My Commonplace Blog

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Trimming the Lavender

Did I start too early? Too late?
Too soon and the cold will chill your roots. By the end of May, the rotting leaves will no doubt choke your roots. Now is fine.

It’s a grinding chore that revives you and centers me.
Last year there was no center, so you were left to someone else’s care and received a cruel hacking. And from the look, you paid a price. I’m sorry; I just barely had it in me to properly trim you this year. Your evident waning almost brought me to tears.

The winter was hard on you, too. And none of us is young anymore.
Just replant every five or eight years, they say. Seems a thoughtless choice. Most of you have been with me for more than two decades. Been through so much together. All of us show our time.

The snowblower strips the branches on the driveway’s edge. A statement of the obvious, but the scars are brutal. Another blow to your strength. But it’s likely the salt that has brought two of you to the brink.
Again, my apologies. I use only enough to ensure safe passage on the slope, use the mildest kind. But your nature isn’t tolerant to much of that at all. And combined with last year’s reckless cut surely nicked into what strength you had. Did that cost you time?

We’re together today. Warm, breezy, the sun illuminating all that is good and all that is not.

Will you grace me with your presence for one more year? Five years ago I estimated two years more. And we’re all still here. I know the day will come, but do I really? It’s always a sharp surprise.

The zen of trimming is that, in a peculiar abstract sense, you represent the women I know. You work to provide, just like the fine women I know best and love most. It is our mutual nature. Not the ladies who lunch, but when we do, we enjoy it deeply because we earned it ourselves. That is our pride. You provided lunch/sustenance to generations of bees, cover for countless insects and more than a few litters of bunnies. Respect. Yeah, you win.

Today the centering was there. I just didn’t like what I saw. I looked at you and everything looked different. When I looked up, everything looked different. The lovely smell, the buds, the promise is there, as expected. But what I saw beyond, everywhere, had little joy. There is an unwelcome weight.

It’s not your job to center me, to provide happiness. Just being there you do so. And for that I am grateful. I can’t account for the feelings, for the small agonies. I can only treat you with care and respect. And hope that will be enough for you to bloom.

TEST — Nominations Now Being Accepted for the 2022 Clara Johnson Award

THIS IS A TEST! But if you’re a writer, check on March 8 to submit your work. 🙂

Groundbreaking. Purposeful. Bold. Excellent. Challenging to social constructs.

Johnson Award for Women’s Literature, which will be given to a book published in 2021 that bears the attributes of the award’s namesake. The winner will be awarded $1,000 and will receive the award at a ceremony held in late 2022.

The Jane’s Stories Board will choose the finalists from a field nominated by editors, publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians, and readers—literally anyone who loves exciting books. The award is also intended to showcase the presses that publish such work.

A writer may receive the award for a specific work or for a body of work within the year. Works that were published from January through December 2021 will be eligible for the 2022 award. For purposes of this award, women’s literature includes all literary works by women (born or identified).

The award is open to prose of all genres, including, but not limited to, fiction and nonfiction, creative nonfiction, or memoir. All subgenres are welcome, as well, though works in popular categories such as romance and mystery will succeed only if they rise to the level of literature. Genre-bending is encouraged. The only exclusions are works that may be defined as erotica or pornography. Works that denigrate any groups or categories of people will be eliminated, as well.

Nominations can be made from March 8 to May 8, 2022, and emailed to:

Please include with the nominating form: Cover letter with all current contact information for the author (name, address, phone number, and email address).

The Angle of Promise

The morning sun is at the angle of promise. Bright, low, creating sharp, intersecting shimmery wedges and long shadows instigating the thought that something is possible. Something, not anything. It’s been a long slog of dreary grey days, unpromising even when the sun appeared. This unexpected moment brightens the eye and then the mind.

No picture. The light I saw included the phone, a vignette that also included a pencil, some paper, and a favorite coffee cup. Was the universe saying something? No. I just saw the light, the actual light. Everything else is in my head.

Oh, Hello


Well, it has been too long, hasn’t it. So I’ll start with an on-the-nose offering of a Nordic dessert. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, cogitating, and going in mental circles for the past long while. Frankly, I’m tired of listening to myself, so why share.

Instead, enter the present moment: Saw this at Costco and started thinking of mass produced ‘finer’ things, what is lost when a rare treat is commodified, and if I buy this how will I keep myself from eating more than one a day. The last one is easy; I enjoy food, very much thank you, but learning to keep the pleasure in things by not overindulging is a hard-earned trait. Before I wrench my shoulder from patting myself on the back, however, even one a day is a hearty indulgence.

