Sunday, November 16, 2014


Last night I showed Addie a picture of her that I'd posted on my Facebook page. In the picture she is a spiky-haired one year old with green frosting covering her nose. It's the requisite "we let our kid smash up her own cake" first birthday photo. This was before people started making applesauce lentil cakes topped with blended kale, or whatever they're doing now. Maybe it was already a thing not to let your kid have sugar. In our family, you grow up knowing frosting.

"Do you remember that?" I teased her.

"No! It was so many years ago. How can you even remember that, Mom?"

I assured her it was not that many years ago, it was a blink.

"For me that was a whole lifetime ago," she said. And then she looked at me like I was ridiculous.

She's twelve today, and if I think about it too hard I get a big lump in my throat.

She is wonderful and sensitive, in so many ways the person I wish I could have been when I was twelve. Yet she is distinctly of both me and Eric. I find her existence to be just as overwhelming a miracle as I did the first time I heard her cry on the morning of November 16, 2002.

I didn't sleep the night before she turned one. I was up all night making a scrapbook for her, dripping tears on the photos and pretty paper. I cried some more on the keyboard, trying to get out my big, sloppy feelings. I wanted to let her know how much she changed me, our family, the whole world. I was afraid that night. Those tears were panicky. Her first year had been so good and special that I was worried it would change at one. I was worried she'd be big and wouldn't need me.

But she doesn't remember that night. And she doesn't remember the day before she was born, the twenty six hours of labor and the dropping heart rate and the machines and the exhausted, fearful decision to do surgery. She doesn't remember her orange fleece outfit or the knit beanie she wore home from the hospital that made her look like a pumpkin. She doesn't remember bottles in bed and sleeping in with Dad or the way she would grip my thumb as I would guide her chubby arms into the holes of a onesie. There's so much she doesn't know.

Her birthday is a reminder of how lucky we are to share her, how much her humor and wit and creativity make all of us better. How great each stage is. How much she's grown into this human who does things and knows her own beautiful world. But it's also, weirdly, a reminder of so many memories she doesn't have. The way we waited for her. The way we wanted her. The way we rolled out of bed a million times to answer her cries. The way we'd let her tiny body curl into sleep on us, and the way we'd give anything for it now.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Currently: Hamlet Time

Well. This morning from 4:30-6:00 AM, everything was Hamlet, anyway.


I was up working on my Ploughshares blog series that will start in November. I am equal parts terrified and excited that I get to write about something that I love so much for a publication that is so... I can't even describe it. My nerd heart is about to burst: I get to write about old stories told in new ways, hence the above reference to everyone's favorite emo-king. But excitement needs backing up with some hours of hard work, which is why I've been up at ungoldly hours making lists and falling down internet research rabbit holes. As ever, I am so nervous/anxious/excited to try to do my best with it.

Lately I haven't wanted to write here much--even when I've had time, which isn't often--because I worry about waxing too poetic about my newfound pre-dawn routine. But suffice it to say that it's still working for me. And I am a firm believer in the idea that anything can happen if you schedule it on your calendar and set ten reminders. So, that.

Life is good right now. Life is busy as hell, but one year out from the MFA I am just in a place of acceptance about it. Busy means people are asking me to do things and sending me books, and not falling apart means this book critic gig is something I can do. Am doing. The fact that I am just as excited about reviewing books (maybe more?) a year and 30-some-odd reviews later is craze amaze.

I dig this quote in Our Secret Life in the Movies, out soon from A Strange Object.

It is so painfully apparent to me that when work (either one) gets busy, I pacify myself with mundane, familiar, and predictable TV. This explains why last year as I finished my thesis, I swathed myself in the soothing, vanilla-bland voice of Rick Steves.  It is why this fall I've taken up LOST again like it's my job.

I know. There's no helping me.

I am such a wimp. Exhibit A: the above picture I took just after freaking myself out with the stupid episode where the freighter blows up and ye olde Losties start skipping through time. Only I already knew what was going to happen, so...?

It feels like fall. Lots of LOST and lots of coffee (I eased myself off into decaf for a whole month and then gave it up in one day--all for no good reason) and lots of movie scores on Pandora. Tights and boots. Extra quilts. Teaching continues to be much more manageable since I am not sacrificing myself weekly on an altar of 100ish AP English 12 essays. What I have now is a much more even arrangement of time/bang for buck. My job is crazy hard, but it's not crazy impossibly hard in a time-management way anymore.


