Sunday, September 19, 2010

chocolate covered pancakes {etc}.

Listening To: Old Before Your Time by Ray LaMontagne
Line Obsession: We know we are shining. / Though we cannot see one another. - James Wright

Hey lovelies! This is actually a post I wrote last week. I meant to set this entry to run on Friday ... and clearly I forgot to do so. I'm going to post it today instead. Anything else I try to write today will seem even more disjointed than usual ;) I attended a family reunion waaaay up in the mountains this weekend, which means lots of food and lots of loud, sweet, wonderfully wacky people. (I mean this as a sincere compliment. My family is my favorite brand of crazy.) Coming down from all that chaos will take awhile :) I have a super sweet story I can't wait to share with you later this week though. Till then, I hope you're having a happy almost-fall!

Tonight I'm particularly fond of ...

... good-bye summer nights (that are bittersweet and bright). I so wish I could box this night up and mail it to you, because I think sending you a goodbye-summer night would be the sweetest care package in the world.

(And really ... wouldn't it be awesome to open a box full of stars?)

My back yard is full of spiky fog. The confetti stars I want to toss in a box are, currently, trembling in the sky. And the half-moon is reclining at an ever so comfy looking angle. The weather is just cool enough for me to break out the big comforter for my bed, which Biscuit digs because it is puffier than the white quilt I keep on my bed most of the year. (I should note that I picked the color white before I had a dog. Now the white quilt is frequently covered in little muddy paw prints, which I adore. :)

... breakfast for dinner. While the cold air whirled in, and the stars did their favorite shimmery dance moves, my family dined on chocolate covered pancakes. Chocolate covered pancakes are my favorite comfort food ... maybe my favorite food ever ... and they've been a tradition in my family for many years. My mom made them for us when we were kids. (Back when I thought side pony-tails were hawt. Back when I pulled the edge of my t-shirt down over my knees and bounced around on my rear pretending to be a Popple.) (Please tell me I'm not the only one who did this?)

There are four things in particular I like about chocolate covered pancakes:

Thing 1) I like how the entire house smells like chocolate while the sauce is simmering down.
Thing 2.) I like sliding just the right amount of butter onto the center of the pancake, then pouring the hot chocolate sauce over it, then watching the butter and chocolate go swirly together. Butter and chocolate are meant for each other.
Thing 3.) I like the first perfect bite; the way the edge of the pancake tastes a little crisp, and the middle tastes a little bit spongy and oh-so-chocolaty. Chocolate covered pancakes make me feel warm and happy inside. This is partially due to the cocoa, but I think it has more to do with all the happy memories that start swirling through my mind. Certain traditions only taste sweeter as you get older, don't they?

And Thing 4) (arguably the most important thing of the things): you have to be cool with getting messy in order to eat, and enjoy, a chocolate covered pancake. Win.

... all you sweet chicas (and threeish guys) who read this blog. Our tiny little corner of the webby world keeps expanding, and this makes me so happy. I've noticed some new readers lately - some hits from new cities, new subscribers, all that fun stuff. And yet. I feel like I've invited you to a party, and you're sweet enough to come, only to discover that I'm the worst hostess ever. Thanks for taking the time to drop in and hang out here even when I'm in deep in the Cave of Solitude finishing some work. I hope this time away from the blog will be worth it someday. (Even when I go for weeks without blogging much, I'm still writing. Hopefully, the words I'm writing are still words you'll get to see ... someday. :) Important Note: you are the cutest bloggy community ever. I was just looking at the little pics of you subscriber types and oh my word. My Granny Orangie would have said that you people are "cuter than a sack of taters" (it's a compliment). How the heck do you take such good profile pictures?! You're a lovely, lovely bunch. Welcome, newbies!

... Ben's essay about his Uncle Larry. My bffMelanie's husband, Ben, shared this beautiful post about his uncle, who passed away suddenly just a week ago. Ben is a great writer and he comes from a kind, close-knit, wonderful family. I like to read about traditions other families build memories off of. I like to read about people who know how to find peace and solace out in the woods. Ben's post had plenty of both; lots of raw memories.

