Archive for the 'pig brain' Category



coming clean

This is embarrassing, but it’s undeniably true. I am forty years old. That’s not the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is that up until a week ago, I still took laundry home to my mother’s house. Or to my brother’s. Or to my best friend’s. Really, I was open to anywhere that wasn’t a laundromat. It’s not actually going to the laundromat that I take issue with – I mean really, it’s a nice excuse to sit and read for 45 minutes while your clothes spin. Or, if you’ve been smart and timed things properly, to pop off to the nearest bar for a pint. And the closest establishment to my laundromat happens to overlook Lake Superior. Not a bad venue.

My real beef with the laundromat (despite the inevitable screaming child phenomenon) is that my clothes seldom come clean. Yes, they smell fresh and generally look at least slightly better than when they went in, but not much. Nor is it unheard of for items to come out even worse for the wear. And so to drop twenty bucks in quarters, squander a couple hours of my time, and return home with only marginally clean clothes is something I have come to truly loathe. So when a nice, clean, highly functioning washing machine presents itself, I have no qualms with taking advantage of it. Nevertheless, it’s hard to feel entirely grown up when you’re still driving around with a basket of dirty clothes in the back seat.
washing machine
But this is it. I have crossed the threshold. I am now an exceptionally grateful owner of a perfectly sized Asko washer and dryer. They are so cute. And my clothes are so clean! I feel so adult. Along with our new house, I am also the proud owner of a kitchen faucet. And a bathroom faucet. And a shower. And a toilet that flushes even.
It occurred to me the other day that I have lived almost as much of my life without running water and indoor plumbing than with. Mostly by circumstance and choice, granted, but still, it’s time. I’m ready. It was the laundry that really pushed me over the edge. I love our outhouse. It has a great view. I still opt for it over the new toilet that flushes. As far as the laundromat goes though, I will never, ever look back. Ever.
outhouse
We haven’t officially moved in to our new house yet, but we’ve gradually been making our way over there, dabbling in the various conveniences of modern day living. Yesterday I looked up from my desk to see Mark trudging across the lawn with the stand mixer in one arm and his slab of marble in the other. Pizza night. He popped his head back in an hour or so later and shouted up for me to bring over a bottle of wine. It was a little sparse, but still, we enjoyed our first real meal in the new house. We even broke a glass. Actually the cat broke it. Which made it feel even more like home.
kitchen
It has not escaped my notice, however, that along with all the pleasures of our schmancy new house comes upkeep and cleaning. The nice part about not having had a bathroom for the last 18 years is that I have not cleaned a bathroom in 18 years. Rustic living has its perks people! After just a week’s worth of showers though, the new bathroom is already demanding my attention. I always keep a spray bottle of homemade, planet-friendly cleaner in our kitchen now, but I decided it was time to mix up two more bottles for the new house. One for the bathroom and another for the laundry room. Have I mentioned how adult I feel?
I love this cleaning solution. It smells great, it’s cheap, and I can spray it liberally in my new shower without fear of poisoning my lungs, or the planet. It’s super quick to mix up and it does the trick on almost everything. Even outhouses.
outhouse seat
Good for Nearly Everything Cleaner

Spray bottle
Water
White vinegar
1 tablespoon Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds (or similar liquid soap)
1 tablespoon CitraSolv (or similar citrus cleaner)
Few drops of essential oil (I use geranium)

Fill a standard size spray bottle with half water and half white vinegar.
Add liquid soap, citrus cleaner, and  essential oil. Mix gently.

