Foot Bridge in Thailand

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Good News Comes All At Once

Incredible mail week!

My poem “Autobiography” arrived on broadsides. The poem was chosen for the first annual William Dickey Memorial Broadside Contest. San Franciscan Larry Lafferty was influenced by William Dickey as a student. Dickey was lost in the early AIDS epidemic that devastated San Francisco, and Rafferty said he’s been wanting to honor his mentor for a long time. The judge of this year’s competition was Tony Hoagland, whose work I have long admired. I don’t know Dickey’s poetry, and Im taking a liking to it. 

The broadsides were crafted by Lisa Rappoport of Littoral Press, also in San Francisco. They are beautifully designed and I love the deckled edge on the light gray French rag paper.

hit & run press in NYC, founded by Rafferty, will host a celebration of William Dickey’s work at the Housing Works Bookstore April 13. Poet Mark Doty will read.

It is thrilling to have this work made tangible, and to be connected to such a meaningful project. 

As if that weren’t enough happiness, my new chapbook arrived! I am a big fan of Kattywompus Press, directed by Sammy Greenspan. I am in amazing company of Kattywompus authors. I am also mad about the art on the covers by Akron artist Chris Meyers, so talented, and a kind and generous human.

Black sand beach was just a short walk away from the Headlands Center for the Arts where I was in summer residency a few years ago. Although I’ve always loved the ocean, I’ve been largely land-locked my whole life. Walking the trails along the shore and down on the beaches made of black basalt was personally renewing, yet also troubling. Even in a place that seems like paradise, there is trash on the shore and signs that marine life is struggling. I felt compelled to take some action, even as I was exceedingly grateful I had the chance to live and write in that beautiful place.

My endless gratitude to my professor at the NEOMFA who encouraged me to apply for an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellent Award, to the OAC for this award and the residency, and to Headlands Center for the Arts for a memorable experience.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Youngstown Cash Mob Changes Hands

The Youngstown Cash Mob will soon be under new management! Thanks so much to Ivy and Richard Sheeler for offering to take things over. I am moving on to a new organization, Lit Youngstown, focused on the literary arts. Since I’m a poet, it’s a little closer to my own background. But I have so thoroughly enjoyed these last three years meeting business owners and all of you who came out to support our efforts. My house is full of interesting things I bought on those Cash Mob days, and I am so much more aware of the great places in our community.

Before I sign off, I want to tell you about the last two month-long Cash Mobs I've had a hand in. For this month, March, we are celebrating flowers! Something Unique 4 U at 5865 Mahoning Ave. has been a Youngstown Cash Mob supporter from the very beginning, and we thank them. It’s so important to skip the 800 number and buy from a local florist. Stop by and treat yourself to some springtime cheer. 

And the all-April Cash Mob will be at Mrs. Pat’s Thrift and Collectables at 519 Market St. This building sits at the edge of the Market St. bridge, with Christian Mrosko’s beautiful mural on the side. Mrs. Pat’s offers three levels of new and gently used items.  

Thanks for your enthusiasm and support, and keep buying local. We can see how strong the downtown has become in just a few years, driven by local entrepreneurs and supporters, and we need that kind of economic growth in all of our neighborhoods (as you know!). Recent news of the Target layoffs reminds us that nationwide, business is moving from big box stores to online sales. But when you buy from a local business, your money stays in your community, circulating from store to accountant to restaurant to non-profit and around again. That’s what creates jobs that stay here.

I’ll see you around town!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sundress Publications Chapbook Feature!

Sundress Publications will feature I Left My Wings on a Chair this week at the Wardrobe: Best Dressed. I’m in very good company, and I so appreciate the recognition. Visit Sundress here, and poke around to see what this amazing collective is up to.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Youngstown Cash Mob Screams for Ice Cream

What says In Your Eye, Winter! more than ice cream in February? This month’s cash mob destination is Jim’s Snack Shack, an all-year venue for ice cream truck treats. Bomb pops, root beer float pops, Crunch Bars, Mississippi Mud Bars, bubble gum cigarettes, it’s all there.

