Sunday, October 03, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Monday, August 02, 2010
Have I written here about Nia? Probably not. Where to start?
I stumbled into classes at our local community center last fall after realizing that inhaling chlorine on a regular basis probably offset any gains I was making in the pool. I was initially attracted to the Nia classes I'd spied through the studio doors because everyone looked like they were having so much fun. Seriously--people grinning in an exercise class? I had to check it out.
During my first class I felt wildly self conscious, like I had two or three left feet. I stressed myself out trying to get the choreography and then suddenly, when I stopped thinking and started feeling, it all came together. I found myself remembering my years as a dancer and realizing that dancer was still deep down inside me somewhere and maybe it was time to let her out.
My goodness that all sounds terribly woo woo, doesn't it?
But the simple fact that I've willingly gotten out of bed 2 or 3 times weekly to exercise for the past 11 months is nothing short of miraculous so I will just accept the magic, thanks very much. For months that's been enough. In fact, I was almost afraid to learn more about Nia. Why ask questions when it works?
And yet...and yet I just recently hit a point where I realized that, God willing, this will be part of the rest of my life. And it suddenly felt ok to ask questions, to dig deeper, to learn more. And just about that time, an email dropped in to my inbox, promoting an opportunity to find out more. There's that magic again.
I sent in my money, packed up a day's worth of snacks, and dove in to 13 hours of learning and moving in a beautiful, light-filled, high-ceilinged studio that was the perfect place to listen and watch and think. I don't get a while lot of time like that so this felt very special.
What exactly did we learn? Nia is a fusion of 9 different movement forms: moden dance, jazz dance, Duncan dance, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, yoga, aikido, tai chi, and tae kwon do. While I knew this, I didn't know much about these individually, and I certainly hadn't thought about how each of these relates to what we do in Nia. This workshop was an opportunity to learn about the various disciplines through discussion, video, and practice. There was a great deal to think about and ample opportunity to watch masters in action and then practice in both controlled and creative ways. There were lots of folks there with far more knowledge and experience than I have and it was wonderful to learn from all of them.
My re-entry wasn't easy. I pushed myself too hard and I was tired, sore, and ravenous when I made it home last night but I also had that profoundly satisfying sense of having made enriching connections. I can't wait to take what I've learned into the studio tomorrow and after.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Nothing to worry about, of course. The sun returned soon enough but not before I happened upon these beautifully jeweled sage leaves.
Monday, July 12, 2010
13 months is all we had with Romeo but they were months filled with head butts and belly rubs, a deep, rumbly purr, and the most loving personality I've ever encountered in a feline. I'll be honest--if I were allowed to choose, I'd have gladly handed over a couple of our other cats if that could somehow keep Romeo with us, but it doesn't work that way, does it?
I don't understand how a cat gets cancer. Smoking? Bad living? Romeo had no bad habits apart from an incessant need for snuggling. He was coddled from the day he showed up, given the best food, brushed and petted and adored like no cat before. But all that love couldn't protect him from the rogue cells that weakened him to the point that he was too frail to withstand today's surgery.
He walked in to our house one day out of nowhere and added something indescribable to our family. He was the sweetest, gentlest of cats and he will be sorely missed.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Image by conjunction3 via FlickrWe just got back from an anniversary trip to Seattle. Because the kids were elsewhere we had the unusually delightful pleasure of being able to eat whatever we wanted. If you've been cooking for picky kids for over a decade then you understand just how remarkable this is.
We decided that, given our relatively limited funds for this adventure, we'd rather spend less on fancy lodgings and more on good food and that was a brilliant decision! We stayed in a little studio apartment in an old building right downtown. I was a little hesitant to rent it sight unseen but when Google maps showed its location to be directly across the street from the Dahlia Bakery, out came my debit card and a reservation was made!
What I didn't realize until we arrived was that our budget studio was located right in the middle of chef Tom Douglas' Seattle dining empire. We stayed two doors down from Lola, across the street from The Dahlia Lounge, around the corner from Serious Pie and a block away from Palace Kitchen. We'd planned to have a fancy dinner at one of these well-reviewed restaurants but when we arrived in Seattle, ravenous after a 3+ hour train ride and with time to kill before we could check in to our rental apartment, we decided it was a perfect time to try Lola.
