March 28, 2006


Yesterday I decided to attempt a casserole that I've been contemplating for a couple of weeks now, since the days leading to my dinner party. The recipe calls for simple kitchen construction: chicken, diced tomatoes and green chiles, a couple of cream of soups, onions, green bell peppers, plus it's a casserole (the mere word my friend AB and I have decided taints the pleasure of what a casserole is - neither of us is comfortable calling it that) which constitutes some time in the oven and clears room in the schedule for cleaning the dishes before dinner is served. Am I sounding willfully domesticated yet? I suppose I never predicted I would be this emotionally attached to a room in the house (apartment) which contains so many chores. But I also, as I've explained before, am plugging some unfilled holes with cooking, voids where such activities as writing poems and staring dreamily out the window used to be. And domesticated or not, I am really taking great pleasure in it. So last night, I was standing at the counter chopping an onion. My eyes were brimming, the onion was that potent, and Craig, who sat on the couch with his feet planted firmly in our area rug, one sock kind of bunched on his foot, eyes averted to the television screen where college baseball video game playing was happening, declared wisely, You really need to start that food journal, KB. I like this image of Craig because it was really quite endearing, the way he sat poised across from the television like a little boy, video game controller tucked into his hands, momentarily eradicating the fact that he's a grown man with responsibilities. These fleeting instances are like the kind of moments an old friend recently tried to explain to me about his new baby, the cute ones only we get to see (in this case, I get to see them in my boyfriend, not in an infant). Anyway, Craig wasn't being pushy about the food journal - as I mentioned, he's supportive and I appreciate his efforts. So after I wiped my eyes dry of onion tears, I went and searched a box containing old journals and notebooks, and sure enough, I had one blank book just waiting to be filled with helpful food entries. While the dinner baked in the oven, I began my first entry into what will hopefully become a powerful kitchen tool for us down the road. I indicated which ingredients I needed to pick up at the grocery. I estimated a monetary value on the meal: affordable. I mentioned the minimal amount of clean-up required, and a reminder to myself that I need to perfect the art of layering (I'm not a lasagna aficionado so when I reached layers numbered 3, I realized I hadn't saved enough content to spread as its own layer. Craig advised that it does take a little practice and he's our resident lasagna expert so I trust his judgement). I'm genuinely looking forward to keeping a little notebook by the kitchen that acts as a reminder of things I've learned and experienced. Anyway, after eating the above described casserole, the final stage was to be the rating. Now, as many of Craig's adoring fans, friends and family members know about him, he is no laid back food critic. In fact, I'd say that the following statement serves duly as a metaphor for Craig's life: Little, if anything earns 5-stars. He is, undeniably so, a difficult person to please. I don't mean to express this as a bad thing: simply put, his expectations are high. So as I finished scrubbing the pyrex dish in the soapy water and while he settled back into the couch for another round of college baseball video game, I asked him kindly could he rate our dinner for the food journal? He glanced over at me and tilted his head to a side in thought, then announced, 3-stars. 3? I asked incredulously. 3? (This was after he had helped himself to seconds and moments later even contemplated thirds, which I did note in the food journal.) Maybe 3 1/2, he compromised, turning back to the video game. This spread a huge smile right through my insides, as frustrating as it might seem to a casual observer. I love (only now - it wasn't always this easy for me) how brutally honest he is with me. I love that he doesn't hide anything. I love that he doesn't dole out 5-stars to just anything, any film, any entree. It only enhances the keen sense of who he is. And what is further entertaining to note is that I am his polar opposite when it comes to my ratings: I love everything. I will immediately claim something to be my favorite, or the best ever. Somehow, miraculously, we balance each other out. Somehow it just works.

