared connection as strong and comforting as ever. I suppose it was no coincidence that after almost two years of hiking this terrain and passing the meditation stool that was always just there, that I would look down this morning and see the stool thrown into the pond, submerged, almost buried, floating in the illusion of the reflected trees in the water.

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Coincidence or not, it was still a shock. How did it get there? A disgruntled bear? A disgruntled human? As if to say, ‘Move on!’, ‘No need to sit here and dwell on this any more!’ ‘Look instead at what is forming here on the surface right in front of you, feel the deep roots down into the water, buried and unseen and yet capable of bringing forth unexpected beauty too, every year, over and over again!’

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The process of quiltmaking never disappoints. There is a front surface connected to a back surface and what happens in between is what makes it potentially a quilt full of conflicting energies. It’s okay to feel the comfort and satisfaction that comes with making a tidy quilting line. I have learned that burying the threads of emotion only works when accepting and acknowledging that I have absolutely no control over what will resurface next time, and that is okay too.

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Idina

Ben and I were two of the many thousands that filed through a lineup of security checkpoints, into the Grande Theatre at Foxwoods Casino (in CT) Friday night to see Idina Menzel. I didn’t know it was the opening night of her North American 2017 tour. I didn’t know just how beloved she was. I might have guessed when Ben, months ago, from a wide selection of Broadway shows, concerts, and performances available to choose from, specifically chose this concert. With the guidance of his teacher Danielle, he bought the tickets with his own money, orchestra seats of course, only the best for Ben, and we put the date on the calendar. It was a sold out concert.

I contacted Anne, Ben’s godmother and an old friend from NYC days. She had taken my place in the cheap East 81st Street ground floor apartment when I left for graduate school in 1981. We became friends over the years and by 1993, she was the one at home taking care of Molly the night Ben was born. We were NYC junkies together, artists in spirit, mutually self-reliant, sharing our early days of motherhood and the importance of community. She lived in her rent controlled apartment in Styvensant Town and we lived in our rent controlled loft just walking distance across town. Those were the days when I remember standing at the window of our loft looking out into the sea of humanity walking by, anonymous, seeing, but not feeling seen, the line between public and private being both transparent and completely impenetrable at the same time. Anne and I hadn’t seen each other in years.

Her country home in CT just happened to be a half hour away from Foxwoods and she invited us to stay the night with her. It made the surreal drive through bucolic Connecticut countryside into the fantasyland of Foxwoods a little easier. It was an abrupt transition, making the right hand turn into the complex. At least in NYC, the sense of fantasy lurking around the corner was everywhere, embedded in dense fabric of human and manmade constructs. But here we had to move fast through the inhospitable concrete landscape, only to emerge into a different world. I’ll never get used to it, the huge hospital complexes, the giant malls and chain stores, the efficiently built but airless office buildings, the Disney-lands and Las Vegas wannabes.

There were no signs guiding us to where we needed to go at Foxwoods. You just needed to figure it out. I took the plunge and ventured into the self parking garage, trusting we would find our way. And we did! Foxwoods, it turns out, is nothing more than big mall of stores, theater, and hotel that is organized around a center casino. Once inside, it is actually impossible to get lost. I marveled at the efficiency of this design that was all about spending money. I was able to relax and flow with Ben’s infectious enthusiasm now, his excitement of finally seeing Idina.

The Grand Theater at Foxwoods is indeed grand.

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We settled in and the show began with Idina herself, no warm up performances to wait through. It was an exciting, well crafted, and beautiful show, full of her Broadway and movie classics, cover songs, her own original pieces too. When she began “Seasons of Love” I was instantly transported back to over twenty years ago, seeing her perform this in the famous Broadway show ‘Rent’. I felt the power and emotion of the production that dove into the heart of being a struggling artist in NYC as if it were yesterday. Being able to pay the rent, in order to be free to create, is the theme that brought me right back to my connection with Anne. We have each had our own paths, but as we sat and caught up in her newly renovated country kitchen, I marveled at how the feeling of the artist in each of us has emerged unaltered from the passions of our NYC days, in the creation of our respective country homes. We’ve both chosen to live alone in the country for similar reasons. We shared the questions that have fueled our creativity and considered how next steps might flow naturally from these efforts. It is rare to see and be seen so completely. It is a good feeling, one that can be tapped when endeavoring to truly see all others.