This was probably the best of many good meals on this trip. It may have been due to our hunger after the long train ride or the playing hooky feeling of ditching the kids and skipping town or maybe just plain fantastic food--whatever, this was a meal to remember. Lola's menu is Greek inspired but features fine local ingredients. We started with freshly baked pita served with skordalia, a delicious potato garlic spread. I had amazing grilled salmon kebabs served with more pita, a lovely, tangy tzatziki and amazing "smashed" potatoes which were like no potato I'd ever eaten: golden and crunchy outside with creamy insides. Unbelievable. We were unnecessarily tempted by dessert and probably and ended up overstuffed and not nearly as delighted as we'd been by the meal itself but overall it was fantastic.
We spent the afternoon and evening wandering and, remarkably, ended up hungry again after hiking up to Capitol Hill hours later. There are plenty of restaurants along Broadway but none really caught our eye until we came to Galerias Gourmet Mexican Restaurant. A quick scan of their menu showed that this is definitely not your average burrito bomb Mexican place but a place that had a variety of interesting looking, unusual dishes. We stepped inside to some truly fabulous, over the top decor: bright colors everywhere, huge paintings of intense Biblically inspired scenes, and the tallest fake flower arrangement I've ever seen. We were seated in the shadow of the awe-inspiring monster bouquet but quickly forgot it once our food came. The trio of salsas which came as a starter was delicious. Each was distinctive, well balanced, and clearly made with care. The giant, tasty margarita was quite good and a definite bargain. My entree was poblano chiles stuffed with cheese and grilled veggies and wrapped in a light, buttery pastry which was an vast improvement over the usual soggy, eggy batter found clinging to chiles rellenos.
Other great meals included an egg and asparagus sandwich on a homemade English muffin at the Dahlia Bakery, delicious chai and kheer at Traveler's Cafe, salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon's, a delightful brunch at the Dahlia Lounge (scrambled eggs with asparagus and Cougar Gold cheese and a bing cherry margarita), and some super simple but fantastic roasted corn from a cart. All so good!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
We decided to celebrate with a getaway to Seattle last weekend. The kids went off to stay with my wonderful, fabulous mother-in-law while we caught the train and headed north for a few days.
On of the frustrating parts of planning this trip was the outrageous prices for hotels in downtown Seattle. Even the simplest ones are shockingly expensive and, we imagined, probably completely lacking in charm in our price range. I kept searching and searching for something that didn't require a second mortgage and one day up popped airbnb in my search results, where we found a very inexpensive studio perfectly situated for our visit. We stayed on the second floor of The Virginian Apartments, overlooking busy 4th avenue:
We didn't really head out with much in the way of firm plans but we had a guidebook or two for ideas. We ended up at both the Olympic Sculpture Garden and the Ballard Locks on the same surprisingly beautiful day.
We walked for miles, we ate fantastic meals, and truly had a marvelous time.
Here are a few favorite photos:
And perhaps my favorite of all:
Here's to the next 20 years!
Sunday, June 06, 2010
But it's true.
Last week I made the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. This recipe is found in an entire chapter of chocolate cakes but somehow I'd never gotten around to trying this one out. Too plain, maybe. But plain and simple was what I was looking for when I was trying to put together a festive meal to welcome my kids home from two soggy days in the woods last week. Our menu included buttermilk chicken and baby potatoes cooked on the grill, herbed focaccia, and a couple of salads which should have been enough for anyone but a dessert was definitely called for.
This cake fit the bill: simple, easy, and no running to the store for ingredients. I mixed up the cake and wondered how the liquidy batter could possibly transform itself into cake. Plus, only 4 measly ounces of chocolate? I did not have high hopes.
I was totally surprised by just how good this cake was. It doesn't look like much with it's sagging, cracked top--it's all about taste. I think it's the dark brown sugar that gives it the deep flavor. It tastes rich and complex but without the intensity or fuss of the "death by chocolate" genre of cakes. Which, for better or worse, means it's far too easy to have a second (or third) piece. I made the cake again later in the week just to make sure it really was a winner and I am happy to report that the first time was not a fluke.
The only change I made was the addition of a bit of salt because as far as I'm concerned all sweets taste better with a touch of salt.
The recipe is here. Go make it NOW!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
This holiday weekend, however, my lovely have been taken (by their lovely grandparents) to a hiking lodge in the gorge. I don't want to think about what they're eating but we are eating quite well. As soon as they left yesterday morning we headed out to the Flavour Spot waffle cart where I thoroughly enjoyed a tasty waffle wrapped, burrito style, around a creamy maple filling and topped generously with crunch toasted pecans. That kept me going nearly all day until a dinner at Por Que No made even tastier by the rum-laced mango agua fresca. We then headed out for hours of dancing and returned home ravenous. I don't know why I don't pack the car with snacks on the nights we go dancing as we are always starving when we leave but luckily I had a few of my father's heavenly sourdough biscuits tucked away and they hit the spot toasted and topped with Tillamook cheddar.