all-purpose cleaner

pile it on

My plate is full. Heaping. Almost cracked from the weight of it all. I run my own business. I’m taking more web development classes at MCAD. The summer labor of beekeeping and gardening is gearing up. We’re building a house – which, as it turns out, is not as “fun” and “exciting” as people tend to elude to. It might be fun and exciting after you move in, but truthfully, the process is a beast. There are a million, petty, time consuming details – and we’re not even the one’s swinging hammers. Sometimes that seems like the easy part.
lemon cake
Because I clearly don’t have enough going on, I decided to pile on a little more. It’s an idea I’ve flirted with for years. Meet Bayfield’s newest baker! That’s right, I’ve picked up a couple of morning baking shifts at my local cafe and coffee roasters. And I LOVE it. It is so different than all of my other work. It’s like the joy of home baking times ten. Everything is magnified – the equipment, the quantities of butter, the joy I get from making something for someone else. It’s all super-sized. Have you ever melted a stock pot full of marshmallows? You should. It’s really something.
Maybe the thrill will wear off, but I doubt it. So far I smile every time flour or pecans come unexpectedly spilling out of my pant cuffs. I feel lucky to be doing something I truly enjoy. It’s a great feeling. The timing isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. I’ll just nudge things around a bit to make room on my plate. Even if it means I have to plant the entire garden to sweet peas and basil. Worse things have happened.
spring garlic crop
But I must confess that I haven’t been doing much of anything to brag about in the kitchen lately. Meals have been quick and simple. I’ve practically been living off of Ashley’s lovely avocado salad – tossed with swiss chard and served over couscous. And it seems that when I do have a spare minute in the kitchen, it’s been spent turning out something sweet for the construction crew. I want those boys happy! But between that and the cafe, I’ve pretty much been on a baking bender.
Life will balance out though. It always does. The semester is nearly over. My design work typically slows down in the summer. And the house is damn near finished. I have no doubt I’ll get the garden in eventually. Because I’m already looking forward to a summer’s worth of cooking in a brand new kitchen. Now that, sounds “fun” and “exciting.” I can hardly wait.

busted

I bought my garlic press in 1991. I know. I still have the receipt. Saving receipts and manuals in an orderly fashion is a behavior that my father ingrained in me long ago. I can put my fingers on just about any piece of documentation for most of my purchases in about 2.3 seconds. Even for items I no longer own. Scary, I admit. And I have to say that this new era of electronic, online purchasing is putting a real crimp in my system. But I figure someone out there is somehow saving it all for me now. In fact, I have no doubt they are saving more about me than I care to know.
I chose my press for it’s simplicity. It is solid stainless and fairly sleek. If you ask me, there is nothing worse than a plasticy, clunky kitchen gadget. But what ultimately sold me on my press is that it is German made. And if you want something to really last, get a German to make it for you. Yet another belief instilled upon me by my father.
Truth be told, I don’t actually use my garlic press that often. Generally I prefer to crush whole cloves with the blade of a chef’s knife, mash it up a bit, and add it to the pan that way. But if I’m using the garlic raw, or adding it to a dressing, I’ll pull out the press. So the other night, when I was making a simple vinaigrette to drizzle over a roasted beet salad, out came the trusty German press.
My subjects were all lined up on the cutting board and things were moving along nicely. But when I got to the third clove, something bad happened. That nice pressure you get when pressing down on a clove disappeared. Things went limp. And when I pulled my hands apart, they came away with a handle in each. Busted. Who knew you could snap a handle off a stainless steel garlic press?
No worries, I thought. I’ve got the receipt! I dug it out after dinner, but there was no discernible warranty information attached to it. The small cooking store I purchased it from is no longer in business. Surprised by the price I paid for it, I decided the busted press was worth pursuing. I googled the company – ZACK – but didn’t turn up much. The next day I made a call the headquarters of ZACKusa in Hollywood, Florida. I’m still not entirely sure what language the receptionist was speaking. It wasn’t German, and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t Spanish. All I can say is that it was one heck of an awkward conversation. But we finally agreed on a three words: broken, e-mail, photo. I was to e-mail a photo of the broken garlic press.
I did as instructed, but in retrospect, I’m not sure what my e-mail was meant to accomplish. That part of the conversation was a little bit vague. It’s been a few days and I haven’t heard anything back. I put my sad looking press back in the drawer, just for old time sake. I’m still hopeful something will come of it, but I also accept that it might just remain an expensive, busted, non-replaceable garlic press.
And that’s okay. I’m comfortable with “it is what it is” theory. My eyeball has taught it to me in a really big way. Again, and again, and again. I’ve written about my eye before, and unfortunately, things remain dire. I am heading back to the University of Minnesota this week for another surgery. Maybe this one will be the ticket. Or maybe it won’t. But if nothing else, my eye has given me the gift to accept things for what they are. Which is not to say I give in. That’s different. I still do my research, and I ask loads of questions. I put forth a big effort. And I do my best to stay positive. But when I’ve done all that, and my eye still feels busted – well, so be it. It is what it is.
It’s nice to at least try and apply this attitude to other aspects of my life. The business of letting go has never come easily for me. I tend to dwell. But I’m learning, bit by bit. And I welcome the overwhelming relief that comes with true acceptance.

