Easter Menu and Tablescape

2013 Easter menuGentle Reader: Our weather frequently demands North Dakotans keep things simple. Easter on the 47th parallel often means the juxtaposition of winter coats worn over frilly frocks and snow boots replace Maryjanes carried to church in a plastic bag. With Easter being early this year, we’re glad for 40-50 degree weather and most of our snow is gone. Thankfully, grilling the racks of lamb outdoors will not require a shovel.

The menu is decided and the table is set. Flowers are in place. I’ve just made a mental note that decorating for Easter is far less stressful than Christmas. For Easter, I tend to use what is on hand or readily available–a welcome alternative to hauling endless tubs of decorations out of the garage. Here I’ve used grocery store tulips and carrots –and my summer dishes which work perfectly from now through fall.

Reminder to self: Take a lesson in simplicity for next Christmas. Enjoy!!

2013 Easter Carrot & Tulip Bouquet 2013 Easter Tablescape 1 2013 Easter Tablescape 2 2013 Easter Bunny fold Napkins

To Write, or Not to Write: That is the Question — Subtitle: Confessions of an Occasional Poet

Gentle Reader: A recent conversation with a fellow writer has prompted me to give thought to what I might do with my time if I were to retire –and that won’t be any time soon! First, I still love what I do professionally and I now have a refreshed mortgage which is part of my Someday Retirement Plan.

What occurs to me, in the context of an alternate use of time and inclination is that I would like to write as an avocation –and more than just dabbling. I use the word alternate because the personal well from which I dip for creative writing also seems to be drawn upon for any creativity needed for professional demands. Often that well is depleted without a single poem –or blog post– to show for it.

However, I am prodded and perhaps a bit haunted by Shakespeare’s admonition about the responsibility of poets to both portray and confront the world. I know in my core that is what I am compelled to do. In the meantime, I scratch seeds of poems and poem parts on napkins and business cards—saved for another day. All too often, I turn my back on emergent poems leaving them to die of neglect.

While entertaining the thought of writing as it could naturally flow, I am quickly confronted with my own demons. Alas, I confess the well is not dry but capped—at my own hands. You see, there have been times when the muse has been more of a relentless curse than a companion.

I suspect—and must admit–I fear becoming lost in that realm. “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer” . . . I think not.

First Love

For Danny
© Bonnie Staiger 2003

Born one day apart
our Moms in labor together
we rode bikes in 2nd grade
in 6th grade we played kick-the-can

As freshman we danced cheek-to-cheek
I wore a yellow dress and
a corsage from him

Peggy Helfinstein said
I stole her boyfriend
Me? Not Danny

He drove all night from Montana
when he learned of my divorce
just to remind me
that we are soul mates

He called every year on our birthday
even when he had to drive
down the mountain to a payphone
sometimes he was drunk

The last time he called
I didn’t tell him about
my breast cancer
afraid he’d worry

And he didn’t tell me
that he was dying

Three weeks later
he was gone

Verbal Abuse of the English Language

Gentle Reader: The annual List of Banished Words— a release by Lake Superior State University—has caught my attention again. Fortunately, normal people can take consolation that much of the blame for this year’s list goes to politicians and the news media.

For the rest of us, the advent of texting, instant messaging, and Facebook has created another media which has leeched into our more formal writing and punctuation. While I must admit to the fun of using some fad words, I also take notice when slang begins to unknowingly permeate my conversational speaking and, worse, shows up in my professional writing.

Here is my personal list of top 6 offending words and phrases for 2012 and if I were queen they would be banished.

#6.  Right, right, right or Yes, yes, yes—(said rapid-fire.) Why isn’t just one yes or right enough? What’s possibly more offensive is ‘No, no, no’ because it is dismissive to the 3rd power.

#5.  At the end of the day— This phrase has replaced other weary words: ‘the bottom line’ and ‘when all is said and done.’ There you have it.

#4.  Look . . .— Sometimes said at the beginning of a sentence to stop others in a group from over-talking, but more often it’s a maneuver to convince others what he/she is about to say is really important. Usually, others are not convinced.

#3.  Breaking News— Why is Day 2 of an oversaturated story still breaking news?

#2.  Clearly— Among many intensifiers that are overused, ‘obviously’ is another. While making the writer feel more effective, both can render the words powerless rather than more powerful.

#1. Green— Including all variations, such as: ‘going green,’ ‘green buildings,’ ‘greening,’ ‘green technology,’ ‘green products’, topped the LSSU list in 2009. However, I would be willing to let the term ‘greenwashed’ (yes, a form of brainwashed) be overused until all the others fade.

As long as I’m on a soapbox, here are some grammatical fingernails on my proverbial chalkboard:

Invite— While some dictionary sources have relaxed this rule, the word is more properly used as a noun not a verb. I wrote a poem about this for a daily poetry contest on the subject of pet peeves. (See below)

Impacted— Just think of bowels or wisdom teeth as a reminder not to misuse this word. Better to use ‘had an impact on’ or use the words affect and effect correctly.

Golfing— A few dictionary sources have also softened the rule but it’s not the queen’s English, albeit this queen. We play golf. We don’t say hockeying, tennising, or wiiing*.