March 24, 2006


To revisit my very recent mention of the Vietnamese chili garlic sauce, I did a bit of detective work, located it and wanted to showcase it in the event I piqued any interest in it. The name of it is Tuong Ot Toi Viet Nam, and I confirmed with my good friend BK who is still in Missouri that this is, in fact, the full-bodied coarsely-textured sauce that sits on the tables at St. Louis' Pho Grand Vietnamese restaurant. I don't know what has gotten into me lately but I've been thinking of this sauce a lot; perhaps it was the fact that sometime last week I was wandering aimlessly down the aisles of a nearby Ukrop's (Richmond's grocery chain) and my eyes fell on a jar of it. I held it in my hands for a moment and second-guessed myself as to whether or not it was the right sauce. Now that I've done the research and found it, I'm going to try this at home. It's a shame I've thus far been intimidated (the kitchen sometimes still scares me) by all of the Goi Cuon and Bi Cuon recipes I've found to accompany this fine sauce. Speaking of recipes, I've got the details for Recipe Club crafted to a near-fine science and we begin mailing recipes next month. There are seven of us participating, and ideally the first time around will act to iron out the kinks. Our first theme is pot luck, which is precisely what it suggests, and I'm mailing my recipe for Chicken Cannellonis (the dish I made for the Dinner Party a couple of weekends ago). The only experiment I've not yet performed in relation to this recipe is roasting my own red bell peppers. I've skimmed the directions to do so: it doesn't seem complicated. Perhaps that's a suitable activity some night this spring. I've actually only made the Chicken Cannellonis twice so far, and the first time, the topping sauce was bright orange (roasted red peppers pureed with alfredo yield an interesting color); the second time, the topping sauce was a fleshy peach in tint (the roasted red peppers were from a can instead of a jar and were a less vibrant red). But getting past the near-neon color is easy, since these pastas taste so grand. I'm also contemplating beginning a food journal for at home. This would enable me to better organize my future in the kitchen. I realize for many amateur chefs, haphazard potpourri and chaos in the kitchen work to the advantage of both the chef and the meal itself, but for me, my mind is already in such disarray, a more organized approach will lend to smoother efficiency. In my food journal (I discussed this with Craig who politely supported the idea 100%) I could jot down frequently-purchased ingredients, menu combinations, recipe titles and whether we pay specific recipes repeat attempts, specialty items (such as the above mentioned chili garlic sauce that I so love) and anything else related to food and the kitchen. I'm rapidly turning this into a newfound hobby, and as many times a week as Craig protests my reluctance to 'just get carry-out,' or 'eat something more affordable, like spaghetti,' I can't resist a convenient trip next door to the Market, a bottle of my favorite wine, and a whole new adventure involving foods we haven't tried before. And for that reason, I am explosively excited about Recipe Club (explosively may be a bit of an overstatement - but hey, I'm looking forward to something that I never imagined I'd grow to love as much as I now do). The thing Craig needs to realize about this trend is that it may not last forever. I think I will eternally love to prepare food but I may not eternally be wrought with curiosity about the unchartered. And the convenience of the Market next door will cease to exist when we leave Richmond, so the ease and comfort will be eliminated from the cooking equation. But if I continue to enjoy it as much as I've been, I'm sure I will find a way to nourish this activity. The kitchen is where I'm dumping all of my abandoned creative ambitions, for the moment. It even approaches therapeutic after long frustrating work days. Craig needs to savor the moment while it lasts.

