Poem of the Week: Breathing by Ellery Akers via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

– Ellery Akers

I love to feel as if I’m just another body, a breather along with the others:
blackbirds taking sips of air, garter snakes
lapping it up with their split tongues,
and all those plants
that open and close and throw up streamers of oxygen:
maybe that cottonwood that tilts across the creekbed
is the very one that just sucked up carbon dioxide
and let me breathe, maybe I should hang a card around it,
Thank you for the next two minutes of my life,
maybe some of
the air I just swallowed used to be inside the hot larynx of a fox,
or the bill of an ash-throated flycatcher,
maybe it just coursed past
the scales of a lizard–a bluebelly –
as he wrapped himself around his mate,
maybe he took an extra breath and let it out
and that’s the one I got.
Maybe all of us are standing side by side on the earth
our chests moving up and down,
every single one of us, opening a window,
loosening a belt, unzipping a pair of pants to let our bellies swell,
while in the pond a water beetle
clips a bubble of air to its shell and comes back up for another.
You want sanitary? Go to some other planet:
I’m breathing the same air as the drunk Southerner,
the one who rolls cigarettes with stained yellow thumbs
on the bench in the train station,
I’m breathing the same air as the Siamese twins
at the circus, their heads talking to each other,
quarreling about what they want to do with their one pair of hands
and their one heart.
Tires have run over this air,
it’s passed right over the stiff hair of jackrabbits and road kill,
drifted through clouds of algae and cumulus,
passed through airplane propellers, jetprops,
blades of helicopters,
through spiderlings that balloon over the Tetons,
through sudden masses of smoke and sulfur,
the bleared Buick filled with smoke
from the Lucky Strikes my mother lit, one after another.
Though, as a child, I tried my best not to breathe,
I wanted to take only the faintest sips,
just enough to keep the sponges inside,
all the lung sacs, rising and falling.
I have never noticed it enough,
this colorless stuff I can’t see,
circulated by fans, pumped into tires,
sullenly exploding into bubbles of marsh gas,
while the man on the gurney drags it in and out of his lungs
until it leaves his corpse and floats past doorknobs
and gets trapped in an ice cube, dropped into a glass.
After all, we’re just hanging out here in our sneakers
or hooves or talons, gripping a branch, or thudding against the sidewalk:
as I hold onto my lover
and both of us breathe in the smell of wire screens on the windows
and the odor of buckeye.
This isn’t to say I haven’t had trouble breathing, I have:
sometimes I have to pull the car over and roll down the window,
and take in air, I have to remember I’m an animal,
I have to breathe with the other breathers,
even the stars breathe, even the soil,
even the sun is breathing up there,
all that helium and oxygen,
all those gases blowing and shredding into the solar wind.


For more information about Ellery Akers, please click here.

A big thanks to Alison for curating these gems.
Check out Alison’s web site right here. http://www.alisonmcghee.com

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Make this Lemon Tart! It’s better than lemon meringue pie. Did I say that? Yes, I did.

Moy+House+Lemon+Tart_hI am not a baker. Really I’m not.  My enthusiastic and entrepreneurial approach to life and by extension to baking makes it a dangerous undertaking. My baking projects are as likely to fail as to succeed. In fact, they mostly fail. My versions are always a bit more aggressive, a bit messier than they should be.

But with basic ingredients like butter, lemon, eggs and cream it’s hard to go wrong. Well actually you can go wrong but it still tastes great! So for all you avid, and even not so avid bakers out there, I would suggest you ditch the time consuming lemon meringue pie and replace it with this super easy but fantastically delicious lemon tort I found in the Globe and Mail. There is nothing wrong with this tort and everything right. Buttery crust, tart lemon with little bits of lemon rind (mine were a bit too large) and cream. Did i mention cream? Yes, cream. As my mom would say, you could make a shit taste good with ingredients like that. Thanks Globe for the fantastic recipe!

So here goes:

Tart shell

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon cold water or lemon juice


4 eggs

1 cup superfine sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup whipping cream


¼ cup icing sugar

Sprigs of fresh mint


Sift flour, sugar and salt together into a bowl. Add butter and rub together with fingertips or cut in with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Combine egg yolk with water or lemon juice. Drizzle over flour mixture and blend in with a fork. Gather dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Grease a 9-inch x 1 ½-inch tart pan. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a disc large enough to line the interior of the pan, about 12 inches. Lift dough into pan and gently press into edges. Trim off excess. Freeze tart shell for 30 minutes.

Whisk eggs with sugar and zest in a bowl until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and cream. Reserve.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet. Line the inside of the pan with parchment paper then fill with baking weights. Dried beans are good for this. Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove beans and parchment and prick the bottom of the tart with a fork to make air holes. Reduce oven to 350 F and bake for 10 more minutes or until crust appears dry.

