About Claire

I am a filmmaker, illustrator, graphic designer and copy editor.

Pistachio-almond-cherry-chocolate cookies

Pistachio cherry chocolate cookies

Pistachio cherry chocolate cookies

Here at The Ordinary, we get a lot of spam comments. Several a day. I confess I feel almost sorry for the spammers, because we’re such a small concern, here in our little Ordinary world. I want to tell them that they’re wasting their time, and that their heartfelt words won’t reach all that many people. But I must also confess that I like some of the spam comments that I get. They’re charming. And to continue the theme of found-poetry-of-the-modern-technological-world that we started yesterday, I’ll share some with you here. They’re generally very generous comments, very complimentary, enthusiastically positive. And this is nice to read when you’re feeling discouraged, as I have been, even if you doubt the absolute sincerity of the commenter. And they’re often strangely but appealingly constructed, with an unexpected rhythm, and a brand new use for words you’ve heard a million times, which is where the poetry comes in. You want to read it twice, you want to share it. It’s not honest enough to be enduring, or soulful enough to be genuinely touching, but many of these comments transcend their original purpose to become something more beautiful than a means to sell diet pills. And here we go…

    Wow, this post is pleasant,
    my younger sister is
    analyzing these things,
    thus I am going to tell her.
    Buy to to rapidly dispose of surplus goods,
    they set prices,
    an irresistible work.
    Benjamin Blaire was a rounded and studious businessperson.
    Why not go to the Boracay beach and experience
    something more out of this ordinary?
    Halloween ghosts and goblins are
    on the brink of embark on our neighborhoods.
    Don’t blindly!
    We must
    believe
    ourself.
    You will see treasure in your journey
    as well as a better gear to use,
    once you have enough components and item
    you’ll be able to build your own items
    plus enchanted it with a lot
    more powerful attribute.
    Although Trade might have been a triumph,
    1970 had more to offer.
    You’ve done a formidable process
    and our entire neighborhood will
    probably
    be grateful to you.
    Thanks a lot
    for sharing
    this with all of us
    you really know
    what you’re speaking
    approximately!
    I to find it very bothersome
    to inform the reality
    on the other hand
    I will definitely
    come
    again
    again.

Well, I could go on forever, but I won’t. Instead I’ll tell you about these cookies. David came home from the flea market this morning with a new beautiful blue plate, and he said, “Good for cookies!” So I made cookies. We had some cherries that needed eating, and I always like cherries with pistachios and almonds, and I always like everything with chocolate, so there you have it! I added a little cardamom, because I thought it would go well with everything, and it did. I made quite a small batch…a half batch…because I’m still baking in my toaster oven. So double all of these ingredients if you’re going to make a real batch of cookies! If you cook them till they’re golden on top, they’ll be quite crispy on the outside, but if you stop when they’re just slightly browned on the bottom, they’ll be more soft and chewy. The choice is yours!

Here’s STEP RIGHT UP by Tom Waits.

Continue reading

About these ads

Summer squash and chickpeas with olives, raisins and basil

Summer squash with chickpeas, raisins, olives and basil

Summer squash with chickpeas, raisins, olives and basil

Both boys have friends over. The little ones are playing together and describing very unlikely and very funny scenarios. “What if somebody was singing ‘Let it Go’ to a guy hanging off a cliff?” or “Who wants lunch?” “Me!” “I was talking about you being my lunch!” And the bigger boys, who have phones, are staring at their phones. We got Malcolm a phone for his birthday. It’s not a fancy one, it doesn’t do much, but I think he likes having it. Of course it’s depressing to see people lost in their phones, unaware of the world around them, shut off from nature and from living human society. It makes me sad that we’re all losing the ability to sit and do nothing and receive no information from the outside world beyond what we can see and hear and smell immediately around us. I’d rather see the boys “playing with their imaginations,” as Isaac says. As a word lover I’m not a huge fan of texting with its lazy abbreviations and insipid content. However, also as a word lover I’m so happy to exchange texts with Malcolm! He’s so funny and sweet. He texts us from across the room, from up the stairs, from the back seat of the car. And he texts from his friends’ houses when he’s far from home, so we know how he’s doing.
IMG_3941 IMG_3942
I can’t help thinking (again) of René Clair’s enthusiastic praise of film as a new technology, “In this era, when verbal poetry is losing the charm it exerted on the masses … a new form of poetic expression has arisen and can reach every beating heart on earth … a poetry of the people is there, seeking its way.” And there is poetry in short lines exchanged between people, when they’ve whittled their words down to express only the most important message, when they’ve tightened their language to convey the most meaning. There’s wit and poignance even in the inevitable misunderstandings and misspellings. Even the words themselves have been distilled to their essence. It reminds me of this poem by Robert Creeley:

