Monday, September 28, 2009

"Italian Rice Pie"

I was searching for an Italian Rice Pie recipe online, because it would be epic to get a hold of my mom's/pop's, and found this amazing blog entry. I hadn't thought to write in my mom's accent, it's genius.

"I would go over to your grandparent's house to make the crusts, and pop would do the fillings, he took care of his mother when she was sick and did all the cooking as a kid, his brothers and sisters did nothing, he always knew how to cook everything. When he married your grandmother, he had to teach her how to cook, she was 16 and didn't know how to boil water."

"I think I have a vague memory of that, I remember sitting in the den watching TV and non's kitchen table full of all the things which needed to be moved from the counter to roll out the pies, and it all seemed very serious."

"The crust is very diffrent for the italian rice pie, you use butter instead of Crisco and add vanilla or almond extract. It's a sweeter crust. Some people put maraschino cherries and pineapple. I like it without."

"Pop seriously loves his rice pie."

"It's really important when you make the dough not to use your hands, that's how it gets too tough." They have a tool you can buy, but I always used a fork and a knife for mine."

This illustration is of my non and pop's basement, I spent every holiday until I was at least 22 in their basement. It's fully furnished, which means nothing to a Texan. My pop has a full kitchen down there, with wood panelling, he did all the work himself. I remember lots of brown and orange, brown walls, orange carpet. The italian rice pie is on the little table my non would set up and serve dessert from.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Me Making all the Pies for the Holidays" Rhode Island, 1978

I spoke to my mom tonight and she was ready to go with a topic. She said she had been thinking of many. She started to suggest something fun that families can do together and that started her talking about cooking together.

"Maybe baking cookies, chocolate chip or peanut butter? Maybe baking a pie? How about... me making all the pies for the holidays?"she asked.

"Great idea!" I told her.

My mom was the best pie crust maker in our family. She made all the holiday pies until she lost her ability to stand long enough to roll the crusts. My dad helped her for a few years and even took over for a while. I tried twice—after years had passed since she rolled a crust—to have her instruct me.

The first year we tried to make a crust together, my mom and I used a bad can of Crisco. It had been left in the cupboard probably since the last pie she made. I was not aware of the age of the Crisco, my mom on the other hand "did think it smelled a little funny, but figured it would be fine." We served our chocolate cream pie that Thanksgiving and immediately almost everyone knew that something had gone horribly wrong. I turned to my mom for some explanation and she said something to the effect of, "I was worried about that." At which point my brother-in-law looked up from his empty pie plate and asked "worried about what?" My sister quickly razzed him, "You didn't taste anything funny about the pie?" Needless to say, my sister, dad, and I are much better about checking dates on food now.

The next time my mom and I tried to make a pie together was for Christmas. I relied on my mom for the recipe. We got the pie to my aunt and uncles, I was very hopeful—after all I bought the new Crisco myself— as my Nonnie, who always did the pie cutting and serving, went to cut our pie first. She suddenly looked to me in a panic as she absolutely could not get the knife to go through the crust. I got very mad at her for not "trying hard enough." It took my trying to cut the pie myself to accept our failure, and apologized to my non. My mom and I had forgotten one ingredient—water.

Don't worry though, my most recent pie crust experience was a success. I made it with my 4 year old. We signed on to watched an instructional video and got an actual recipe. I spent much time thinking back to the disfunction of my first two pies, pre-internet.

Now back to my mom. I asked her to tell me more about her ability to make a delicious crust. Here's what she said.

"I didn't learn to make a crust until I married your father (age 21). I had cooked meals for my whole family growing up by age 10 and was always a baker, but I never tried crusts. Your dad used to make 50 thousand pies when he worked with his dad at Valley's." (Valley's Steak House, was by the airport in Warwick, RI. My grandpa Edge was the baker there, my dad a baker and grill man, my mom a waitress, and her mom, my non, a waitress/hostess/matchmaker. It's there that my parents met, there that my dad asked my non for my mom's phone number and there that my mom said to her mom, "don't you ever give that guy my number." The rest is history. I ate there before they closed it down and actually have a visual memory of the kitchen and my grandpa baking there.) "I thought if your dad could do make a pie so could I," she continued. "And so I tried to make a crust, he came home from work and found me with a crust that wouldn't cook and walked me through all he knew. It took me a while to get good, but I finally got the feel of it and then it was really easy. I made all the pies for the family on the holidays because my crusts were the best. My crusts tasted great because I used Crisco and not lard."