Pour lemon filling into hot crust to ensure the tart is sealed and crust does not leak.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is set. Leave to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Sift icing sugar over tart. Alternatively, preheat broiler when ready to serve. Sift icing sugar over tart and place under the broiler, watching carefully not to burn, until sugar is light golden, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Cut into slices and serve with mint.

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Elena Ferrante: The Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name


I have only recently finished Elena Ferrante’s second novel “The Story of a New Name” on the heels of having read her first “My Brilliant Friend” but I feel compelled to shout their names out loud to anyone who will listen….. to go, go pick up the first book, then the second. Today I will be go and get the third “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”.

The books span the lifelong friendship of Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo two bright young girls who grow up in a crime ridden impoverished neighbourhood of Naples during the 50s. While poverty, brutality and survival are the building blocks of their daily existence, their natural intelligence, curiosity and deep desire to learn become the push and pull, the love and hate that underlines their friendship. While Elena is taken under the wing of a Maestra at school and continues to excel, Lila who has the brasher personality of the two, is forced to quit and go to work by the time she is 12 and is married by 16. Yet, as the novels progress, the question remains, who is “The Brilliant Friend’? What is brilliance? What is friendship? What are these irrepressible bonds that fundamentally alter the course of our lives, even our souls?

What I love about these novels is the ease with which the story and the language fills your imagination creating a tapestry of Neapolitan life. These novels bring you deep into the dirt, the lives, the streets of Naples and yet it reaches high above the city to the political landscape of the time, to political theories and classical literature.

The ease of language is deceptive. For example, in book two the summer of beach romance continues on for a good part of the book. It reminded me of the Harlequin’s I used to read as a kid. Smooth, summer romantic reading…all seamlessly told through a traditional story telling structure. And yet, as Elena Ferrante says, ‘there is a magna” that underpins the narrative. This is the real stuff of life particularly for women whose lives are never their own…and it’s a reminder that these days aren’t so far away and indeed, are very prevalent in the lives of many women today. Daily life is filled with domestic and sexual violence, people are hard, because life is hard…and yet….there is this tapestry of friendship that propels the story forward…the push and pull of love and hate, of knowledge, ignorance and desire.

For those of you wanting to learn more about the enigmatic and media shy author there is a great interview in Vanity Fair which I encourage you to read. This woman has a muscular brain.

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The World’s Most Delicious Curry via Curry Head

7007698476_d8c6ea2ec4_o.I got this recipe via my Curry Head brother who has a keen eye for delectable curries.This is so flavourful and fantastic in a way that is very different from other curries I’ve had (and I’ve had a lot). The ingredient list is a bit daunting….don’t be scared! At least that’s what my brother told me. Just put all the spices and everything you need on the counter…chop, prepare, measure and the next thing you know you are in the midst of magical curry alchemy.

Curry Head got the recipe from a site called The Amateur Gourmet… and it turns out the Amateur Gourmet has tons of great recipes including one for deviled eggs which will be part of my 60s appie feature at our Christmas party! Nothing ever happens without a good reason!

The list of spices for this recipe is a bit long and unusual…you’ll need things like star anise, fenugreek seed, kaffir lime leaves, cardamom seeds, pineapple juice, lemon and orange peel…and so on and so on….It is a cornucopia of spices that all comes together in a magical way.

The original recipe calls for lamb…we’re not lamb eaters but I think you can substitute chicken or chickpeas for a veggie version. Once you you have everything, this is easy to make and cook. And what a great addition to your curry portfolio! Thanks Curry Head for the big heads up!


  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds, toasted (to toast these three, just add them to a dry skillet, turn up the heat and toss around until fragrant)
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled dried pequin chilies or red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more for lamb)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shallots (or yellow onions, if that’s easier)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh ginger (from a 3-ounce piece)
  • 3 cups drained, trimmed, and chopped canned peeled whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
  • 8 cilantro roots with 2 inches of stem attached, washed well and finely chopped (I just used the stems; not sure about the roots!) (save the leaves for garnish)
  • A 5-inch strip of orange peel, any white pith cut away
  • A 5-inch strip of lemon peel, any white pith cut away
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups pineapple juice (fresh, bottled, or canned)
  • 4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces (I only bought 2 pounds and that worked fine for two people)


