Monday, August 22, 2011

Celebrating the Full Moon

There is a group of very entertaining and courageous individuals that gather during the summer on the full moon to dance, play music and share their talents with others. Oh, did I mention the pyrotechnics?

Nearing dusk, families, friends, photographers and such make their way to a grassy location near the Foster street beach in Chicago. Some bring their grills for a full on BBQ, others just sandwiches and other accoutrements to snack on while positioning themselves on spread blankets so as not to miss a single, spectacular moment.

By the time dusk has given way to its darkest glow, the drum circle begins beating their drums. Tum, tum, tum… each drummer plays together, alone, but creating excitement and preparing the spectators for what’s to come.

A bit more time passes and then, show time! Various men and women confidently stride to their designated locations while carrying balls of fire. They twist and turn the fire balls this way and that, dancing and twirling along with the beat of the drums… tum, tum, tum… Some juggle, some rotate their hips spinning hula hoops of fire. There are the fire breathers and those extinguishing flames upon their tongues.

The night progresses and the acts become more urgent and intricate. The dancers shift places and change props, but the fire remains throughout. The drumming continues… tum, tum, tum… beating to the heartbeats of spectators, holding our breath, watching in awe.

As the performance (or performances) come to their peak before being snuffed out for the evening and thus for another 28 days or so, the dancers come together turning the single performers, dancers into one. One winged fire breathing dragon!

At the close of the dance and as the drums are placed onto the backs of the musicians, the families and friends collect their remnants and castoffs from the evening making sure not to leave a trace of this quite fabulous event. The blankets are folded; the meal arrangements are neatly placed into their sacks and small sleepy-eyed children are carried on the backs of gentle men with their others in tow.

I make my own way back to the car and notice the full moon hanging its reflection across the ink colored waters and wonder if it appreciated the evening as much as the others.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Glass Messenger (A poem)

Your words drop heavily to the floor,
without hope of recovery
Sealing the coffin on my dying will
And silencing the remaining light in my eyes

Drunk on the vibration of your voice,
I slip quietly into panic
Seeing through you, around you
Without you, before and after you

There is no reflection,
yet the sharpness cuts and brings forth blood
red, coming fast, draining from my face
Covering your words thickly
cloaking them, protecting them
Forcing them into the crevices of the wooden floor
Adding character to the room
Stealing character- mine, yours, ours

Shattering the broken harmony,
You too fall to pieces,
mixing into the split red, the words
spinning apologies into liars webs
catching flies and dead dreams
and forgotten memories and finished futures

Mixing them, breaking their boundaries
adding a pinch of salt
To the wound
For good measure, for the good of us all

(J. Smith, copyright 2011)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pancakes Worth Making (Recipe)

This recipe is first and foremost for my cousin. I have been trying to share this each and every time I see her, but we tend to get sidetracked on other matters and so I have decided to share it with everyone. Here it goes...

Ingredients for Pancakes:

2 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 cup of flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
1 egg
fruit of choice (optional)

Ingredients for berry sauce:

1 cup fresh strawberries, cut
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
*(you can add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, in a 2 tablespoons of water, if you want the sauce to thicken)

Putting it together (sauce):

Some people prefer maple syrup. If I am making fruit pancakes, I would rather have a nice fruit sauce to go over them. In a small heated sauce pan place all the sauce ingredients together, except the cornstarch, if you are using it. Keep stirring so as to avoid anything sticking on the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture starts looking like a sauce, about 10 minutes, you can add the water/cornstarch mixture to the sauce. Keep mixing for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat. This sauce can be made before hand and placed in the refrigerator for later. Great on ice cream too.

Putting it together (pancakes):

sift all the dry ingredients (flour,sugar, salt and baking powder) together, put aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and egg- then add the melted butter. Once well mixed, stir in the dry ingredient mixture. Set aside and let rest for 5 minutes. While waiting, pre-heat your griddle or pan. Add butter or margarine to pan.

Place a small ladle full of batter in pan. I prefer smaller pancakes so I can cook three at a time.  Add fruit to the exposed uncooked batter (in pan). Adding the fruit this way allows everyone to have the type of pancakes they prefer- no need for early morning negotiations. Cook until bubbles form on expose side and then flip. 

Plate and serve! The sauce compliments the berried pancakes nicely.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Waffling (suiker wafel recipe)

I have a sweet tooth, a serious sweet tooth, and am happy to seek out the best of the best when it comes to sweets- tasting as I go, nonetheless. And, to date, these are my favorite waffles. Suiker wafels are waffles that have beautiful pieces of sugar cooked into them- some remain whole others are nicely caramelized when cooked.