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, — John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

“In saying his poems, Creeley stops briefly at the end of each line, though without dropping the pitch of his voice. This gives it a jazzy, syncopated rhythm, very nervous. Thom Gunn calls it ‘a kind of eloquent stammering,'” which is how you could describe the rhythm of text conversations, although truly they are not always eloquent. Phones are here to stay, and are only going to become smarter and more engrossing as the years go along. We might as well embrace their brief rough poetry, we might as well be thankful for the way that they connect us.

It’s summer squash season! I like summer squash, but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about cooking it day after day. This was an exciting dish, though. Full of flavor and nice textures. I like the combination of jalapeños, raisins and olives, sweet and spicy and salty. I like grated zucchini and yellow squash, because they tend to melt into a dish, imparting their fresh summery flavor.

Instead of a song today, I’ll give you a video of a man using his phone to make little films that make the ordinary more interesting.

Continue reading

“Mediterranean” white bean “chili” with avocado corn salsa and pesto

White bean chili with pesto and avocado corn salsa

White bean chili with pesto and avocado corn salsa

Godard’s 1967 film La Chinoise is full of words. The characters talk constantly, the walls of their apartment are painted with giant phrases and mottos, and the screen flashes with intertitles in a strange and jarring rhythm. And, of course, we don’t speak French, so we were also reading subtitles, as all of the dizzying layers of text were translated for us in rapid succession. The film is a loose adaption of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed, and it tells the story of five university students intent on violent revolution. They discuss ideology, they discuss art, they’re very well-read, and they talk about literature and theater and music. They discuss their plans, and for most of the film we suspect they’ll be all talk and little action. They discuss their love for one another, or their lack of love. They talk about class struggle, they talk about the workers, but they never work. Except for Yvonne, one of two women in the group, who is constantly cleaning, and tells of her part-time work as a prostitute so that she can afford things. The film is shot mostly in the claustrophobic world of their apartment and their minds, both teeming with ideas and words so beautifully layered and confused and constant that they start to make a strange sort of sense. I think the film must have been one of Godard’s first color films, and he’s beautifully aware of color. Everything is red, white and blue, with Mao’s Little Red Book appearing in shifting stacks and patterns, becoming almost a character. The film is full of humor, it’s an affectionate satire. The students are foolish, even frighteningly so at times, but Godard loves them even as he disparages them. In one long beautiful scene, which finally breaks out into the world beyond the apartment, Veronique meets her old philosophy professor, a former revolutionary for the Algerian national liberation movement. She talks about her deeply-held political beliefs and she sounds like a child: she wants to close the universities, but she talks about how her one summer of actual work caused her to do really well on her exams. She talks about using bombs, and she says the word like a child would. As in Masculin/Feminin, the violence is off-screen, botched, dreamlike. It’s hard to know if it really happened or if it’s all in their heads. The whole film is like a dream, floating away with humor and words and sixties pop style, but grounded with the idea that these students are discussing real people and real problems that continue to affect people around the world.

avocado corn salsa and pesto

avocado corn salsa and pesto

Do you like all the quotation marks in the title?!? It’s because this isn’t really mediterranean, and it’s not really chili. It seemed mediterranean because it has olives and beans and rosemary and pesto and harissa. It’s like chili because it has chili paste and beans and it’s a spicy sort of stew. Whatever you call it, it was very tasty. The chili is warm and rich and savory, and the salsa is light and sweet, and the pesto adds a real kick of flavor. We ate this with zucchini corn bread, but you could warm up some tortillas and eat it as tacos instead.
White bean chili

White bean chili

Here’s Mao Mao, a poppy punky song by Claude Channes from La Chinoise, which pretty much sums up the whole film.