Month-long cash mob February 2015

Jim’s Snack Shack
2803 E. Midlothian Ave.
Open every day noon to 10:00 p.m.

Wait, what? All month? Yep! We have changed the format. So many people told us they were sad they missed a mob day, and we know how busy everyone is. So from now on, every cash mob will be an all-month event.

For March, we’re picking up on the City of Youngstown’s focus on the economic health of our major corridors with a Mahoning Avenue Cash Mob. Fifteen hundred commuters travel this important road, passing through some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city. Let’s make a point of knowing well the businesses along this route, and let’s support them to keep the neighborhoods vital. We got some terrific nominations and we’ll call the cash mob winner Sunday.

This Sat., Feb. 7 at 1:30 we are going to gather at Jim’s Snack Shack to celebrate our 3rd anniversary! Come and join us if you’re free. It’s wonderful that we’re still gaining members (closing in on 5,000 on Facebook!) and visiting and sharing our love for local businesses. in 2014 we had a wonderful meal at Bombay Star, got fashionable at One Closet Boutique, picked up gifts at the Hubbard Ohio Gift Shop, Oh, wow’d the downtown revitalization at Cash Mob in the City, got more presents (and cupcakes!) at Center of Attention, raised a glass at Halliday’s Winery, perused the antiques and collectibles at Mr. Darby’s, had fun nights out at the Encore Shop Fall Fashion Show and Santa Fe CafĂ© and Loose Racks Billiards, and rounded out the year buying local for the holidays.

Small businesses rely on word-of-mouth advertising, and the Youngstown Cash Mob is making a place to talk up our unique shops, restaurants and services. I’m thrilled to see new businesses popping up all over, and plan to do what I can to keep them growing.

Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Cash mob: like flash mob, only the singing is optional.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Youngstown Gets More Lit

There's a new organization for the literary arts in Youngstown! Lit Youngstown is up and running with a slate of spring workshops, a monthly reading series, and an online poetry book club.

The spring classes include workshops on song writing, writing prose poetry and a prose writers roundtable, and the art of storytelling. All sessions begin in March. Enrollment  is open and will stay open until classes are filled. Reserve your seat here.

Our monthly first Wed. readings will begin in March with the Fallen City Writers and their new anthology, followed by a moderated open mic. We’re thrilled to be hosted by Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts, a big-hearted downtown joint. This anthology is terrific and includes some of the icons of the Youngstown writing scene, as well as more recent arrivals.

Fallen City Writers and Open Mic
Wed. March 4, 7:00
Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts, 32 N. Phelps

Kickstand Poetry is the online poetry book group. I love talking about the books I read, and I think a lot of people, even writers, don’t have a way of keeping up with contemporary poetry. There is some phenomenal work being published these days by wonderful presses, and I think that’s worth supporting and talking about. Our first book will be Kimberly Johnson's Uncommon Prayer (Persea Books 2014).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yumful and Worth Sharing: Four Fruit Desserts

Fruit desserts are so lovely, no? Moist and texture-ful. I am avoiding cans, because of BPA concerns, so I’ve switched to fresh pineapple, even though I can’t crush it fully and it ends up uneven. Yum. I love running into a big toothful, and none of that tinny taste. And leftovers!

A friend recently called me out for avoiding BPA, but not worrying about refined sugar and flour. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. A small justification is that I use organic flour and sugar, and only take desserts to occasions, so we can spread around the wickedness. If I bring a dessert to your house does it mean I am trying to poison you? Non, mon amour. Non. 

I keep forgetting to take photos, but I will work on that. 

Carrot Pineapple Cake

2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. grated carrots
1 c. crushed pineapple, undrained
2 ½ c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 10” tube pan. Combine sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. Beat well. Stir in carrots and pineapple. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Blend with other ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake 60-70 min. or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 min. Loosen edges and turn out on rack for cooling.

This recipe came from the Oshkosh Northwestern, and is attributed to Brad Storey. Thanks, Brad! That name sounds so familiar. Did I work with Brad at the Oshkosh Public Library?