Untitled Untitled

In Literary Things With Other People News, a few weeks ago I attended the 3rd anniversary reading for Under The Gum Tree in Sacramento. After that I was in Oakland to see Tod Goldberg in conversation with Josh Mohr, and then the following weekend I stayed in San Francisco with friends so I could attend LitCrawl, and so I could attend breakfast at the Ferry Building and eat my weight in bread. God, San Francisco. I'm so glad that to you, twee toast is a thing. You get me.

Anyway, America. You should buy Tod's book.

After that, you should read this piece, SUBMITATHON! by Jill McDonough, a poet I discovered at the Threepenny Review reading in SF, thanks to my friend Lizi. Oh, and this poem that McDonough read, too.

In a little over a month I'm going back to Palm Springs to MFA residency--this time to TA and to see my mentee, Eileen, graduate. And to try as hard as I can not to feel weird about hanging around like some weirdo who used to go there. But at the moment, my excitement about being in a) a hotbed of literary geekdom and b) Palm Springs outweigh whatever awkward feelings I'm having about it. Also, this is me we're talking about. Awkward is my mileu. Anyway, that's in December and I can't wait.

For now I'm just biding my time, trying to type with one hand so the other hand can cat.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Morning Light

Morning light is the best light. It's the time of day I'm most productive, hands down.


This means some prioritizing. I write the best in the early morning, but it's also when I find it easiest to run. If I run, I mean. (Which I've been doing again successfully for a grand total of two weeks. Holler.) This morning, writing won though. All week I've been setting my alarm for 4:00 (Yes, 4:00) just so I knew I'd do the work first. (I'll run later, BTW. I made myself a promise.) (Parentheses!)

I realized as I carried my coffee over to the couch to open the window and start working: even the smell of morning air makes me think of that kind of productivity. I wish I was able to focus on things for the rest of the day the way I can focus on them in the hours before 7:00. Even reading has become a morning activity. I've been having trouble finding time to finish a book for a review, so I made that my morning task for a while, and it worked. Focus times ten.

Yes, this means I need to get to bed before most people are sitting down to Must See TV. But (thank you, Benadryl) I'm not having too much trouble with that. Usually after teaching all day, I'm just counting down the hours until I get to return to my nest of blankets and memory foam.

I spent some time this week talking to a bright high school senior who wants to be a writer (the rare unicorn of my high school English world) and we talked about how unique each person's process and habits can be. When I hear myself talk out loud about having two kids (one, ultra tweeny lately), a full-time job, a household to run, etc, I feel like it doesn't make any kind of sense that I'd be able to get any of it done. Somehow, it's all working. For now. Talking to the student made me think about how flexible it all is, though. How much it changes.

I wrote a review this morning on the couch by the open window, and Henry snuggled up next to me with his 3DS. I've been reading in my car as I wait for Addie to get out of school in the afternoons. But the working-next-to is lessening. When I do get to spend quality time with them--watching them swim at night or when we sit together as a family for dinner, or when we chat on the way to and from the myriad schools and activities, it's good. Easy. And I'm happy in those undistracted moments that I'm not trying to scramble to finish some kind of writing task like I was when I was in school. This year post-MFA has mostly been about how to work the same amount but to calm the freak down about it.

I have to say, it sure helps that the kids are not tiny anymore. One of my friends with a small baby is struggling to find work-life balance. I remember how it made me feel broken all the time. When mine were babies, infants, toddlers, I split in two. And not for anything good like writing that would have filled my soul. At the time, anything other than work-work (read: anything that did not fill the bank account) came with guilt. Just the daily demands of work cut at me--that unforgiving obligation of a job that brings a necessary paycheck--which made me feel constantly at war with my biology and hormones.

One of the things I see my daughter struggle with now is the idea that if something hurts now--or is difficult--now, she thinks it will always be this way. And that's not specific to teenagers. I fall prey to it, too. When things are hard or are not happening successfully it's easy to feel like I'm never going to figure it out or get it together. This week, it worked. Next week one of the monkeys will probably forget they have had a project to work on for four weeks, and the whole thing will crumble. For this week I'm happy I was able to drag myself out of bed to get things done. For today, it's enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour 2014

My friend Maggie Downs was kind enough to tag me in the Writing Process Blog Tour. You can check out her answers to the same questions here, and you can read our other friend, Maggie Thach's, responses here.

