Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

Top of the morning to ya'

To mark the end of pumpkin week on Poem, Sweet Poem, I made this here Spiced Pumpkin Bread. For as long as I can remember, my mom made pumpkin bread during the fall, filling the house with all those yummy flavors. She would pack a slice in my lunch box too.

My loaf turned out well and I'm thinking a slice in the afternoon with a cup of tea. I had to halve the recipe due to my only having 1 pan. But it's okay. Fall is not yet over so there's still time to make, bake and enjoy another! Readers, you can too! Here's the recipe:

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 and 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup canola or safflower oil
one 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. grease and lightly flour two 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pans
3. sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside.
4. whisk together the sugar, eggs, and oil in a separate boil until well blended. Stir in the pumpkin, water, and vanilla and mix well.
5. add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir just until all the ingredients are moist and well blended. do not over-mix.
6. pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top begins to crack slightly.
7. lest rest for 10-15 minutes before removing from the plans. Serve warm or place on a backing rack to cool.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Ice Cream

It's a lot, I know, but the week wouldn't be complete without the half-gallon of pumpkin ice cream, now would it? Mitchell's Ice Cream is only 5 blocks from my house which is both a danger and a gift. Even though the lines of customers wrap around the block, on hot summer nights it's the place to be. And clearly, on warm autumn nights it is also the place to be. Now, just to explain myself: it's not typical for me to get this large amount of ice cream from Mitchell's. However, the line was far too long for one simple helping whereas the to-go line (aka: the larger portions) was non-existent. So, that's how this happened. Just a few scoops from this bucket-o-cream tasted sweet as pie.

And yes, that's an ice cream cone in my house. Don't worry, though, I don't have a bulk bag of them or anything. I just thought it would be fun to get cones to-go (in addition to the 1/2 gallon) giving my place the full ice-cream parlor effect.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

Something in particular that I liked about the film version of "Where The Wild Things Are" was the crazed nature of the wild things. They really were out of control and kind of a hot mess. In that sense, the wild things show us how to let loose. With their hair all over the place and runny noses, they really embraced rowdiness. Jumping on top of each other, getting all dirty and squished as a result. I loved that! Sometimes it good to get in touch with that part of yourself that doesn't mind falling out of place and into a wilder side.

Well, when we carved our pumpkins we weren't as unruly as Sendak's creatures, but we sure did get messy, as expected. We had all types of supplies, including a serrated knife called "the detailer" and a really handy scraper that got all the gunk off the pumpkin's inner walls. Free-handed and focused, we went for it and got creative.

When Liz pulled out the paint supplies, all bets were off. Tony was all about using colors and metallics to accent his pumpkin. I tried to give my pumpkin a handle-bar mustache but it turned into a curly-q top lip. It kind of reminded me of the villain's grotesque scar in "Pan's Labyrinth."

Say........pumpkin face!

Dustin and his menacing, gap-toothed pumpkin.

Liz and her curious, Picasso pumpkin.

Me and my wind-swept, aviator pumpkin.

Tony and his paparazzi, Gaga pumpkin.

Spicy seeds sizzle and roast in the oven, giving off fiery aromas, while we watch the fruits of our labors glow in the backyard.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Pie

My themed week continues with everyone's favorite autumnal treat, Pumpkin Pie. I just thought since we were going to the patch AND carving pumpkins AND most likely roasting the seeds, it was only appropriate to bake a homemade pie as well. Tony was on the same page and brought his delicious pie over to Liz's for the festivities (you'll find it directly below). I snacked on his while Liz and I made ours. Is that wrong???

Ours is to the left of the white wine. We worked together, with Liz making the crust while I made the filling. Liz took the opportunity to teach me how to make crust by hand as I'm a tad intimidated by dough. A natural multi-tasker in the kitchen, she spouted out tips here and there like she was on the Food Network. She was a great teacher and I came away from the lesson remembering the following: be swift, keep everything chilled to the bone and handle the dough as little as possible. Our pie was a hit and everything tasted great!

Check back throughout the week because I'll soon be revealing the results of our pumpkin carving! And other pumpkin related activities :) and...

* * *

Apologies for straying from the theme, but today (thanks again, Garrison) is Sylvia Plath's birthday. As a poet, she is a true inspiration to me. I read her groundbreaking book "Ariel" for the first time a year ago and it had quite an impact on me. I got on a real lyric poetry kick that hasn't seemed to fade away. She was a master of imagery, naked emotion and pacing. I read her poem Death & Co. aloud this morning. The last stanza gives me shivers:

"I do not stir.
The frost makes a flower,
The dew makes a star,
The dead bell,
The dead bell.

