By now, there’s a thin layer of snow and ice coating the ground. Driving home from work the day before was a bit surreal. With the grey skies and thick flurry of snow falling and parting as they hit the windshield, my mind immediately went to The Shining by Stephen King and I had the most insane desire to watch the 1980 Stanley Kubrick movie inspired by the book. Instead, after finishing the small tasks that keeps the household in working shape (taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, etc.), I curled up on the couch and finished reading Doctor Sleep, also by Stephen King. The sequel follows an adult Dan Torrance as a recovering alcoholic and how his uncanny ability “to shine” crosses the paths of many, most notably a young girl named Abra. I won’t dedicate a full blog post to this book but it’s enough to say that while this story doesn’t have the suspense and terror of the first, Doctor Sleep makes for an excellent distraction. Easy to read but there’s enough to keep your interest moving forward. Alarming in short segments so if the genre of suspense and horror is not in your repertoire, I would skip this one.
You can find a copy on Amazon or at your local lending library.
In the meantime, a few smaller recommendations one of which is Salted Caramel tea by Bigelow. This tea is what keeps me motivated to move in the morning when the floorboards are so chilly, the cold makes my toes curl. It’s a pleasantly sweet tea with a nice earthy note. Simple but not too fancy, which makes it a practical breakfast tea in my book. Highly recommend a steaming hot mug with a spill of milk for a morning treat or an afternoon pick-me-up.
Purchase the tea online or in your local grocery store.
The picture below was taken on a walk over the weekend. But the last recommendation reminds me of this past weekend and it works at the moment for my state of mind: “Why? Why?” The animated 2013 film The Missing Scarf by Eoin Duffy is a pleasant reminder to look at the alternative side even when one has fears, of any kind. It’s also a reminder that even the best of intentions and approaches to life do end inevitably in some minor or spectacular way.
Watch the trailer and purchase the film on YouTube.
All opinions are my own and are not endorsed by any external party.
Over the weekend, I had a very special visitor. I love that the best of people, the ones who comprehend one another entirely and gently, can spend hours together peaceably and comfortably. Between long walks by the river, movies by the fire, and long talks over wine after an enormous dinner of steak and fried mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes and tender broccoli, I am feeling entirely fortified. Nothing takes the edge off of life and blurs the colors together than excellent food and excellent company. Here's an excellent recipe for garlic mashed potatoes. There's enough garlic to knock out a vampire or two but the trick of boiling the garlic with the potatoes renders them sweet and mellow.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
4 Idaho potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup of milk (and more as needed)
Salt to taste
1. Peel and chop potatoes into cubes. Remove the papery skins from the individual garlic cloves. Add both to a pot with boiling water and a little salt. Boil until the potatoes and garlic are fork tender.
2. Drain the water from the potatoes and garlic. Add the butter and milk and mash with a fork or potato masher. You may need to include more milk for the consistency you desire. Add salt to taste. Serve in deep bowls and devour with someone dear to you for pure happiness.
Finding the energy, time, and courage to create is hard and more often than not, the thought of making art for me is crippling. When I'm in the midst of working on a project, it's exciting, it makes sense, the whole picture comes together seamlessly without much difficulty. When the ideas don't come and the projects stagnant, that's when making art becomes difficult.
Instead of an outlet of creative energy, making art becomes an expectation and because of that, tedium sets in and the desire to do anything with it is weighed down with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. At least, it is for me. I can't speak for other artists but it seems likely that writers experience a similar anxiety (i.e. "writer's block").
So what to do? When I moved to New York, I simply stopped, full hilt. For almost three years, I produced almost nothing that I would have considered part of my artistic practice. I don't know, perhaps I was numb. New York does strange things to a person. But throughout my time there, I would remember time and again the tug, the pull, the constant whine that had the possibility of turning into a shout.
These first forays back into art-making are tentative, humbling. It's good to be reminded.
Split pea soup. It's delicious, comforting, and easily made, and yet, the first time I was ever served this soup, I was reminded of canned baby food and it's less than desirable consistency. It only takes one taste to realize the complexity of the salted ham with the sweetness of peas and vegetables, the undertone of onion and garlic with an herbal hint from thyme. It's one of my winter favorites as you can combine the ingredients and leave to simmer on the stove. You have only to check every so often to make sure the peas aren't sticking to the bottom.
Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Striped Spatula
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound dried split peas , rinsed and sorted
1 ham hock
1 large bay leaf (or 2 small)
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1. In a large pot, melt butter. Add onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and stir in split peas.
2. Add ham hock, bay leaf, and thyme. Stir in vegetable stock and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until split peas are cooked down and soup is thickened.