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mprvmnts Posts

Poem: The Celebration

The Celebration

Coyotes are celebrating
a fresh kill

on the hillside up from
my bedroom window.

The frenetic loops
snuck into my dream

a record skipping,
the volume too high

on a soundtrack
of horror-movie knives

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Recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Ever since we moved to the country, I’ve been refining my home-made pizza process. I’ve finally documented the recipes and instructions for making dough, sauce, and cooking it all up to perfection. I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as we do!


  • 5 grams (2 tsp) dry active yeast
  • 625 grams (4.5 Cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 5 grams (2 tsp) salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) olive oil
  • Extra olive oil for coating dough


  • Finely chopped or sliced garlic
  • Olive Oil for coating pan and drizzling on dough
  • Pizza sauce and toppings


  1. Put 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water in a stand mixer bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water and let dissolve, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add flour, salt and olive oil and mix/knead in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Turn dough out onto surface and knead lightly until it looks smooth, a couple minutes.
  4. You have a choice at this point to either cut the dough to weight before putting in the fridge, or putting all the dough in the fridge and cutting to weight after it’s risen. Your total dough weight for this recipe will be around 1000 grams.

    Dough weight per pan size
    • 12″ pan – 350g
    • 10.5″ pan – 260g
    • 9.5″ pan – 210g

  5. Lightly coat dough (or individual dough pieces) in olive oil and place in a sealed container with room to double and refrigerate for several hours or (for best results) overnight.

For pizza sauce, I either buy a jar at the store or make something really simple by mixing up something like what’s below and heating it up, simmering a bit.

  • 6oz tomato paste
  • 15oz tomato sauce (pasada, etc)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp oregano
  • 2 Tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt to taste


  1. Take dough out of refrigerator for 1-2 hours before cooking. (2 hours if you didn’t cut it to weight before refrigerating – cut to weight after it’s warm).
  2. Put iron pans in the oven and heat to 450°F. When pans are hot, put a bit of olive oil in the pan, and take the appropriately-sized dough ball and form the dough into its matching pan. Drizzle olive oil and some fresh garlic and a bit of salt on top of dough and cook in oven for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the dough is no longer doughy (has formed a “shell”).
  3. Pull pizza pan from oven and top with toppings. Be sure to put a fair amount of mozzarella cheese around the edge of the dough where it meets the iron pan. This will become caramelized and will be delicious. Advice: don’t overdo the cheese, it’s the mistake we make most often.
  4. Cook the pizzas until the top cheese is golden brown all around and edge cheese is caramelized. Pizza should be firm enough to slide out of the pan onto a cutting board or plate to cut and serve.


  • Fresh Basil
  • Italian sausage crumbles (cooked)
  • Pepperoni
  • Sauteed shrimp (olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, salt)
  • Fresh garlic
  • Bacon bits
  • Ham bits
  • Olives
  • Mushrooms (fresh or sauteed)
  • Mozzarella
  • Crushed red pepper
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Recipe: Collard Greens with Ham Hocks and Beans

The first time I ever tried making collard greens was in 2008. The recipe and my process have evolved a lot since then, and I figured it was time to write it all out. I use a pressure cooker, but i’ve included instructions for stovetop or pressure cooking.


  • 2 Smoked Ham Hocks
  • 2-3 boxes of chicken broth/stock
  • 1-2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp or more crushed red pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp bacon fat/olive oil/lard
  • Ham, cubed (optional)*
  • Collard Greens (4 typical grocery bundles, maybe 2 pounds?), washed, cut, dried**
  • 2 cans Pinto or White beans, drained and rinsed (or home cooked equivalent)

If you’ve got a pressure cooker, this is REAL easy. If not, it’s still easy but it’s a long long simmer to get the base broth done. I’ll give instructions for both.

Phase 1, broth it up

Over medium heat in a stock pot (or saute setting in your pressure cooker), heat the bacon fat, then add the onions, paprika and crushed red pepper, then cook until onions are soft. Add the garlic and stir continuously for a minute or so (don’t burn the garlic), then dump in one box of chicken stock. Mix/stir this mess up, then put the ham hocks in.

If pressure cooker: 90 minutes pressure

If stovetop: Add box #2 of stock. Bring to a boil, then low simmer for a few hours.

Phase 2, bring it all together

Once the broth is cooked, pull out the ham hocks to remove bones and skin and non-edible-ham material. Leave the good ham chunks in the broth. If you pressure cooked, move the broth to a stock pot on the stove and add the second box of stock. If you cooked on the stove, you may need to add more stock to your desired consistency to compensate for reduction.

With the broth on a good simmer, start adding the collard greens and stirring. After a minute or so in the hot broth they’ll take up a lot less space, so if it seems like you can’t fit all the greens in from the start, just do it in batches until it’s all in. If you’re adding extra ham, go ahead and do that now.

Bring back to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and feel free to add stock now to get to your desired broth consistency. Simmer for another 15 minutes or until you feel it’s right.