Somebody's done for."

Happy Birthday, dear Sylvia.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

With Halloween approaching, I thought it might be fun to have a pumpkin themed week on Poem, Sweet Potato. I mean, poem. Poem, Sweet Poem. Sorry, I'm just thinking about these amazing sweet potato cakes I had for brunch @ Universal Cafe yesterday. Okay, where was I???

Oh yes, theme. Pumpkins! Today's post is inspired by my visit to the pumpkin patch on Saturday morning. After fueling up with goodies at Arizmendi Bakery (pecan roll, banana walnut muffin, coffee, chai, mmm) Liz and I headed over to 7th Ave and Lawton where we heard there might be some pumpkin patchin' happenin'. And there it was in the Inner Sunset, right next to the magical White Crane Springs community garden I've been to only once and dreamt of ever since. The Clancy Pumpkin Patch, which will be selling Christmas Trees before you know it, had more pumpkins than we knew what to do with. But we did manage to walk away with, or rather wheel away with (in our trusty wheel barrel), 6 medium sized pumpkins to carve. Naturally, this holiday necessity drew in quite the festive scene: cherubic babies in bonnets perched on pumpkins for photo-ops, kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes playing hide and go-seek around stacks of hay, and parents comforting tearful little ones: "it's okay, we're just going home for a little while and then you'll see your friend again at the party tonight."

It was too cute and only the beginning of a long pumpkin-filled day, which I'll share more of as the week goes on. But for now, enjoy this glimpse into the wonders of the patch and see why the little boy dressed as Max from "Where the Wild Things Are" was so sad to leave.

Even though it's a bunch of do's and don't (mostly don't's), there's something oddly lyrical about these rules. The rhyme between patch and paths and hands. And the abrupt, disorienting last line? "Watch out for gopher/holes." Pure poetry.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Harvest Moon

Early this morning, I wake up from dozens of dreams. I can't remember any of them. Oh well. They might come to me later. These autumn mornings differ from those of summer. It feels darker than it is because the sun takes a while to show its face. Lowly it hangs over Berkeley while Oakland-bound jets graze a few of its rays. It hasn't yet kissed the buildings on the west side of the street, making mine appear on their paint, as a shadow. Hovering in the sky during descent, where did passengers spend their weeks, their days, their last-night. I was sleeping.

I wake up and open the blinds, first thing. No sun, not yet. I make coffee and, when it's ready, I pour it into my new favorite mug from an apple orchard in Maine. My Dad got it for me on his last visit. The light greets the west and says hello. They better get to know each other. It will be setting there, as we surely know.

Neil Young makes a good soundtrack for mornings like this. It reminds me of that graceful film from a few years ago, "Away From Her." Julie Christie plays a woman with Alzheimer's. She struggles as the disease fails her, as does her loving husband. Against the Canadian landscape of winter and memory, Neil Young songs play. They evoke heart break, heart ache, heart warmth. The whole time, we know, she is losing something. At the same time, she is so full of beauty. She is full of many springs, summers, falls and winters, as she cross-country skies though the snow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Best Idea (Thank You, National Parks)

Liz runs around the mounds of kelp at Limantour Beach.
Our day of spontaneity at Point Reyes National Seashore (and more)!

You think you're going to lounge around your apartment on Sunday morning, reading the paper with a cup of coffee in hand, and then leisurely stroll down to yoga followed by brunch. But then you feel that itch. You hear a bell ring from a distant land. It beckons to you: "come hither." Well, sometimes you have to scratch that itch and open the door when your favorite national seashore rings its bell. Or fog horn.

Okay, stop beating around the bush, you say! Alright, alright. Clearly,
Point Reyes called and we answered. After stashing the New York Times and 2 crazy creeks in a bag, Liz and I headed up the coast, blasting Lady Gaga along the way. I really liked meandering through the quiet, shady landscape of Samuel P. Taylor State Park while Gaga sang, "Don't want no paper gangster."