Here's a little about my process:


What are you working on?

I am usually working on several things at once. I shoot for a balance between reading for book reviews (which isn't writing, but still feels like my writing life), writing book reviews, and writing short stories or essays. Probably an even third each.

Currently in the reading for reviews category, I'm about to start reading The Hollywood Trilogy by Don Carpenter for a review. I reviewed Fridays at Enrico's for The Rumpus a few months ago, and I enjoyed that. I'm hoping I feel the same way about THT.

As far as review writing: Tuesday night I started collecting quotes from Justin Taylor's Flings  and organizing my notes so I can write a review. I'm sort of midway through the process, which is to say I've been doing all the grunt work before I sit down to actually write anything. But assuming I've done all my work in the reading and note-taking and organizing, the act of writing reviews is usually very enjoyable. I'm hoping I can carve out a few hours after work and before I pick up my kids today so I can get a draft done.

I'm busy, so my creative work is suffering a little bit. It's always the thing that I put off when I have a deadline for a review or a lot of grading at school, but I make an effort to work on something each week. Lately I've been alternating between nonfiction essays and short stories, but I don't feel like I've had enough time (or attention, maybe?) to do a good job of starting anything new. I've mostly been revising old things for submission and keeping notes in my phone for new stuff.

Why do you write what you do?

I like what Joan Didion says:
I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
I think I write narrative for the same reasons everyone writes narrative. To figure out what I think about what's happened to me, and to imagine myself into other people's lives, which is both fun and a challenge. And because I can't help myself.

But in the last few years I discovered my niche of the literary world. Or, at least what I want my niche to be. I love writing critical work. Book reviews. My background in teaching English and my love of reading and my desire to be creative somehow combine to make this something I am suited to do. I heard David Ulin speak at my first residency about how critical writing is creative writing, and something just clicked. As I worked my way through my two and a half year MFA program, I began to notice I was one of the only students who didn't hate writing critical papers. I found that I even enjoyed writing about books I didn't like. I loved the act of writing in order to figure them out. It was a lot like teaching, which I love. My thesis advisor, Tod Goldberg, suggested I should start writing book reviews. At that point I didn't even know being a literary critic was a thing. But once I figured that out, I felt very strongly that critical writing was a thing I should be doing. I spent all the time I had left in the program trying to learn as much as I could about critical work.

Now I write critical work because I love it. I want to be a part of the literary conversation with so many writers I admire. I want to push myself as a reader and as someone who can organize her thoughts into something worth reading.

How does your work differ from the other works in the some area/genre?

One thing I learned from reading John Leonard's Reading for My Life is that a critic's work is only effective if it's filtered through the writer's individual voice and experiences. I was really moved by how unique his reviews were, and how together they became a kind of autobiography in books. I like to think about my own work like this. It's really only about my own experience with a book, and nobody else's. In the very beginning I struggled more with why anyone might want to read what I think about a book. I worried too much about getting it "right"-- What if I misunderstood a book and identified something about it that was different than what other people thought? Reviewing is an exercise in standing up for your own opinions. It's a struggle still, sometimes, but I really try to let that go. And I try to just write from my own little corner of the world.

I suppose my work is different because I try to specifically speak to my own experience and perspective. That's all I can do, anyway. It reminds me of when I was dancing. You can only work effectively if you embrace your own movement style. Worrying about how you're different from others doesn't accomplish anything. You just have to do good work and hope you keep improving. Eventually you figure out how your body moves and it works better. It's being different that makes you interesting, anyway.

How does your writing process work?

I have such a routine, because my life is so busy that if I don't I won't get anything done. And oddly enough, the thing that helped me the most for creating a writing routine was training for my first marathon. I learned a lot about how I need to know what to expect, and how I need small, manageable deadlines to get anything accomplished. I also learned that if I try to force myself to do something and it goes against my natural rhythms, I will fail. Miserably.

And writing is supposed to be enjoyable, right? I wanted to make it possible for myself to enjoy it.

No idea where he gets this behavior.
Beautiful distractions.

Anyway, I'm so driven by routine. This is good, because book reviewing is a complicated dance of pitching to editors, requesting advance review copies from publishers, reading, and meeting self-imposed deadlines. I map out reviews and pitches months in advance. I sit down every Sunday and look at what I have "due" in the week ahead, and then I break the work down into hourly increments. I probably work somewhere between 10-20 hours a week on writing and writing-related tasks, depending on how much work I have.

