Love Letters

Growing flowers in the desert

Anniversary… 19 March, 2007

Filed under: The Iraq War — Brighid Fraser @ 1:48 pm

In case you just woke up from a coma, or you’ve been living in a cave with no calendar or outside contact, or you’re an alien from another world, you know that the United States is at war with … um…  Well, ostensibly, we’re at war with Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq.  But Hussein was executed a little over 2 months ago.  So…  One would assume that the US’s objectives have been met and the troops can come home, right?  That assumption would be so very incorrect.  You see, in the Bush Administration’s infinite wisdom, the US entered the war with no real clear cut objectives.  Without objectives, there’s no way for the “leaders” to know when it’s time to get out.  Well, no way other than to listen to experts and the voice of the people.  But the Bushies aren’t known for their listening skills, so the US is stuck in a long, drawn-out pointless war.  At least 3,200 US soldiers have been killed,  64,000 Iraqi civilians have died, and another 23,000 US soldiers have been wounded.  For what?  Well, no one’s really sure, are they?  It’s time for this to end.  Today marks the four-year anniversary of this pointless war.  Four years, and nearly 100,000 people have been wounded or have lost their lives for nothing.


Friday Foodie 16 March, 2007

Filed under: Food,Music — Brighid Fraser @ 9:54 am

Despite not living in the Mother Country (aka Scotland) for nearly 15 years, I still love the ritual of afternoon tea. A nice cuppa and a scone or crumpet or a bit of cake makes me feel in touch with my roots and is a nice hold-me-over from lunch to dinner. It reminds me of my Granny MacLeod and of my childhood.

My Granny lived on the Isle of Skye, just outside of our ancestral village of Dunvegan. She had a wee croft, with a beautiful veg and herb garden, a few chickens, and three milk goats. She was almost self-sufficient on that plot and to me, as a child, it was heaven. My dearest memories of Scotland are of holidays at my Granny’s. She made the best breakfasts, luncheons, teas and suppers imaginable – most everything was fresh from her garden and so flavourful. When she died, I inherited her receipt book and discovered that many of my favourite things to eat are incredibly easy to make.

Yesterday afternoon, my son was with my mother-in-law at the mall, shopping for new summer clothes (it’s supposed to be in the low 90’s this week-end – that’s 33 to those of you on Celsius), so my daughter and I had the afternoon alone together. One of her favourite things to do is to cook, so I whipped out Granny MacLeod’s receipts and we made Blueberry Tea Cake together.

Blueberry Tea Cake

  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen is fine, if defrosted beforehand)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, reserved
  1. Grease and lightly flour a 10×6-inch or 8-inch square baking dish (approx. 1 1/2 quarts). Heat oven to 350°.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat egg with wooden spoon; gradually beat in 2/3 cup sugar. Beat until well blended.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat well after each addition.
  5. Add butter and vanilla; beat thoroughly.
  6. Fold in blueberries.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with 2 tablespoons sugar.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched with finger.
  9. Serve warm with butter and a nice cup of tea. I suggest a nice Oolong or Irish Breakfast.

And in other news – the last half of my regular Friday content – MUSIC!The Friday Five:

  1. Desert Rose – Sting
  2. Marathon – Rush
  3. Lemon Parade – Tonic
  4. Into The Mystic – Van Morrison
  5. I Will Go – Celtic Soul

Click here to hear them, along with my commentary. Click each song title to read the lyrics.


Quitters… 15 March, 2007

Filed under: Cheap Therapy — Brighid Fraser @ 12:00 pm

I suck.

I haven’t posted anything in almost two weeks. But I have a really good reason for this. I’ve been busy. I have had the time, really, but I guess I was just too busy with other things – like avoidance and procrastination. I think my biggest problem is that I’ll begin a new project (like this blog) and then be all gang-busters about it for a while and then… my enthusiasm peters out. It’s sad really. I could probably be a published author who’s world famous by now if I could just knuckle down and finish one of the four books I’ve started in the past six years. I start out really strong and write a hundred or so pages and then … stop. I just can’t seem to finish what I begin. I’m like those socks my husband is always complaining about. You know the ones – they’re tube socks with ratty elastic around the calf-part and they just slide down to pool around one’s ankles like … well, like a quitter.

On the upside of things, I have finally figured out my podcast software and have a ‘cast for y’all to listen to. Here’s the link. It’s something I wrote (and actually finished) for an essay contest on NPR. I’m assuming I didn’t win because I sent it in 6 months ago and haven’t heard anything. But at least I actually accomplished something that I set out to finish. Huzzah!

I promise – a new Friday Foodie tomorrow and the other half of my regular Friday stuff, music! See y’all tomorrow!


Friday Foodie 2 March, 2007

Filed under: Food — Brighid Fraser @ 8:31 am

I had intended to do something musical on Fridays, but I can’t quite figure out this new programme for podcasting yet, so I’m sorry but the Friday Five will be postponed until a further date.  I know, I know.  It’s tragic and it may be hard for you to get past, but rest assured that I will persevere and you will be blessed with five random songs from my iPod.  Just not today.

Now onto the other regular subject of every Friday’s blog – food.  I’m a bit of a foodie, you see.  I love food.  I love cooking.  I love discovering new restaurants and new dishes.  There’s almost nothing I won’t eat – well, ok.  I won’t put a snail or a brain or an eyeball anywhere near my mouth, but other than that I’m game.  I was late to the sushi game, but now I really like it.  I’m also a big fan of Chinese, Mexican, Italian…  pretty much every ethnic food out there is a favourite of mine.  Except British food.  That stuff is vile!  I know this from first hand experience – I grew up in the UK and was subject to its weird food proclivities.

