Campbell’s Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Last night, self made menudo (Using Memories of Philippine Kitchens, but substituting canned tomatoes for the fresh called for in recipe —  apologies oh esteemed chefs Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan!) and the result was pretty good, if self says so herself.

The night before, self made a pasta dish out of fettucine noodles, fresh tomatoes, fresh Italian parsley, fresh oregano (from her garden) and dollops of olive oil and sea salt.  Dee-lish!

So now self is trying to plan what to cook for tonight, and also for Saturday, when her Half Moon Bay Gourmet Club meets, and she has to think of something that goes with champagne, crostini, cream of asparagus soup, and scallops.  She was going to bring pasta, but at the last minute found a recipe for creamy clam chowder that looks good, and maybe people will not mind having two soups on the menu . . .

But for tonight, self consulted http://www.campbellkitchen.com, and from there clicked on Savings Center, and from there clicked on “Best Budget-Friendly Meals,” and let her mind rove over Swanson Hearty Lasagna Soup, and Campbell’s Easy Chicken Pot Pie, and . . .

Easy Chicken Pot Pie!  Did self not catch sight of several frozen ready-to-serve chicken pot pies in the freezer at Costco, just the other week?  Perfect!  Now all self has to do is mosey over to the Mountain View Costco!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

*   *   *

3:13 p.m. :  Self has returned from Costco.  There she found a most delectable looking item in the frozen foods section:  No, Read the rest of this entry »

Hallelujah!

Finished the Joan Didion book. Whose last chapters were a real bear.

How, how could she just have left the matter of her daughter’s recovery up in the air like that?  Her daughter, who presented at a New York hospital with the exact same symptoms as self’s sister — though over a decade later, perhaps treatment had advanced — and who was diagnosed with the same illness, “walking pneumonia,” made it out of the hospital six months later (but in what condition, Joan does not specify). She might not have been fully back to her old capacities, but at least she survived. While self’s sister, the mom of niece G, died. 11 days after admission. Cause of death: sepsis.

Anyhoo, self finished the Didion book. Remembered Ying saying that she “liked” it (How? It was sooo depressing! Yet this was one of the first things self and Ying talked about, when self arrived in Tel Aviv last year: how much Ying liked this book).

And now self is on to her next book, Charles C. Mann’s 1491, a historical account of the Americas before Columbus.

Self still has a number of student pieces to comment on, so this short post will have to be all for now. But self really has to get this one off her chest: What is up with this weather? It is cold, cold as in self-needs-to-wear-socks-and-wool-sweater-around-the-house cold. There is no joy in self, this spring day . . .

The Honesty of Joan Didion

I remember despising the book Dylan Thomas’ widow Caitlin wrote after her husband’s death, Leftover Life to Kill. I remember being dismissive of, even censorious about, her “self-pity,” her “whining,” her “dwelling on it.” Leftover Life to Kill was published in 1957. I was twenty-two years old. Time is the school in which we learn.

      – from

The Year of Magical Thinking

A Most Gorgeous Channing

This has been a most gorgeous day.  Why?

Because self has been to see gorgeous Channing Tatum in “Fighting.” (Dear blog readers, the pictures of him in April 2009 Vanity Fair do not do him justice.  What self means is: why should anyone want to see this actor decked out as if he’d just stepped from the pages of The Great Gatsby, replete with two-toned shoes?? He should be gritty and shirtless —  as often as possible)

Terrence Howard is in the same movie, and that makes two gorgeous guys for the price of one movie ticket.  How lucky is that?

Also, script was not stupid.  Which we have much to be thankful for.  As self knows from sad experience that when there are two gorgeous men appearing together in a movie, rarely does anyone bother to ask if the script makes any sense (Not so fast, self!  Have you forgotten Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen?  With Clooney and Pitt and Damon?  What about Bourne #1?  With Clive Owen as assassin in a field?  Once again, self digresses)

The only thing self wanted to know was:  why are there so many scenes with Tatum alone in a subway car?  Is he constantly riding the subway in the wee hours of the morning?  And how can someone fight like he does and not chip a single tooth?  Though self has to admit it would seriously detract from (female) movie-goer’s experience to have to look at Channing Tatum with missing teeth.

Anyhoo, after watching the movie, self was in such a good mood she was practically longing to get back to Joan Didion’s uber-intellectual parsing of the grief experience in The Year of Magical Thinking. (And, as soon as self is finished with the Didion, the next book on her list is the very exciting Charles C. Mann book on the world “before Columbus”, 1491.  Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned)

Eliot Spitzer Redux?

What Self Is Learning About New Yorkers After Reading a Gail Collins Column (“Forgive and Forget”) in the Thursday, 23 April 2009 Issue of The New York Times

“Should we forgive Eliot Spitzer?” begins the article.

New York’s most prominent disgraced public official is on a rehabilitation tour.  Doing TV interviews, writing for Slate, confessing his sins on the cover of Newsweek.