As for this little illustration, I have a photo on my desk of my mom, my sister, and me. I'm maybe 4. I used this photo as a guide to my mom's face. I put her in my favorite shirt of hers, the grey bunny shirt, and as I painted it, I saw how young she was when she had me, how gorgeous, how passionate about a clean house and delicious pies. I understood as I did when she was in the hospital last year, how much her presence ads to my parents' house. She was not a playful mom when I was young, but she was always busy making a stable environment for us. In the painting she is maybe 26, 10 years younger than me right now, and yet to me, I will never be as old as she was then and I'll also never have a brown fridge.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Texas Sky September 20, 2009 6 p.m.

I was enjoying Sheila Vaughan's paintings today, and was a bit in awe of her beautiful surroundings. It started me thinking...if I love the Texas sky so much, I best paint it a little while I'm here. This is the view from the upper deck of my home.

Missing the Sky, Texas

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Missing the Ocean, Rhode Island

A friend at work told me about the "Sara, Plain and Tall" books, and the beautiful way a woman from Maine misses the ocean when she moves to Kansas, but then misses the prairies when she returns to Maine.

I have lived in RI (West Warwick, and Narragansett), NYC (Manhattan and Brooklyn), and now Texas (Austin).
I've tried to consider what visual I love most in each of the places.

West Warwick, RI: the old mills
Manhattan, NY: The Chrysler Building
Brooklyn, NY: The Brooklyn Bridge
Narragansett, RI: the ocean
Austin, TX: the sky

I realized tonight that the Texas sky saves me from claustrophobia, the same way the ocean provides extra breathing room in RI, and interestingly enough they are almost an exact visual flip of each other. I would simplify Rhode Island into a tiny sky and an endless ocean, while in Texas the sky never ends and it almost dwarfs the land.

I think it is good to experience living other places, but it is hard to miss things and feel whole any one place once you have moved around.

"A Nice Day with a Sunday Aid"

My Dad had a commitment this Friday night, so a new aid came in and stayed with my mom. They had a nice time together and did much talking.

So when I called tonight, and asked my mom for a topic she said, "Well, let's see, maybe having a nice night with my aid."

This painting represents a harmonious conversation, the blue line represents that which always separates people, no matter how close they feel. But I chose colors from the same family, calming like a sunset, with peaceful lines.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flower Tempest in Warm Colors

Well, my mom did some screaming today. She used to scream a lot when I was a kid, but not as much with late stage MS. I asked her what she wanted me to blog about today and she said, "mommy was bad today." I had no idea, with all the screaming I heard as a kid, that my mom thought it was anything other than an appropriate response when feeling anger.

This was a painting of flowers and I painted over it with colors and patterns of anger and confusion.

"Our Bedroom with Blue Paint"

One thing that bothers my mom as much as her weight is things that don't match, clothes, rooms, anything. My parent's bedroom currently has green wallpaper, blue/gray rug, and pink curtains. My dad is thinking of getting rid of their wallpaper through out the house and painting the walls. My dad wants to do the den first, my mom wants him to do the bedroom, because as she says, "atleast the den matches."

For this day's entry, she asked me to paint a picture of her room with her blue walls, instead of green wallpaper. I may try this as an acrylic as well, to really get the colors.

My parents have old spanish style furniture. One thing I thought was funny, was that I remember all the details about their room from my dusting chores on Saturday mornings.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mom by Kim and Kim by Mom, Kent Hospital, RI

I'm posting something very dear to me. Last year when my Mom almost died from pneumonia, I rushed home to be with her in the hospital. As she was getting better, my Dad would watch my daughter while I visited her. On one of our visits, I sketched her, and asked her to sketch me. She is often to self conscience to draw, but not that day.

"Your Bathroom"

When we got on the phone tonight (Saturday, September 12, 2009, I'm late posting) my Mom was happy. She was out of her depression, as I had hoped was happening with her talking the night before. She was telling me how bad it's getting talking to her Mom, my Non, who has Alzheimers. My Dad joined in from the background to explain, "There's a lot of 'you knows' and 'the things.'" My Mom burst out laughing. "We are so getting so bad." she laughed.

My Mom's short term memory loss from her MS and my Non's word loss from the Alzheimers, make basic communicating hard. I talk to my Mom almost every day and my Non 3 times a week. Their brain illnesses manifest very differently in conversation.

I asked my Mom if she had ideas for the project. She said she had thought of one during the day, but she forgot to write it down. I asked if she wanted to think of a new one. She was more than happy to.

"Maybe something about missing you, I know we already did that, how about your bathroom?"

"My bathroom?" I asked.

"Or your house? I don't know what it looks like where you live. I know you've sent pictures, but I can't picture it." she explained.

I liked the idea of the bathroom, so I painted my favorite one, without all the stuff on the counter, the way I like it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rainbow Wish

When my Mom gets depressed she gets quiet and when she talks her voice is small. When she is starting to come out of her depression she starts to talk a little. Tonight, she began our phone conversation in a small voice, almost rambling. It was comforting to hear her thoughts without pause, I much prefer it to silence.

