When the moon lights the sky like a big pizza pie…

IMG_1749

The end of another impossibly short weekend with Handsome Chef Boyfriend arrived at the crack of dawn this morning.  Sigh.  HCB has an endearing habit of showing up at my place bearing gifts; Friday night was no exception.  Shortly after he arrived at my workplace to momentarily stick out his tongue at me through the ballet classroom door, he scooted on to my house with his sackful of presents.

Ever get a hankerin’ for a bite of something or other, and you just can’t leave it alone until you satisfy it?  This has been the case for me over the past month or so:  an insatiable appetite for artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes–the wicked ones in a teeny jar of olive oil.  Those. On a pizza.

We had something that came close when we ate at a loverly little Italian place about a month ago where HCB’s eldest works as a chef.  But still, not quite.  Then last weekend during a grocery store run I started looking for those beautiful little morsels in a jar and HCB reminded me that I would end up spending way too much, in overt violation of my vow of poverty.  He was right, of course.

So when I got home and started rifling through the sack, here is what I found:

Sundried Tomatoes

And this:

IMG_1739

And while the quality of the photos is crummy, you get the drift.  There was also fresh mozzarella and pizza dough in the fridge.  So when we came home from our movie date last night (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Gravity, 90 minutes of white-knuckled hand holding), HCB got to work assembling a pizza.  He moves fast and I never really got a photo of his work in progress without a blurry hand.  Plus, it drives him crazy when I (attempt to) photograph him in the kitchen, or at all, really, so the soundtrack for this process was, Hey–stop taking PICTURES!

I give you, Our Pizza:

IMG_1730

IMG_1736

IMG_1742

IMG_1746

IMG_1753

The chunky purple things are pickled beets we grabbed at a local farmer’s market a few weeks ago; they ended up adding a bit of sweetness to the savory ingredients–perfection.

I am not ashamed to say we ate every last crumb of our pizza.  (HCB pointed out that there were only six slices, after all.  Works for me.)

HCB also happens to be the King of Puns–an amazing skill which he has honed to a fine sheen and which will serve as the topic of a future post.  (AND, and, and, the man knows how to JUGGLE!  What?!)  But until I give these gifts the full attention they deserve, I leave you with this exchange between us last night while the movie credits rolled:

Me:  I found the ending unsatisfying.

HCB:  Why?  I found it to be down to earth.

Get it?  Down to earth?  And the movie was called Gravity?  Har har, HCB.

Consider yourselves warned, gentle readers.  ‘Til next time.

The Episcopal Church Welcomes [Some Of] You

Disclaimer:  Episcopalian friends, Episcopal school friends, brutally honest sentiments herein are not aimed at you specifically.  Keep reading.

I am a “cradle” Episcopalian, as we say.  I attended Episcopal schools during several of my formative years, and for what I gained there I am thankful.  My ex and I had a huge role in founding an Episcopal school that sits on a sprawling campus and from which our young ‘un was expelled three weeks shy of the end of fourth grade with little explanation from the head of school.  True story. After our church family peremptorily dismissed us about a decade ago (a wart on our family’s timeline tied to our Episcopal school debacle) I resolved to quit the church forever; what had been home was now sullied, and I felt like an interloper.

When your child’s scholastic aptitude does not fit the Episcopal School paradigm, the paradigm that serves mainly elite, high-achieving kids and their families (we could expand this discussion to include lots of independent schools), there is actually a term for what happens next:  you are counseled out.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Like they care about what happens to you afterwards.

When you no longer fit into the crowd at the church you have attended for more than a decade you are simply snubbed and made to feel unwelcome.  I think the expression for this is, piss off, thanks be to God.  Here is how it works:  invitations to social functions (with direct ties to the church or not) evaporate; you are “accidentally” removed from the church mailing list; your child is no longer invited to birthday parties or play dates with kids he has known since they were all in diapers; and the priest’s wife is cool to you when you bump into her at the grocery store (and that is a generous characterization).

Yeah, that really makes you want to go to church.

After my lengthy Episcopal Church furlough I bravely visited a small Episcopal church in my neighborhood here in Vermont a year ago.  The people seemed kind (in that reserved New England way), although I never had the chance to really get to know many of them.  I liked the priest a lot–probably more than any other priest in my church experience, save one–and I felt spiritually nourished, at least as much as I ever feel spiritually nourished in a church setting.  I have no idea how those people might have reacted to our family had they been the communicants in our home church environment, and it is pointless to speculate.  In my new Vermont neighborhood there is no Episcopal church, and that is that; going to church now means a long commute.  I don’t have the constitution for that on snowbound Sunday mornings.

This all has no bearing on my feelings about Episcopal liturgy:  that has exactly nothing to do with the people involved in that awful chapter of exclusion.  I will always love the poetry and cadence of the church liturgy, always.  But I confess that I freaked out a little when Handsome Chef Boyfriend announced that the two of us had been invited to a wedding, in an Episcopal church, the wedding of a good friend who also happened to be an Episcopal priest, and who was being wed in his own Episcopal parish.

There was no way I would turn down an opportunity to meet more of the people who define HCB’s life and community and about whom I have heard so much for over a year now.  And there was also the bit about the rare chance to spend the entire weekend together.

This is the second marriage for each of them and as such the ceremony was appropriately stripped of the pomp and circumstance of most weddings. What impressed me most was the overwhelming support this priest was shown by the church community where he had been rector before–HCB’s community–and who made the effort to be there that morning.  And there was the comfort of that familiar liturgy, and communion, and the closeness of my sweetheart sitting next to me in the pew.  (And because he is HCB, there was also sotto voce levity, including comments about the communion wafers needing more seasoning.)