(My, self must have been in hibernation all last week.  How could she have missed all that?  Back to the article)

And as a New Yorker, I am rather proud of the way this is going.  You don’t see Eliot volunteering to appear on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” like some other ex-governors I could mention.

Although if you want to avoid the humiliation of asking a judge for permission to do a reality TV show in the jungles of Costa Rica like Rod Blagojevich did, being heir to a real estate fortune does help.  And really, I would not rule out a future for Spitzer as celebrity judge on “Top Chef” or the person who pulls out the winning lottery numbers at night on TV.

Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.  New York is pretty clearly ready to let Spitzer move on.  Although he is not the most sympathetic personality in the world, as he’s re-emerged, new information keeps coming out that makes you feel a little warmer about him.

For instance, I did not know until the Newsweek article that young Eliot “carried a Samsonite briefcase to junior high,” and this really does help explain a lot.

Anyway, in our role as judgmental citizens, we’re currently busy not forgiving a whole pack of bailed-out bankers.  Plus, we have to figure out what to do with the federal judge who approved the memo specifying the number of insects you could throw into a box with an arachnophobic suspected terrorist.  We’re pretty much booked up through summer.

Self would really like to know:  what happened to the wife?  Is he still married?  At least he doesn’t have the Blagojevich blow-dried look (though self wouldn’t go so far as to describe him, as one female blogger did, as “hot”!!)  Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Spotlight on: WHITE WHALE REVIEW

This is a very new journal, just coming out with its second issue (By the way, how great is that name — ???).

Editor is Randi Shapiro.

    Editors’ Statement

    When a new literary journal smashes the bottle of cheap, effervescing champagne against its iron sides, pronouncing itself seaworthy, the problem of its existential self-justification arises: why yet another electronic literary journal in a sea already glutted with verbiage? Are there not enough of you already?

    Read the rest of this entry »

On The Sundance Channel

By self knows not what stroke of fate or luck, she landed on the Sundance Channel this afternoon, while she was as usual multi-tasking by:  a) cleaning the kitchen and b) revising an old story.  And, after a series of immensely interesting cinema verité shorts (most with affectless teen protagonists during which self discovered that long hair for boys is apparently coming back in style), there was a showing of “Starting Out in the Evening” (which earlier self mixed up with another great indy movie, “Elegy” — that one had Ben Kingsley, another re-inventing actor, and Penelope Cruz). Self remembers watching “Starting Out . . . ” a few years ago. It stars the great Frank Langella.

Has any actor ever had such a re-birth in old age?  Wasn’t this the guy who first resurrected himself as Dracula on Broadway, and then went on to show he could act, really act, in movies?

Movie also stars Lauren Ambrose and Lili Taylor, who were excellent.  Self loves the part towards the end where Lili’s boyfriend brings her Dad (Langella/Leonard Schiller/Famous Old Author) to the hospital for an appointment, and afterwards asks “How’d it go?”  In response, Langella sighs.  “Don’t grow old,” he says.  “That’s my advice.”

In the next scene, Langella’s character is making his painful way along a sidewalk, assisted by daughter’s boyfriend, when he says, “It’s time to die.”  The boyfriend replies:  “Leonard, it’s not time to die.  It’s time to find a restroom so you can pee.”

HA.  HA.  HA.  HA.

Following this movie  —  self on such a roll —  she watched the following:  “Leaving Las Vegas” (Nic Cage’s retching scenes with the gallons of orange juice are the best!); “The Last of the Mohicans” (Oh, Daniel Day-Lewis, with your long, flowing back locks!  Oh Wes Studi, gallant protector of Madeline Stowe’s younger sister!  Michael Mann, you are genius!); and, after hubby came home, execrable Schwarzenegger movie called “Collateral Damage.”

Towards midnight she got seized with the writing bug.  You know what comes next.  Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Oh, George Saunders

You broke self’s heart, especially with your story “The Wavemaker Falters” (from the collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline), which was the last thing self read before falling asleep (and sleeping for the next seven hours —  yahay!):  your touching story of the husband who lies in wait behind a soda machine while the love of his life emerges from a manager’s office “looking flushed and happy.”  But even better was what happened afterwards, when your narrator confronted his wife and she said she was “going to continue no matter what,” and he then ran away to somewhere he could look at “starving pronghorns” coming down from the hills to “lick salt from the headstones” of a cemetery.  And the ending literally, literally had self crying and cheering simultaneously.

The only thing self didn’t like was the title, for she wishes it could have been simply “The Wavemaker” instead of “The Wavemaker Falters.”

The other stories (“Isabelle” and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline”) have been pretty funny, too, and now self is reading something with a 400-pound narrator.  Naturally the story begins with an episode of epic humiliation  (Did self just write that?  Episode and Epic?  And to think she never thought she was much good at onomatopeia!)