First, we stopped at Point Reyes Station. This town (is it even a town? a village? a hamlet? a street?) is a beacon for those on route to and from the seashore. There's just no sense in not stopping in. Who would want to resist sweets at the Bovine Bakery? Or the cheeses of Cowgirl Creamery? Or that barn-turned-general store that boasts a farmer's market, art gallery, coffee kiosk, yoga classes AND a nursery? No one, that's who!

Always the curious seekers, we tried something new with breakfast at the Pine Cone Diner. With its walls adorned with quaint plates and adorable mugs hanging from hooks, this was the perfect place to start our adventure. Even the bathroom was cute! Also, we knew the place was legit because the local firemen were eating breakfast there too.

Reading the front page while we wait for a table. My breakfast sandwich came with a side of hash browns that were as good as lattkes.

My dose of yoga for the day!
(I didn't go even though I wanted to. But I did enjoy the sign.)

On route to the seashore, we go out of focus through the Pine-lined roads. We don't think, "when will we get there?" because there becomes us as presently as here.

The beach is our resting place, for the day at least. Settled between the dunes, we watch as Sand Pipers play games with the waves and each other. I absorb each drop of inspiration, from the phases of sky to the patterns of water and sand. A beautiful place surrounds me, and continues to.

A leopard print ocean waves us goodbye, but the ebb and flow suggests we will be back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I love Beach House! If I just want to luxuriate for 2 hours, I play their 2 albums, "Beach House" and "Devotion" back to back. And if I want to chill with a touch of glam, I see them live, which is what I did Monday night with Jess @ the Bottom of the Hill. Their set, like most of their songs, wasn't too long and I like that about their music. Fleeting and dreamy, each song flows into the other to create an ethereal, yet glamorously distinct whole. Whether it's one of their albums or a concert (I also saw them a year ago at the Swedish American Music Hall), Beach House offers something more than a singular experience. They allure and seduce, inviting you to return, again and again, to their luscious offering. A great deal of this has to do with lead singer and organist, Victoria Legrand. Top to bottom, a fashion delight: always her signature high wasted jeans, Miami Vice blazer with the obvious shoulder pads, hot pink nail polish and her better-never-cut-it long and wavy hair that I liken to that of a Renaissance heroine, like Britomart, from Spenser's The Faerie Queen. Her locks rock (you should see her head-bang) but her real gift is that voice. Deep, dark and full, there is no loneliness to be felt when she invites you in and persuades, "Oh, but your wish is my command."

***photo courtesy of Gorilla vs Bear***

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Foliage and Leftover Summer on Fair Oaks and 25th



...almost through...

...and up and up and...

...back again, she stands
back where
she began.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Critical Wedding

Another ride to Rodeo, but this time I had company. First off, I had Liz: bicycling champion and love supreme! And then there were more...

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, we noticed a large pack of bikers (a team? a race?) dressed-up (in formal office-attire? in costumes?). Luckily, Liz knew one of the riders and asked him what was up. He said they were all riding to a wedding on Rodeo Beach and that we should crash it!!! Crash it we did not (is nothing sacred?), but considering we were headed for the wedding location anyway, we trailed along with them!

Just after the bridge, there is a tunnel that spills bikers out into the Marin Headlands for a glorious downhill ride. After the hectic jaunt over the bridge where spandex and tourists collide, it's a well-deserved and cleansing cruise. And I really wanted to catch them pile out of it. So we sped ahead of the wedding mass while they re-grouped after the bridge. Heading towards the beach, the ride through the tunnel is a slight incline and, with only 5 minutes to get through before on-coming traffic heads your way, it's a little bit of a heart-pounder, a teeth-clencher. A dark tunnel, dripping from the roof with condensation and desolation? It's like you're running for your life...and with a pack of jolly wedding cyclists on your tail, with howls and cackles echoing from their hearts, you want out and fast!

But everything was perfect! We made it through the tunnel before they did and with enough time to get out the camera and document. My bike did fall in a pile of dirt, but it's a small sacrifice to pay in order to see so many happy people on a Saturday in such a beautiful setting. Once we all made it to the beach, they trudged through the sand (bikes in hand) to watch the happy couple get hitched on Rodeo...whoever they may be! We watched for a minute or two before heading home, through the headlands with happy hearts.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Lit

Crawl on down to the Marsh on Valencia, tonight @ 8:30!

Small Press Distribution will be hosting a fabulous event as part of Litquake's Lit Crawl!

The night will feature amazing readers!

I'll be helping out and hoping to see you there!

(poster courtesy of SPD)