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Not coincidently, Idina’s encore was a perfect expression of how I was feeling. She told of a South African greeting, to say “I see you” to another. After taking in the energy of the sentiment, the other responds, “I am here”. She wrote a song about this, sent it to friends and colleagues, asking for a video response. A black and white montage of these responses was reeling in the background behind a transparent gauze curtain as she sang her song, her last of the night, singing to the sea of faces with heartfelt sincerely,

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ending with the image of her own face looking out at us as she sang, ‘I am here’.

fungus

After watching with disbelief how the leaves of my squash, chard, bean and tomato plants begin to yellow, then brown, then become flecked with little holes, I finally decided to get some help. Disbelief because the garden had such promise when first planted, as I envisioned flawlessly produced vegetables that would magically sustain me for the next four months. From afar, connected to something bigger, the garden looked perfect.

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But it’s not really a surprise that the dance between health and disease would be as prevalent here in the garden as it is in our culture. I don’t know why I let myself get seduced by the promise of perfection every time I enter into a new creative effort. But I do. It took weeks before I had the thought to actually go to a local garden store with samples of each malady in hand. I learned from a saleswoman there that the wet humid conditions of this spring have been a perfect breeding ground for many undesirables, most of all….fungus. This kind woman seemed unfazed by her assessment. She didn’t try to sell me fungicide or chemical bug killer. As if she had taken in my inherent reluctance to interfere, she quietly suggested I simply pinch off the infected leaves and let the healthy portions of the plants continue to grow. I believed her. Of course there is no guarantee that this will solve the problem. But I left feeling the relief of this simple way of trusting that the good parts of the plant would prevail.

Next destination was to the theater to see Wonder Woman. What a wonderful movie! Good old-fashioned entertainment that left me with the message once again, that belief in the power of acceptance, of all parts of the whole, of good and bad, might be the true path of love. I’ve been thinking about the title a lot now. Wonder Woman. A woman who inspires wonder? The wonder of a strong self realized woman who needs no man to be complete? A woman, who in the wonder of her innocent belief that we are here to celebrate the life of mankind, not its destruction, is the most powerful of all?

I still cringe when I hear the word fungus. For some reason it carries the energy of malevolent unwanted growth that feeds on the living. And yet, I have been equally fascinated with the myriad forms of fungus I see growing in the woods. The forest is full of pungent earthy smell these days. It is what comes first, this intense aroma that feels inherently life giving. I can’t help but think of the huge bag of dried porcini mushrooms in my kitchen, how they carry the essence of this energy. Fungus is as integrally a part of this smell as any other and I am not at all repulsed here in the woods. Fungus is the principal decomposer in an ecological system. It is earth food. It can be medicine, like the lingzhi mushroom (literally meaning ‘supernatural mushroom’) forming on dead logs that have fallen across our path. Or become beautiful lichen growth emerging from the dense mineral rich stone of this landscape.

There is also plenty of the same fungus on leaves emerging from the ground here in the forest, as in my garden. In the woods, it looks completely natural. It is part of something bigger and never a true threat. It doesn’t have to be contained or controlled or destroyed in order to maintain what I think is mine. My way, my path, in my time.

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All the recently felled trees across the path in the woods have become teachers of this lesson. They can get chain-sawed out of the way in a flash, or they can sit there for years growing fungus and slowly decomposing. I don’t have a chain-saw, nor do I feel the compulsion to get these logs out of the way. I’ve already started spurs around them and these spurs will simply become a new part of the path, leaving the obstacle to return to earth of which it came. Is this progress? I don’t know. It is hard for me to let go of the path looking and feeling exactly the way I thought it should. It’s also hard for me to continue to believe that removing what has always felt like an integral part of ME, an event or behavior or person of my past, might actually be a trigger for health.

