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Pocket of Joy: Black Walnuts

The American black walnuts are now raining down like manna from heaven! Heavy, painful, treacherous manna with the power to deal out a concussion or a sprained ankle, so look alive. Here is my back yard walnut tree. This year, Pandemic Year 2, is the year I'm finally going to try processing my own black walnuts. My family is back on near-lockdown until our daughter can be fully vaccinated, and my kitchen renovation is nearly done, so there's never been a better time and might never be again. Of course, I will give the squirrels plenty of chances to fill their own pantries between my human harvests. One of my dearest, oldest friends, who used to work with me at a cookie shop when we were teenagers and who visited during this year's early summer break from high viral spread, gave me the most adorable cookie cutters I've ever seen--shaped like squirrels that can hold a real nut in their arms in the middle of the cookie. I want to use my back yard black walnuts to bake some

This Sauce Is the Sauce

F@*% jar sauce! Nat's what I reckon. I am, of course, referring to the battle cry of "Nat's What I Reckon," the Australian YouTube champion who went "viral" during the first 2020 pandemic lockdown, on a mission to nourish the souls and bodies of weirdos and gutter punks around the world who appreciate a healthy sense of humor and a wholesome home-cooked meal lovingly presented with heaping sides of Australian-accented cuss words, dangerously long hair, and tattoos. According to Nat's unorthodox self-help, autobiography, and cookery book, Un-Cook Yourself: A Ratbag's Rules for Life , his journey to unexpected lockdown internet fame began when he was a teenager and his father took him on a trip to India, where he contracted tuberculosis. Upon his return to Australia, the initial symptoms of infection were obscured by the usual effects of an unhealthy lifestyle and the medical community's biases toward... ratbags, as Nat would put it. His TB infecti

Pocket of Joy: Fine Art and Divine Castoffs

Many years ago, my husband and I had a local friend in art school who created many weird and wonderful things, some of which turned out to her satisfaction and many that did not. Her output in both categories exceeded what she could keep or sell, and so we benefited from the opportunity to collect and hoard her (sometimes slipcast) castoffs. I always prefer an imperfect handicraft to a factory-fresh decor item, and I appreciate the special, limited-time window of good fortune of having a generous friend in art school, so I accepted many more functional pots and ceramic artworks than I could possibly use or display. Some I distributed to other friends; some I put away in the garage and cycled them into the kitchen as items to replace other items that got broken; some large and bizarre items I tucked away in the garden shed for over a decade, where they have obtained a weathered, mossy patina. And now that my husband and I are renovating our home, the time has come for those pieces to li

Debut Dinner of the Big Ass Pot

Happy harvest season! This summer's gardening and kitchen renovation projects have finally converged upon a successful dinner picked from the front yard and boiled in the Big Ass Pot my husband scored at our local Habitat ReStore. This thing is built like an antique bathtub and large enough to boil a baby. When my husband bought it, I immediately visualized it full of fresh-picked corn on the cob, and this week, I manifested that vision! The first harvest, earlier last week, was just one ear that had transformed majestically into a fine chonk of huitlacoche . Right after I noticed it, I heard from a Mexican friend that she was about to pass by my house with another Mexican friend, looking for a special way to celebrate her birthday. I told her to stop in my front yard and pick up some specialty quesadilla filling, and she did. If this happens to another ear of my corn, I'm going to try cooking it up and tasting it at my house. My husband, a burgeoning mushroom enthusiast, will

Pocket of Joy: Welcoming "Misfortune" on Friday the 13th!

Tomorrow is another Friday the 13th, and my family is looking forward to it! Mostly that's because it's also our cat's fourth birthday, and we're going to have a party for her involving cardboard boxes and bouncy balls. But also it's because we have a darkly occult sense of humor at our house. We enjoy thunderstorms, campy horror, Halloween, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X. We have always celebrated, rather than feared, Friday the 13th--unlike the gentleman who walked into my husband's shop yesterday to let him know that the world would be ending this Friday! It is a joy to have that tradition in place now, when we are all dealing with some heavy misfortunes that started before this year's Friday the 13th and will continue afterward. Climate change, violence, pandemic, etc. There is an excess of truly bad fortune in the world right now, and it's a real bummer.  But it's good to be able to laugh at bad luck and disappointment, whether anticipated or expe

Here We Go Again

As we prepare for our daughter to go back to school at the end of this month, I've gone back to working from home. I returned to my office after the 4th of July, took down my March 2020 wall calendar, and worked onsite for one month before the delta variant had me hauling away my office's potted plants once again. Here we go again. I'm sad, and I'm letting myself feel that. Today, I'll get my hair cut for the last time before my daughter can be fully vaccinated. At that joyful time, we'll schedule a mother-daughter visit to the salon. I hope that it happens before her next birthday in January 2022. Back to WFH. Back to masking (or double-masking) in public and staying home whenever possible.  Working from home suits me just fine, but the reason I need to do it again has me feeling profoundly sad. I sat alone in my office on Friday and shouted some swears into the void. Then I took a few breaths and started loading up my car with houseplants. Again. Around the sa