We had a very late Cuban style breakfast at Pambiche* complete with a basket of delicious pastries and cafe cubano. Their breakfast plates are full of nice little sides like friend plantain, tropical fruit salad, and other goodies so they are a bargain as you won't need lunch. What you will need is a walk and during ours we pretty much talked about....food.
I just borrowed Tessa Kiros' lovely Falling Cloudberries from the library for the second time. Nothing will pull you out of a cooking rut faster than one of her books. They are filled with gorgeous photos, family stories, and delicious recipes that are neither the usual humdrum fare nor terribly unfamiliar. The photos are spectacular enough that I would almost consider violating my admittedly lax standards of kashrut to try a bit of calamari. But not to worry, there are plenty of other dishes that I can happily eat either as written or with only slight modification.
After this morning's picadillo, a simple vegetarian meal sounded perfect. I've always wanted to try to make a pan-fried halloumi at home so that was a given and the chickpea salad with feta and cilantro sounded like a good match. What surprised me was just how nicely the cilantro went with the chickpeas. Onion and garlic-scented olive oil makes a simple, tasty dressing. I added the zast of the lemon I'd juiced but it occured to me later that some of the preserved lemons I have, finely chopped, might be a nice way to incorporate the lemon flavor. I took more than my fair share of "tastes" before getting this dish to the table and I think this will be a frequent dish this summer.
Of course I couldn't quite follow the recipe exactly given what we had on hand so my take on the recipe can be found here.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 04, 2010
Fast forward a week. I've made Meyer lemon sorbet, Moroccan preserved lemons, and I marinated our Passover chicken in lemon juice before drizzling with honey and roasting to perfection. Even after sharing a few of my precious stash I have a few more lovelies in the bowl.
I don't know why but in the middle of our return to winter (dark, rainy skies and chilly air) I needed another batch of that sorbet. But this time I topped it with some rhubarb that had been stewed with a bit of sugar and a vanilla bean and then chilled overnight. This was nothing sort of heaven! Meyer lemon and rhubarb are made for each other, a perfectly puckery pair!
I used the sorbet recipe from Simply Recipes (doubled!) and then made stewed rhubarb in the usual way. What? You haven't made stewed rhubarb? OK--fine, then. Take a couple of pounds of rhubarb stalks, wash them, and cut into 1" chunks. Throw your chunks in a pot with some water and and sugar, maybe half a cup of each. A slit vanilla bean is a nice addition, too. Simmer gently until the rhubarb breaks down and then taste. Adjust for sweetness. Cool before serving over Meyer lemon sorbet (but serve warm over waffles and pancakes).
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Yesterday we had another opportunity to walk and learn with the ever fabulous Peter Chausse who leads fascinating walking tours of Portland. I've lived here my whole life but each time we go out with him I see and learn new things. Perhaps the most memorable fact of the day: who knew there were Transformers on the Governor Hotel? If you click on the collage above, it will magically appear larger and you'll have no trouble spotting them.
Monday, March 15, 2010
In the 8 weeks since our little group started we've done well enough that our teacher Sushmita decided to put us up on stage twice last weekend, complete with garish custom-made costumes and an astonishing amount stage makeup. I knew that the opportunity to perform would be offered to us but I didn't think it would come so soon and I figured my debut would be in some dinky little community center or grade school cafeteria.
In fact, we went on stage at The Roseland, a huge venue where we saw Manu Chao a few years ago. There were a few dance groups performing before "India's Most Famous DJ" came onstage and, surprisingly enough, hundreds of people showed up for our warm up acts. Yes, it was just a little tiny bit nerve wracking but we were great--at least it sounded that way from the applause.
Saturday evening we were part of a community Holi celebration which was a completely different experience. Friday night was all young hipsters, Saturday was a family event with lots of little kids all over the place and numerous performances--dance, poetry, theater which was all in Hindi so I had only the slightest idea about what was going on which was actually fine.
Both events ended with dancing and especially Saturday's dancing with local DJ Prashant was the best-- a perfect way to let go after the mild terror of being on stage. Despite the terror, it was loads of fun and I can't wait for our next performance.