*tangent from serious to somewhat frivolous*

... the horse sweater. My crazy-talented author friend Jenny B. Jones is wearing that sweater while she teaches two sessions on Young Adult Lit at ACFW this weekend. I dare you to whistle "Yankee Doodle" through her introduction.

* slight tangent for a note about that rancid sweater (which my stylish friend Jen really isn't wearing ... I think you know when I'm being sarcastic, but I feel as though I should make doubly sure in this situation)* My favorite review of the sweater is the one that talks about how, really, it is stylish. It is ironic. And someone with good humor could wear it and look pony-chic. Blah, blah, blah. Perhaps this makes me un-hip, but I think those who are willing to spend $300 on any sweater, that doesn't turn into a magic carpet, are probably a little bit out of touch with reality. But! To choose to spend $300 on a sweater, that doesn't turn into a magic carpet, that does make you look like a horse's rear... that seems especially redunkulous to me. #ifthehorseshoefits (#zing!)

... this gorgeous collaboration between children's librarian and artist Mia Cabana and her boyfriend, photographer Oliver Scott Snure, as featured on Design Sponge.

... a quote my mom tucked into a book she borrowed. It's worth mentioning that my mom's penmanship is gorgeous; her letters wrap around the lines on paper like inky vines. I've always loved her handwriting. I also adore this quote she left for me, and thought I would pass it on:

"Don't give up what you want most ... for what you want at the moment."

... recipe recommendations!
I got a Facebook message from super-adorable blog reader Shaiya, who informed me she made Aarti Sequeria's I ain't Chicken-Chicken. Shaiya says her whole family raved. I ain't Chicken-Chicken is now a new family favorite at Shaiya's house and she is - wait for it - confident I can make it without inciting a friendly visit from my area fire department. I'm excited to give it a whirl! Here's the recipe in case you get brave this week and want to try it too.

... Mondo. He's my favorite on Project Runway. He's my favorite designer but he's also my favorite personality at this point. Before the season started, I looked at the sketches online and thought Gretchen was the best designer. But I can't handle Gretchen's attitude on the show. Also, I can't handle the long tan vests she keeps on making. What is her deal with red and tan? Enough! I think Mondo is talented and cool (if Tim Burton and Betsy Johnson had a love-child, I think it would be Mondo!) and I LOVED the episode when he worked with Michael C. I liked that he was willing to own up to being a jerk and then say he'd come to respect him in a whole new way. The shot of the two of them arm in arm at the end of that episode? PRICELESS. My favorite quote from the season, however, is still when Casanova was crying about how he was tired and clueless and frustrated with his work. And then he said, "And! I'm getting fat!" Hilarious. Go Mondo, go!

... Ray LaMontane's new CD. Ray LaMontagne's music has always hit me in a particularly magical way. For lack of a better way to describe my adoration: his songs make me feel pretty and confident. Maybe that sounds silly, but I like to think he would be happy to know this. For years, I was a sidelines fan. I could sing every gorgeous word of "Hold You in my Arms." I argued that his version of "Crazy" was one of the best song covers ever (YouTube it and be amazed). The Rogue Accountant and I listened to Gossip in the Grain, on repeat, all the way to the mountains.

Gossip in the Grain was what sealed my ardent admiration for his work. The song "Sarah" made me think about how my understanding of love keeps changing as I get older. "Be Here Now" makes me think of my family and where I grew up and where I want to be someday. It's the kind of song that helps me not regret my regrets. "Roses and Cigarettes" always makes me teary even though I'm still not sure why. (As I type that ... I'm not sure "Roses and Cigarettes" is on Gossip in the Grain ... but I know it's his song ;) And when I first heard the song "Meg White" ... I knew my crush on Ray Lamontagne was cemented for all time.