Continue reading

Chocolate pecan cherry cake

Pecan chocolate cherry cake

Pecan chocolate cherry cake

Hello Ordinary friends! I hope everybody is having a wonderful summer. Ours is melting away in a dreamy succession of trips to rivers and creeks, just as summer should. I took another brief Ordinary sabbatical, and I’ll tell you why. Somebody read my novel! I gave it to my neighbor. I don’t know her very well, but I like her a lot and I respect her opinion. She’s a poet and a teacher. And she read my novel as you would hope a poet and teacher would, and had some generous things to say about it that made me nearly cry with relief when I first read them, and she asked some thoughtful questions that made me want to change a few scenes and add a few scenes, and that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s an odd feeling, like slipping down a pebbly hill. Once you start changing things, you could change anything! You could add scenes or take them away. You could make whole characters disappear; characters who you’ve come to think of as living, feeling people. You could explain everything! You could take away all the explanations! You could make the characters (your friends, as you’ve come to think of them) happy or sad, sick or well. And I wasn’t going to talk about my novel! I’ll tell you a story instead. Yesterday after dinner Malcolm and I and Clio went for a walk. We were all a little tired, but the weather has been so ridiculously perfect this week that it felt wrong to stay inside. By the time we got to the other side of the canal Malcolm’s stomach hurt and I had a blister on my toe. So we decided to come home and sit in the yard instead. Well, what should we see on the way back but a rambly bush with perfect tiny bright red raspberries on it! We ate a few, and they were lovely. Whenever I eat a raspberry I always say, aloud, that raspberry is the most perfect flavor in the world, which is not surprising because as everybody knows, the milky way tastes like raspberries. So we decided to collect a little handful to bring home to Isaac and David. And then, before I knew it, I was up to my knees and elbows in stinging nettles. By god it hurt! Malcolm found me some jewel weed, which helped to calm the sting, but it didn’t really go away. I think I got poison ivy, too. All for a little handful of raspberries. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is.

Chocolate cherry pecan cake

Chocolate cherry pecan cake

Next to raspberries, I love cherries. And they’re perfect this time of year. I thought they’d be nice with pecans and chocolate, and they are. I made this cake, which is almost more like a bar cookie, because it’s thick and chewy and delicious, in the toaster oven. It was very easy to put together, and very easy to eat!

Here’s Charlie Haden with Silence. Beautiful.

Continue reading

Cool tacos for a hot day

Black bean, pepper and avocado

Black bean, pepper and avocado

SUMMER JOURNAL

I haven’t had much time to write lately. It’s strange how summer days can fill up with delightful clusters of nothing-too-important but something you wouldn’t miss. Of course I’ve been thinking of writing, and I’ve saved up a million small summery ideas, and I’m going to share them with you now, summer-journal style. This morning I saw the baby eagle fly! As you’ll no doubt recall, his nest is at the top of a giant metal tower. He’s a hulking baby, nearly as big as his parents. For weeks now He’ll stand in his nest, testing his wings. This morning he stretched them out, and then he flapped them, and he flew! Only a few feet, he landed again in his nest. It was so beautiful my eyes filled with tears and I was trying not to foolishly cry outright in front of two men who had stopped in their bike ride to discuss features that all raptors wings have in common. I had told them minutes before that this was a bald eagle, they thought it was “some sort of hawk.” One of them was wearing a shirt for the Eagle Diner, and it had a nicely drawn picture of an eagle as its logo.

I’ve been having a hard time staying away from the local ice cream parlor. One day, after an especially hard day of work, Malcolm and I walked down. I waited outside with Clio and Malcolm went in. I told him I didn’t want any ice cream, and I almost believed myself. Luckily he didn’t and he walked out with the exact ice cream cone I would have ordered myself. We walked home in the warmsummerevening air, and when he got to the last half inch of his cone he gave it to me, as he always does, because he knows it’s my favorite part. It’s the part that makes you want more ice cream. And I always eat it, even though he has summer boy hands, which have handled frogs and toads and plenty of dirt, and probably haven’t been washed all day.

