Monday, November 25, 2019

Come study with me!

If 2020 is your year to start that novel or memoir, or to finish it, I will be teaching far and wide and would love to see you again or meet you for the first time!

I don’t have all the dates here, but they are easily Google-able.

My January workshop at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg FL is full. So think 2021!

Online workshop, “Writing the Personal Essay”, through 24Pearl Street is offering a discount if you sign up early: EARLYWINTER20

The Newport MFA is accepting applications for June 2020! Poets, memoirists and fiction writers!

I’m teaching memoir writing at The Provincetown Fine Arts Center June 8-13.

I’ll be teaching non fiction in Dingle Ireland through Bay Path University the first week of August.

And I’ll be in Truro at Castle Hill August 17-21.

Finally, I will be teaching non fiction at Breadloaf in Sicily in mid September!

I hope to see you in Newport or Cape Cod, Ireland or Sicily!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Holidays

Are you getting that strange combination of exhilaration and sadness that comes as the holidays near? It’s no coincidence that I’ve been knitting like mad, even as I plan the thanksgiving menu and shop covertly for Christmas gifts. On the one hand, I’m tickled that the vintage wrapping paper I ordered arrived and is even better than it looked online. On the other hand, the weight of all the losses is sometimes so heavy that I literally can’t get up. I’ve learned to give in to that impulse, to give myself those dats under the quilt knitting socks and watching that British baking show, as long as I’m also ordering turkeys and hiding gifts and planning trips. As long as I’m knitting those socks and reading books and delighting in my kids and my darling husband.

For example, a bad cold and those holiday blues settled around me this week. But on the front end I got to see Sam’s new play (yay Sam and What Will the Neighbors Say?), see Annabelle’s play (yay Annabelle, techie extraordinaire), see The Slave Play and Cyrano. And eat, drink and be merry with my sweetheart. On the other end, Annabelle and cousin GJ and I saw the extraordinary show Guac at the 92nd St Y (yay James!), eat the best chines food in NYC at Hua Yuan, go to the Museum of Math (who knew?) and spend a lovely evening drinking whiskey with friends (yay again James!). In between, my uncle died and I sat with my cousins and remembered, so many things we remembered.

It’s raining here. Hard and cold. How silly it sounds to be grateful for this blanket from Uzbekistan that I’m beneath, these cats in my feet, my daughter studying for a pre calc test, my son celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday, this book I’m about to disappear into, that second sock waiting to be cast on, my husband—my love—two hundred miles away but home from the miami book festival, those turkeys I will roast, the wine I will drink, the friends and family who will be here and fill this loft with love.

If this week is hard for you, take time to hide. Take time to remember. Take time to truly be thankful. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Homebody

It’s finally autumn, and by that I mean the leaves are all red and gold and the weather is my favorite weather—hovering just under 60 degrees. I love autumn and like the song says, I love autumn in New York. Just spent five glorious days there with my fabulous husband, enjoying the city and the weather and each other. That meant lots of plays—THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM, LINDA VISTA, and MACBETH—and I loved them all. Also lots of good food—a memorable dinner at Gabriel Kreuther and the best ramen at JeJu Noodle Bar. Lots of walking and back at our apartment lots of reading and card playing, whiskey and chocolate.

But now it’s home in RI for a couple weeks (with a few dips back to NYC to teach). And it’s lovely to be here with Annabelle and the cats, writing writing writing and cooking up a storm and knitting as the afternoon turns into evening. I’ve finished ferrymen mitts from Churchmouse Yarns and a mistake rib cowl in orange cashmere from Purl Soho and started a spotted hat from Mason Dixon Knitting and—are you ready?—a SKIRT (also a Churchmouse pattern). I will keep you updated on how that turns out!

I am finishing the book MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM, which is so charming I’m totally smitten. Also, I’m fascinated by bog people so there’s that too. And thank you to the reader here who pointed out the Helen Philllips book I mentioned here is THE NEED, not The Help. Oops!

A big pot of lentil soup is on the stove and I’ll be making vats of Gogo’s sauce and meatballs to replace all that I had to toss because my refrigerator broke! That hurt. But I have a shiny mostly empty one now, begging to be filled.