Cranberry Pie

Double pie crust, all butter
1 package cranberries fresh or frozen
1 c. sugar
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. flour
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 T. butter

Wash berries. Drain. Mix with sugars, flour and nuts. Pour into unbaked pie shell and dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Slit and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 375 for 45 min.

Because I took this to a holiday party, I cut stars out of the top crust and arranged them around the star-shaped holes. I like to brush the crust with milk before sprinkling large crystal sugar on the crust. It’s a simple way to make it look elegant.

I took this to a potluck, and I was a little worried about a pie that had only cranberries. I threw in a chopped ripe pear, and it added a lovely background flavor and texture, and took on the pink from the cranberries. However, I needn’t have worried.

This recipe was included in my Wisconsin Public Service gas bill. Each month they sent a different recipe, and wow, so good.

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple is great but something of a cliché in this arrangement, so I wanted something more unexpected. Plums are gorgeous in desserts. Really any ripe fruit would work here, as would any type of nut. One thing I like about this recipe is that the topping is more caramelly than saucy. And buttermilk antes up the goodness. Use real buttermilk, with as few additives as you can find. Alternatively, substitute plain yogurt thinned with milk.

¼ c. butter, plus ½ c., softened
¾ c. brown sugar
2 c. sliced, ripe plums in season
1 c. sugar
½ c. sliced almonds
2 eggs
2 c. cake flour (or all purpose flour minus 2 T. per cup)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. plus 2 T. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Place rack in bottom third of oven; heat oven to 350. Butter only sides of 9” round cake pan.

In saucepan, melt ¼ c. butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar; cook, stirring, until sugar is melted and mixture is smooth, 2 min. Immediately pour into prepared baking pan and spread to coat bottom evenly. Place plums in decorative pattern on top of sugar mixture; press down lightly. Sprinkle with almonds.

In large bowl, beat ½ c. butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2 min., scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in eggs.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. On low speed, beat flour mixture alternately with buttermilk and vanilla into butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour; scrape down sides of bowl. Spoon batter over fruit in pan.

Bake until cake springs back lightly when pressed in center and cake tester comes out clean, 45-55 min. Immediately run knife around outside edge of cake and invert onto platter. Let stand 5 min. with pan in place. Remove pan and serve cake warm or at room temperature.

I took this to friends’ for dinner, unbaked, and it baked while we dined, so by the time it came out, we were ready for dessert. Great for chilly nights like we’re having just now in Ohio, though obviously plums are not in season.

The recipe is adapted from an original in Tastes of Home.

A lot of our favorite recipes were developed in a time when ingredients were different. I don’t know how much people realize that manufacturing and marketing drive what we might think of as traditional. At least in this country, “traditional” is a fluid concept. As we continue to encounter the aforementioned health effects of eating so much sugar and refined flour, we will begin to see recipes adapt. Dropping whole wheat flour into a recipe balanced for “regular” white flour, for example, doesn’t work. But here’s a recipe made for whole wheat, and it’s amazing. I look forward to seeing more of these, and more recipes that lead us away from refined sugar and more toward less sweet desserts, and desserts sweetened with honey and fruit.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. brown sugar
¼ c. oil
15 oz. pumpkin
2 eggs
1 c. granola

Preheat oven to 350. Paper-line or grease mini (or any) muffin tins. (I prefer to grease the tin, which reduces waste and also allows the muffin to develop a lovely, non-steamed crust.) Add pumpkin and eggs; beat well. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Spoon batter into tins, 2/3 full. Sprinkle each with ½ tsp. granola (for minis; more for big ones). Bake 15-20 min. or until tester comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min.; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

The granola I had on hand was date-pecan. Topping a dessert with something sweet can work in reducing the overall amount of sugar within. I saved most of them for an event, but the ones we snarfed right out of the oven were worth the mouth burn.

I had used part of a can of pumpkin for something else, so to get back to the 15 oz. I cooked down a few apples that were one step away from compost. I couldn’t find pumpkin in a jar, but I wonder if I could find it in the frozen section. Some years I’ve cooked down pie pumpkins and found they work best if I drain the puree overnight in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. I love cooking and baking with fruits grown by my Ohio neighbors.