I love fireflies. I love their gentleness and their seeming modesty in the face of their own beauty. I love their seeming patience in the face of human hands reaching out to give them a place to land, over and over again. The other night we sat out in the yard and watched them fly all around us and I saw one lying in the grass, glowing. David says this is a thing they do. Some of them sit in the grass and glow, and some of them fly around looking for their glowing friends in the grass. Maybe I’d seen it before, but at that moment I thought I was seeing it for the first time and it struck me as a wonderful thing to be forty-five and see a firefly glowing in the grass for the first time. We imagined a scenario in which fireflies somehow bite you the way mosquitoes do, although of course it would be much gentler and completely painless. We imagined that instead of swelling and itching, the place where they bit you would glow. And then we thought that people would probably devise a way to get fireflies to bite them in patterns all along their skin, to make a glowing tattoo.

I love the fact that Malcolm will jump into any body of water we encounter, fully clothed, and instantly submerge himself. But Isaac, even for a water gun fight, likes to have a swim shirt and swim shoes and swim suit and goggles. I love that they’re different that way. We’ve been creeking a few times now, of course, because that’s what summer is all about. Malcolm’s in the middle of the creek in a moment, but Isaac hangs by the edge looking for frogs and toads. The other day he asked David, “What’s the biggest toad you’ve never caught?” Which I think is a beautiful question.

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

We’ve had a couple of blisteringly hot days, the kind when you don’t want to cook at all, and inspired by my new Ordinary friend Tom, I made these cool tacos. Tom makes his into quesadillas, which are vegan because he uses hummus instead of cheese to hold the quesadillas together. I think this is genius! It was too hot even to turn the stove top on, so we made them into soft tacos instead. I warmed the tortillas in the toaster and I made some rice for the boys, but other than that no heat was required to make these tacos. We’ve had them several times now. Once with black beans, peppers (hot and sweet) and avocado, once with red beans, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olives, and lots of herbs. You can make them vegan without cheese, or add feta or cheddar or goat or any cheese you like. I made a lemony herb hummus to go with them,
lemony herb hummus

lemony herb hummus

smoky pumpinseed sauce

smoky pumpinseed sauce


as well as a smoky toasted pumpkinseed sauce. All vegan if you leave the cheese out!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Summertime.

Continue reading

Chickpea flour, herb, and goat cheese “flan” (with chard, fennel and white beans)

Chickpea flour, herb, and goat cheese "flan"

Chickpea flour, herb, and goat cheese “flan”

On Independence day I read an article about American Expats the world over. It had a picture of a little boy with his face painted like old glory, and the caption said something like, “I’m not a gun-toting unthinking patriot,” implying that people were fleeing the country because it was being taken over by gun-toting unthinking patriots. The caption turned out to be a little misleading. In fact most people had left the country because they fell in love with somebody from somewhere else. Which is why plenty of people leave plenty of countries, and even why many people come to America. People talked about eating burgers and drinking beer, and one fellow said, it’s just like any holiday, an excuse to take some time off and enjoy your family and friends. Which is what we did. It started drizzly and blustery, but in the afternoon the rain stopped and we walked to see our fledgling bald eagle, which seemed in keeping with the situation. When we reached his aerie the sun came out with perfect cinematic timing. And then we came home and drank beer and ate (french lentil and chard) burgers. While we were cooking, David put on a Tom Waits album, and I thought, this is what we should be celebrating today…our own unique brand of eccentric genius. What makes American eccentrics different from any other sort? I don’t know! Maybe nothing. But I think there’s a wildness to the madness, a roughness. We have none of the refined eccentricity of an Oscar Wilde. American eccentrics are ruggedly strange, maybe even ignorantly or naively so, at times. But we’re strange in many languages. We combine the foibles and superstitions of all the different nations that chatter across our land. There’s a freedom to our eccentricity, a freedom of odd speech. American eccentricity knows no class and has no class. So to honor the fourth of July, today’s Sunday interactive playlist is on the subject of American eccentrics. You could nominate songs by an out-and-out eccentric, or just strange songs by a relatively normal artist. Add your songs to the playlist or leave a suggestion in the comments and I’ll try to remember to add it through the week.