I hope your autumn is treating you well. Knit. Cook. Read. Repeat. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Soup

Last night I made enchiladas suiza for dinner after our pumpkin carving. Cousin GJ has been coming over to carve pumpkins with us since Sam was a baby—26 years. We had nights when it was just the three of us, nights with Grace, a crowd carving with the kitchen fireplace ablaze, new friends, old friends...a tradition that like all traditions adjusts with life’s changes. But on a night close to Halloween, pumpkins will be carved and autumnal food will be eaten!

When autumn—my favorite season—arrives, I think soup. Even living alone on Bleecker Street in NYC, I always had a pot of soup on the stove come autumn. I like to eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is what Annabelle and I do whenever I make tortellini en broda. The thing about soup, beside the obvious comfort factor, is its versatility. For example, this week I made black bean soup from a NYT recipe titles The Best Black Bean Soup. It is too. I think what elevates this soup is the step of pushing the softened carrots and onions to the side and toasting cumin and coriander for a minute before combining them with the veggies. It’s even better with Ranch Gorda beans, but I didn’t have any so used supermarket ones and it was still delicious.

All week my soup sat on my stove. I ate it with tortillas. I ate it with sour cream and grated cheddar. I ate it with avocados. By week’s end, the pot was low. So I cooked up some rice, made my enchiladas, and served the last of my soup (which was thicker and less brothy) on top of that rice. By the way, I used rotisserie chicken for the enchiladas and made my brilliant husband’s overnight broth. So it will be a weekend of that tortellini soup, enough to fill a thermos for Annabelle’s lunch on Monday.

Sam is coming home for a visit and requested I make lentil soup. So next week’s soup pot already has a plan.

Emily Post wrote about the power of soup in early twentieth century etiquette book. Bring a grieving person broth, she told us. I say let soup comfort and nourish you through the first chill of autumn and snowy days of winter. Stay in your jammies. Eat soup. Knit. Read. Feed your soul.

On knitting: I was happily finishing my mistake rib cowl in orange cashmere on the train to NYC  Thursday, almost at the eleven inches end point, when I looked down and realized I was almost out of yarn! So I’m tnik-ing like crazy to have enough yarn to bind off, all the while hoping my cowl will still be big enough. I finished my ferryman fingerless mitts from Churchmouse Yarns in denim Donegal Tweed and they are gorgeous! I love this pattern. It was just the right amount of difficulty, speed, and oh I can do that. Next up is a hat from Mason Dixon knitting that requires reading one of those pattern grid things. Wish me luck.

If you haven’t already, you must read THE HELP by Helen Philips. I could not put this book down! Last night I started the second Caz Frear crime fiction novel, STONE COLD HEART. I’m so in love with her detective, Cat Kinsella. There’s nothing like British crime novels in bed after your soup and knitting.

By the way, my husband has a podcast! I’m so proud of him, he is always on the cutting edge of stuff. It’s called From Scratch, which is also the name of his new cookbook. The photos alone in it will send you straight into the kitchen. I hope you check them both out. And more news: my own KITCHEN YARNS is coming out in paperback first of December. The recipe for that tortellini soup is in there!

The leaves are showing off here, and I’m in deep nesting mode. I hope you are taking care of yourself. Put a pot of soup on your stove. Comfort.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Autumn!

Some people like the sultry weather of summer, others come alive when daffodils poke their heads out and trees fill with blossoms, and surprising to me there are even those who love the cold and snow of winter (people who like things like skiing and snowshoeing!) Me, I love autumn. The leaves of course. The crisp chill at night and the particular blue of an autumn sky. The food—sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Oatmeal with dates and gigs and nuts. Apples! But I think why I love autumn most is the A student in me still starts the year on the first day of school. Sharpen your pencils, line up your books, get started. For one so long out of school—me!—that means getting back to my 2 2 2 schedule: write two hours, read two hours, knit two hours. Then I head to the store and buy stuff for dinner—stews and soups and braised things. Since the weather finally changed,  Annabelle and I have has pasta fagiola, tortellini soup, pork chops. I’ve been eating roasted sweet potatoes (a little butter and salt) and pumpkin seed bread smeared with avocado for breakfast. I’ve lined up my knitting projects: orange mistake rib cashmere cowl from Purl Soho, Ferrymen fingerless mitts from Churchmouse Yarns in blue Donegal tweed, striped hats from Mason Dixon’s new field guide, socks and even a skirt! After dinner Annabelle and I cozy up on the couch and I knit while we watch The Gilmore Girls, an endless pleasure before book and bed. One of us has a wee dram of whiskey.