Additional notes:

*I usually add a bit of extra ham, or sometimes cooked sausage if i have something on hand. It’s not necessary. One thing to watch out for is that if you add a lot more ham, you may end up with a dish that’s too salty (all the salt in the dish comes from the ham)

**Here’s how I wash and cut my greens. Fill a sink with water, dump the collards in and wash thoroughly. One or two leaves at a time, I cut the thick rib out for compost or to cook in a stock (I don’t like thick collard ribs—I don’t enjoy the texture). Once you’ve got 6-8 big leafs with ribs out, roll them up like a big doobie and then cut into 1 inch slices (you’ll end up with strips). Spin or towel dry. Keep doing this over and over until you’re done. This is the only laborious part of the entire recipe, and I often do it one or two days before I cook the recipe and keep it in a loose plastic bag in the fridge.

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Poem: Keeping Watch

Keeping Watch

I am sitting with a blank page
In front of me
Ingrid colors forth boldly,
each marker’s snap fortells
a confident set of strokes.
A celebration is coming!

To my left
Zion is delicately, deliberately inking.
A portrait emerges,
fine black blades converge
over the faint orange sketch.

My page (now less blank)
is covered with the
scratches of my holding on
just a little while longer,
keeping watch.

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Creek sketch

Made this quick little drawing on the way back down from Wildcat Rock, near Fairview, NC. The midwestern winter had me yearning for a fresh walk through spring mountain air—i felt so fortunate to spend a week on the road with two of my older sons.

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A larger journey, process process process

Here are some progress images from a new 3×4 foot painting where I’m layering abstractions based loosely on photos from my walks in nature.

I’ve been interested in how music influences the improvisational aspects of my mark making, and as such I am making this painting while listening to a single album on repeat – Makaya McCraven’s “In the Moment” (which is itself built from pure improvisation). So far so good.

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I have just started exploring my way into a new painting concept I’m calling “Obverstractions.” In this series I am attempting to marry my bent toward abstraction with my passion for nature and observationally driven works, balancing these few facts about myself as an artist:

I feel most “at home” and connected to my work when it’s abstract.
Painting with observation as a starting point works for me..
Observing the natural world closely is my biggest inspiration.
I desire to connect with a “live,” improvisational energy while painting

My first couple of small attempts have proved to be instructive and validating. I’ll write more about my process as the series progresses.

Obverstraction #2. 11×14 inches, acrylic on wood.

I was encouraged by the results of the first study (below) and doubly encouraged by the second (above). To me, #2 is more successful as it arrives closer to the destination I envisioned while also departing furthest from the initial observation. I am using my mindfulness training as a compass for doing these works, and I felt that with #2 I was able to embrace uncertainty more and get into a more connected improvisational state while still channeling the subject (or at least my view of it).

Obverstraction #1. 10×10 inches, acrylic on wood.

Stay tuned for more of this work. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

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Song: Swimming (in my mind)

In my journal writing this month I continue to explore themes around accepting what is now and simply being present. I find that I spend too much time trying to recreate an image or a memory or to fulfill a story that promises to give me peace (while missing out on peace in the moment). How can I navigate the complex relationship between personal history and narratives, memory, and the now? I don’t have the answers yet (probably will never) but “Swimming,” in a sense, is a mindful acknowledgement of this conundrum.

This recording captures my intention well. I recorded the guitar part in the front porch in the evening with the stereo condenser mic that’s built into my recorder, so you can hear all of the wonderful ambient bug and street noises. For the vocals, I mixed a close mic and a room mic to further the “I’m right there” vibe. I may add to the arrangement and tweak some lyrics in the coming weeks, but I am happy to have dislodged the writing block and to be re-inspired for songwriting.

Swimming (in my mind)

If you convince me,
convince me to leave,
I’m not sure I’ll ever know what to believe.
Was it there in those gold times before we quit?
I don’t think I was dreaming,
I’m still swimming in it.

I’m still swimming in my mind.

And if I convince you,
convince you to stay,
I’m not sure you’ll ever be here anyway.
It was real in those gold times, before the wars.
I’m still up to my earlobes
and you are standing on shore.

I’m still swimming in my mind.

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Macro nature

I purchased a little clip-on macro lens for my phone and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It has caused me to look more closely at what’s around me. Here are some highlights.

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May River and Palmetto Tree

This small painting of the May River and marshes at high tide captured the scene and the moment pretty well without overdoing it. It was my first time using the great new Holbein gouache paints that I received got as a gift last Christmas. They are really wonderful to use compared to the cheap-o stuff i was working with earlier. There is enough pigment to do supple washes and also highly saturated or deep parts. The layering is divine..

May River Marshes. Gouache on Paper, 2020

I really enjoy the act of creating observation work in nature. It helps focus my attention on the beauty and complexity of the world around me. This Palmetto tree is one of the more complex things i’ve attempted to draw recently and I like it.

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