angry chef

I guess it’s a good sign. Thanksgiving is a week gone by and I’m still thinking about it. Things kicked off with a blessed 5 day break from school and homework. Five WHOLE days. That right there could have made my week. But it only got better.

I got two feasts instead of one (turkey and roasted salmon). I read half of a novel on the couch. I watched Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving with my friend Dave and his five year-old daughter Ede Mo. I drank some seriously good wine. I blew the dust off of my camera. I took great joy in watching our dog Earl toil endlessly with his new and energetic dog cousin, Lamar – a 7 month old basset hound/Australian cattle dog mix (truly a genetic miracle). And our house builders took the week off for deer hunting. Which means I didn’t have to think about what color the soffit should be, or where the chimney for the wood stove will vent. Three cheers for mini-breaks.

But my hands down 2011 Thanksgiving highlight was an impromptu, made up game of “Angry Chef” with my nieces, Sylvie and Eve. Sylvie concocted the game out of her wonderful ten-year-old imagination. The rules evolved effortlessly as we played. Two contestants donned aprons and toques while the “Angry Chef” doled out whacky menus for each to prepare. A banana smoothie with a lobster sandwich and a side of fries. French toast served up with a cheeseburger and fruit salad. And boy did the Chef put the pressure on. Whew!
I was genuinely dismayed when I was called away into the “real” kitchen to help get dinner on the table. The Angry Chef’s kitchen was so much more spirited! The real kitchen, however, turned out much better fare. Crispy, salt-brined kosher turkey, wild rice and mushrooms, roasted garlic with blue cheese, tart cranberries, baked winter squash with a splash of maple, and browned-butter mashed potatoes. Even the crankiest of chef’s would have been pleased.
Midway through the meal, Sylvie proclaimed her excitement for pumpkin pie à la mode. Grandma reasoned that ice cream doesn’t really go on pumpkin pie. To which Sylvie countered “but it goes BY pumpkin pie.” And true to her word, she had her pie with a dollop of whipped cream and a side of vanilla. That’s my girl!
There’s only one thing wrong with mini-breaks. They end. Work deadlines are knocking again. Finals are looming. I fear the rest of the novel will have to wait until Christmas break. And I still haven’t picked the damn soffit color. But you know what? I don’t really care. And it is so refreshing say that! I tend to be an over achiever. But not necessarily in the healthiest of ways. Sure, I don’t want to let my clients down. Yes, I still feel the irrational need to get straight A’s. And of course, I want our new little house to be “practically perfect in every way.”
Still, I’ve been oddly relaxed this week. I’m back in the thick of things, but I’m also anticipating watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas with Dave and Ede. I’m helping Earl practice some moves for the next time he and Lamar meet up in the ring. And I’ve been strategizing how to take on the Angry Chef. Which is evidentially time well spent. Sylvie sent me the following note yesterday: “Maybe next time we’ll try to get to the big kitchen! But I’m not so sure you can beat the chef!” Ouch.
I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for. This year though, I am especially grateful for all the little things last week that woke me up and rekindled my spirit. I’m back on track. The things that matter the most are shinning the brightest.

the patience of garlic

I hate it when real life gets in the way of my fantasy life. You know – the one where I make my living as a small scale garlic farmer, maybe opening a donut cart on weekends to make ends meet. A girl can dream, can’t she?
But the reality is that I’ve hit the ground running this fall. My normal design work is kicking back up after a lazy summer lull. I’m taking a couple of online classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (let me tell you, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to follow a syllabus, take quizzes, and turn in homework). We’re in the throes of designing a small new house that will hopefully be built on our land this winter. Which means we’re also in the throes of figuring out how to finance a small new house. Oh, and to add a little more chaos, we’re fostering (read: probably adopting) a rescue dog. Somebody pass me a donut, please.

