the ornithogrinarium - Ψυχῆς ἰατρεῖον

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I don't drive, so usually this means I walk fairly long distances quite regularly. Today the first blackberries made their sweet appearance.


I had to leave my room because Two Fish appears to be dying, so slowly I hate it. Maybe next time I should pick a less nervous fish. I'm moving the place mats from the table to take notes on Gayatri Spivak's introduction to Grammatology. One Fish is mourning.

** I got him a new friend, a beautiful calico Ruykin.


The cat has begun peeing on the bed WITH ME IN IT. When things hurt they only know to find a softer place.

Last night was awful, waking up repeatedly (an unusual occurrence, I've been napping in the afternoon because not well myself) with my hand in something smelly. I resist thinking that this may be his final decline and demand drycleaning.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

let them eat cake

Words cannot express my love for Nigella Lawson - usually because I am inwardly laughing too hard. There's no assailing the fun to be had in watching her eat, but I don't usually use her recipes. We're merely taking style points here: the pleasure of watching a woman force her children to decorate cupcakes in monochrome, have the male child hand-mix egg whites to stiff peaks (click for video proof), and then beg off to a summery seaside kitchen in avoidance of socialization, advocating alcohol.

And she accidentally unplugged a freezer, melting a sculpture made of blood frozen in the shape of the artist's head, owned by her husband Charles Saatchi, while they were moving house.

Other arguments aside

for chocolate tart from Tartine


Cream together 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar using an electric mixer. Mix in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add 3 1/2 cups flour, all at once, and mix to combine. Divide the dough in four discs and cool in the fridge at least two hours or overnight. Bake at 325F for about 15 minutes. 1/2 recipe will make 2 8 inch tart shells, extra dough can make sugar cookies.


6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar (divided in two)
3 large eggs

Have tart shell ready for filling. Preheat oven to 325F. Put the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl. In a saucepan combine the butter and 1/3cup of the sugar. Place over medium-low heat and stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Pour the buter mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the eggs. Beat the mixture on medium speed until it forms a thick ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.

Pour about 1/3 of the egg mixture into the melted chocolate, whisk to lighten the mixture, and then fold in the remaining egg mixture. Pour the filling into the pastry shell and smooth the surface. Bake 7-9 minutes and serve at room temperature. The tart will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

topping (optional)
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted with skins rubbed off, or
1/4 cup whipping cream, beat to soft peaks, with a tablespoon if yogurt mixed in, and raspberries

.... but today I'm sick with a cold and consulted Nigella's recipe for chicken soup.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

watch out for smart girls

Baruch ata, Adonai Elohèinu, Mèlech ha-olam, she-hecheyànu v’kiy’mànu v’higi-ànu la-z’man ha-zeh.

Praised are You, our Eternal God, Ruler of time and space, who has kept us in life, sustained is, and enabled us to reach this season.

read it here

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

john from cincinnati

This time last year this was my favourite one minute twenty-seven seconds of tv. Love David Milch (I mark tomorrow Deadwood day.  If you haven't heard David Milch's director's commentary, episode 1 of season 1 on the DVD will have you in his whisky voiced thrall.  There's a great print interview here). 

Music is Joe Strummer, "Johnny Appleseed."

Monday, July 21, 2008


My favourite time of day now is when it's dark and the cold air comes in through open windows. Tonight the cat didn't even try to remove the book from my hands as I lay on the couch, he on my belly, purring and stretching contentedly.


Lately I wake up two hours before my alarm, seized with panic. I'm not sure if I've been dreaming. Being mine the panic is probably vague and floating of disposition in spite of its better intentions. My body is marked up too - long scratches on my calves and forearms, bruises of unknown origin, torn up feet. It's as though they've achieved some kind of congruence, or detente, in finding our way past this next part. And I go back to sleep.

Friday, July 18, 2008

i built a shelf

It has six cubbies built of beautiful cedar, imperfect from being cut down from larger planks that neighbours had passed on having left them out in the rain.