IMG_3697Speaking of eccentrics! Our local antiques flea market is a delightful collection of characters. This weekend I bought some beautiful flan pans and cake pans from a couple of lovely Belgian ex-pat bakers. I love their wares! I was so excited to use the flan pan that I put this together even though I got home from work late and exhausted. It was super-easy and super-quick and quite tasty! I used some of my favorite herbs from the garden, but you could use any herbs you like. We ate it with chard, fennel and white beans, and with a simple salad of arugula, tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella.

Here’s a link to your American Eccentrics interactive playlist.

Continue reading

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart with raisins and shallots

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

I always feel like I’m waiting for summer to start and then one day I’ll wake up and realize we’re already well into it. These days have been like that. It’s July! It’s sweltering! The boys are rolling around the house laughing and screaming and making each other crazy. We go to the river almost every day and have the most beautiful fresh herbs and vegetables to eat. We have arrived! It’s a funny thing because I generally approach summer with a slight feeling of dread. I’m nostalgic for spring, I miss walking Isaac to school, I miss the sense of purpose I had when I was working on my novel. And all of the fun things a person looks forward to in summer strike a chord of anxiety into my strange and always-anxious heart. I love to see Malcolm happy in the water, which is his natural element, but I worry about riptides and sharks and river currents and copperhead snakes. Sunshine makes me dizzy and more confused than usual. I’m scared of thunderstorms. It’s so stupid, I know! Sometimes I even miss the simple icy indoor days of winter. Crazy. But today I was thinking that I like my house in the summer, I like my town, I like my garden, I like being with my boys all day. I like just being here. I can almost imagine this place as our summer house, where we spend long lazy days swimming and reading and writing and cooking, drinking wine and talking. I like to think of it that way. In my imagination, our home is our home away from home, and I love it here. After all, summer passes so very quickly these days. We’ll slow it down by staying still.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the combination of chard, pine nuts and raisins. And I’ll find anyway I can to combine them. Here they are in a sort of tart. I made a jam of shallots and raisins and garlic, and I spread this on a yeasted crust. Then I topped that with a custard made with chard, fresh mozzarella and pine nuts, and of course lots of fresh basil, which is one of the best things about summer. And I put some slices of fresh mozzarella and more pine nuts on top.

Here’s Summertime by Billy Stewart.

Continue reading

Beet, arugula and French feta salad with pine nut, lemon, rosemary sauce

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Most years we just grow a few tomato plants and a few herbs, basil mostly. We have a small yard and rambunctious boys and a berserker dog and it never seemed wise to pin our hopes on healthy intact produce. Last year we didn’t grow anything at all. The ground lay fallow. This year we have the best garden ever, entirely thanks to David. He built raised boxes and we have a summer’s worth of beautiful things growing in our yard.
IMG_3406

It feels so hopeful, to look out at it and imagine the days unfolding and the vegetables ripening. Herbs to eat now, in large quantities, tomatoes and eggplant to ripen with the full roundness of the summer days, salsify and scorzonera to eat in the fall. I love our garden! And because I’m a lunatic, I think of the vegetables almost as people, with separate personalities of their own. We planted fava beans, and David made a trellis of twine for them to wind around. We don’t know how tall they’ll get, and we wanted to give them plenty of distance to travel, plenty of encouragement, our full faith that they’ll reach all the way to the top, but we didn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations for them. The salsify and scorzonera seem very social, standing together in long graceful lines, sharing the light that glows through them. The cilantro started sad and timid, but now it’s just taken off, it’s bolted into tall, feathery, beautiful flowers, and maybe in the fall we’ll figure out what to do with the coriander seeds. The pepper plants seem like underachievers; they haven’t grown much since we’ve gotten them, but they’re working so hard on making beautiful vivid little peppers. They’re concentrating on their art. The eggplants generously share they broad leaves with some little bug that repays the favor by turning them into lace. The tomatoes are full and frank and happy standing together in the sun.