I'm neutral on The White Stripes (I have some of their music but I don't listen to enough of it to talk specifics). Still, I can certainly understand, and appreciate, the iconic nature of Jack and Meg for my generation. I think Meg White will always be that indie-pretty girl that other nerdy girls *raises hand* look up to. She seems like this perfect blend of a wildflower and a wallflower. Ray LaMontagne's song for Meg is, in my mind, a song for any girl who feels different. There are so many kinds of beautiful in the world. Guys who notice that deserve accolades. My favorite part of the song is when he growls, "Baby, you're the bomb./ Jackie's great - don't get me wrong./ But this is your song." :)

Ray LaMontagne's new album, God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, came out a few weeks ago. As you've probably guessed, I've been in a near constant state of swoon. I keep emailing lyrics to my long-suffering friends and bringing up the album at every opportunity, in the most random of conversations. I'm not sure when I decided to be an unofficial PR person for Ray Lamontagne's album, but here's my pitch to you:

The songs on God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise are about seasons and transitions and falling in love and being in love ... not just with a person but with the world around you. I can't believe I'm actually going to try to make this leap, but here goes: in college I wrote a paper about a mystic named Julian of Norwich. She is famous for many reasons, and though I'm tempted to launch into them I won't (she's a fascinating woman to read about though). However. I remember stumbling through her writings and finding a quote that was, mostly, a reflection about a seed; specifically how she'd discovered this tiny seed and, through that discovery, felt she made a specific connection with God. I got the distnct impression a little seed helped her understand the meaning of life. Thus, I came to two immediate conclusions:

1.) Reading about a seed makes for some tedious study. I realize her work had been translated somewhat into the version I read, but Old English and I have never really hit it off. And when the Old English isn't racy Shakespeare stuff, I have an even harder time sticking with it. Seed epiphanies in Ye Olde English doeth not a relaxing afternoon make. 2.) Julian of Norwich was, perhaps, a nutter. Brilliant? Yes. But I think anybody who lives alone, in a cell, and spends months and years in silence is entitled to some crazy. You're allowed to think a seed is the coolest thing you've ever seen. And yet.

The more I wrote about Julian, and her simple epiphany, the more I pictured her sitting alone, rolling a smooth seed around in her palm, studying it, thinking about its potential ... the more I realized how un-observant and callous I'd become. I think inspiration is a recluse. I think it is beautiful and fleeting, whether it's a seed or a song or a whisper in the wind. What inspires you will always seem nutter-iffic to somebody. But if you are getting inspired, the fact remains that you're probably staying very open to the world around you. During most of college, I was not inspired. I was shut off.

For example: words have always thrilled me to bits. But, in college, books and poems became liken to those cantankerous glass ketchup bottles in roadside diners. You know how you have to slap your hand against the bottle for an hour, just so one little gloop of ketchup will finally plop out? Literature felt that way to me in college. Words were no longer pretty because I read so many of them, all at once, always looking for one goopy truth I could shake loose and write a paper about. Reading is a more magical experience, for me, when I let the words fall on my heart however they want.

I wasn't just unobservant about words though. I might loathe summer heat with every fiber of my being, but I am quite inspired by nature. I don't pick up seeds and ponder the meaning of life, but I do a great deal of pondering outside. In a perfectly square room, my questions seem to bounce off the ceiling and bruise my heart. Under a ceiling of sky (or under the canopy of a willow tree), my questions have room to change and reorganize and stretch their wings. In college, I stopped noticing the sky. I stopped reading under trees. Rain clouds paraded by in a thousand dinasaur shapes; I never looked up. Yellow leaves broke loose from the branches and waved; I didn't even glance. I didn't see contrasts in color. I didn't see dandelions blooming through the sidewalk. People became a blur too: I stopped noticing accents, faces, eye color, quirks.

I think college is a time when many people wake up to life, but my experience was just the opposite. College sent my heart into a four year stretch of bland hybernation. I could have studied spirituality, and the maze of a human mind, and the rhythem of words. Instead, I zombie-walked to classes carrying sharpie-branded binders of "Theology" and "Psychology" and "Poetry 101". All the while, Julian of Norwich was flicking seeds at my imagination saying: would you wake up?

It took longer than it should have for me to wake up, to realize I'm the kind of girl who fares better when she lives her life like a poem, not a research paper.