The recipe I use is a bit time consuming, but worth the effort. It is difficult not to eat all of them by yourself while cooking. I suggest having at least one other person around to protect you from yourself and your taste buds.


5 3/4 teaspoons of dry yeast
9 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup milk, warmed
1 Egg, beaten
1 cup and 7 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of water, warmed
pinch salt
1/2 cup Pearl sugar (or sugar cubes crushed up)

This is the sugar I use. I buy it when I go to Belgium because it is the most perfect waffle sugar I have found.  I have used others, but I like this the best. There are some specialty stores that sell it too. You can search for pearl sugar, hail sugar, or nib sugar- these should get you to a good sugar product (I do not recommend using the Lars brand sugar for these waffles- the pieces are not large enough to give the authentic feel of the waffles). Here are a couple sites that have the sugar:, I have never purchased it from these sites, but the sugar looks right in the pics.


Take your butter out well beforehand. It needs to be soft. If it isn't soft wait to make the waffles. Do not try to rush the softness of the butter by placing it into the microwave. It causes it to become liquid, not soft. You do not want liquid butter for this recipe. You want soft. Again, soft butter. Butter can survive being out of the refrigerator for a while. If I am going to make waffles, I have been known to take the butter out the night before so that in the morning it is ready to go before I am. If you want to know more about the great butter debate, check out some of the comments here.

Warm the water to about 100 degrees (or to where it feels warm to the touch- I am a knuckle temp. tester, I must confess. I have never actually checked the temperature of the milk with anything other than my knuckle and it has yet to kill the yeast.)

Sprinkle the yeast into the water and add about a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of four to feed the yeast. Set the mixture aside for 5-10 minutes to allow it to proof. If you want to know more about proofing yeast, go here.

In a large bowl (large enough to allow dough to rise in) sift your flour. Although I do this sometimes, I do not do it all the time and it still turns out fine. Make a well and add your egg, yeast concoction and warm milk. Mix well with a spoon, preferably a wooden spoon. Cover with a towel and leave to rise to about double/tripled in size.

In a second bowl (medium sized), mix butter, 1 teaspoon of sugar, pinch of salt, vanilla, baking powder, and 7 tablespoons of flour together. Once mixed, throw in the pearl sugar and mix again. It seems to work better that way.

At this point get your waffle iron started. It needs to be hot- you don't want mushy waffles. That is just sad after the work you have already put in.

Once the rising dough is ready, place the contents of the second bowl into the first. The second bowl dough will deflate the rising dough a bit. This is a picture of what it will look like.

Mix the two doughs together with your hands. It will stick. It's supposed to do that. Try to get as much back into the bowl as possible rather than on your apron or in your hair.

Once well mixed. I use a silicone spatula and a butter knife to make the 8-10 balls of dough ,which I flour and allow to stand on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.

Then, in your heated waffle iron add the dough balls and allow them to cook. Because the waffles were floured, I do not usually use any butter or oil in the waffle iron, however, you can if necessary. Cook until golden brown then place on cooling rack- or eat warm.

In the end you are left with about 8-10 beautifully crisp waffles, that is unless you ate them all before you finished cooking. These are dense awesome waffles. There is no need to add syrup or anything else to them. Easy to just pick up and eat. No need for plates or other silly nonsense. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Just Before Morning

When I sleep I am sometimes the wilting stalk surrounded by pillow petals and when I awake my pillow creases match those of linen. With hair well coiffed due to a night of kneading by a cat named Mo, I stumble around in the dark because, once again, the internal clock refused to sync with the external.

Before sunrise I sit with the joyous ones following their schedule more than my own. Could that be due to the constant dancing being choreographed and performed all night long? Those midnight dancers sleek and limber! At times I am just an inattentive observer picking up pieces of the more daring moves, usually the ones accompanied by song. Other times, I am an unwilling participant dragged from the audience or, better yet, a stage prop here to assist in the most final stages of the fight or flight steps.

The dance I love most is the “are you awake yet” dance. Sitting/standing between my shoulder blades, while performing in time to Fuz’ throaty bass tones, Dell smoothly taps his toes and fingers into my upper back all to the missing beat- he is a cool cat! Even when I shoot him looks of displeasure he is always mildly surprised that I might find the performance uncouth.

If after his display I make the slightest gesture that it is possible I will awaken from my shallow slumber, he is satisfied and joyous to the point of joining his brother in song. Once they succeed and I rise up with the congregation to congratulate them with a victory meal. They then settle down for a long day’s nap content to know the bed is unoccupied. I free Mia from her bedroom suite where only she seems to have acquired the beauty sleep I so longed for when I laid my heavy head on the pillow petals the night before.

And, just before there is any chance of being fully awake, I snake off hoping to catch a quick cat nap before the intruding alarm sounds again.