  1. Make the curry first by combining the toasted spices, cloves, star anise, cardamom, lime leaves, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and turmeric in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, and grind them until you have a very fine powder.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the shallots (or onions) and garlic [note: if I had to do this again, I’d wait to add the garlic so it doesn’t brown before the onions!] and cook, stirring often, until they’re deep brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ground spice mixture, cinnamon stick, and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and salt (I didn’t add all 2 tablespoons at first–it seemed like so much!–so I added 1 tablespoon here and about 1/2 tablespoon later to taste), stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks quite dry, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cilantro, citrus peel and juice, and pineapple juice, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  5. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until smoking; meanwhile, season the lamb with lots of salt. In batches, brown the meat (believe me: it’s worth doing this in batches–I crowded the pan and ended up with gray meat) all over, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. As the pieces finish browning, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the Dutch oven with the curry mixture. Brown the following batches in all the nice fat remaining in the pan, transferring the pieces to the Dutch oven as they are done, and then discard the fat.
  6. NOTE: we used free range chicken…I boiled it and put pieces in when done. Still fantastic. Or you could braise pieces in a pan and then add it to the spice mixture. Or just throw in chickpeas,
  7. Give the lamb pieces a good stir to coat them in the curry mixture, cover the pot, and put it in the oven. Cook the lamb 1 1/2 hours, stirring now and then.
  8. Reduce the heat to 250 F and let it go until the lamb is fork tender but not totally falling apart, another hour or so. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro leaves, if you like.

Quick notes

You may be freaking out about some of these ingredients–kaffir lime leaves? fenugreek? pequin chilies?–and normally I’d tell you to go ahead and make it without them, but, instead, think of this as an opportunity to do some serious spice shopping, either in real life or online. The exotic spices in this dish are part of what makes it taste so special.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Link to recipe on the awesome Amateur Gourmet site…


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Poem of the Week: The Hat in the Sky by Al Zolynas via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Hat in the Sky
– Al Zolynas

After the war,
after I was born,
my father’s hobby
(perhaps his obsession)
was photography.
New fathers often become
photographers, it seems.
But he took pictures of many things
besides me,
as if he suddenly felt it all
slipping away
and wanted to hold it forever.
In one of the many shoe boxes
full of photographs
in my father’s house,
one photo sticks in my mind,
a snapshot
of a black hat
in midair,
the kind of hat fashionable in the forties,
a fedora – something
Bogie would wear.
Someone has thrown it
into the air–
perhaps my father himself,
perhaps someone in an exuberant moment
at a rally or gathering.
It’s still there,
hanging in the sky
as ordinary and impossible
as a painting by Magritte,
and it’s impossible
how it wrenches my heart, somehow.
At odd moments in my life,
that hat appears to me
for no discernible reason.

​ For more information on Al Zolynas, please click here.

A big thank you to Alison McGhee for curating these beautiful poems.

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Elephants have families too: film short by Hugo Guiness

‪#‎RememerberMe‬ Watch this beautiful short film by Hugo Guiness + please share! ‪#‎DSWT‬ ❤

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

UnknownI have a soft spot for books and stories set in either of the world war periods of the twentieth century. It’s close enough in time to feel familiar and far enough away to enable those standing on the other side to reflect on the horror and the beauty of people inextricably entrenched in global and local conflict. How in god’s name do we survive these things?

All the Light We Cannot See is the story of Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian girl of 10 and her father a keeper of keys and the maker of miniature cities who flee to St. Malo France, during the occupation of Paris in the Second World War. The other main character Werner, is a German boy the same age as Marie and a technical radio wizard who escapes the poverty of his orphaned family life through conscription to a brutal elite German military school that serves the Third Reich.

As we follow Werner’s story it is his talent with radio technology that makes him particularly adept at tracking resistance fighters…and ultimately this is what leads him across eastern Europe to St. Malo where Marie and her father live with an eccentric great uncle….a resistance fighter.

A part of this story is also about highly prized gem..one that has supposed dark powers and which is eagerly sought by the Nazis. This part of the story doesn’t particularly interest me too much.

But what I found magical about this book are the stories of “the things we cannot see”….the worlds that are created for us by art, technology, imagination and the greatness of the human heart. Marie’s father builds miniature cities for her, exact replicas of where she lives so she can ‘see’ where she is going…so she can explore her world.

As for Marie, her world is also made bigger by the books her father buys her and her uncle shares with her. Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea weaves its way throughout the story. Werner and his sister Jutta’s worlds are made vast and beautiful by the French science lessons they secretly listen to through Werner’s radio…a moment that ties two French brothers love of the world and technology to two lonely children in Germany.

The convergence of Marie-Laure’s world and her love of books meets Werner’s when she reads Twenty Thousand Leagues using the radio and unwittingly broadcasts ‘art’ to the world and to Werner in his moment of darkness.

Wow, it is these moments that I live for and it is handled beautifully in this grand tale.  Go buy this book. Read it. Enjoy it and then pass it on. Art is what makes humans beautiful.

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