December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays

There’s a simple joy to food. It is a universal joy. We all need food. We all find certain foods pleasing. We all eat and share food. Food has its own special timeline: want, preparation, consumption, contentment. It can appeal to all the senses; though it doesn’t always have to appeal to the eye to taste good (oysters come to mind). It is such an understandable joy.

Perhaps that’s why it is such a dependable gift during the holidays. Who doesn’t love fudge? I’m sure the neighbors would like some pie. Let’s get together over tacos and reminisce about meals of yore. Food can be wrapped and portioned out and shared and appreciated by anyone. It is such a basic joy.

When the annual holiday potluck came along I signed up for a dessert, because you can never have too many desserts. I chose a new recipe, something a bit out of my comfort zone. If you can’t experiment on your coworkers, who can you experiment on? The recipe announced itself as apricot mishmishya. I modestly introduced them as apricot almond sweets.

A good holiday treat should be beautiful, sweeter than sweet, and easily shared. I am so happy to say I was successful on all fronts. Rather surprised at how pretty they turned out I showed them off to coworkers long before the potluck. Their sugar seemed to sparkle, their paper wrappers sounded like crinoline, their almonds were perfect accent pieces.

Could they taste as good as they looked? I watched carefully during the party to see how quickly they moved. A nice pick-up pace with a comforting “mmmm” now and then let me know that I had done well. My contribution to the soiree was appreciated.

As we were packing up the remnants of the feast, I only had a few left. Not bad for a five-dessert party. As I was about to close up my tin of sweets, our host said, “Oh Anne, did you make those? They are delectable!” With my heart glad I offered him the remainders. He happily accepted.

As I drove home, full and happy, I wondered if our host knew how much we appreciated his annual potluck. His home is always cozy and well-decorated. He provides the drinks, napkins, utensils, and comfortable surroundings that make a potluck lovely. Every year we happily await his party as a favorite way to celebrate the holidays. Does he know this? Do we show our gratitude properly? Do we say thank you enough?

I decided that a candied apricot thank you was, indeed, enough.

After all, food is a universal joy.

December 2, 2009

Ooh, ooh, she likes it!

Did I mention I like instructions?

In one of my Internet forays for more information about my bourgeoning guitarist ways, I found’s guide to guitars. While my blind-stumbling-wild method of teaching myself guitar held a certain amount of charm, I’m very happy to have found Mr. Dan Cross and his font of guitar knowledge featured at

It’s everything a new guitarist could want: beginner lessons, chord library, tuning guide…all in clear, easy-to-read instructions with illustrations. I especially appreciate the MP3 sound files, which let you know things like what the heck E is supposed to sound like anyway. There are even occasional words of encouragement for the weary-fingered.

I now know how to tune a guitar to itself and how to play six distinct chords, two scales, and a ridiculously simplified version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Yep. Rock star.

The most pleasant surprise I have discovered since beginning this guitar voyage: I really like playing guitar. Remember, mostly I’m playing finger exercises and limited chords, and yet, I really want to play them. I see my guitar and pick it up just to practice that C Major chord one more time. I keep playing that chromatic scale for the nth time even as my fingertips go numb. I’ve even trimmed down the fingernails on my left hand so I can play clearer chords. My fabulous lovely fingernails are a source of vanity for me (and they’re much prettier than yours). I trimmed them down! More than once! Seriously, this is a big deal for me. (This is also a good time for us all to consider just exactly how Dolly Parton manages to play her guitar with her long brightly-colored nails.)

I like when one of my experiments turns out and trying something new really does bring a sense of accomplishment, of joy. Maybe, someday, I really will sip my morning coffee as I strum my latest poetic folk song. Until then, I kind of like sipping my coffee along to the strains of G, G, G, G, C, C, C, C, D, D, D, D, D, D, D, D. (That’s the “kiss me and smile for me” part, in case you didn’t know.)