And what does this have to do with Ray LaMontagne? He makes me more aware of the miracles happening all around me too. He doens't seem all that impressed with obvious, overwrought beauty. Instead, he writes and sings about the crazy beauty, the quirky beauty, the glorious, odious colors that patch together my ordinary days. His lyrics wrap around my heart and imagination so easily, always forcing me to look at something in a brand new way. Sometimes I think - I am the person in this song. Or - I want to be this person. Or - this is how I would say it if I could string the words together just right. Sometimes I think about how this is a really beautiful, broken world. I think about how thankful I am that I get to live in it. How I want to really live in it and not sleep through it all.

But most of the time I let the words fall on my heart however they want. His songs make me feel pretty and confident. His songs settle over me like a perfect summery-daydream. His songs remind me that there are seeds of miracles blowing wild around me, always. All I have to do is open my hand and reach for them.

Exhibit A:

Now the wren has gone to roost, the sky is turning gold
and like the sky my soul is also turning
turning from the past, at last, and all I've left behind
could it be that I am finally learning?
learning I'm deserving of love and a peaceful heart
I won't tear myself apart no more for trying
I'm tired of lying to myself
trying to buy what can't be bought ...
it's not living that you're doing if it feels like dying.

That lyric comes from my favorite song on the new CD, "Old Before Your Time":

(Fun trivia: The Rogue Accountant says that Ray LaMontagne refuses to stand center stage at live shows.) I hope your weekend is [was :)] full of chocolate covered pancakes and pretty songs. I hope you open a box full of shooting stars.

* A note: It has been, um, a few years since college ended. I'm 99% sure the seed thing was a Julian observation. But maybe it was Margaret Kempe. Or John Donne. Or Beedle the Bard. Or Bob Dylan. My reflections remains unchanged regardless of whether or not I've confused the authorship ... :)


  1. 1)I don't remember trying to be a Popple but I surely remember what they are! What a fun childhood memory!
    2) Mondo is great and Gretchen is super annoying. I'm not sure who I'm rooting for yet but it's certainly been an interesting season.
    3) You didn't mention it but what did you think of the Top Chef finale? I was so mad when Tiffani was eliminated! I ended up switching loyalties to Kevin, which I suppose paid off.
    4) You captured my feelings about Ray perfectly! I adore his latest CD. It makes me feel a whole range of emotions about so many things. It is perfectly perfect and imperfect all rolled into one. I can confirm at his show in Nashville he stood to the far right of his band. No center stage for him, which I thought was pretty cool.

  2. TOP CHEF! I am with you all the way. Tiffani should have been the winner. Once she was gone, I didn't care who won. I realize sometimes I get attached to personalities over actual talent but, in that season, I truly believe she was the best. Also, I think the judges are kind of wishy-washy on that whole concept of judging based on that specific meal. I think sometimes they do that and sometimes they don't. Tiffani was so consistently good. She should have been the winner. I like that she was confident, and kept her head in the game, but still managed to be kind about it. The way whatshisface tried to mess with Angelo in the finale? That came off so insecure and silly. I think Kevin definitely deserved it more than him.

  3. So I was just about to ask about Top Chef! I know?? Tiffany so should've won! Out of the four left though I was happy that it was Kevin. Ed's a jerk and Angelo's...strange (i mean praying to pics of chefs and marrying someone he's never met? he needs Jesus.) And Kelly was just ok. But I honestly think this season has had the least amount of talent, so it made it a little less fun :(

    and speaking of food, those pancakes sound SO good! and so does that box of stars. I love the beautiful pictures you paint with your words :)

  4. Beedle the Bard? You make me laugh so hard.
    I really needed this today, always no matter what your posts are about they make me happy and calm. Which I really need right now. I haven't had a moment's peace in weeks and I'm stressing out, in a few hours I'm about to help teach at my dance studio and I'm worried (which sounds lame, but it's true, although thanks to your magic words I'm already starting to feel better). I just needed to hear from a friend, one that makes me see the beauty in the world and in me, so thanks. Here's to opening a box of shooting stars.

  5. I love Mondo too-he is toally a Tim Burton/Betsy Johnson love child! And I LOVED that he owned up to being a jerk to Michael C and admitted that he wasn't really a bad guy. What's up with everyone hating on Michael C? And I can't stand Gretchen's attitude and jackets-she's not original at all.