"I'm so bad." she started. "I've got to get out of this depression." "I hate this disease. I've had it for so long." (over 40 years) I'm lucky I'm still walking. But I can only do 2 laps I used to do 10 but when I'm depressed I don't push myself."

We talked about the cruise our family took when I was 16 and she could still walk. How while on the Island of Haiti, on the walk back to the boat from lunch, she got so over heated that she suddenly lost her ability to walk. My Dad had to carry her a long way and it was very hot. I can picture it in my mind and would have painted it tonight, except I thought to ask her one more time, for a topic for our art project, after weeks without one.

I heard her hesitate and then like rain after a Texas drought.

"Ummm, she said in a whisper, "a rainbow is that it? a rainbow in the sky, a sign of life going on, sign of god, rainbow coming up, god's with you shining over you in his rainbow. my neck is cramping it's my personality right now dad says he'll do all the worrying, I have something to worry about I can't walk, I can't do crap, I'm numb in my hands, I'm numb in my feet, I'm not a normal person, I'm getting fat and I haven't been on the scale."

Watermelon for Summer

My Mom has been depressed for a few weeks now. Too depressed to give any painting topics. She says she is not creative.

I told her my daughter and I were eating watermelon. She commented that she loved watermelon and hadn't had any yet this summer. She talked about her Dad always having a big watermelon in his second fridge downstairs and how they would eat it out back. I stayed at my Non and Pop's this summer and it's true he did still keep a large watermelon in the fridge downstairs all summer. You have to love that kind of consistency.

My Dad walked in from grocery shopping during our talk, so I reminded her to ask him to get some the next time he went to the store. With her short term memory loss, she had already forgotten.

"Honey." she said. "Next time you go to the store can you buy me some watermelon?"

"Sure Babe," he answered without hesitation. "You want some watermelon, I'll get you some."

It must be hard to be so reliant on another person, but they manage it pretty well.

She never officially asked me to paint a watermelon, but the beauty of this project is that I get to talk to her and remember things even when she is too depressed to be creative.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Side Note

I sent print outs of the collaboration project thus far to Rhode Island, for to my Mom. They got it in the mail today. My Dad read it and really likes it. My Mom said it's really nice. Dad said he was learning new things. He pointed out some typos, and a few factual errors. Thanks Dad. For instance, he did the icing and stinging in the API therapy, and my Mom didn't ride horses from Warwick to Goddard Park, she rode in Warwick and Goddard Park. It never hurts to have more eyes.

My Mom was laughing at the end of the phone conversation over something my Dad said. I asked her what it was, but she was laughing too hard to speak. My Dad shouted from the background, "when she's done she doesn't plug it in and then it has no power when I need it." They were in the bathroom brushing their teeth together getting ready for bed. When he went to use his power tooth brush it was out of juice. My Mom thought that was hysterical.

"Coffee not Chocolate"

My Dad is home from the hospital. My sister and her 2 kids were staying at the house this week, while my Dad recovered. I spoke with them everyday, it sounded like a hard week for everyone. I had thought we might go to help, but didn't in the end. My daughter is still packed and ready (her decision). My Mom and I did not work on the project last week, there was too much going on.

I finally spoke with my Mom today about the project. She is depressed again, 16 days after the end of her last tour. She said that she is always depressed, which is not always the case, but when she is down she can't be convinced otherwise.

I could not get a direct art request from her. Somehow though, we started talking about chocolate.

"I don't like chocolate." "I know most women do." "I must get it from my father, he doesn't like chocolate either." "I'm not a chocolate person (insert yuck face visual here, I know she made it, even when I can't see her). "I like coffee better."

"Maybe I'll paint coffee ice cream?" I said.

"That sounds good." she said

This painting shows exactly how my Mom orders her ice cream, small in a cup with a sugar cone on top. My Mom's M.S. has taken away many things, one thing is eating ice cream from a cone, but that doesn't mean, she can't get one on top.

Later in the night I called back, and told her I posted the coffee ice cream painting, my Mom added, "Coffee is a Rhode Island thing."

She makes an important point. They make coffee syrup in Rhode Island for your milk. So in school you could get a plain, chocolate, or coffee milk at lunch, and at Burger King you can order a Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, or Coffee shake. Most families keep a bottle of "Eclipse" coffee syrup in the fridge. Frankly, the rest of the country is missing out.

"Get Well Soon"

On this night of the "mom collaboration," my Dad was in the hospital. My Mom wanted to go see him but there was no way to get her there (they are short on hands with me in Texas). My sister had my Mom write him a letter so she could bring it to the hospital when she went that night.

The painting is my take on their imposed separation. My Dad is represented by the medical bed and my Mom by the wheel of her wheel chair.