Conversely, do we overglorify some foods? I’ve had the pleasure, on occasion, to try some rare food and sometimes been under impressed. Not to be on the wrong side of the table at Babette’s Feast, but I’m inclined to not assume greatness. Ditto things beyond food. One of the few books I re-read is The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity. And that book inspired eye-rolling from an academic I know. Which is just the wrong response.

Perhaps it’s the English in my heritage: The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes.

That’s all the big thinking for today. I’ll work on getting my mind back to the right place for writing this. After I enjoy a stroopwafel. Tomorrow.

Squeeze to Crack

Squeeze to crack 1.jpg

It’s already been that kind of year. Nothing disastrous for me, but several people close to me have deeply experienced the painful stuff of life. Being supportive doesn’t change reality but it’s all I’ve got. And, if I’m honest, all this has one waiting for the next foot of the centipede to drop. I’m with Roseanne Roseannadanna on this one: It’s always something.

My usual M.O. doesn’t really help. Head down, plow through each day. And a late, long winter with seemingly endless gray days doesn’t help either. I shake my fist at you, Mother Nature!

The days are lengthening, the glowing orb is in the sky today, and Target carries the new Magnum ice cream. A little something for the day that started with a long walk and fresh bagels. There were also a couple of donuts from the long-established-local-donut-place-that-closed-and-recently-opened-in-a-new-place. The hubs made short work of those.

A carb colossus represents small somethings to look forward to. Time to fill up the calendar, and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Happy spring!



Bubblicious or Cold Retrospective

Frozen window

I like the super-cold weather — when it doesn’t overstay its welcome. But after I’ve worn both pairs of flannel-lined pants for several days each, subzero temps become a little tiresome.

Frozen bubble 6

So the hubs and I cheered ourselves up with frozen bubbles during the recent cold spell.

Frozen bubble 7

Temps below zero with a nil wind create the best results.

Frozen bubble 2

But single digits with a mild breeze (doesn’t move your hair, really) will do.

Frozen bubble 5

Usually I use store-bought bubble juice and I drink something hot at the outset. This produces steam-filled bubbles that drift upward and after a few seconds shatter spectacularly, releasing a puff of steam.

Frozen bubble 4

This time I used a homemade brew (water, Dawn, and Karo Syrup) instead. The goal is bubbles-on-the-ring that crystallize. They also capture lovely reflections of light and surroundings as they freeze.

Frozen bubble 9

The post-bubble phase, however, has little charm.

Frozen bubble 8

Still, it’s a lovely thing to look at for a fleeting moment, even when the bubble looks like it could look back at you.

Hedging My Bets or Do You Hear What I Hear?

2018 herring

Happy New Year! Time for the annual herring choice. Returning to full-time work after a two-year break turned life on its ear, mostly in a good way. Thus it seems last year’s choice of IKEA herring was smart and worthy of repeat.

But life doesn’t stand still. And neither does the cat.

2018 Herring photobomb

(The hubs thought it would be hysterical to have Citrus the cat photobomb a herring shot. Sigh. The outcome proved mildly amusing at best.)

Back to the topic at hand: What herring choice to embrace whatever 2018 has in store? My Ben Ming Nian will be over soon, and I’m hoping for even better days filled with things fresh and interesting. A friend works at Whole Foods and that lead me to Option B.


And I can enjoy a variety of fish dishes using my new chopsticks, a Christmas present from the hubs. Titanium, even. And lest you think we won the lotto, check out the reasonable price on (Side note: The neighbor’s teenage offspring tease their mother because she still keys in the www on web addresses. Had to do that here to razz them back.)

And my life-turned ear?


I had that pierced last year. Both, actually. Now I can turn a stylish ear to hear what’s coming next.

The Lazy Cook

What with work and all the other stuff of life clamoring for my attention and zapping my energy, the joy of cooking has eluded me for months. Fortunately, the cooler days are perking me up a bit. A bit. Let’s not overstate the case.

So I’m adapting my cooking ambitions – Welcome to The Lazy Cook. Once again, the interwebs provideth.

The Lazy Cook 1

First up, the laziest cookie recipe ever – plus I found it on Nordic Northwest‘s* Facebook page so it pings the Nordic cooking button, too!

Mash together oatmeal and banana, then toss in a flavor. Here, I added mini chocolate chips because this was not an exercise in creativity. Blop vaguely round mounds on a cookie sheet and bake for the usual cookie-baking amount of time at the usual cookie-baking oven temp.

