Seat of the Pants Cooking

Marc Bittman has made an art and career out of what I’ve long called “seat of the pants” cooking.  I have a small library of cookbooks (each one has to earn its keep on the single shelf devoted to such compendiums) and use them not infrequently. But much of the time, I take what I have and make dinner.  The upside to SOTP cooking is that it’s everchanging. The downside is when I hit it out of the park, which is also not infrequently, I never remember to write it down. (Marc Bittman does.)

I did write down last night’s ingredients. I began with some cherry tomatoes that were going to wrinkle if I didn’t use them soon and a leftover slice of raw salmon that might have filled the tummy of a very hungry kitten. I sauteed the salmon in some olive oil and butter and removed it from the pan just short of doneness.  I crushed the cherry tomatoes and tossed them in the pan.

While they cooked, I diced a few spears of yellow pepper and added them. Playing hide and seek with the fridge I finished up a jar of Greek olives, thinly sliced a few sun dried tomatoes, got out some capers but decided against them, splashed in some white wine and the juice of a lemon, seasoned it all with some S&P and crushed oregano and let it simmer while the water boiled for the pasta.           I added back the salmon and warmed it up before serving.

Writing this now I realize that we were supposed to have snow peas as well but I forgot to serve them. That’s not SOTP cooking just my addled brain. Were I to make this for company I’d use more salmon and some really hearty pasta from the little Italian store near-by.  Bon appetit!

There is Magic in the World…

…and the Heavens listen.  This is a “stop the presses!” moment.

Our daughter-in-law texted late last night that today at five would be a good time to read to Olivia and do music*.  When Martin told me, I realized I’d need to get to the library for some new books to read. This morning  I received a delivery from Amazon.  At the bottom was a book I don’t even remember ordering.

I reached for What Do You Know? by sisters Aracelis Girmay and Ariana Fields (I mean with names like that they have to be magic women!), opened it, began to read, and tumbled into that special place of mine where gratitude spirals from my very depths like the best fireworks you’ve ever seen.  Gratitude for these talented women, gratitude for my capacity to feel so deeply, gratitude for the years (two) and conversations (1000) that brought this book into being.

From the blurb: “What might a bear, a farmer, a historian, some goats or courage respond when love askes, ‘What do you know?’ ” Turn the page and be surrounded in wonder and astonishment. Reach the farmers’ pages and delight in the illustrations. Read the answer of courage and know that when you read this book to your children and grandchildren you will be teaching them life’s most difficult lesson in an unforgettable way.

That’s all I’ll say.  Except for this: Order this book today. Visit Enchanted Lion Books.  They are an amazing publisher of the art and philosopy we call children’s books.


* Martin finds incredible music videos to enjoy with Olivia.  Their repetoire spans opera, Broadway, ballet and symphonies. One of their favorites is Shostakovich’s opera The Nose which contains a scene of dancing noses.


I have classified this post in three drawers: Grandlife, Bookshelf, Kids @ Heart because the book is so wonderful I don’t want anyone to miss it!

Unbutton That Coat!

We are in the middle of the Hebrew month of Elul, the month leading into the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement. Tradition teaches that during Elul, “the King” descends from the Heavenly castle and walks through the fields, accessible to all who yearn for connection with the Divine. It is a month when we are urged to look inward and face our shortcomings; to look back over the past year and take stock of where our actions did not measure up to the self we want to be; to look forward to these imminent Holy Days of celebration, prayer, repentence, forgiveness and hope.

As we hope to be forgiven, we also struggle to forgive others. Do they not deserve what we so dearly pray for? Our tormentors are human, too. They suffer the same shortcomings as we do. Why is forgiving such a challenge? Why do we hold on to our wounds so tightly? As I meditated this morning an image came to me of a tightly buttoned coat. We all wear such a coat, woven on a loom of sorrow and anger, disappointment and resentment. Fastened with buttons that symbolize blows to our heart, this coat often becomes justification for who we have become, for how our life has turned out.

Take a few minutes of quiet and settle into your coat. Feel its contours, the seams of righteous hurt that hold it together. Mentally finger its many buttons. Perhaps the top one was formed of a primal trauma; the two below it the consequences that followed.  The next one, big and square, has sharp pointed corners. Perhaps they remind you of thoughtless words and deeds sent your way once, twice and thrice upon a time. There are buttons below this one: small, medium and large. You know who gave them to you; you keep them tightly sewn to your coat like a merit badge earned in Scouts.

What would it take to undo the buttons? To shuck the coat once and for all and be free? Not entirely free from the pain perhaps, but free from the constriction that keeps you from living fully and imbued with the joyful life you deserve.  Could you undo a button and forgive the one who gave it to you? Maybe just a small one. And then what about another? Forgiveness doesn’t mean what was done to you was OK. Forgiveness means you will no longer allow another’s ineptitude to comandeer your life. Try another button. Can you feel the coat loosening? Inhale deeply. Feel the freedom that forgiving another brings you.

This is hard work. It is not completed in a single month or even in a lifetime. Yet year after year, this month of Elul gives us the opportunity to practice forgiveness, to strive toward becoming the person we want to be, to be forgiven and enter each New Year cleansed, hopeful, and inspired. And the coat? You may well reach for it again out of habit.  It is familiar and quite comfortable after all. Without thinking, you might even put it on. But in this new year, perhaps you’ll simply place it lightly around your shoulders. Or carry it over an arm for a day or two. The buttons you can leave alone.

Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

The women photographed and featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style are eye candy and inspiration for the rest of us. Cohen has made a career of photographing and celebrating fabulously put together women d’un certain age.

There is Rose, a centenarian who isn’t dressed until she is cinched with an iconic belt and clasped with string of outrageous beads. Tziporah Saloman’s canary yellow beanie, Bakelite bracelets and canvas espadrilles are the perfect foils to her perwinkle and maize tunic. “And sometimes it’s a fine line from costume to chic so I am for the latter and work on it until I achieve it.”

The women who caught the author/photgrapher’s eye, steal my heart on every page.  Their delight in their own sense of style and creativity shimmers in each image and sends the message that style never goes out of style and that age is never a barrier to being beautiful.

How Do You Wrap Up Your Day?

Since Covid’s first spring, a group of women and I have been meeting for study, meditation and conversation. Last week, one of our members said something about wrapping up her day and how she tries to pay attention to how she does it.

I thought it was such a wonderful phrase: “wrapping up one’s day.” Do I have a practice of doing this? Not really. Before Martin and I say goodnight, we sometimes review the day. Or go over the next day’s plans. Some families go around the dinner table and offer up a rose and a thorn, ie something good and something less than stellar that happened during the day. But that’s not exactly the same as wrapping the day up, sifting through one’s day to review its entire contents. And then after the sifting there is the considering, the measuring, the assigning of gratitude and regret, perhaps remembering a close call or even a spirit-lifting surprise.

Do you have a ritual to wrap up your day? What is it?  How did it come about?  I’m thinking maybe I could wrap up my day while I am brushing my teeth, linking a new intention to a lifelong habit.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


photo courtesy of Martin Darvick