Tarragon

Tarragon


And then there’s the tarragon. I love the way tarragon grows. It spreads along the ground in a pretty fragrant sprawl. If you weigh down a sprig so that it touches the earth, it will take root and form a new plant attached to the original. It moves and travels, it has an unruly wildness to it, but it sets down roots everywhere it goes, it makes a new place to start from, and it stays connected to its roots as well.

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

We got some more beautiful beets from our CSA. I thought I’d make them into a pretty salad, with their best friend arugula, and some mildly delicious French feta I splurged on at a local market. I also added half an avocado, because I’m putting avocado in everything this summer, and a scattering of pine nuts. I made a tarator sauce to drizzle over the top, with lemon and rosemary, a bit of dijon, a few capers. You could use any herbs you like in this. Tarragon would be nice!!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Root Down (and get it)

Continue reading

Pistachio tart with goat cheese, brie, fresh mozzarella and smoked paprika crust

Pistachio tart

Pistachio tart

I’ve been attempting to write query letters of late. I’m not very good at it. I’m not good at selling anything, especially if it’s something I made myself. I read a few rules for how to write a perfect query letter, and I’ve tried to follow them, but I just don’t know. I just don’t know. So I was imagining the letter I would write if I was trying to be more honest, and here it is.

Dear Literary Agent (I know I’m supposed to address this to a specific person, by name, and try to establish some sort of personal relationship or pretend that I know you, but I don’t know you, and you know I don’t know you. I’ve read about the things you like and don’t like, and they’re some of the things I like and don’t like. Maybe you’d like my novel. Maybe we could be friends.)

I’ll start by telling you that I know I can’t write a very good query letter. If I could, if I could sell my work, I wouldn’t really need an agent. Although of course I would, I know I would. I know enough about how the world works. I wish I could tell you that I’m always euphorically happy with my novel and sure that it’s great and enduring literature and that everybody should read it. But half the time I have the sinking horrible feeling that it’s dull or silly or even embarrassing. I can tell you that I always feel a warm sort of love for it, for the characters and the world they live in. I think about them sometimes as if they’re real, and thinking about them that way makes me happy. I can tell you that I have a million ideas, a million beautiful things in my head, and I will write them down with the most beautiful words I can find.

I can’t pretend that I’m familiar with the market. I read all the time, but I don’t read too much contemporary fiction. There’s a voice I don’t like, that I encounter often. A smug, clever well-wikipedia-researched voice. Or a coldness that I find unbeautiful. Of course I’ve read some modern novels that touched me very deeply, and I’ll tell you what those are, if you like.

I would love to say that I met you at a literary convention of some sort and that we discussed my work and you seemed very interested, but it’s not true, and you know it. I’ve never been to a literary convention, I’ve never been in an MFA program. I took part in some sort of novel-writing workshop once, but that was years ago, a lifetime ago, and I’m not sure the whole thing wasn’t some sort of scan. I’m not in any literary salon. You don’t know me, you don’t know my work. I guess I’m something of an outsider, but, as I’m sure you know, William Faulkner was an outsider, “[N]ow I realise for the first time what an amazing gift I had: uneducated in every formal sense, without even very literate, let alone literary, companions, yet to have made the things I made. I don’t know where it came from.” and yet, he says, “I am the best in America, by God.” Am I saying I’m as good as Faulkner? Am I saying I’m the best in America? Of course not, of course not.

I wish I knew some famous authors and they’d read my novel and had nice things to say about it. Or they hadn’t read it but said I could tell you I know them. But that’s not true either. But here’s what I imagine some famous writers might say. John Donne would say, “She stole my words for the title of her book!” And then he would say, “Of course she took them from my meditations on humans and sickness and religion, and that’s sort of what her book is about, so that’s okay.” And then TS Eliot would say, “You brat! You stole my source! You quoted the Countess Marie Larisch von Moennich, word for word! That’s not okay! Only I can do that.” And Zola would say, “Don’t think I didn’t notice you modeled a character on one of my characters, and you have him read my words aloud!” And Dostoyevsky would say, “Sure, go ahead and quote whole passages from one of my books. There’s not much I can do about it now, is there?” And Reverend Gary Davis would say, “I’m glad you like my songs enough put entire lines from them in someone else’s mouth.” And Ezra Pound would wander into the room and say, “Claire, sit on your knees to write and seal your query, And send it a thousand miles, thinking.”