The result: Edible and not entirely unpleasant. Chewy would be generous assessment; after a day rubbery is pretty much spot on. But if mid-morning you need a big snack, you can eat several of these (providing they hold together) and not feel guilty.

I’d make them again but maybe add a little water or yogurt to help hold the dough (if it could be classified as such) together. But maybe not because, well, you know. . . The Lazy Cook.

The Lazy Cook 2

Next, falling in with the sheet-pan cooking craze: Blueberry muffin blob from Food 52. Since I didn’t bake this when blueberries were in season, out came the humongous bag of frozen wild blueberries from Costco. And if you keep ingredients like this a smidge (spelled W-A-A-A-Y-Y) past the best-by date, you get the bonus frost that melts when mixed, giving that ‘unique’ (yes, that’s the word I’m looking for. . .) purplish haze to the batter.

I couldn’t even be bothered to get out the mixer and just mixed it all together by hand. Rise and fluff wasn’t the aim because, well, you know. . . The Lazy Cook.

The result: Color notwithstanding, actually quite tasty. I unnecessarily fretted a bit about over baking, so a few minutes longer would have crisped up the edges a bit more. And I’ll aim for a thicker, smaller blob. Mebbe get out the mixer for some added fluff factor.

I cut them in squarish pieces – like Chicago pizza the way it’s supposed to be cut, ahem! – and can stack two in a container for a portable snack.

I’d show after pics for these but, well, you know. . .The Lazy Blogger.

What’s next? Maybe a whole meal on a sheet pan – most likely a gooey mess. And granola in the slow cooker. Yes, that’s a thing and, like the sheet-pan muffins, why not?

*Yes, I see the apostrophe is wonked. I tried three ways to correct it. Obvs, unsuccessful. Left as is because, you know. . .The Lazy Editor

Hang On Little Tomato!


(A little late on this posting – the harvest is vinally over – bad pun intended!)

The title of a Pink Martini song and album has come to mind often these last few weeks as scores and scores of tomatoes ripen, and we attempt to pick them at peak ripeness.

This year’s tomato planting is in a new spot. Most of the year the south side of the garage is in the dark shadows of the neighbor’s behemoth brick house. My guess was that the high angle of the summer sun would last long enough to yield a hearty crop. And indeed it did. Another title in the running for this post was Incoming!

In a nod to monoculture, the hubs planted five roma tomato plants there and two more in pots on the deck. Producing gallons of sauce was apparently the only thing on his mind (more on that another time). But we still topped salads and enjoyed BLTs with these tomatoes. A little variety, however, would have been nice. . .

Back to the harvest, which is where all the comic material lies.


The hubs rigged up this wonky trellis for better air circulation and to allow the vines to grow longer and outward, thereby increasing production. When the birds decided it provided a nice, secluded place to sit and grab a snack, he draped the whole business with netting. And the final runner-up title for this posting was Rack ‘Em Up.

What he failed to consider was picking tomatoes. The contraption is a little over four feet high, and it requires an awkward combination of yoga and limbo moves to get in and out. That’s accented with grade school-level Quasimodo imitations to plod, hunched over, and reach deep to pick tomatoes. Four times out of five, one of us smacks a noggin on the overhead trellis and at least once a week somebody gets tangled in the netting.

Hopefully the neighbors get a kick out of our point-and-pull method. I crouch on the ground, looking up into the vines, pointing out tomatoes; the hubs reaches in almost blindly while I coach “a little to the left and up” in hopes of plucking the ripe fruit hidden in the leaves.

Random image of the lovely tomatoes we picked. Not necessarily representative of a day’s harvest. . .

The fun continues when the hubs attempts to estimate the day’s harvest. It’s a whole new level of husband math. Example: “Must be five pounds of tomatoes, maybe 12.” Nothing like covering your bases: Nine pounds was that day’s yield.

Then there’s the canning pot. Our newish stove has two ceramic burners and two induction. Somehow he convinced himself that we were damaging the large diameter ceramic burner by using prolonged high heat and the old-fashion enameled canning pot. I remain unconvinced.

However, since I returned to work he is unattended all day and in possession of a valid credit card. Thus, unsurprisingly, I came home to a shiny new gargantuan canning pot suitable for use on an induction stove. I informed him that we will never can enough of anything to justify the cost. He remains unconvinced.

Thus, he has spent much effort outlining possible additional uses for this pot. The best one so far is the pot is big enough to make bagels. Oy vey. Hang on little tomato, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.


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