Page 52:

Up in the sky are wild clouds that make me think of Tahiti and courageous sailors on big sinking wooden ships.  Meanwhile here’s me, a grown man with a joystick-burn on his thumb.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

One Thing’s For Sure

Gardening’s murder, murder on your nails.  Self has never had such ugly fingers as she has now.  No, wait a minute, there was the time she struggled to raise a stuck window in son’s bedroom, and just as she had gotten it all the way up, and rested both hands on the windowsill, panting from all her exertions, the wooden window sash came down like a guillotine and —  WHAM!  —  landed on all ten fingers.  After that, self had the wonderful experience of watching all her nails turn black, and then gradually fall off.  This whole process took almost six months.  No one —  neither hubby, son, various visiting relatives, nor any of the people self worked with at Stanford —  made one comment.  Were they all blind?  Or just too polite?  Maybe they thought she’d lost a fight with her (cat?  Dearest Mum?) and were too embarrassed to say anything?

Anyhoo, as self was saying, her fingers are really horrible now, and it’s so embarrassing to have to work at the Writing Center.  Because of course, students are constantly handing self their papers and self has to go over them, and write things on the margins with a pencil, and once a student asked her:  “What’s that on your palm?  Is that hair dye?”  And self looked and was on the point of saying, “No, manure.”  But instead she said, “Oh, just some compost.  I’ve been gardening.”  Self used to have a manicure, every other week, but ever since the warmer weather rolled around, and self got on the plant-buying craze, she realized it would really be a waste of money, getting a manicure.  When the weather turns so cold that self can no longer bear to be outside for longer than 15 minutes, then self will start getting manicures again.

Let’s see, what happened to self today?  After she got three hours sleep, that is?

She picked up crap in the backyard.

She gazed with deep appreciation at all of her flowering plants.

She thought of apologizing to niece G for not telling her about Mayor of the Roses.

She e-mailed son that if he would only consent to stay at home (instead of in a hotel) during the American Psychology Association conference next month, self promised —  no, swore —  that she would ferry him back and forth to the City, in time for all his panels.

And here, dear blog readers, are all the advantages to having insomnia :

  • In the middle of the night, it is very quiet.  Self can read without interruption.  If she didn’t feel so tired the next day, self would read 24/7.
  • Self has gotten some really inspired bits of writing done at 1 or 2 a.m.  Of course, none of these bits has added up yet to one whole story, but, hey, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth!
  • Self ends up writing really inspired reviews on Amazon of the books she has just finished reading.  AND, it’s not until midnight or 1 a.m. that self can really be honest about a book.  Such as the one she returned to the library today:  Julie & JuliaThat is not a book, dear blog readers!  That is a series of blogs disguised as a memoir!  And that is why self will never collect any of her blogs to produce a book!  Because that’s just not how it works!  Blogs should never be enclosed between hard covers — never!  They should be ephemeral as the sun.  Nay, as the wind!  They belong to the moment, only to the moment.  And that’s why self never writes drafts to be up-loaded later.  She just loves it when a post explodes out of her —  explodes like the little purple lizard thing, when she tapped it with the point of her trowel.  That’s how a post should emerge!  Shrieking!  As out of the vast subconscious!

(If self remembers correctly, she also, at 2 a.m., submitted a short story to Contrary Magazine, using their online submissions manager.  Naturally, she can’t now remember which story she sent.  But it sounded pretty good, at 2 a.m.!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Quote of the Wee Hours

Tonight, self begins:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows . . .

No, not quite right. Begin again:

Sleep, blessed sleep . . .

Self, what is up with all the Shakesperean language?

It is 2:30 a.m., dear blog readers. Self has been falling asleep between 2:30 and 3 a.m. every night since returning from her second trip to Chicago. (Manila was another sleep-destroyer.  Ditto, AWP Chicago, in February)  It’s a 2009 thing — self’s  thoughts are full of a year ago, when she was in Tel Aviv visiting Ying. And of son, who is graduating in less than two months’ time. And of the book she is trying to finish reading (it’s about Burma) so she can write a review for The Women’s Review of Books. And of the garden, where to plant what (Self is not kidding, every night she finds herself dreaming in landscape patterns: the lily bulbs go here, and the red salvia go there, and the little sedum “Dragon’s Blood” go under the roses, and the new clematis goes to the side fence, and so forth and so on. Since self does not have a gardener, she is doing everything herself which induces in her extreme restlessness, especially after night falls and she can no longer see her plants.  If she weren’t worried about looking absolutely crazy to hubby or to the neighbors, she’d be out in the backyard with a flashlight, hunting for snails).

Today, there was an interesting tidbit on the evening news about a spate of car burglaries in the Bay Area. The suspects are a couple “driving a late-model grey Mercedes.” Why anyone driving a late-model Mercedes would feel the need to burgle is a big mystery to self. Another thing: the couple operate in or near cemeteries. They’ve struck several times in Colma (the entire city is just one big cemetery, practically) and once in Holy Cross Cemetery (self not sure where that is), apparently because people who are visiting graves are careless and tend to leave their cars unlocked.

So, if any dear blog readers happen to be planning a visit to a Bay Area cemetery in the near future, don’t say you haven’t been forewarned . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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