March 22, 2006


Our St. Patrick's weekend turned out quite alright. We didn't exactly land the corner Irish pub booth I was hoping Friday night, but Craig and I did fight our way to the bar at Rosie's for one pint of Guiness. We stepped outside onto Rosie's surface patio space, pints in hand, just in time to witness a woman wipe out across the street, face to pavement, glass in her hand shattering across the curb. She must have been one of those who managed to sneak out of work early enough to help polish off the first couple of bottles of Jameson that morning. Anyway, after the lone pint we headed in the direction of a less Irish establishment, Buffalo Wild Wings. Because of March Madness basketball and the Irish holiday, we knew the place would be packed, but since I was wearing my lucky shamrock necklace, just as we entered the big warehouse-seeming bar, a booth cleared out and we took over. K, the K who shares my name, showed up with her mother in tow. We drank beers (I opted for plain Harp sans green dye) and ate wings, like any good Americans would do during the basketball championship tournament coupled with St. Patrick's Day. K's mother had dental discomfort from a recent visit to her friendly hygienist so she numbed the pain with vodka and cranberry. We wound up back at the Mansion showing off our apartments to each other. Saturday morning Craig and I woke and I concocted a complete breakfast of bacon, eggs, potatoes and toast (we even attempted to finish off leftover turkey bacon that our building friend GR had indicated is so amazing but we're Midwestern pork-eaters, and I must confess, the turkey bacon can stay at the store, as far as I'm concerned). Then we called our neighbor MF, whom we had encountered the previous night at Lucky Lounge having a few Irish holiday cocktails himself. We had loosely arranged an impromptu adventure down to the street party called Shamrock the Block, beginning at noon Saturday. MF called our building manager HH, and the two of them, along with HH's boyfriend J and our other community friend B, met us in our apartment to walk together to the party. HH gave Craig and I two basketball-festive gifts (so sweet and thoughtful!) because of how enthusiastic we are about tournament time. Everyone was adorned in some green or another (I wound Craig's Banana Republic knit scarf that I constantly borrow around my neck as my spirited green) and we headed in the direction of the party. As we stepped across the parking lot downstairs, GR drove up returning from her Saturday morning at work, and we convinced her to join us. The festival was definitely fun. Better than the festival itself was the company, by all means. I think we had just about the best of the Mansion crew with us - and it seemed to be the general consensus among us that drinking Bud products in the afternoon to the backdrop of bands performing old Metallica, Godsmack and Beastie Boys is mind-emptying blissful entertainment. Even waiting eternally in portajohn lines proves a lackluster adventure of its own invention. But the mediocrity is the admirable quality of standing on the street drinking beer. Anyway, I posted the two pictures depicting me offering or receiving holiday affections, and the third is of HH showing us her spirit as well (with her boyfriend J standing behind). Altogether we are quite the collaboration of characters, those of us who reside in our late twenties and early thirties in HH's building. Quite the cast.*Since the holiday, I've been cooking a lot again. Nothing outstanding or adventurous: Craig's mom's carrot cake (a tribute to his mom but only if it turned out half as good as hers, and for the fact it was my first cake ever, it was actually pretty gave Craig a couple of stomach aches this week, but that's to be translated as a positive thing - it means he ate too much of it), a beef roast with onions, potatoes and carrots (all-American fare), and Monday night I made a handsome tray of chicken enchiladas verde - topped with pretty fresh colors. Last night I took the night off from kitchenry but I thought it vaguely memorable the following conversation exchange that took place at East Villa, our bi-weekly Chinese take out place on Main Street - the kind of place that could be condemned by the board of health based on appearance but whose existence is saved by the fantastic flavor of their food: KB, leaning against the counter rambling distractedly while staring at the standard Chinese dish photo menu mounted above: Last night I had a dream about this incredible Vietnamese garlic chili sauce that I used to like at Pho Grand in St. Louis - pausing upon recognition of Craig's far away glazed expression and turning to lecture the side of his face - I bet you didn't hear a word I said! Craig, adamantly protesting: I heard exactly what you said: Last night you dreamed about a Vietnamese garlic chili sauce you liked at Pho Grand in St. Louis - pausing to process the words 'Vietnamese garlic chili sauce' - Gross! He makes me laugh...

