Last week was ridiculously busy, and this week doesn’t look to be any better. I’ve been preparing for my big department-sponsored reading (which takes place this upcoming Wednesday), taking care of household and financial logistics post-Spring Break (among other things, it appears that my tetanus immunization has expired, so I need to go have it renewed this week), doing regular classwork (I have a big project for one of my classes due this Thursday, the day after my reading), doing church (I got to read one of my poems during the offertory today) and volunteer related stuff (Riley readings are supposed to start again soon, and I’m taking over for next year) and running on an insane sleep schedule – my body having refused, point-blank, to readjust to EST after returning from the West Coast. (I think I’m still a little jet lagged, even now).
In the midst of all this, getting to hear last week’s guest poet read was a welcome respite. Fabulous Filipina American poet Luisa Igloria (the winner of this year’s Sandeen Prize) came to campus to read from her book Juan Luna’s Revolver last week, and I was privileged to have the chance to converse with her afterwards, and to eat breakfast with her the next day. Prof. Igloria was very encouraging to me about my work, and really lovely to speak with. She also proved to be quite gracious, even though there were several logistical snafoo’s among us MFA students that resulted in our being 20+ minutes late to pick her up for breakfast the morning after her reading. I always love a good, long conversation about craft and vision, and it was great to hear some of Prof. Igloria’s thoughts about teaching and writing, which she punctuated with colorful anecdotes. Her stories about home and family reminded me of the importance of story and narrative to my vision for my own work. All through these projects – both Cannery Row and the Women Scientists (which might tentatively be called “Physics at the Dinner Table” – I’m hesitant to slap a title on it yet, though, before I finish the work as a whole and see how it all fits together), it’s been the stories I’ve been looking for. Voices, and ghosts, and ghosts of voices that tell stories with ghosts of other stories hiding beneath them. I’ve just recently started to add the layer of my own personal and family stories to my work with the Women Scientists, and it’s been really interesting to me to see how everything kind of bleeds together at the edges and piles up in unexpected layers. Prof. Igloria also does a lot of historical work in Juan Luna’s Revolver, and had a lot of good advice to give to me about process and resources. I’ve started reading a little of the book, and it’s been very interesting to contemplate how some of what she’s doing there can serve as a model for what I’ve been trying to do. Her visit actually came at a really appropriate time for me, as I’m just now beginning to see the faint outline of a shape emerge for both of these works, and now it’s about continuing to collect information along the way as I follow those thin chalkmarks, and doing the work of sitting and writing, to try out different ways to flesh out what will eventually appear inside the outlines.
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Last Sunday night, the experimental dinner I concocted from the very random leftovers in our fridge (we do our grocery shopping on Mondays) kind of bombed. So in order to make myself feel better, and to try out the new mini food cutters I bought at Daiso when I was in California for Spring Break, I made Linzer Cookies using King Arthur Flour’s recipe. I halved the recipe, except for the egg (because the dough seemed too dry without it). Unfortunately, I think the other half of the egg ended up being a little too much, because the resulting dough was slightly more sticky than it ought to have been, even after flouring and refrigeration. I filled the cookies with half raspberry preserves (heart cutouts) and half apricot jam (star cutouts). I ended up being pretty happy with the results. They were more work than I had expected, but they were tasty, and anyway I love rolling out and cutting dough (I find it relaxing). And for once, our house actually finished them all within the week.
Linzer Cookies (heavily based on King Arthur Flour’s Linzer Cookies)
Makes about 16 cookies, depending on the size of your cutters.
1/1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ or glazing sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup Trader Joe’s almond meal
1 1/8 all-purpose flour
1/2 of a beaten egg
raspberry jam and apricot jam
confectioners’ or glazing sugar, for dusting
Beat together the butter, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flavor. Mix in the almond meal, flour, and egg. Divide dough in half and wrap well. Refrigerate for 60 minutes, for easiest rolling.
Roll the dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds with a large (2 inch) daisy cutter. Transfer the cookies to a foil-lined baking sheet. Cut windows into the centers of half of the daisy rounds using a mini-cutter and remove the inside shapes (you can either roll them back into the rest of the dough for recutting, or bake them as little mini cookies). Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges. Cool on a rack. Dust the cookies with cutout tops lightly with confectioners’ sugar.
Spread the solid cookies with jam. Place a cutout cookie on top. Let stand for several hours, until the filling is set.
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It’s late now; actually past midnight already (I waited till the last minute to start writing this blog entry – not the greatest of ideas when you’re trying not to stretch the limits of your Lenten disciplines), so I’ll stop here.
Wish me luck on Wednesday. ::Crosses fingers for a good reading::