*Just invited the neighbours over to see and heard about who felled the trees and milled the lumber.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

dear brain,

Your drive to hunt and gather often provides us with nice treats, but please try to keep it down a bit. Insight is a little shot and may be malfunctioning.

paralipsis, an ode

Yes you, paralipsis, the literary device:
I hate you, you psychotic mindfuck.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

pasta puttanesca

via Jamie Oliver, with help from Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, making do for Count Olaf's theater troupe

extra virgin olive oil
1 tin tuna packed in oil and vegetable broth
14 oz penne or spagetti
tablespoon capers
handful of kalamata olives, pitted and sliced, or tiny nicoise olives
1-3 small dried chillis, crumbled
2 handfuls (1 pint) ripe tomatoes, chopped (or cherry tomatoes, halved)

handful fresh oregano and parsley, or basil
parmagiano reggiano
salt and pepper
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Cook the pasta, drain, then add the rest of the first group of ingredients over heat, cooking until the tomatoes soften. Then add the green stuff, stir, and dress with the rest of the second group.


In my neighbourhood. A house under renovation burned to the ground, explosively, taking parts of two others with it. I missed the neighbourhood gawking in the street this morning... the street was blocked off with police tape, so I kicked it the back way, through a forested area and only got information from the little group gathered there on my way home. Some people who had been up at 2:30am, and seen big chunks of firey ash falling hundreds of meters away.

I seem to crave pasta in the heat. Similar cannot be said for blogging. Having been paranoid once, it feels like a switch in my brain has been permanently flipped. Enough small reminders and off I go. I feel a distinct need to get out of the kitchen.

reportedly, i am




Middle English feye, from Old English fǣge; akin to Old High German feigi doomed and perhaps to Old English fāh hostile, outlawed — more at foe

before 12th century
1 a: chiefly Scottish : fated to die : doomed b: marked by a foreboding of death or calamity
2 a: able to see into the future : visionary b: marked by an otherworldly air or attitude c: crazy, touched
3 a: excessively refined : precious b: quaintly unconventional : campy

— fey·ly adverb
— fey·ness noun

I'm feeling it today: DEATH! DEATH! DEATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I saw two girls with awesome tatoos on the bus today. One was a walking momento mori.

Monday, July 14, 2008


quatorze juillet

Bastaille Day!

image from Appalachian State University

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Today, after walking all over the land to buy sandpaper, my head turning over a conversation, less a conversation than a feeling, I decided it was time.

It was hot and I had the right shoes on, so I started wading up the creek. It was cold, but nicely so, and a few minnows seem to be back. Next time I'll take you with me and show you 500 year old tree stumps, and we'll see if we can both float in the hole there, over smooth pebbles and sand.

i am a poor citizen

for reading the gossip about this harassed lady (discuss: the difference between the Jolie-Pitt clan and a zoo). So I'm making minor reparations by using a posed-for photo.

The ever-lovely Ms Jolie is reportedly doing marvelously well after giving birth to Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline Saturday night at the Lenval hospital in Nice. The boy weighed 5.03 pounds and the girl 5 pounds. Aww! Mum and Dad do pick great names. Hugs to big brothers and sisters Maddox, Pax, Zahara and Shiloh.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I've been feeling easily rattled of late. I'm tired, but have trouble sitting still. Forty-five minutes is a feat.

Today I sat in the garage in shifts with ear covers on, power sanding cedar for my shelf continually coating me in a fine dusting of wood dust.

Friday, July 11, 2008


it smells like jasmine and roses. for a moment I wanted to sleep out there, with them.

then I got the fertilizing done (my tomatoes have more than the ones at the farm!) and poured myself a drink.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

wrenna with guts torn out

Sometimes I miss my not-friend. Sometimes, like now.

Sometimes I like to be talked at.

Today I read my horoscope over the shoulder of the man beside me on the bus and it said "shop!" So I walked into the first store off the bus and found the ideal belt for my dress for $2. Naturally I thought of the most stylish person I don't-know.

Monday, July 7, 2008

one fish, two fish

I got my fishes. Left to my own devices I will call them One Fish and Two Fish. They are recovering from their move, keeping company with the cat from the bottom of their underwater kingdom.

I love them.


"You do realize that bag of tomato fertilizer was supposed to fertilize 100 square meters of soil, don't you?"


Mutant chest-high tomatos are trying to climb in our windows.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

just a little situational comedy

In happier news, a new edition of Strunk and White's Elements of Style illustrated by Maira Kalman is now available in paperback.

My commas and I need help so I bought it then planned to return it because the book is five dollars cheaper online. When I pulled the book out of the plastic bag it was stored in I found that cat pee had gotten on the cover and soaked through the first ten pages.