March 16, 2006


Last week was a rough one. I don't know if the moon was awkward on its axis and the tides were rolling in bad energy, but the whole week found me in fits of spectacular tears. Poor Craig, having to compromise his normal male moods for my peculiar female ones. But it was out of my control, so far out that I literally cried just because the day didn't feel comfortable, then cried because I was crying. Then cried harder because I couldn't stop crying over crying. I must have bit into something sour, seeping sour into my bloodstream and causing absolute tremulous waves of unidentifiable frustration. But the horror has since subsided, and I've discovered a glossier light at the end of the sad damp tunnel. Now in the aftermath it's just a matter of pushing forward and seeing what awaits me next. I'm in the midst of researching the aforementioned yet remaining unnamed and exciting transition for Craig and me. So is he. We're both so thrilled we can hardly sit still. It's difficult to maintain a mature level of calm when something so thrilling is around the bend. If there is ever a gap in conversation, one of us immediately fills it with further speculation about our future once we get to it. But it's important to remind ourselves that for this moment, this distinct frozen moment of time, we live in Richmond, we've got Richmond friends, Richmond responsibilities to satisfy. So tomorrow marks St. Patrick's Day around the globe. Since we've got new friends here, we intend to attempt to target an Irish bar or two and wrestle our way in for a Green Beer or two. One of our new friends, named the same as me and even spelled the same (she's really nice, so I'm granting her part ownership of our name) has the best kind of guest of all coming to town: her mother! It sounds as though, according to new K, her mother enjoys a Green Beer or two. So if everything unfolds as scheduled, we will all walk down Main Street to Rosie's, my very favorite bar in Richmond so far. It's a tiny place, and since St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday this year, there will likely be swarms of Happy Hour-Goers who are taking full advantage of the annual Green Beer Holiday. I won't be surprised if we're not served our first Green Beer an hour or longer after arriving at the bar. Of course, if Rosie's is too packed, we can always travel by foot to Sine (accent over e) which is another pub-type establishment nearby. Regardless of how many Green Beers we manage to secure, witnessing the happy cold mugs crashing overhead to toast to St. Patrick, the seas of smiles of people excited to celebrate the greatest reason of the year to drink beer (the Irish!) and the flow of traffic around and about Richmond this Friday will be rewarding in and of itself. The above photo depicts me and my St. Louis girls clouded in green feather boas, on the streets of St. Louis the Saturday it chose to host its St. Patrick's Day parade. No matter where I've been or where I go, St. Louis remains this amazing experience, place and year in my heart. Every chance St. Louis had to celebrate anything, it did, and did it well. That Saturday was overcast, pretty damp and cold, but it was one of the most fun St. Patrick's Days I've ever had. The parade started in the morning, and the group of us that gathered watched the parade, snapped some photos of the ever-popular human arches and later wound up seated around a table at Jack Patrick's (Irish pub) with beers and potato soup (possible not the latter, but it suits the memory of a St. Patrick's Day, doesn't it?) Not of Irish descent myself, I've really never given a second thought to the celebration being about anything more than Green Beers, parades and friends, and as I see it, it will continue to be just that for me. I hope our adventure Friday finds us tucked in some corner of an Irish pub, grinning stupidly over mugs of Green Beers and having just a grand time. I will especially appreciate it after last week's frayed nerves and unreasonable breakdowns. I think Craig will appreciate it, too.