I know it will take me about an hour to read 50 pages, and I know about how long it will take me to write and edit a review, based on length. I schedule everything on my calendar. Things like read 50pp Taylor or write review Carpenter. Or sleep. The benefit of this is I never wonder what I should be doing to get everything done by Saturday. I don't have to look too far ahead and get worried. And this way I never feel overwhelmed by a whole task. If I just wrote TO DO: read and review The Hollywood Trilogy, that would make me want to die (respect to the author, it's not about him, it's about the 450 pages he wrote), which would make me want to read and write nothing.

Once I've carved out the time, it's not so hard. It is something I enjoy, after all. And if I tell myself I only need to read 50 pages or write half of a review, it's not overwhelming. I can relax and enjoy the book or relax and let myself be creative. Often I find myself doing more work than I need to accomplish, because I'm so into it. This is dorky, yes? But it works for me. I think once I realized how I work I have been a much happier writer. No more trying to finish something at midnight, because midnight is my sleep time. If I'm awake and trying to write, I'm probably going to be crying, and whatever I'm writing won't be any good.

I've also learned lately that it's important to take days off. If I plan to work 365 days a year, I'm going to fail. This is also like running... I think you get stronger when you take a rest day, sometimes.

Continuing the blog tour: I tag Jenn-Anne Gledhill and Emile Barrios.

About JA: JA has called Chicago "home" since June 1, 1995. She relocated from Orlando after receiving a "message" to do so during the Winona Ryder/Susan Sarandon version of the film "Little Women." (She is fully aware it could have been the booze fumes talking, but those fumes were on to something if that's the case...) She sometimes works on her novel tentatively titled "The Branson Novel," but so what, right? Everyone is working on something. She wants you to know that she digs you. Like, kinda hard.

About Emile: Emile Barrios is a graduate of UC Riverside Palm Desert’s low residency MFA program. He the author of the memoir Nub: Story of an Ex-Cripple, and is currently at work on a novel about his native South Louisiana. Emile’s writing career began after thirty years as a TV news producer, industrial filmmaker, corporate executive, and PR consultant. He lives and works in San Diego.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Avoidance and Other Behaviors

My brain is a lazy jerk. You might look at me and go oh, Heather is getting shit done, she seems like she is making it happen. She gets up every day. But really I am playing mind games with myself just to do the things I'm required to do. All my brain wants to do is go to sleep and maybe wake up to eat some gummy bears and then go back to sleep again. My brain hasn't changed in the last few years; I've just gotten better at tricking me. It's all a game. This all has to happen if I want to -- I don't know -- keep moving and have some kind of career as a book critic and/or writer. Remain employed. Earn a paycheck.

You know what I learned in grad school? How to work ALL. THE. TIME.

So it's all a big sham, I'm saying. This "motivation." Ninety nine percent of the time if I'm getting anything done, it's because I am avoiding something else. I can generally make this work for me.

Day-long, boring teacher inservice?
Write three months of daily lesson plans. 
Stuck in the car waiting for kid to get out of school?
Read 25 pages of book for review.
Don't want to grade papers?
Write essay.
Don't want to do submissions?
Grade papers.

I survive by making my avoidance behaviors just other things that need to be done. How dorky. I know. I have to have a to-do list, and sometimes doing something else on the list feels like more fun than whatever I'm supposed to be doing. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Yes, this makes me the same as the kid in my class who is trying to do her math homework when I'm not looking. I was that kid, anyway. The irony is not lost on me.

I bring this up because on Sunday I went off the rails. Avoidance reached critical mass. Well. Backing up. I think I lost the first wheel on Wednesday night when E was out late after his softball game, having a beer with the guys. I couldn't sleep and I needed something to do, so I organized my closet. As one does. And in the middle of organizing my closet I had this idea that maybe I should have a list of, like, just exactly how many cardigans I own and what colors they are. For science. And then maybe blouses and tanks and pull-over sweaters. This is a thing I needed to know, you guys. So I start writing it down on some binder paper (no joke!) and I think to myself that damn it, this is 2014 and if Clueless taught me nothing, it is the fact that we should all have digital closets by now. So a little searching proved that there's an app for that. Of course. There are actually a bunch.

Cut to me spending all day Sunday taking iPhone pics of each shoe, accessory and clothing item in my possession. Why? Because I needed to be able to create digital outfits and catalog my stuff. Because cataloging my clothing in photos was the biggest emergency, ever.