The cat has style, confidence, sensitivitity and a wicked sense of entitlement.

live fast die young

The cat is not my cat, he is my sister's cat.

He travelled with her to her first apartment, and then when she moved to an island with a schmuck (not so bad, just, you know, a little dull, unless you like hunting with rednecks, and then there were their divergent problem-solving strategies), but the cat was against the rules when my sister moved in with her best friend.

This afternoon I wiped up his pee from the cover of one of my books (the cat has let his views on Patricia Clough be known, though honestly I think he hates all my books because he is constantly attempting to remove them from him hands) and then delicately reported that the pee had blood in it, and that our dear dear cat should be taken to the vet because he had a bladder infection.

Clearly SOMEONE had sympathy for the dear cat's plight, because, despite grandparents arriving (early) mom grabbed sister, jumped in the car and found a vet open on Sunday. They returned two hours later (German grandmother by then having expressed extreme boredom, mentally reformatted the garden, and begun reading aloud from furniture store catalogues) amidst phonecalls telling of the cat's immanent demise at the grand old age of 82 cat years. Christ.

"They didn't think to ask ME about putting the cat down, huh?" I said to assembled company. Half and hour later the dynamic duo returned home, plus cat. "He has a bladder infection," sister reported.

"I told you that."

"Antibiotics twice a day for seven days, and if it doesn't clear up he needs bloodwork to determine whether he is in kidney/liver failure." She was crying.

"Listen," I said, "he still has quality of life. He likes to go outside, he likes to lie on me and pin my hands to the bed, I cuddle him lots; he's doing just fine."

"I'm trying to be here for you," I said as she walked out of the room. I let the cat out, and let him back in. "Stupid insensitive veterinarian," I said when Aunt called prior to desert.

When my sister left she charged me with monitering the cat's quality of life. I tried to talk her in to a visit at her place, but she's afraid it'll upset him too much. She told me that 17 solar years would make him 86 in cat years. It's still me and my grumpy old man.

Friday, July 4, 2008

the cat and i

We have an understanding. I bring ice water on hot days and recognize when to shove his collar over his head and lead the way to the door. He starts purring when I get into bed and moves so that his head is under my chin and his paw over my heart. Then he curls up and stays.

I don't. Sometimes when he meows at me I pick him up and make a little conversation. "Look how the dog is hiding under the desk, she's frightened of you." "See where I planted my tomatoes? There's a grove of them now, I hope it's hot enough for them there." "I like that new show Swingtown. It depicts people reacting instinctively to one another, and the ways they express caring. I could watch that pretty much endlessly, provided I also had yarn to play with."

Then he tries to wipe his nose on my face and I get a whiff of seafood-smelling snot.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

puff pancake

In an oven-proof frying pan, melt about 1/4 cup of butter over medium low heat. Remove a few tablespoons of butter to a mixing bowl and add to the pan 3 generous tablespoons brown sugar and about a cup and a half of fresh fruit (2 green apples, 2 nectarines or 10 prune plums). I add some star anise bits. Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.

While the fruit softens, add to the butter bowl 3 eggs, 1 tablespoons white sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup milk. Mix together with a fork. When the oven has reached temperature, pour the flour mixture over the fruit mixture, move the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

I've also made this with half of a large grapefruit, sliced thin with the skin on, a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh ginger and a teaspoon of ground spices, including black pepper, cardamon, three cloves, and some star anise.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Time spent mangling search terms in an attempt to locate the origin of the 60's photo that is my header has brought to mind some of the real-life libraries that have made an impression on me.

For part of a year I went to U of T, Victoria College, making Pratt Library my home branch.

Its designers call it "high minded modernism".
A virtual tour is available.

Because Pratt was, well, full of prats, I spent a lot of time at The Trinity College Library, which smelled of cedar.

Trinity College Cambridge may have the Wren Library, but Trinity College Toronto has Sir William Osler's desk.

The University of Toronto system's main library is called Robarts. It's essentially a skyscraper, originally designed to be closed stacks, and from some angles looks like a giant turkey.

Gorgeous photo from here. Initially I found Robarts intimidating to find my way out of, and was afraid I'd get stuck inside forever. When I left I took a picture of the concrete stairwell with "this is not an emergency exit" painted in it.

The Greek at the top of my blog says something like, "hospital for the soul." It's taken from the Library of Alexandria. I think its modern incarnation is incredible.

From here.

From here.
Architects here.