Earl is a great guy. I can tell you that he has completely won my heart. But Earl is nervous. Very nervous. It’s a crazy world out there, riddled with surprises. Earl will be the first to tell you. So we’re working on this, trying to instill as much calm and stability as we can. And really he is making loads of progress.
I am lucky enough to live within a half mile of a splendid view of Lake Superior, Madeline Island, and on clear days – Michigan’s upper peninsula. Earl and I have made a habit of trudging (this happens pre-coffee) up the hill each morning. And when we get to the top of the hill, we check on the lake to make sure it is still there. Sixteen mornings straight now, it has been there for us. It’s nice to have something you can count on. Ask Earl.
Truthfully though, I go check on the lake for my own sanity as much as anything. My days lately have been frantic and overflowing with things to do. Uncomfortably so, at least for my taste. My morning hike to see the lake is a respite. It wakes me up – literally and figuratively. I take a deep breath in, swallow as much of it as I possibly can, and turn back down the hill towards my day.
On the way back inside, I pass by my shed of curing garlic. I look at is wistfully. It needs to be cleaned, trimmed, sorted, inventoried, and stored. But that’s the nice thing about garlic – it’s patient, it’ll wait. I explain to the garlics that maybe some day I really will be a professional small scale garlic farmer. But for now, they’re going to have to put up with my juggling act. At any rate, when I do get to the garlic, and I will, there is bound to be a surplus. I’d love to share it with you. If you’re interested, drop me a note (here) and I’ll keep you posted on what’s available. In the meantime, breathe in and swallow deeply.

maybe

I was in the middle of my workday last week when I got a call. It wasn’t a particularly happy call. “One of your hives is down.” It was my friend Kathy calling from Bayfield School where she teaches 5th grade. A bus driver that drives by my beehives regularly had stopped in her classroom to tell her the news. He knew she would get the message to me. My heart sank. A “hive down” only means one thing. It means a black bear has paid a visit.

I keep eight strands of wire around my beehives with an alternating current that emits 8000 volts of juice. Innocent dogs have touched their noses to it and spent the entire afternoon recuperating. But that’s what it takes to keep – to keep, how should I put it? To keep “well padded” bears at bay. I hurriedly finished up the project I was working on and headed out to the bee yard. My mind was racing on the drive over. Which hive, I wondered? Please don’t let it be Freeda’s. She’s had enough set backs lately. I pulled into the bee yard to an empty silence. No tell-tale clicking from the electric fencer. The amount of bee traffic in the air seemed diminished.
It took me at least a full minute before I could look. Drats. Freeda’s hive was in shambles. Things could have been worse, really, but still it was a sad sight. I got straight to work getting her hive put back together. The girls were frantic, of course. My explanation for what had happened felt meager at best. After a bit of reassembling I realized that an entire frame was missing from one of the brood boxes. (The whole bear and honey thing? It’s a myth. What they’re really after is bee larvae. Though I’m sure they don’t mind their snack slathered in a bit of honey.)
This bear meant business and my dander was up. Dip your paw in, fine. But don’t wander off with an entire frame of bees. I headed off into the woods in a huff, following a flattened down trail behind the hives. At some point, instinct kicked in. It occurred to me that I might not actually want to find the bear in question. I wasn’t sure exactly how I would ask for my bees back. I reluctantly retreated.
Back at the hive, I did a quick search for Freeda’s recently hatched daughter. No luck. One thing I have learned after years of beekeeping is to accept that when I am actively looking for the queen, I probably won’t find her. But on the days when I’m not in a hurry and the weather is especially fine, I’m bound to see her long slender torso moving across a frame. I tried to take this to heart. As much as I wanted to keep looking, I resisted, knowing that what the girls needed most was some order and calm restored to their home.
With my main task completed, I turned my attention to the fencer for a little troubleshooting. Luckily it was fluke and a quick fix. The breaker to the outbuilding that supplies the power had been tripped. I reset it and the reassuring clicking resumed. All I could do was hope it would be enough to ward off a bear with a whetted appetite.
I drove back home, trying not to dwell on the fact that the new, young Ms. Freeda could have been on the missing frame. And that she very well might now be residing inside a black bear’s stomach. And that her hive just went through the arduous process of raising a new queen. And that winter is coming. Time is too short for them to do it all over again. I remembered how giddy I felt the other week when I discovered that Freeda’s daughter had hatched and survived the odds. And then I laughed. I was thinking of a little tale that I leaned from my Dad. I took it to heart. And I felt better. Because after all, embracing the concept of “not knowing” is what makes room for life’s potential.
There is an old Chinese tale about a farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbors gathered that night to bemoan his loss. ‘Too bad, too bad,’ they sighed. ‘Maybe,’ the farmer said.
The next day, the horse came back, leading seven wild horses behind him. ‘Oh, aren’t you lucky!’ the neighbors exclaimed. ‘Maybe,’ the farmer said.
The next day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses, but he was thrown and broke his leg. ‘Oh, that’s terrible,’ the neighbors agreed. ‘Maybe,’ the farmer said.
The next day the soldiers came to conscript young men for the army, but they didn’t take his son, because his leg was broken. ‘How wonderful for you!’ the neighbors cried. ‘Maybe,’ the farmer said.