March 08, 2006


It seems that each time I sit to actually write something cohesive my head numbs a little. Why just then? I allot the time, fumble with a pen, peek at Craig to see that he's preoccupied with something that makes him happy (nap, television, reading). But just then, when I've cleared my schedule for language, my mind sprawls the length of an open plain - very empty of word. During the daytime I make fairly real and conscious efforts to mentally write as I walk around this life. A constant drum of words is happening quietly to me, like a soft beat, and this is a good thing. I prefer it this way, and I can hardly imagine any other way. Not a steady rhythm of To Do Lists, or Constant Self Reminder Lists: I get those, too. I get those when I shuffle papers around, or when I'm glancing at my reflection in a window. I think it's fairly common for people to wander around with words happening to them. Not that everyone does not do this, for who am I to claim to know what someone else's mind harvests, but I concentrate on composing the words, forming them into happy little paragraphs where I hope they will settle and stay for a while, until I can make it home to the notebook to jot them down. But I'm going to go on a limb and guess that a higher percentage of people are like this than not, those of us who invent things mentally and then get to the place to make the inventions tangible and we just can't. Call it a block, call it procrastination combined with lack of motivation: whatever the case may be, it so also breeds frustration. So I bring a few lines of Sylvia Plath to this post. I have never been the most passionate fan of her work, haven't even read a vast majority of her inventions (and for a girl who studied poetry as critically as she did in college, that is somewhat embarrassing to admit). But I do love the grace with which she seemingly walked around her life making mental notes of things, pasting words together to prove things. This brief dance of words is from her poem, "The Arrival of the Bee Box". And despite its neurotic simplicity, I feel this poem's posture is doubly complicated, the way she portrays the danger of the containment of these maniacs in a box. Plath borrowed bees as a metaphor several times for other poems from this collection, as well. It's most tempting for me to parallel the buzzing sound of these insects and the steady buzz of words through a messy mind, despite the fact that her metaphor and further analyzation thereof jointly parallels other worldly, political and female ramifications than I wish to mention here. This particular poem suggests she owns, however briefly, this box of bees, yet (later in the poem) she wonders if they would "turn on her" if set free (for she is no source of honey). I've tried to imagine the pleasure with which Plath wrote, in her own handwriting, a line as resounding and powerful as "I lay my ear to furious Latin." Where was she when this line first came to mind? Did "I am not a Caesar" follow immediately, or did pages of re-write produce such a heavy declaration following the line of "furious Latin"? I am not (a leader) of my own mind (the angry mob). Was she on the bank of a river with her eyes gazing at something far off, or was she taking a train to see her husband and it just hit her like that? Was she combing her hair? I lay my ear to furious Latin. Sometimes when I'm reading poems now, so much later than when I was a daydreaming 18-year old, it's more difficult for me to breathe it in and hold it as long as I used to. There is a disconnect between the actual poets and their poems now, to me. Poets do regular things: they go to the grocery store for frozen convenience foods. They put gas in their cars. They balance checkbooks, wipe their kids' mouths of chocolate cake. And I guess for me, once long ago (a decade!) I believed deep inside that poets were exempt from normal life. Inventors like Plath wandered, only (didn't they?) They dreamed of fantastic combinations of words that actually sucked in a breath and held it, a long one, and would explicitly describe the buzzing in their heads (and they didn't participate in normal activities?) This quite possibly is what obstructs my mind from traveling to such metaphorical places as it used to: the long pause for real life, taking out the trash, stuffing clothes into the washer. I wonder if I didn't develop an interest in the short story as an effort to normalize the box of maniacs, my own mind's steady flow of words crashing into each other to get out. But since I have tried in vain, I haven't been able to contain them. I can't make a short story work. And I think I need to spend some time easing myself back into the poem, how lovely it can feel to get one out, how peaceful. For many years that I've been out of school now I've rationalized that poetry isn't normal, isn't real, and isn't wanted. Who writes poems now? We've got computers, luxurious large televisions, employment with fine-paying salaries. Who am I going to hand my poem to, slide under someone's door anonymously, let it go to work on its own merit, its merit that it is simply a pageful of words acting together to cry out for attention, look at how powerful I can be when I'm placed amidst so much punctuation? And what am I (a poem) trying to reveal about the human condition, a regular day, that you couldn't see before I showed you? Stronger than the 11 o'clock news, more powerful than an embrace? These are questions I've let go. I need to ask them again, of myself. I need to do this.*Part of the thing about being with Craig, a part I hold so close in my heart, is that he doesn't let me wander too far away. He calms me down, he rationalizes when I cannot. Today, he had to be my voice of pragmatism. He had to insist how positively (not negatively) significant it is that my parents don't call me frequently not because they don't love me, but because they don't have to worry about me: I take care of myself. He had to express that I overthink things because I simply wasn't seeing it from that perspective, as my tears kept welling and falling for no obvious reason. Now, I'm closer to 30 than I was before (though I get to shield myself with 29 first!) and I want to remind myself that there can exist an even balance between my normalcy with Craig and my childlike anxiousness to pen a poem. It isn't immature to write a poem. It isn't even not normal. I can be my own Plath, one who doesn't ultimately perish because of the maniacs buzzing in her head, one who doesn't just wander, but who combines the everyday with something a little heavier on the side: language, and its inevitable unending ability to brilliantly say.*

