into the vault

I dropped my camera–again.  This time it didn’t bounce back.  Poor camera: I’ve clumsily swiped, fumbled, and plain old dropped it to the ground many times.  I like to think it’s because I’m a victim of my own clumsiness, but maybe it’s because I’m just careless.  This (fatal) time I was at the flower shop.  I’d been photographing prom corsages and boutonnieres.  Before visiting the little girls’ room, I tried to take the camera out of my back pocket and put it on a shelf, thinking there it would be safe.  There it would run no risk of getting…um…dunked.  See, I was trying to be responsible!  But somewhere in the move from pocket to shelf, I faltered, the camera fell, and a tiny piece that holds in the battery went missing.

All that to say, I am diving into never-used photos I’ve saved over the last few months.  Maybe I’ll even dip back into past years, who knows?  Granted, 2011 really wasn’t that long ago, so let’s say here and now that, yes, year-old photos will probably show up.  So for now, I’d like to share something that I’ve been hiding in the back of my mind: photos and “haiku” based on them.  I say “haiku” because you know that 5-7-5 thing they taught us in creative writing class?  It’s bunk.  Japanese contains linguistic subtleties and rhythms that I don’t claim to understand, but in reading about haiku I have managed to grasp that our rigid syllable-counting interpretation of the art form is rough at best.  Haiku are really more about the imagery.  They’re about taking the reader from something recognizable physically–like fruit or a stream–to something recognizable metaphysically–like sadness or love.

After an intro like that I suppose I shouldn’t dare show you what I’ve written!  It’s based mostly on the physical aspects.  I went around this winter, just at that point where signs of spring are showing but it’s still very cold.  I tried to really see the things I looked at, to appreciate the little details I often rush past.  That’s what these clicks and jottings are about.

between spent blossom

and umbilical stem:

this apple, birthed rosy and whole


mallards paddle against

winter’s ruffled waves

as far as the boundary

between water and ice


…stirring constantly

One of my goals this year is to try new recipes.  Not just alternative recipes for things I already make.  No, I mean completely new.  Sometimes one new recipe leads to another, as in today’s story.

Hubby and I don’t like vegetables very much.  (We can’t be the only ones, right?)  We try.  We know they’re packed with vitamins, blah, blah, blah.  So this winter we’ve had sweet potato oven fries, black bean and sweet potato soup, butternut squash, and steamed snow peas–to name a few.  We’ve been trying things even if we don’t think we’ll like them.  Savory butternut squash–roasted with olive oil, coarse salt, and fresh-ground black pepper–was a pleasant surprise.  Anyway, we recently bought a kabocha squash at our Asian market.  And we didn’t like it.  We ate the first half and left the second half in the fridge, labeled with a big, imaginary “?!” sign.  What were we going to do?!

Throwing away food is not an option.  (Unless it has mold on it or something.)  So I visited the internet in search of a recipe that would absorb that unappealing produce.  I found one!  I wanted to link it for you, but it’s lost from my bookmarks.  Oops.  Let’s just charge ahead.  I modified the recipe for my own purposes anyway.  The original called for scads of mushrooms, which Hubby hates.

When I have a loose-leaf recipe, I always use sticky-tack to hold it to a cupboard door.  That way it’s always in sight and doesn’t get ingredients smeared on it.

The ingredients for this recipe were mostly things I had on hand.

First I cooked an onion, some minced garlic, and a pinch of thyme in olive oil.  Then I added the dry rice and cooked it, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes.

Next came many additions of broth.  I used 4 cups, added one at a time, but I think I could have used more.  The recipe said 4-5 cups.

While the rice got busy soaking up broth, I left it unstirred–shocking, I know–while I attended to other tasks, like chopping the squash…

…and cooking the bacon.  Mmmm….  Around here we like to cook our bacon in the oven.  We prop a cooling rack on a baking sheet, drape the pieces across, and “fry” at 400 for 15 minutes or so.  Depends on how much bacon and how crispy it needs to be.  For this, I was thinkin’ brown and crumbly.

When the fourth cup of broth was absorbed I added 1/2 cup of vermouth and cooked it off a while.  Then, in went everything else: squash, bacon, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Served with a little more Parmesan on top, this was a winter meal for sure!

And, though we tried, we still didn’t like the squash.  What should we add next time?

sweet & spicy skillet jumble

I found this recipe for Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potatoes.  Though the title left something to be desired, the idea sounded yummy, so I tried it.  Something went wrong.  The potato chunks were mostly blackened, and not in the better-and-fancier way, à la blackened salmon or burnt ends.  No, these potatoes would have looked at home in the rubble of Pompeii.  Hubby and I even ate a couple tentative bites and confirmed with our tastebuds what our eyes had already told us: potatoes wasted.  Sooo sad….  (I hate to waste food!)

But I wasn’t ready to give up.  I gave the recipe another shot, following the directions more closely this time, and it turned out much better.  I think I got a little gung-ho on the sugar last time, so this time I measured exactly.  Not only that, but I roasted the potatoes for just over 20 minutes instead of the full 30, and for the last 10 I reduced the heat from 425 degrees to 375.  Then I jumbled them up with all this:

That’s beef sausage, a yellow bell pepper, and green onions.  Add sweet & spicy ‘taters and ba-da-bing: dinner!  We had some snow peas with a smidge of sesame oil and salt alongside.  Hearty winter fare if ever there was any.

What do you serve with sweet potatoes?  I could use some more inspiration, because I find their sweetness difficult to pair.  I’m not a big fan of sweet vegetables; they just seem peculiar alongside meat and grain.  That said, I did find a recipe that redeemed cooked carrots.  Try this one!