on the horizion

Like usual, I stood on the roadside last Friday cooling down after my late afternoon run and rifled through the mail. Continuing ed flyer from the local college, bill, bill, WI public radio fall sweepstakes form, and the New Yorker. One look this week’s cover by Istvan Banyai and I realized the source of the funk I’d been in all week. I so desperately want to pause. I want to put it all on hold. I want the the little vase of sweet pea blooms on my window sill to last forever. I want to lay down in the corn patch and stare up at the blue for as long as long as it takes. I want to disappear in a book at the beach and smile later when sand spills out into the bed. I want to live on cold-pressed iced coffee and tomato sandwiches. Is that asking so much?
My Dad and I used to play a little game with the New Yorker covers. Each week, we’d try and guess the cover caption. We’d phone in our contenders on Sunday night and whoever came the closest to the real title won a buck. He’s been gone for over six years, but I still can’t help playing the game (and by my calculations, he owes be big). I was mesmerized by this week’s cover. It sucked me in and held me. All I could think was “Pause.” I flipped a few pages in. The real title – the winning title – was “On the Horizon.” Which, in retrospect was even better. “Pause” suddenly felt a little stagnant. “On the Horizon,” though, now that holds potential.
Because as much as I want the heady smell of sweet peas to grace my kitchen, something way deep inside of me also longs for the scent of that first pot of stew, that hint of roasted garlic wafting from the oven, and the unmistakable smell of pine sap oozing from a burning log. And as much as I love my daily routine, my job, my path, it’s undeniably exciting to wonder, “what’s next? what is on the horizon?” Who knows, maybe some bit of change will sneak up on me when I least expect it.
My mood lightened as I walked down the driveway. Summer will be back. I can count on that. But I appreciated – maybe for the first time ever  – that it’s all the fragile, tenuous stuff in between that makes it so worthwhile, so precious. Revelations aside, I wholeheartedly suggest you live large while the living is good. Do yourself a favor and eat as many tomato sandwiches as you possibly can.
p.s. For anyone who is wondering, Queen Freeda’s daughter is alive and well. She is laying a pattern of brood that would do her mother proud. I can hardly wait to watch her legacy unfold!
garlic pig tamaty sandwiches 

1 loaf good, crusty bread, sliced
mayonaise
vine ripe tomatoes, sliced (sun-warmed if possible)
raw garlic, thinly slivered (I prefer Creole Red, it’s a great raw garlic)
fresh basil, chiffonade
Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt (any old salt will do in a pinch)

Slice the bread. Spread on a generous layer of mayo (this is no time to be shy). Add tomato slices, garlic slivers, and basil. Sprinkle with a flourish of Jane’s. Go crazy. Summer comes but one a year.

packing a wallop

There is so much I want to write about that I almost feel tongue tied. I want to talk about our absolutely perfect July picnic to our favorite beach spot. And about how I just now learned to dry roast garlic from a Rick Bayless book. Or the fact that I have been spending every lunch break I can with my bees, anxious and worried about them. Oh, and it’s harvest time! The wood shed (a.k.a. garlic curing shed) is rapidly filling with rows of hanging garlic. Summer is in full force. Every day seems to pack a wallop. I don’t think the days could get any more full if they tried.