Friday, February 19, 2010
My 91 year old grandmother called yesterday and told me she had a huge thing to ask of me but first there was a story.....
Her brother (my Uncle Arthur) made a recent discovery while going through some papers. You should know that Arthur has been "going through his papers" for as long as I can remember so how he could possibly find anything new is beyond me but apparently he recently did.
What he found was a sealed letter from my great grandmother Ida which wasn't to be opened until her death. Ida was a lovely woman. She was short and plump, with beautiful silver hair that she wore in 2 braids pinned on top of her head until her very last years. She wore clunky shoes and plaid wool shirts and mostly smelled like sugar because she was always in the kitchen, baking. She moved from NYC to Portland when I was a baby, into a small apartment right behind my high school. I was lucky to know her until she died in 1982 when I was 16.
I am not sure how her letter got overlooked in my uncle's extensive file system but it had a number of requests relating to her death and afterward. As it turns out, most of her requests had been carried out anyway but for one. My grandmother started crying when she told me that her mother had asked that a yartzeit candle be lit for her each year.
Given my family history it's nothing short of miraculous that I am a practicing Jew today. My father isn't Jewish. My mother came from Orthodox Jews on her father's side and adamantly secular Jews on her mother's side. Part of my grandparents' decision to leave New York and come to Portland in the 1950's was about getting away from Judaism--all that Old World superstition and tradition. My grandfather's experience with Judaism as a child was oppressive and without joy so he wanted no part of Jewish life as an adult. My grandmother's family were the classic politically active, intellectual, lefty types of folks who had no use for religion.
When my grandparents came to Portland, they didn't join a synagogue. There was no religious education for my mother and aunt. When I was growing up, we gathered for some holidays but I was in college before I realized, for example, that most Jews say a blessing while lighting the candles at Chanukah. I had to figure out what being Jewish meant on my
own as an adult.
I don't talk about that much with my family. Jewish observance is an awkward
subject with both my Jewish and non-Jewish relatives--which is why this conversation with my grandmother felt so very significant.
Both my great uncle and my grandmother are feeling awful that this one simple request had been ignored all these years. Both feel like, now that they know, they still can't commit as they're both over 90 and don't know how much longer they'll be with us. So my grandmother asked me today if I would accept this responsibility.
So, of course I will be lighting the yartzeit candle in my great grandmother's memory. I'd always wanted to but it was such a touchy subject I didn't know how to approach it. I already feel a little bit guilty when I light the candle for my grandfather every autumn. I think he'd surely disapprove but when I finally confessed to my grandmother today, she assured me he would be honored.
My house is full of my great grandmother's beautiful old furniture. Each morning I take my clothes out of her old dresser. Our Chanukah menorahs are lit on the same old oak buffet where she lit hers. And every week, I braid my challah on the same wooden bread board that she used for her delicious baking. So I don't know that I need to light a candle to remember her, but it does feel like both an honor and a very strong connection to those who came before me.
It's funny how things work out, isn't it?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sadly, I found the pattern just a little too challenging for my over tired brain and I realized (after buying the patten since there's no way to see it and judge the difficulty before plunking down the cash) that I just didn't feel like working that hard right now. I browsed the other lace cowl patterns on Ravelry and had a very Goldilocks type of experience. Everything was either too complicated or too simple.
And so I decided to wing it. After making two February Lady Sweaters in the past year, I have that simple lace pattern burned into my brain so I figured I'd use that. I added in purl columns between the repeats which I enlarged toward the bottom to provide a little more chest coverage. Made up in the heavenly merino yarn I chose, it's light as a whisper and absolutely itchless. It worked up quickly, even on tiny needles, and I was so delighted with the end result that I wrote my first ever knitting pattern to share with anyone who'd like to give it a go. If you do give it a try, please let me know of the pattern makes sense.
*Chutzpadik is Yiddish for .... ballsy. I can think of no better description for a new business that opens just 2 blocks from one of Portland's oldest yarn shops. Because I've never had a good experience in that well established shop, I was more than a little tickled at the audacity shown by Happy Knits and I look forward to visiting that beautiful shop as often as my wallet permits.