I came home and made big pot of earthy pungent porcini infused braised chicken legs** to have with my fresh salad of greens and herbs; baby kale, chard, mesclun, lemon balm, mint, basil, parsley, radish, and nasturtium, picked from the garden just moments before eating. I cherish the delicious balance of young fresh and green with old rich and brown in this meal.

After pinching off the dead or infected leaves of the plants in my garden, I am left with the space and beauty of a thriving plant in a thriving garden.

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As much as I feel the compulsion to let things be, I know it is equally okay, maybe even necessary, to remove and let go the parts that don’t serve. I’ve come to believe that killing what I think is bad or undesirable, will never work. Will this belief last? Ensure the freedom and growth of all around me? I don’t know. I am growing alongside this plant, learning something new each day.

**Porcini Infused Braised Chicken Legs
1 package chicken legs (about 2-1/2 lbs)
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1-1/2 cups organic tomatoes, fresh or canned, diced
(1) cup chicken stock
1/2 cup chopped olives of choice
fresh chopped herbs of choice (I used mint, sage, basil, and lemon balm)
(2) tablespoons olive oil
flour and spices for browning chicken

Prepare porcini mushrooms by soaking in (1) cup warm water for at least 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and run under cold to fully rinse. Squeeze out excess moisture with hands, finely chop and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a paper towel and also set aside. This is very important as you will likely see the remains of little white worms that had been buried in the mushrooms and died in the drying process. I have researched this copiously. They are harmless and quite dead at this point. Even so, this rinsing and straining process ensures that not a one will make it into the stew.

Roll chicken pieces in flour with salt, pepper and a handful of dried herbs of choice (I used Herbes en Provence) and cook in large pot until brown and crisp, about fifteen minutes total. Remove chicken and add onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic, chopped porcini and their strained juice, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives and stir. Arrange chicken pieces and pour in chicken broth. Liquid should reach three quarters up the chicken. Bring to boil. Cover, turn fire to lowest low, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add fresh chopped herbs at end. Let sit at least ten minutes before serving. Really really good with homemade biscuits!!

gluten free apple cake

It’s the first week of June and I actually tried to light a fire in the woodstove this morning. It didn’t take. I’m all out of kindling and fatwood and the few pieces of newspaper just didn’t do it. I could have gone out and gathered some branches from the woods, but they’d still be wet from the overnight rain. I gave up. And instead, let the thought of apple cake take firm hold as my energy shifted to the kitchen. Just like that. There’s no rationalizing these urges. A warm oven to bake a warm cake, while channeling the warmth that is coming to feed the now bulging apple blossoms that will yield an abundance of apples for me to make a new stock of spiced apple slices with. This was all there in that thought. I actually looked up my own blog post to find the last recipe I documented for said apple cake. I decided to make the same cake, gluten free. It’s been on my mind, this thing with wheat, not wanting to eat too much of it, my middle aged body beginning to sensitively register the effects of a lifetime of possibly too much, so many people in my life now who have discovered their own sensitivity to the modified gluten of modified wheat that is contained in so much of our processed food. The recipe would have to be modified further to use up the rest of the whole milk plain yogurt instead of heavy cream, some honey instead of maple syrup, (I didn’t have any cream or syrup) and the very last quart of spiced apple slices from the harvest here almost two years ago.

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Combining and whipping together the butter, sugar and honey with a wooden spoon in a large metal bowl, produced a satisfying, thick cream. I beat in the eggs completely before adding the yogurt. All the dry ingredients were added to a smaller bowl to be whisked together before adding to, and mixing with the wet.

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I learned from a master chef at a birthday party last year, that the secret to making a moist and successful gluten free cake is to add chia seeds. She explained that they do the job that the gluten in flour normally does by absorbing and holding liquid in the batter. The apples are then folded into the well mixed batter.