Yeah. My novel is weird, but not in a clever or calculated way. I know that you receive millions of queries and many of them are from crazy people, and you must read such an odd assortment of nonsense that everything starts to sound like nonsense. I’m sure I sound crazy and awkward you’re going to read a few lines and toss me aside. I know I’ll never hear from you again, or I’ll get a polite e-mail telling me (and everybody else) that you wish us the best of luck with our project and our career. I understand that. And yet I’m hanging on to the small glimmer of hope that glows brighter every time I send a sample chapter out, that’s so hard to extinguish no matter how many rejections I receive, or how much blinding silence my words are greeted with.

So thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely in hope and promise,

Claire

Pistachio and goat cheese tart with brie and fresh mozzarella

Pistachio and goat cheese tart with brie and fresh mozzarella

Who is making lots of tarts lately? Who is? ME! I am! I did a ridiculously splurgy grocery shop before my birthday and got brie and pistachios and smoked mozzarella and pine nuts. Phew. So I combined them all in a tart. The crust has smoked paprika in it. The custard has pistachios and goat cheese and bronze fennel leaves. You could use regular fennel leaves of even tarragon, if you’d like to have that lovely anise-lemon flavor. The whole thing is topped with bits of brie, slices of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, casetlvetrano olives, pine nuts, fresh basil, and these beautiful little spicy shoots that make every picture prettier.

Here’s Please Please Please by James Brown.
Continue reading

Almond cake with blackcurrants, cherries and bittersweet chocolate

Almond cake with cherries, black currants and bittersweet chocolate

Almond cake with cherries, black currants and bittersweet chocolate

We’re watching L’eclisse at the moment, so today I’m going to wander around town in low-heeled but surprisingly noisy shoes, looking serious and wistful but bursting into laughter at life’s absurdities. Also, it’s my birthday, so I’m going to claim birthday privilege and write the most nonsensical rambling post ever. First of all, here’s a scene from L’eclisse that I like a lot. We haven’t watched the whole film so I’ll reserve judgement, but this scene I found surprising and beautiful.

Second of all, let me tell you about my lunch. I’m very excited about it. It was: a saltine cracker topped with brie, avocado, tomato, castelvetrano olives and lots of black pepper. I don’t usually eat lunch, but I’d been thinking about brie and avocado for a while now, and I had to try it. Everything tastes good on a saltine cracker.

IMG_3538

Finally, I’ll admit that this birthday is a hard one. 45. The only good thing you can say about turning 45 is that it’s better than not turning 45. For some irrational reason, birthdays ending in five or zero are harder than any other birthdays. So I’ve been in a blue mood all week. And then one evening after dinner the boys and I walked to the store to buy ice cream novelties. I was feeling heavy and tired and discouraged. We walked through a big open space in town, and Malcolm said, “Mom! Sky Dive!!” He grabbed my hand and flung his other arm out. Slowly, I caught on, and stretched my arm out, and then he took Isaac’s hand and Isaac stretched his arm out. We were flying and buoyant and weightless in the sweet air of a perfect June evening. And I feel alright, I feel grateful for all of it, for everything.

Almond cake with blackcurrants, cherries and bittersweet chocolate

Almond cake with blackcurrants, cherries and bittersweet chocolate

Our blackcurrant bush is bonkers. Full of fruit. You pick a bowlful in the morning, and it’s completely laden again in the evening. The berries seem to ripen as you pick them. So I boiled them for a long time with lots of sugar, and then pressed them through a sieve and ended up with a thick beautiful sauce. I added this to a custard one night and made ice cream. And yesterday I made a cake. I made a soft almond cake, and put a layer of blackcurrant sauce, fresh bing cherries and bittersweet chocolate chips. The whole thing is tart/sweet/soft and juicy. You have to eat it with a fork, though, cause it’s delightfully messy.

Here’s Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. Sounds like a June day, doesn’t it?
Continue reading