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Thursday
Aug122010

Laura Alice

It was a gala affair, not only because we’d been gone for so many weeks and reunions were in order, but because it was the October birthday celebration of both of the wives of our triumvirate of couples. With my husband’s gracious permission and assistance, I went all out: a champagne toast; artichokes with lemon-thyme butter for a first course; the loveliest cut of tenderloin; the ripest, richest Bordeaux; the most jubilantly-English flavors of Stilton and Cheshire for the cheese course; and a silver compote of succulent dried apricots and dates to follow it ‘round the table. 

And the pièce de résistance: an absolutely decadent steamed ginger pudding that had been simmering maddeningly away on the back burner all afternoon in a little antique mold. If I’ve ever been proud of anything in my life, it was that pudding.

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Thursday
Aug122010

There‚Äôs Nothing Little About It

“I read a book that I think you would really like,” a friend said while I cut his hair.

“Oh yeah? What's it called?” I asked.

“[mumble, mumble, something] Little League,” he said, or at least that's what I heard him say.

“What?” I asked, wondering why he thought I would ever enjoy a book about baseball (I’m not exactly Sporty Spice).

Little Bee,” he clarified.

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Thursday
Aug122010

Bourbon, Beer, and Sourdough: Sabbath Rest in the Kitchen

I need more than just the impromptu ambush of art to learn rest. I need Sabbath rhythms that provide a planned departure from the world of cacophony and aggression. As of late, one of my best teachers of this practice has been cooking recipes in which time is the main ingredient. In any given week, this could be the ever-hungry Amish sourdough starter I was feeding and constantly baking in the spring, or my always unpredictable batches of ginger beer, which once exploded from over-fermentation but more recently went straight to mold-growing due to some undetermined problem with the yeast. This last weekend, it was the Indian stew I spent four hours making on Friday night, then left in the fridge until friends came for lunch on Sunday.

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Thursday
Jul292010

Saints, Sinners, and Mary Karr

I first heard of Mary Karr four years ago in Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Within the opening pages he said, “I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, The Liars’ Club. Not just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular — but by its totality — she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years.” Wanting to soak up every bit of writing wisdom I could, I immediately ran out, bought the memoir, read the first twenty pages or so, and then hastily put it away.

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Thursday
Jul292010

Prison is Not in You

In recent years, institutional kidnappings and "show" trials of American citizens by anti-Washington governments, such as the Andrew Berends matter in Nigeria, the Euna Lee and Laura Ling case in North Korea, the Roxana Saberi case in Iran, and my case in Nicaragua have either become more common, or news desks have simply started reporting them with increasing frequency. As each of our cases played out, we were referred to as "criminal defendants" by the host country's government, but in reality, we were hostages — valuable leverage chips in the eyes of our captors.

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