Some may be reading this and wondering where the husband is. Another delight of autumn is that NYC comes alive on stage, and we’ve been going to plays every chance we get. Mostly we have long weekends together as he launches his podcast From Scratch (subscribe!) and his new cookbook of the same name (a glorious gorgeous book, the only cookbook you’ll need said The Barefoot Contessa). The recipes are terrific and the pictures are stunning, all taken right in my loft. Plus he’s writing a new cookbook with the chef Gabriel Kreuther and the next French Laundry cookbook...the guy can barely come up for air. When he does, we get Chines food delivered and hide out in our Greenwich Village pad, emerging for shows and friends and drinks and movies. We just saw Pain and Glory and were gobsmacked. Tonight, after I teach, we are going to see Parasite, advance tickets in hand as it sells out every show.

I’m fulfilling my love of British crime novels by reading Caz Frear—Sweet Little Lies and now Stone Cold Heart. My stack of books to read this fall is a beautiful thing that includes Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, The Child Finder, Mr. Fox, and more. Also, Annabelle has started a book club with her aunt, me, and our dear friend. We read the fantastic We Were Liars and next up Turtles All the Way Down.

This weekend my beloved and I will be at the Brattleboro Literary Festival in Vermont, where the leaves should be putting on quite the show. Tonight it’s dinner with friends at Gene’s, a favorite old school Italian place of ours before I teach, movie after. Tomorrow I’ll be writing, getting in my two hours, while Michael interviews a chef in the Bronx for his podcast, lunch with the chef, then onward to Brattleboro. En route we will keep reading the masterpiece Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates out loud. Hopefully I’ll get some stitches done on that cashmere cowl. And there it is: 2 2 2.

I hope your autumn is full of soups and yarn and good books. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

To Grace at 23

You are an artist living near your brother in Bushwick

You are a hipster in Portland Oregon.

You went to RISD. You went to Reed. You went to Oberlin.

You are six feet tall, as the pediatrician predicted.

You are fearless.

You and your brother are still best friends.

You speak Mandarin.

You are funny.

Your hair is long, or pink, or shaved.

You still wear glasses, maybe like John Lennon.

You love the Beatles. Still.

Maybe you draw pictures for The New Yorker. You love Charles Addams and I bet by now also Roz Chast.

You are so smart. You are so ironic. You are 23. You are 23. You are 23. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Autumn

I can’t believe I have not written here since May. Yet in some ways I can believe it. As you know, my mom died last year. But you probably don’t know how paralyzed by grief I’ve been. I’m writing at a glacial pace. My energy level is about as low as it can be. Everything is taking so much more time than usual. Yet I also know that grief is exhausting. It’s time consuming. It reeks havoc with you. And so, here I am. Undone.

Still, I’ve had such a wonderful summer. And my life is pretty darn good. I just am grieving hard. Giving myself time for that.

Summer. A trip to Northern California where my wonderful husband is working on the new French Laundry Cookbook. Which means I had the opportunity to eat at The French Laundry, for a meal and a night I will never forget. Champagne outside under that Northern California sky. Romantic dinner with astounding food and wine. That just began a trip that was practically perfect in every way: staying in a lodge in Big Sur, playing Yahtzee with Annabelle and her pal; hiking there the next day; visiting my old roomie in Santa Barbara where we had an unforgettable Fourth of July; dinner with my dear buddy Matt in LA...what a way to kick off summer.

And what a way to end it—five weeks in Europe with the people I love most (Sam, Annabelle, Michael...added bonus of GJ for a week and darling Katherine!), eating and drinking and card playing our way through Ireland, France and Italy. A dream trip.

And knitting and reading too. Socks (that’s the knitting) for the first time in ten years. I forgot how much fun they are! I have an autumn (and winter) worth of projects lined up—mitts and more docks and cashmere cowls and a skirt and...)

Have you read Barbara Trapido? Four books that had me charmed all summer. The new Kate Atkinson. WE WERE LIARS. Caz Frear’s British procedurals. A PLACE FOR US. PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION. ASK AGAIN, YES. Every one of them a must must read.

Today is officially the first day of fall. I’ve put my self on a familiar schedule. Write two hours. Read two hours. Knit two hours. This schedule works for me. Slowly, slowly. Grief abates. It doesn’t leave. It shouldn’t, should it?

Here’s to autumn. Today I saw red and yellow leaves here and there.