* Wiiing could only be remotely acceptable if one is toilet training a child.

REGRETS ONLY
© Bonnie Staiger

Oh, Peeve, My Pet!
You may INVITE me
to your party.
But don’t you dare
send me an INVITE.

For fear I shall bite
Your head off
for sloppily using
the verb instead
of the noun.

However, an INVITATION,
Yes, I shall gladly accept.
And secretly extol
That you have the class
to know the difference.

Friday Rituals – In Search of Work/Life Balance

Here on the Upper Great Plains and the 46th Parallel, work/life balance comes easier in the warmer months. Being nearer the Land of the Midnight Sun gives us almost 17 hours of sunlight in June. As a result, the scale tips heavily to business during the colder/darker months but come spring, there is an unwritten understanding: lots of flex time to enjoy the best summers on the planet. We be gone!

Until then, we (meaning: some of us—more than others) need to find ways to break out of that work routine. For those of us (moi?) whose office is in their home, the act of leaving the office can present a blurred line.

Insert departure rituals. Come 5:00pm, some of us have resorted to shutting the lights off on ourselves or literally closing the door of the office as a reminder that the day is done. Personally, even more helpful is a business/accountability partner who also has a home office and we have agreed to “be a stand” for departing at an appropriate hour. Of course, a glass of wine never hurts.

Friday rituals are a bit more elaborate to signal the end of the work week. My routine starts with deliberate switching gears: making declarative statements relating to a successful week with missions accomplished, turning on jazz music, and focusing on weekend activities.

This afternoon, the jazz is playing, cabernet sauvignon is poured, and activities with friends and family are planned. The best part is the chokecherry tree outside my office window has leafed out to the point where I can’t see down the road anymore. Summer is just around the corner and we be gone.

Weather Report: Lost and Found

Gentle Reader: Got a sec? Yes, I know you are busy but give me 4 minutes for a Thought for the Day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Fall is a very busy time in North Dakota. Everyone shifts from enjoying our summers of 15 hours of sunlight to getting back to business. We are coming out of a very busy 2 months and getting caught up both in the office and at home. Life has been–do this, do that. To-Do lists. Do you notice even in our small talk how often we ask people how or what are they doing? Sometimes I think we are better classified as human doings rather than human beings.

Pause for a moment to consider the distinction between DOING and BEING. What if we re-think all that busy-ness and our need to DO things? Inside my kitchen cupboard door—all yellow and cracked, is this clipping: “I do not love you for what you do, but who you are.”

What if we create a To-Be List? BE creative, BE courageous, BE happy, and BE a stand for something. This list does not have required elements in order to happen—they are not about the pursuit of anything. They are simply choices.

Look closer at Shakespeare’s famous quote–especially the last part:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.

By choosing, we create what we choose. I choose a perfect life. I choose abundance. I choose peace-ful. There are no required criteria to fulfill these. Once I choose it–it exists.

Next time you see a friend, don’t ask how they are but ask instead: “Who are you? What is amazing in your life? Please take the time to tell me.”

Quietly humming: “Do be do be do . . . “

Provence in my Periphery

Gentle Reader: Several years ago, I had the good fortune to spend 10 days in Provence France on a wine and food tour. I knew I was entering a different world when, during the flight into Marseilles, passengers were served brie and tomato sandwiches. Yes, French bread, butter and fresh basil. From that day forward, I’ve almost always had a good brie in my house.

Our group stayed in a bucolic Gites de France called L’Ecole Buissonnière. It is a 300-year old restored farmhouse or “mas” in the Provencal countryside near Vaison la Romaine.

Each day we ventured out to visit the different vineyards such as Beaumes de Venise or Gigondas. Lunch was always at a different café then off again to villages, historic sites, and the street markets. The traditional weekly street markets, “le marché,” are held in a different village each day. A typical shopping list will take you to a different village, depending on where the market is that particular day.

Each evening we returned to the mas with a few of our favorite wines purchased at a vineyard tasting room, a few cheeses from le marché  and we enjoyed a rustic dinner prepared by our hosts. We’d recount impressions of our adventures like the famous Abbaye de Senanque, a Cistertian community of monks whose buildings date back to the 12th century.

In addition to the region’s endless fields of grape vines and lavender there are amazing stands of olive trees which are also the stuff of legends. Small and craggy, some –protected of course, date back hundreds of years. On visiting one little shop specializing in all things olive, I came home with two small bottles of the greenest EVOO I’d ever seen and a couple of olive wood kitchen utensils.

From that day forward, when I’m in need of olive oil, I search and research the internet for the best crop of the season then purchase it by the case. I keep it, cool and dark, in my wine cellar. Like a good wine, I gift a bottle here and there to friends who appreciate it.

Back home on the high plains of North Dakota, my collection of olive wood utensils has grown and I must caution myself occasionally not to let it become an obsession. However, there is something deeply satisfying about cooking with a well-loved wooden spoon and spatula or chopping olives and garlic on that lovely cutting board. Olive wood’s grain is a work of art. It is strikingly heavy and dense with swirls of rich color and markings.

With almost every use I’m reminded of the magic of Provence, the smell of lavender, and sound of Cistercian prayers.