Or maybe I was avoiding reading for a book review. And writing said book review. And talking to humans. And doing anything other than sitting in the middle of my bedroom in Soffe shorts and an overstretched tank top, watching reruns of LOST for the umpteenth time just so I didn't have to think about real life. Sometimes a project feels like an emergency feels like it's easier to think of than your actual list of responsibilities and/or feelings.


This all comes up now for two reasons.

1) My work schedule changed. I was only part time for five days. I picked up another class. I'm back to full time teaching, which means I'm back to no time for writing, thinking, and doing all the little organizy shit that constitutes the rest of being a writer. My strategy of avoidance won't let me get it all done. There's too much.

I'm having to find time to do work when I can't just pretend I'm avoiding other things. The only free hours in my day are morning hours, so I'm getting to work at about 6:30 AM. The only thing I am avoiding is sleep. It's okay, but it's not my normal deal. Pros: nobody else is at school at 6:30 in the morning, so it's real quiet. Cons: 6:30 in the morning, dude.

2) This post is avoidance of actual work that I should be doing. As always, there's a ton.

I better go.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


The other day I found my box of letters from high school and college. The pink and purple floral chest lives in our attic now, in a larger box full of framed pictures of people no longer in my day-to-day routine. I can't bear to take them from their frames, but they'd feel false in our house. Anachronistic, maybe. They're pictures from a time before I could sit down to my computer and see almost anyone in my life, past or present. I used to display those frames around my bedroom as a confirmation (to myself?) that that people liked me: my analog friends list.

Tonight I took that box of notes down. For some reason--avoidance of real work, I suppose--I thought it would be good to read them.

I unfolded familiar scraps of binder paper and tensed up. Because I didn't just save the positive things. Oh no. I saved notes that hurt me, too. I printed out emails that made my ears burn for who I was and how I acted when I didn't know any better. Added them to the box. I read them now and cringe for what that felt like to read them then. The words evoke muscle memory very quickly. I don't know why I'd keep letters cataloging my defects, notes that chastised me for being too much one thing or another. Teenage obsession with depth of feeling? (Have I outgrown this? My desire to take the box out tonight so I could feel in any direction says no.) I've always collected words, even the rough ones. So I could study them. And myself. Pair up the two for analysis. I've always been awed by the ability we have to make each other feel by marking things down. Maybe that was why I needed such truth in archiving.

I couldn't read for long, though. I was looking for a note from a particular time period, but those few minutes of reading curled my body into an uncomfortable posture on the couch. My shoulders crept up, I slid down into the cushion, and I wrapped into my own knees. Without thinking, I lapsed into the physicality of that high school girl who smiled and curtsied when she was supposed to, who deferred to anyone who criticized her, and who felt like a failure most of the time.

It's better, with them put away. The letters. I don't want to toss them, but I don't want to remind myself of how awkward I felt. Of how little I knew about how to approach the world, and how little I was able to do anything about it. That's the same reason I'm glad now that social media didn't exist when I was a teen. Not because I don't love it now for what it can do, but because having the record now would be too much. Too human. Beyond us humans.

Feelings are embarrassing.

In the attic, in the box next to mine are all the cards I wrote to Eric when he was 300 miles away for our freshman year of college. Three years before we got married. One of my most miserable years of life (in that way that teenage things feel miserable before life calibrates you), as I was painfully reminded in a recent conversation with K. I put my box back and glanced at the envelopes I'd carefully addressed to Eric, but didn't open any of them. If reading other people's words sent me back into myself, reading my own was out of the question.

I struggle with this, sometimes: how to reconcile the fact that writing, feeling, and creating are so messy and vulnerable. Imperfect and revealing. Beautiful, when they're done well, but scary too. Each sentence I put down on the page is potential embarrassment, a reminder of how fallible I was back when. We're too human, there on the page. Writing takes our feelings out of the safe container. I think most people would say they're thankful to forget.

Would you believe this was going to be a post about the first day of school? I'll save that, but I'll say that I had feelings today. Vulnerable, imperfect, high-potential-for-embarrassment feelings. Not just about starting my 13th year in the classroom (how, already?) but about having a daughter who is old enough to go to junior high. About my marriage, which keeps happening even when I need to do the Mrs. P Show, and which will never (it appears) be anything other than messy and necessitating late night strife.