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer. I love the heat. I love eating out of the garden. I even love weeding the garden. I love wearing little skirts. I love seeing friend after friend, night after night. I love reading in the shade. I love live music in the park. I love floating on my back in Lake Superior. I love going into town for a butter-brickle ice cream. I love boating out to Long Island for cocktails on Wednesday nights. Trust me. I love it. But sometimes, sometimes – it’s. nice. to. stop.

And so I was comforted last Friday night when we went to have dinner with our friends Bob and Reba. They recently bought an adorable little farmhouse in Oulu, WI. Here’s what you need to know about Oulu. It’s pronounced “oo-loo.” It got its name from the sixth most populated city in Finland. Which is odd. Because Oulu, Wisconsin has a population density of 15 people per square mile, paling in comparison to the 260 per square mile of its namesake. As you might suspect, Oulu is pretty quiet. And just to make sure it doesn’t get passed on by, Oulu has a giant painted boulder on the side of U.S. Highway 2 with fancy blue script and an arrow pointing the way to town. But Oulu, I learned, has something else going for it. Oulu has great light.

From the moment we pulled into Bob and Reba’s driveway I was mesmerized by the light. It didn’t matter where we were – standing on the deck grilling monstrous grass-fed steaks, touring the quirky out buildings, retiring to the back porch for one last glass of wine – the light was spectacular. And I couldn’t help but to stop. Because the only way to really take it all in was. to. stop.

See what I mean?

Even without the light show, it was the quintessential summer evening. The season’s first tomatoes, comfortable friends, a couple bottles of wine, a leisurely walk through the fields, tuckered out pups. It was everything I needed to recharge my system.

But  before I go off to revel in my restored summer bliss, I do need to tell you about the garlic. Maybe I’ve been living in a cave, but it has never occurred  to me to dry roast cloves or whole heads with the skins on. But I tried it on Saturday (with Bayless’s encouragement) when I was making a smokey, spicy tomato sauce. And I was stunned at the flavor difference. Garlic roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil comes out rich and buttery tasting. Which is not a bad thing–not at all. But a whole new world opens up with cloves that have been dry roasted. They slip out of their charred papery skins to reveal an entirely different earthy, toasty flavor. Perfect for salsas and sauces. If only I had a wise Mexican grandmother who could have turned me onto this method years ago. Ándale!

Dry Roasted Garlic
Break apart a head of garlic, leaving the papery skins intact. Bring a dry skillet or griddle (I used my wok) up to heat over a medium flame. Add the garlic and toss it occasionally while it starts to brown and char in spots. Remove from heat when the cloves start to get a little tenderness to them. The whole process should take about 10-15 minutes. Let cool, slip off charred papers and chop. You can also do whole heads, but I would be more inclined to try this over an open fire or on the grill instead of the stovetop.