March 04, 2006


This isn't by any stretch of the imagination the best photo, but here is my parents' newly purchased home in southeast Michigan. They haven't completed the sale of their home in Greenwood, Indiana yet, but have had a couple of interested prospects, and Sunday the realtor is hosting Open House there. I'm sure something will happen soon for them. The price tag on it is a steal for the area (in the Center Grove district of Greenwood). Anyway, this is more surreal every day to me, that they're leaving the place closest to anything I'd ever call home. I only lived in their house there for three and a half years, which marks the longest I've lived under the same roof in ten years, by sheer miracle of being young and mobile. Nevertheless, I returned to that home countless times, shared Christmas with my parents there repeatedly, some Thanksgivings, miscellaneous weekend visits. My high school graduation party was held here. Curiously, I'm a little more bothered than I've even let on to myself that my parents are leaving their Greenwood house. As I've made abundantly clear to them and here and to anyone who cares about me, I believe in change, I thrive on it, it inspires new countries to form. I love the excitement and adrenaline rush of change. But some things are more difficult to witness undergo transformation, such as parents leaving the place that holds so many conversations, affections, arguments, pains and secrets of one family. I'm genuinely happy for them, particularly for my mom, who has been under a lot of stress at work, despite the fact she was offered a second trip to Qatar (the Middle Eastern country she traveled to for a month last year to work, and loved every second) and despite how desperately her employer will miss her devotion and willingness to comply. I suspect this change will remind her how free it feels to wake up in the morning and not have to battle an hour commute through Indianapolis traffic one way, how relaxing it is to browse a recipe box and plan a special dinner for my dad. Maybe she will discover a new hobby in her fifties, or revisit an old one. And as for my dad...he has been commuting to and from Manchester, Michigan ever since I can remember, sometimes for a couple of days, at times nearer a week at a time, and this location where he has accepted his new position has been wanting him full time since forever. He is morphing into an upper level management position that will swell him with even more pride as he walks the corridors laden with more responsibility, going home feeling fulfilled by having accomplished even more. Altogether this is the best thing for my parents: it will rejuvenate them, uncover new desires to explore new places and settle into a new routine. Additionally, my mom's family is geographically closer (they are in Ohio) so she can feasibly travel to see her siblings in a handful of hours versus the day trip it would have been previously. Maybe my parents will go to Toronto (my dad has been on business but never for pleasure) or perhaps they'll develop a fascination with downtown Detroit! (if ever such a fascination could exist?) No matter how this unfolds and how ecstatic I am for them, it's also a small wound. It reminds me of everything else: that they are getting older, that I'm so far away from them. They don't get to see the little miracles of my days nor do I see theirs. They aren't as close to Craig as I'd wish they were. I wish my dad could tote Craig off to a Chicago Bears game or a Cubs versus White Sox game, or that Craig could help my mom with dishes after dinner more often. Spending time with Craig and my parents at Christmas, their last Christmas in that home, my last Christmas in that home, was really comfortable, really fulfilling. Driving Craig through my old stomping grounds the way I've been privy to his old childhood streets so many times (and I love his old streets, I love his family as if they were my own) felt, for lack of a better term, nice. From a childish and selfish perspective, my parents' move is eradicating any residue of a home I may have had left. I love my family so much, I pride us in making smart choices, and I know this move to Michigan is what is best for them. But it's also evidence and a reminder to me that someday down the road I will have children whose futures will rely upon the decisions I make: the proximities to our families, the extent to which I show them this wonderful country as much as possible, their opportunities and abilities to establish roots (since I know of no such thing, what it's like to have them). Every inch of a parent's motion plays a little into his or her child, every reaction, each life skill instruction. If it weren't for my mom and dad, the strength they displayed each time we moved when I was a young girl, the thrill they experienced in their thirties and forward as they built new lives, I would not be able to pick up and wander the globe with Craig the way I can. So I thank my parents for this inadvertent lesson they taught me. But a small, very small ache in my heart does wonder what it feels like to call a friend on the phone who first discovered the playground with me in elementary school, or to feel a little bit sadder than I am that my parents are leaving the only "childhood" home I remember with as much fondness. This experience also proves that we're all so unique in our histories, textured so differently, each of us, colorful patterns painted by the things we've known. As they approach a new chapter in their lives, I sincerely wish the very best to my parents and all that they have to learn and see. I will miss our old house but I eagerly anticipate the first time I open the door and step into this new place they will come to call home.