I use that option on Facebook all the time: I don't want to see this. Abused dogs. Bleeding children. Mean things people say about others who don't share their beliefs. Hide, hide, hide. I hide more than I like. We all do, right?

I realized after I put the box back in the attic that I did it again. I don't want to see this. Even when I know we all carry that box around inside of us, too.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Things in jars.

No, not jam. Other things.

It's a weird summer this year. I mean, hooray, my big trip. But since I've been home I've been feeling very much like a hermit, like going out of my house to see anyone or do anything exceeds my energy level. Or maybe my emotional strength? I'm good hanging with my kids--I love that--but I've been laying pretty low. Working at home, being at home. Not leaving much or going far. I don't really know what it's about.

Change, maybe? Addie starts junior high in a few weeks and I have this feeling that once she does, she'll be heading off to college in five minutes. It pains me to think about how fast she's already grown. And I'm going part time at work this year. This is good. But I think maybe the idea of my kids being in two different schools and myself being in a new situation is just making me want to dig in my feet. To stand still, even if just for a second.

This, also: I felt really low this week for two days... sore all over, tired, cranky. And then I got a migraine that took two more days to go away. I should know better by now to read the signs, but I didn't see it coming. (I kept telling E I thought I was getting sick.) So I'm sure migraine-me contributed to Operation Hermit Crab a little bit.

So let's talk about putting things in jars. Because I've had too much time on my hands. There's really no good reason for this behavior. I mean, I could blame the fact that I've been watching a lot of Ina Garten lately, but Ina hasn't put anything into a mason jar that I've seen. I think her nervous laughter, the "how easy is that"-s, and the bright, shining kitchen are making me invent kitchen projects.

But no jam. Because it's hot as heck, and I'm not trying to sweat it out and make a big sticky mess (there's a great essay on the Paris Review Blog about making jam, though, and it makes me think that yes, I will go there again someday). Not now.

My culinary efforts lately have been other protective measures (imaginary, maybe?) against the imminent approach of the school year. Black feathers to my Dumbo anxiety. They feel like things I can do to get myself ready for Super Mom/Teacher Time. I went down the rabbit hole of Pinteresty ways to make lunches ahead (read: not every single morning when the kids go to school because that always ends in angry peanut butter messes). I started making sandwiches and freezing them. I made 48 granola bars, wrapped them, and froze those too.

And I started putting things in jars. Testing recipes. I am not going to torture you with a picture of the first thing I made, Overnight Oats. Because it looked as bad as it tasted. Who is eating this crap? It wasn't fit for human consumption. I love me some oatmeal, but I am 100% unconvinced why anyone in their right mind wants to eat that sick paste. Don't comment and try to change my mind, either. Overnight Oats are dead to me.

Anyway, the things that worked:


Layered salads in jam jars.

Hey. I admit that I've been seeing this on Pinterest for a thousand years and I didn't get it. I thought people just did it because they thought it looked cute or something. (Aside: I'm cool with jars being functional to hold our foods, but let's stop fetishizing them, huh? You don't really have to drink your vodka out of a mason jar sippy cup.) But you can make salad in there and it will last five days. Here's a post that has more info, if you want it.

You basically go: dressing, hard veggies, softer veggies, cheese, greens, paper towel, lid.

Boom. And then you have a healthy lunch for five days. Put some protein on it. Or put it on the side of your dinner. It's your disco, Stu.

This other one is kind of silly. It's the laziest thing I've ever made.


I saw this post on Smitten Kitchen about easy refrigerator pickles. And I made it even easier because I didn't really measure anything I put in the jar. Basically I just filled it up about halfway with some kind of vinegar (white or rice wine are favorites), add 1ish tsp of salt, a pinch of dill, and whatever else you feel like. What I feel like lately is a clove of garlic. Mmm, pungent. The liquid only fills the jar about halfway, but if you shake it and turn it upside down a few times over a day or so, eventually the water is drawn out of the cukes and into the brine.

I think any cucumbers would work (peppers, etc too), but so far I like Armenian cucumbers the best. (The ones in the picture are just regular ol' grocery store cukes... have to get the good ones at the farmers' market since my garden is terrible this year). I've made three different jars and they're all good eatin'. We all know that pickles are just a vinegar and salt delivery device.

So there you go. A post on how to keep yourself busy when you have lots of time but threemany feelings. And you don't want to leave your house.