a good eye

People occasionally tell me I have a good eye for things. And maybe I do. But I also have a bad eye. This eye, my bad eye, is plum tuckered out. And I don’t blame it. It’s been through a lot. A virus has plagued my left eye for over a decade. Sometimes it quiets down and behaves itself, but even still, years of medication use have led to other complications. It’s doing everything it can to keep up with my good eye, but frankly, it is losing the battle. And so this week, my bad eye is at the University of Minnesota for a little surgical intervention.
There was so much I wanted to write about before giving my attention over to my bad eye. I was hoping to give the inaugural spring garlic report. I will let slip that the brave new shoots were nearly buried in 3 inches of snow Saturday night. But that’s the beautiful thing about garlic. It doesn’t mind so much. And even I had to admit that the green and white contrast was striking. And I was going to tell you all about the ingenious “Bloody Mary Burgers” that my husband Mark grilled up – in spite of the wintery April weather. Think Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, Tabasco, a dash of cajun salt, and a squeeze of sun dried tomato paste mixed in with the ground chuck. Mix yourself  an umbrella drink and you could almost pretend it is summer.
But some weeks, no matter how hard I will it to be otherwise, time gets the better of me. And this past week was one of those weeks. I guess I’m not holding my breath for the week ahead either. I’m afraid all I have to offer up is a couple of photos I took at the Franconia Sculpture Park en route to Minneapolis. I was instantly attracted to – or rather into – a big, rusty barrel of a sculpture. Once inside, the bright sunshine and gusty winds were blocked, but small rays of light seeped through the seams at odd angles. It felt safe and comforting inside the tube. It felt like a good place to be.
I had one of those moments of brilliance that typically last only a split second and are not easy to express. But in a nutshell, I felt so glad, so lucky, to be standing in a dark tube and seeing light. And that was it. It sounds hokey, I know. But it was the little push I needed to get myself on down the road towards my destination.
Good and bad aside, the one constant that both of my eyes provide me is perspective. And I’ll never turn down a serving of that.

pig pen

Six years ago, my good friend Julie – who also happens to be the closet thing I have to an office mate – gave me a pen. But it wasn’t just any pen. It was an ACME pen. “It’ll change the way you write,” she said. “You’ll get excited to pay the bills with it.” And indeed, it is an outstanding tool. It’s got so many great attributes, I don’t know where to start. First off, it’s bright. And happy. It’s a bold yellow-lime color with abstract little shapes in it. And it’s hefty – solid and well built. The weight of it is comforting. It’s a rollerball pen and it writes like a dream. So smooth that you want to keep writing just to maintain the glide. And then there’s the fact that it was a surprise gift from a friend. Everything about my pen makes me feel good.
This particular pen, which is simply named “lime” was designed by Karim Rashid. I went online to look him up shortly after I got it. According to the ACME website, Rashid is “a leading figure in the fields of product, furniture and interior design and is largely credited for bringing exceptional, affordable design to the masses via iconic products like the Oh Chair and Garbo Trashcan.”
My pen has sort of become like an adult security blanket. I take it everywhere. Even when I’m fairly certain I’m not going to be required to write anything. Because you just never know. I don’t misplace it very often, but occasionally it happens. It’ll hide out in the bottom of my bag, or get lost in the couch cushions. It always surfaces, but I have been late to meetings looking for it. If it goes off missing for more than a day or two, I’ll e-mail Julie in a panic. I tell her that I feel nervous without it. She calms me down and assures me it will turn up. And she’s always right.
But then, last week, something terrible happened. My pen broke. Like really broke. I took it out of my coat pocket and when I removed the cover, the bottom half of the pen stayed stuck inside. This had never happened before. It was so stuck that I couldn’t even get the top and bottom screwed together again. This was serious. I gently tried to pry it out. No luck. So I tapped it on the desk. Again, nothing. And then, after a few more taps, the decorative metal cap topper flew off, the clip went scattering across the floor, and the metal chamber along with a plastic interior liner tumbled out before me. The plastic piece was cracked. I screwed the top and bottom together again, but every time I took the cap off, the little plastic liner piece came out attached to the writing tip. And there seemed to be no way to reattach the metal top or clip. I had to walk away.
I e-mailed Julie right away. She’d understand. Then, being it was 5:05 pm on Friday, I went to weep over a beer. I learned from the ACME website that my pen is no longer under warranty. But for $11.95 I can send it in for repair – or if it’s terminal, replacement. This seemed like a fair enough deal. But I wasn’t emotionally prepared to ship it off. The pieces of my pen sat pathetically on my desk for a few days until I mustered the courage to package it up and send it on its way to Hawaii, back to the motherland, for consultation with the good folks at ACME.
In the meantime, I have resorted to a plain-jane Parker pen that I took up with during my freshman year of college. It’s an old friend for sure. But now it feels awkward in my hand – too slender and light. Its navy and metal color combo is classy, but far from cheerful. And while it gets the job done, its no rollerball. Nevertheless, I sit and doodle with it, making loopy curlycues, and big block letters while I anxiously await any news from Hawaii of my trusted pig pen.