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Once everything was mixed, and while preparing the pan, I let the batter sit for five minutes or so to give time to this alchemy between liquid and seed.

This journey with apple cake seems to be going on longer than I expected. There is a pattern forming but like a blueprint, it is only a guide at best. So much can happen in the making, flexibility becomes desirable. It is like making a series of quilts. There is a theme. Apples have been part of my life in a primal way for my whole life. Apple pie, candied apples, and apple turnovers are still objects of desire. But I always come back to the simplicity of the single beautiful fresh apple. One of my enduring memories is of trips to a farm in the fall with my family to get apples and pumpkins. My father would put the chosen bushel of apples, on occasion two bushels, out on the porch, usually red delicious, covered with a blanket, for keep all winter. I would go to retrieve one of those apples in the afternoon when I got home from school, cut it into slices, put it on a plate with a few pieces of cheddar cheese, sink into the couch, and eat slowly. I remember each sensation as if eating it right now, the sharp creamy cheese offsetting the crisp sweetness of the apple. The theme of comfort is as enduring as the memory. It’s time to read Ruth Reichl’s book “Comfort Me with Apples.’ Why have I waited so long? It is one of my daughter’s favorite books, I think shes actually read it twice. I find my copy on the bookshelf now, pages still crisp and untouched, a first edition sent to me in the year it was published, 2001, with an inscription from my mother, referencing the two apple trees I had just planted next to the ancient one in my front yard. My very first blog post here almost six years ago was inspired by the apples from those trees. And so it goes. Each version of apple cake becomes an evolved version of the last. A series could go on for a short time, producing just a few pieces, or it could go on for a lifetime to create a defining body of work.

I made the mistake of licking the spatuala after scraping all the batter into the pan. It was a shocking disappointment. A truly awful taste. My taste buds are so conditioned to the taste of wheat flour in batter and I wasn’t fully prepared for the difference. And for the time of baking I held onto the sinking feeling that this cake would be a disaster, truly afraid it might not be as delicious as the last and that I would have wasted my time and my precious last jar of apples. The journey doesn’t give us all wonderful easy places to rest along the way. When in one of those tough places, the only thing I can do is reach for a feeling good place. Only when the aroma filled the house with characteristic apple cake smell did I relax. It emerged from the oven with the golden glow that signaled all good. I had to wait about half an hour for the cake to cool enough to cut into.

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It was a beautiful sight, layers of apples nestled comfortably and competently in the moist cake. The first bite filled me with a joy of both recognition and delight, of a core need met, of the discovery of something new. This cake was perfect in every way. No one would ever know it was ‘gluten free’.

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Gluten Free Apple Cake with Honey

Cream 8 Tablespoons softened butter (1 stick) with
1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup honey
Add 2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
Add 1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt

Whisk together in another bowl and add to wet ingredients until just mixed
2 cups gluten free flour (of choice)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Drain (1) quart spiced apple slices and fold into batter

Pour into 12″ round cake pan prepared with butter & (gluten free) flour

350 degrees for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

finding my kramer

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Ben is home for his end of the year vacation before summer session begins, and sleeps late. The rain has finally stopped and I can’t wait to finally get out for a long walk in the woods with the dogs. We didn’t do a lot the day before, mostly binge watched Season 5 of Seinfeld, and laughed a lot. Planned and plotted what will be the main event of today, the making of the spaghetti and meatballs. Ben’s favorite. So much a favorite that the making of this iconic Italian classic became the focus of his graduation speech three years ago, expressed in his goal to live in his own apartment and invite family and friends over for the spaghetti and meatballs he would make. I never made spaghetti and meatballs when he was growing up. I don’t know how or when it became his favorite. I bought a pound of ground beef to have just for this visit. I have to actually look up a recipe. I try to channel what I remember about the large pot of sauce with meatballs that Mary (the woman who cleaned our house when I was a kid) would make in the morning of her day with us. I can still smell the pervasive, mouth watering, aroma as it simmered all day long on the stove. I find a recipe for a simple meatball that is just breadcrumbs, herbs, and egg. I toast a few pieces of the seven grain sprouted bread in the fridge and run them through the food processor to make the breadcrumbs. I pick two leaves each of the spring fresh lemon balm, sage, mint, and basil growing just outside in the garden. Slice them into fine ribbons and take in the intoxicating scent of home grown.