Take for example, the traditional full English breakfast, which consists of a slice of toasted, fried bread (toasted and fried, mind you), sausages (again, fried), tomatoes and mushroom (yep, fried), black pudding (which is a sausage made with animal blood and varying forms of “filler” – usually the meat of whatever animal also gave its blood, suet, bread, barley and oatmeal – and then…well, you know…fried), baked beans (NOT fried, although if the British could figure out how to fry a bean, you can rest assured, the beans would be fried and not baked), and some sort of potato – fried American-style hashbrowns or fried leftover mashed potatoes.  Sounds ghastly, doesn’t it?  But hey, in Scotland, the variation includes haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach).  Absolutely disgusting, isn’t it?  Juxtapose this culinary train-wreck with a traditional French breakfast – a light, flaky, buttery croissant, a cup of hot chocolate and some fresh fruit – and you perhaps see why some people’s version of Hell includes English chefs.

Speaking of breakfast, my family and I have a week-end tradition.  Every Sunday morning, we go to a near-by locally-owned restaurant called the Good Egg, and have freshly squeezed orange juice, Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes, frittatas with ham, green peppers, and onions, and sinful sticky buns, oozing with caramel and pralines.  And as we waddle out after thoroughly stuffing ourselves, I laugh silently at all those Brits who are forced to eat a full breakfast.  Poor sods.


Putting Down Roots 28 February, 2007

Filed under: Desert life,gardening — Brighid Fraser @ 9:34 am

I’ve lived in this town for almost seven years and I’ve been pretending it isn’t permanent. I’ve been living in this rocky desert, all the while dreaming of returning to the mountains – either the mountains of my birth or the mountains of my heart. But it doesn’t seem as though my husband will ever want to leave this place – his entire family is within a half-hour’s drive, and unlike me, he’s very close to his family. My kids are in school here and I know what it’s like to be wrenched away just as you make friends and how hard it is to make friends in a new place.

So, it appears that I’m now a desert dweller – against my will. I suppose that I could live in worse places – the Gobi springs to mind. I mean, it’s not like this place is uncivilised and completely lacking the essentials – namely a locally-owned coffee shop, bookstore and a killer sandwich joint. It’s just that … well, it’s not the Highlands or the Rockies of Colorado. It’s unflinchingly sunny here nearly every damned day. And the summers are oppressively hot. And there are two seasons – the hot season and the hot and wet season. I can’t remember the last time I watched a tree go through its entire life-cycle. I miss the crisp coolness of fall air; the tang of ozone when it snows; the soft spring rain; and summer days that aren’t like stepping into an oven set on broil.

There are good things about this desert – swimming outside on Christmas Day, for example. Authentic Mexican food. Not having to dig out from under two feet of snow. The opportunity to learn a whole new way of gardening. The history and the gorgeous architecture. The close proximity of awesome hiking trails. The kids’ school. My school. My husband’s job.

It’s time for me to embrace the desert and put down some roots here. It’ll be tough, though. Underneath the top soil is a layer of caliche, that impermeable layer of calcium carbonate cemented together with gravel, sand, clay, and silt. Roots can’t go deep enough to get the proper amount of nutrients, water, or space and so the plants don’t grow. But as any expert desert gardener knows, you can remove the caliche and amend the soil and plants will grow big and strong and healthy. Maybe that’s what I need to do – amend the soil.


The Favourite Child 26 February, 2007

Filed under: Cheap Therapy,Motherhood — Brighid Fraser @ 3:58 pm

Whenever a mother says to me that she doesn’t have a favourite child, I always wince and am flooded with feelings of guilt. I have two children – a daughter and a son – and my son is far and away my favourite. I suppose it’s because he’s my baby, the youngest and he wasn’t an “accident”. My daughter, on the other hand, was an “accident” – the child that almost wasn’t mine.

When I first found out I was pregnant with her, in the early months of 1999, I wasn’t in a place in my life where I could care for a child. I was single – not even in a relationship. I was in school and not employed. I smoked. I drank like a fish. I loved partying. So, I began the adoption process. I met with the family who would raise my daughter and began the mental and emotional process of giving up my baby.

But then she was born and I bonded with her. I held her and fed her and looked into her little face and I fell in love with her. I decided that I wanted to raise her myself. No, more than wanted – had to. I finished school, got a full-time job and went about the mental and emotional process of being a single, working mother.

When my daughter was almost a year old, I met the man who would soon become my husband. We got married when she was two, and her brother was born when she was almost four. Suddenly, my daughter was last on my list of priorities…and I feel like she’s stayed there ever since.

I think my son is my favourite because I’ve had time to bond with him properly. There was never a point when I had to gear up for losing him. Because of my husband’s job, we could afford for me to stay home with him for his first year of life and even now that he’s four, during the day, it’s me and him doing errands together, going to the zoo and museums together.

It could also be because my son is such an easy kid. He’s sweet, funny, helpful, and loving – basically my husband in Underoos and Garanimals. My daughter is antagonistic, argumentative, controlling and smart as a whip. In short, she’s my doppelganger. And that may be the most telling reason why my son is my favourite.

My New Year’s Resolution this year is to spend more time alone with my daughter. I try to spend an entire day with her once a week doing things she likes. We’ve been to the zoo, to a few local museums and to the movies together. I’m getting reacquainted with her and seeing that she, too, can be a sweet, loving, funny kid. But (and there’s always a but) she can be so horrendously mean to her little brother and it just sets me off again. I know I’m harder on her than I am on her brother and I try to justify it by saying she’s older and should know better. When it all boils down to the smallest parts, I know there’s no excuse for how I treat her. I’m hoping that by acknowledging this problem, I can fix it before it’s too late.