I leave you with a William Henry Channing poem that the wedding couple used as a responsorial in their ceremony and which resonated with me so much, where I am now in my life.  Peace be with you, as they say.

To live content with small means;

To seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion;

To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;

To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;

To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;

To bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.

In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.

This is my symphony.

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day, and All That. (Beauty herein.)

IMG_20131006_162128

Promised rain and chilly temperatures came to my corner of New England today, and so I did the only reasonable thing under the circumstances.  The season’s first pot of chili now sits on my stove.  My little loft has been filled variously with the earthy aroma of boiling Mung and Azuki beans (gifts from Handsome Chef Boyfriend), sweet, caramelized red onions, and now the mainly finished product; the predominant smell is lovely, smoky paprika.  This will change over days as the flavors commingle the way they do in soups and stews.  This particular chili happens to be a vegetarian one I love but have not made for a while; it feels appropriate for early fall.

HCB arrived here after work on Friday night loaded down with bags of yummy things which morphed into a gorgeous dinner.  He shooed me away the second I started peeking into grocery bags and was not exactly cooperative when I attempted to photograph him cooking.  Here is what I managed to capture:

IMG_20131004_205405

Yes, really.  He was still wearing his chef’s scrubs from the work day, and busily trying to get dinner on the table for two very tired working people. The result was a lovely piece of cod with fresh salsa, asparagus and couscous:

IMG_20131004_205437

I love food as art.  Come to think of it, I love food, period.

We had a beautiful Saturday after HCB managed to move firewood onto my porch from elsewhere on the property in stealth mode while I was showering.  Clarence-the-canine was his companion during this Manly Vermont Guy work and thoroughly enjoyed his outside time.  Lately Clarence has shown himself trustworthy off leash, and this has given him the chance to really run at a time when my work schedule does not leave us many windows of opportunity as it once did.  Another transition we are still navigating.

Afterwards we took the scenic route into nearby Norwich where we had a serendipitous encounter with two complete strangers who were curious about HCB’s shirt (one I gave him bedecked with the logo of my former ballet school in Knoxville).  We ended up eating lunch with them at King Arthur Flour.  Interesting folks.

Thence to knock around some golf balls at the driving range, where I stepped (way) outside my comfort zone and behaved as I did when I was a kid in ballet class and did not pick up new steps and vocabulary instantly.  Hint:  I was thrown out of class more than once on these occasions.  Sigh.  Another character flaw.  HCB, on the other hand, plays brilliantly and knocked one after another ball out of the county with the incredible club he found recently for a buck on one of our flea marketing outings.  Mad cooking skillz, mad golf skillz.  As they say.

We finished our trolling around time over in New Hampshire at an Italian restaurant where HCB’s eldest works as a (you guessed it) chef.  We had a pizza that was so wicked I do not even care to share with anybody what was on it, and we pretty much rolled ourselves out to the car to head home.

I have been charmed these last days by this flash mob created by two people whom I consider my mentors at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.  Flash mobs seem to be everywhere now, and so the sheen has worn off them as happens when something once rare becomes common.  This one, though, is special.  Take a gander.  (Dancers are JKO students and/or members of ABT’s studio company; choreography by Raymond Lukens and Franco De Vita)

I mention this because I am thinking about so many things to do with the future, thinking about how much time and effort I have invested in learning classical ballet pedagogy from two of the most iconic ballet figures in the land, thinking about how badly I want to stay in that world. This beautiful little piece of work has been the soundtrack for reflection this week; big decisions in the coming week.

The Final Straw

IMG_20130930_182652

I wish I could enjoy with wild abandon the New England beauty around me, particularly now, during these dry, sunny fall days—these are good hair days through and through.  But I can’t when I am preoccupied with Stressful Things because I am hard wired that way, dammit.  A confessed linear thinker, I can be faulted occasionally (okay, frequently) for a skewed view of the big picture.  In defense of this blot on my character I submit that being a linear thinker allows me to get a hell of a lot done and with painstaking attention to detail.  Some people actually appreciate this.

My big picture is not terrible (far from it) and my rational self knows this at some level.  I should be able to allow beauty—like the beauty in the photograph I made yesterday of that interesting barn and resplendent foliage, that is right here, right on the street where I live now—wash over me.  Instead there is an incessant hum, not unlike the sound you hear if you have ever stood underneath high voltage lines, that insinuates itself into every waking hour and somehow communicates to me that the beauty around me is for everyone else—not for me, not now, not until I resolve <fill in the blank>.

The other day I wondered how the scenery might change if I just pretended there was no looming threat of, say, complete financial ruin.  Just to choose a random example.  I tried it on for a few minutes, and it felt good.  And then I snapped right out of it. (See hard wiring, above.)

But here is a paradigm shift that is emerging ever so gradually in my life:  succeeding, at least in part, means thinking like you are enjoying success, or are about to, even if you are not.  So I have resolved to take a shotgun approach to my future, fighting and clawing my way out of a pretty dang bleak situation one teeny, tiny solution at a time.  And I am coming to grips with the reality that success may actually look a lot like failure for a little while.

I am okay with this, because I am tired of feeling beleaguered, and more tired still of deporting myself like a beleaguered person.  My nest egg dried up last week, and that is that.  I refuse to be a victim, or to behave like one—to wring my hands or tear my hair.  Think I’ll paint my nails and wear sparkly pink lipstick instead.

I love that barn across the street, by the way.  My plan is to keep a photo log of it with the changing seasons.  Stay tuned for some beauty.