I am determined that this will be the extent of my contribution, making these herbed bread crumbs for the meatballs.

As we walked along in the woods later, we talked about our favorite funny parts from the TV watching Seinfeld fest the day before.

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When we watch Seinfeld, Ben pretends he’s Kramer and I love that he identifies with this vibrant eccentric character. The thing about Kramer is that he is fully present, always in the moment with exactly who he is, intelligent, charming, attractive, and completely unpredictable, Ben stops, and shows me his best Kramer face.

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What’s not to love about this? I realize the time it has taken for me to laugh with such consistent abandon, feels like the quarter century of a throwback to the years of being a new parent living in NYC. The building we lived in was actually featured in one of the episodes we watched (the one about George becoming a hand model), and when I saw the gorgeous cast iron facade of what used to be the Hugh O’Neill department store of 6th Avenue between 20th and 21st streets, and home of our loft, staring out at me from the TV, I was immediately transported back to the first half of the 1990’s, living the life of an entrenched New Yorker with my artist husband and two young children. Imagining a future for baby Ben at the time was impossible then. But when he came down yesterday morning wearing his ‘Amherst Class of 2012’ t-shirt,

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I couldn’t help but think how bright his future has become as he has transitioned from high school to his college years at his current home of Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley MA. He is a typical college student in most ways. He wears his signs of maturity in his smiles and caring ways. He doesn’t wait for me to make him breakfast, and dazzles me with his choice of preparing his own bowl of plain yogurt and bananas. He knows how much I love it when he vacuums and he takes the job seriously, showing initiative by asking if the bag needs to be changed before he starts, and doesn’t leave a single dog hair on the floor to be seen when finished. We settle into a rhythm of working together and having quiet solo time apart. After lunch I become sous chef and guide to Ben in the preparation of the sauce. It is a collaborative affair, me doing the initial peeling and cutting of onion and garlic, Ben brandishing the chefs knife to produce a respectable mince. He opens two cans of Italian plum tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste, sautees the onion and garlic in olive oil, and squeezes the plum tomatoes through his fingers into the pot. We add some dried herbs, the tomato paste, a little water, and another splash of olive oil, set the fire on low for an all day simmer. A little later, Ben cracks one egg into the bowl containing a pound of ground beef and the herbed bread crumbs. He adds the salt, I add the pepper, and I watch him reach in with both hands and squeeze and mix until everything is well blended. He methodically forms the meatballs, some a little bigger than others, and I help him adjust to make them all about the same size. He lowers each one reverently into the simmering sauce with a spoon, the black handled functional vintage relic from my own mother’s kitchen that I covet and love, and we then settle in for our next session of Seinfeld viewing. The aroma that begins to fill the house is familiar and inviting. Ben now reverts to the young man home from college, happily ensconced in his favorite chair, letting me boil the water and prepare the spaghetti for our supper. He doesn’t move as I hand him a plate of food. We mmmmm and ahhhhh over the scrumptious melt in your mouth, ever so delicately flavored meatballs. He lets me clean up the dishes after. Hmmmm. He is very clear that he wants more spaghetti and meatballs tomorrow.

I need to take many steps back now. Suggest, and then let him take the lead in preparing the leftovers today, that he fully complete the task and clean up the dishes too. It is a big awareness for me, it is hard to back off, to let someone else do the work that I am so hard wired for that it takes binge watching of Seinfeld for me to remember where there can be irreverence and hilarity in life too. Ben is helping me find my Kramer.

I’ve no doubt Ben will continue to do all he wants to do with finesse. He won’t ever forget his Kramer. I happily envision the day when I will be sitting at the table in his apartment, eating spaghetti and meatballs, made his way.