Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Simple pleasures

Winter has been exceptionally mild here, objectively and by local standards. They had a doozy last year, I'm told, but so far this year it hasn't hardly broken the freezing mark. Most days, it's in the 40s or even 50s and sunny, with wind. Can anybody tell me why the wind ALWAYS picks up and rushes at night, after a still day? I'd like to know. The wind combines with the chillier nights to whip through our drafty, uninsulated house.

Regardless of the weather, winter is a time for simplicity in my house. The short days send me out into the sunlight for much of the day, and when evening starts around 4:00, I want a pot of soup to simmer and bread to bake in the oven while the boy and I kick back. Good books, (video) games, and lots of knitting are the best this time of year.

So far we've been pretty successful in that department. I reread some of the Harry Potter books recently, and there has been a lot of black bean stew, chili, and even a chocolate chili in this house. I've been baking bread several times per week and knitting a sweater, new wool socks, and the ongoing blanket project.

Then one day last week I started reading a book I'd gotten for Christmas from my big bro Ben: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. I rarely read nonfiction, but this was a memoir of the baby she delivered stillborn at 41 weeks, and of the baby born healthy a year later. You can hear the book review that pointed me toward the book here.

Hoo boy, did I cry over that book. It was beautifully, tragically written, full of honesty and pain and hope and guilt and grief - oh, me. I read the book in the space of a couple hours, weeping and occasionally laughing on the couch. I was so touched that I sent an email to the author, thanking her and letting her how important her book was to me.


Less than twelve hours after I emailed her, she sent a beautiful reply. I don't have permission to publish what she wrote, so it will have to stay between Ms. McCracken and me. I will say that I was incredibly touched once again, and overjoyed that since the book was published, she and her husband have had a third baby, a girl. The book alone was enough simple pleasure for one day, but the email put me over the moon.

And speaking of over the moon, and to completely change the subject, sorry to disappoint if you were really enjoying the dead babies conversation, I actually TEARED UP over a VEGETABLE in the commissary yesterday. And no, it didn't say anything about my mama.

See, I have a soft spot in my heart for Brussels sprouts. While I was raised in a veggie house - and that's really something in frozen Maine! - we didn't eat Brussels sprouts when I was growing up. I'd seen them boiled before, but ew. Then I discovered this recipe, which I've written about before, and fell in love.

Well. Since we moved out of our Rhode Island apartment in June, I haven't seen a fresh Brussels sprout. I've been buying and cooking frozen ones instead, since the flavor and vitamins are sort of, but not really, the same. But really? Freezing a leafy vegetable is not that good. Blech. I kept looking for them at the commissary and in the Japanese grocery stores, but no: UNTIL YESTERDAY! There they were, smiling up at me in the corner of the produce section.

The people around me must have thought I was crazy - grinning like an idiot with tears in my eyes, filling a giant plastic bag with Brussels sprouts. It's a joke vegetable! A punishment for naughty children; you have to eat all your Brussels sprouts.

I bought three pounds. And, along with homemade spinach pizza (Josh's birthday request) we ate every last bite.

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