    I want to know how to make those chocolate covered pancakes-they sound so yummy!!

    And I'm so checking out that CD right now! (Well, I'm putting it on hold and I'll check it out when my library copy comes in! haha!)

    I love reading your posts-you are such an amazing writer and your posts always brighten my day.

  6. I want a box of stars. Although logging in to see that you have a new post is the next best thing. :)

    I thought Anthropologie could do no wrong. Apparently, I was wrong. That sweater reminds me of a dress...And now I must tell you the whole story. There is a fancy, high-priced store in my little town that has been around for years, and it's really famous for its furs and whatnot. There was a wealthy lady at my church who shopped there, and when she told my mom she had a dress from there that she thought I could wear, I was pretty excited. I bought it home and took the plastic off. It was a long sleeved, black dress in an 80s-ish shape. And on the front were two giant, hideous horse heads, nose to nose. It was the creepiest thing I've ever seen. I sucked in my stomach and hunched over so my mom could tell the lady it didn't fit right.

    Wow, those pictures on Design Sponge are gorgeous...I especially love the last two: the woman with the mirror and the chair.

    I completely agree with you about the ketchup bottle/words thing in college. I've only had to take three English classes, but I hate the way you are forced to think about things in college (except children's lit...I loved that class). It drains the beauty away. But I still try to stay inspired, if not from my classes, then from the rest of my life. I think it's easier because I'm still at home instead of in a dorm room, completely surrounded by school.

    I guess I'm going to have to check out this Ray LaMontagne fellow, now. :)


  7. Courtney, your comment cracked me up! Remember when Angelo said something about making out with his food? I'm paraphrasing but I thought, "Clearly I'm not cool enough to understand this ..." and then the guest judge said, "I have no idea what you just said ..." Ha :) I so agree with your assessment. After last season - when so many talented chefs were all paired together (Kevin! Jen! The Votagio Brothers!) this season was lackluster. Thanks for the kind compliment! :) I need to post the recipe sometime because if you like chocolate ... the pancakes will rock your world.

    LF, getting nervous over teaching dance is NOT lame! I'm so proud of you for living out what inspires you though :) And I'm glad these quirky words were an encouragement to you. YOU are a shooting star.

    GBTQ, 1.) Let me know what you think about Ray! 2.) What IS the deal with Michael C.?! I think this brood of designers happens to be very insecure and, as he seems to be doing well, they dump on him to feel a little bit better. Or something. I like it when they're competitive on the show but these designers are such divas. 3.) If I can remember (and if I don't - just remind me!), I would be happy to email you the recipe for chocolate covered pancakes! They are decadent.

    Kristin, I was also convinced Anthropologie could do no wrong! And then the horse sweater! Your story made me laugh so much though :) I can just picture your face when you saw the dress. Hahaha :) I can tell, just by reading your blog, that you never shut yourself off to the world. I love the way you see things; the way you put pieces and patterns together to so many funky little dreamscapes. I don't know if it has to do with the fact that you don't live in a dorm, or simply the fact that you're made of win, but I hope you never stop doing it :) (Let me know what you think about Ray L.'s music!)

  8. Um,I am a breakfast for dinner person. I love to eat pancakes and eggs for dinner. They taste so much better then, I think. And I am oh so lazy in the morning.
    I love love love chocolate pancakes. Now, I like choclate chip ones with butter on top. But that sause sounds heavenly. :) What if I tried them together...overkill? We shall see!

    I cracked up when I watched that popple video. I have never even heard of them!

    Mia's collab is awesome!

  9. The fact that I couldn't get my short hair into a side ponytail is the ONLY reason I didn't wear the horse sweater to ACFW. There's always next year though.

  10. Natalie, where do you find all of the beautiful pictures you put at the beginning of your blogs? They always make me very happy :)

  11. Natalie, thanks for the comment on my blog. I've read the Shabby Apple blog before, but I don't regularly. I would enter their design contest if I had more time right now or if I had a real sense of style and fashion. :) Plus, I've seen the dress that won last year (I read the winner's blog: Grosgrain Fabulous), and I know I can't compete with talent like that. :) But the idea of having something you've designed become part of their spring line is pretty amazing!