You could certainly play around with different cheeses and seasonings but we are always pretty happy with a simple blend of Tillamook cheddar and Parmesan. I like these served with roasted potatoes and a simple vegetable on the side.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Image via WikipediaI don't talk too much about music with most folks I know given that I have rather odd tastes and tend to be completely out of the loop regarding mainstream music. An example: I only recently was introduced to Radiohead...and was not impressed. There's no one with whom I can readily debate the relative merits of say Sukhwinder Singh vs Sonu Nigam. I know, I know. Blank looks, right? I am not even going to try and convince you to listen to my favorite Bollywood vocalists or gypsy brass bands.
But you might want to give Lhasa de Sela a try. She's been in regular rotation at our house for well over a decade since my friend Beth gave me her first CD. We were fortunate to be able to see her live when she toured following her second CD release and it was a thrilling experience. Her fantastic throaty voice, accompanied only by a standup bass, filled the theater and everyone in the audience was transported by her singing. Her songs might be Spanish, French, or English but the language hardly matters--you can't help but understand.
On New Year's Eve I introduced an appreciative friend to her music, only to learn that she died of breast cancer the next day at her home in Montreal. At 37 years old. Hers was a fascinating, free spirited life but it was way, way too short.
I don't pay a lot of attention to the passing of celebrities, but this one hit me hard. With only three recordings, it seemed she had so much more to offer the world with her lovely voice. I read that she'd been planning to record the songs of Chileans Violetta Parra and Victor Jara -- I would have loved to have heard that, along with any other project she might have been involved in. What a loss.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
It's funny--I felt as though I didn't accomplish nearly as much as I'd have liked in terms of making things in 2009. But when I went through the photos (and factored in all the things that I'd given away before photos were taken) it turns out that I did quite a lot of sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, beading, and spinning. I made pillows for my couch, clothes for my daughter and myself, and lots to give as well. Seeing all these projects thrown together in a photo collage I realize just how consistent my color sense is--no neutrals for me, thanks!
Here's pattern info for anyone interested in making some of these projects. Top to bottom and left to right:
February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne made with Dream in Color "Classy" worsted. I just finished this the other day but I can't wait a whole year to show it off. I love, love, LOVE it! Also, no surprise here, I love my Romeo, too.
Pixie Hat-- sized for a newborn
A thrifted t-shirt which I embellished with stencils and embroidery. No pattern here--I was just winging it. I learned something cool, though. Fabric paint makes a good stabilizer for embroidering on knits.
Patchwork border skirt. Also out of my head!
Sundress based on the one in Heather Ross' Weekend Sewing though I confess she lost me about halfway through the project and had to figure out how to attach the bodice to the skirt on my own.
Sofa pillows I made without a pattern. I had my talented friend Corby make a new cover for my couch using ikea fabric and realized there was no way to old pillows would do, so I used remnants of the cover fabric along with something I found at Fabric Depot and a lovely Japanese cotton that was given to me years ago and was thrilled with how they came out.
Reverse Applique Swing Skirt--I made this over many months following the directions in The Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin. I dyed the fabric myself and, because the pattern didn't really work for a curvy girl like myself, I added an extra panel and cut the width in order to make it fit without being too large. This was a huge project and very likely the handmade item I'm proudest of.
My second Noro shawl, following this pattern and using 8 different balls of Kureyon and Silk Garden. This is a hard pattern to beat for fun and loveliness.
Some handspun yarn--I can't remember who dyed it.
The Prairie Blouse from Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner. I amde this using some lovely linen I had lying around and it wasn't too hard. But now I need to move the bias elastic casing down the body as my little one is growing like a weed!
The Pin Cushion Caddy, also from Seams to Me. This one kind of blew my my 3-D challenged mind but it is a fine pincushion which served me well during the making of the skirt mentioned above.
One of two beaded bracelets I made in a class taught by my friend Catherine. I loved the class, loved the process, and loved the results.
My second ripple afghan, this one is watery blues and greens. This was based on the Pink Ripple stitch pattern in Jan Eaton's book 200 Ripple Stitch Patterns. These are so much fun to make--the crocheting is easy (well, one you've gotten off to a good start--thanks, Sari!) and putting the colors together is a joy.
Last is my first February Lady Sweater which I made with cashmerino yarn that I had lying around. The yarn didn't have enough body for the sweater to hold its shape so it was a big disappointment but the process allowed me to plan for my second of these sweaters which I truly love.
In addition to this, there were the Felicity hats that got away before being photographed, some appliqued banners, a silk scarf for my grandmother, and more. I have a few projects lined up for 2010, but I'm always on the lookout for more, so do feel free to share any great ideas with me.
Wishing those of you that make things happy making in 2010!