The last few weeks have been all about the Halloween costumes. Of course the kids' first requests were for all the horrible commercial characters I can't seem to screen out of their radar no matter how hard I try–Spiderman etc. But once we got past that I was happy that both of them came up with fun, imaginative costume ideas–a king cobra and a jellyfish. I'm pretty sure the jellyfish idea came from the crazy jellyfish invasion we had at our local beach a few months ago, and king cobras, well I guess they're just cool and mean!
The cobra costume was definitely the more challenging project to figure out (the conceptual design always comes easily but then I really struggle with the "engineering" and pattern-making). The illuminated jellyfish was a lot of fun and came together better than I expected. At the last minute (literally, this afternoon) I decided to also give the cobra a little more 'wow" by giving him light-up eyes (LEDs that I wired to a small battery pack). Also a nice safety bonus when trick-or-treating!
Tonight I went to a “pie party” hosted by my friend, Kim Smith, for the launch of her new book of collages called “Where Quirky Meets Menacing.” Instead of the usual cocktail party fare, she and her friend Catharine made a stunning array of homemade pies–ten different varieties (apple, banana cream, blueberry-peach, cherry, chocolate with cream cheese & candied orange, chocolate bourbon with pecans, lemon meringue, pumpkin, strawberry-rhubarb, and even a savory “doggie pie” for the one canine that attended). She served the pie with a glass of either wine or whiskey–definitely a nice change of pace from the cheese and cracker scene!
I try to keep my personal life out of this blog but I've been going through some rough relationship stuff that's made it hard to write here lately (and probably for awhile to come). Without getting into it, I just wanted to give some kind of explanation for whatever lackluster (or plain lack of) content there is to come. Apologies in advance.
When I'm struggling with my own issues though I find it helpful to try and focus on the big picture, something outside of myself. So this weekend I drove four hours to Reno with three friends to volunteer for Obama's campaign in the battleground state of Nevada.
After the 2004 election I was so disheartened (depressed, devastated etc.) I felt compelled to make a short narrative film to express my concerns about what I saw happening in the United States. Little did I imagine that four years later we would have a Vice-Presidential candidate (I'm talking about Sarah Palin now) who is frighteningly reminiscent of the cautionary fictional character we created in the film. (Worse than my worst nightmare!)
This time I don't want to wake up on November 5th feeling sick to my stomach and trying to incite change after the damage has already been done. I want to participate in our democracy NOW while I can actually accomplish something. This is my country too, and it won't reflect me if I don't get out there and make myself heard and seen and counted. I hope everybody who can is doing the same.
Back in February a friend turned me on to an entertaining documentary film “I Like Killing Flies” about the eccentric and churlish NYC restauranteur, Kenny Shopsin. (Definitely worth viewing and available to watch online at Netflix.) Now Shopsin has come out with his own book called, “Eat Me” which combines his iconoclastic life philosophies with his recipes for down-home cooking (and a foreward by Calvin Trillin). With selections like “Macaroni & Cheese Pancakes,” this clearly isn’t a gourmet read, but under his rude and cranky exterior Shopsin has a lot of heart and some pretty right-on ideas about life. A very good follow-up to the film. Recommended!
I am a big fan of a picnic, well, actually of any kind of eating outdoors. I love the juxtaposition of well-prepared food in a raw and rustic setting and the heightened sensory experience of tasting food in the fresh air (in any climate). One Thanksgiving I actually transported the entire hot meal (turkey, stuffing et al.) from home to a nearby picnic site overlooking the SF Bay (we were lucky because it was a beautiful California fall day–cool, clear and crisp). I think it was the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.
This past July, Mark Bittman (love that guy) wrote a fantastic article for the NY Times called “101 20-Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics.” Of course that was an immediate delicious tag for me. I already have quite a few longstanding picnic favorites (last summer we practically lived on Moroccan-Style Potato and Egg Sandwiches or Vietnamese Noodle Salads for dinners at the beach) but it’s always good to have new additions to the repertoire.
So yesterday when I was making yet another futile attempt at clearing my desk and came across some of my notes about Bittman’s article, it put me in a picnic kind of mood. I called a couple of friends and suggested an early dinner at the beach with all our kids. I wanted to whip up something quick from the article but then remembered the pork tenderloin in the fridge that I needed to use. Argh.
Since I didn’t have much time and wanted to use ingredients on hand, I decided to convert the tenderloin into thin cutlets that I could bread and fry “Milanese” style and then make into transportable sandwiches. I added some fresh arugula from the garden and hard-boiled eggs and the result was a improv version of Crispy Pork Cutlets with Capers, Arugula and Chopped Eggs sandwich-style. Delicious!
It was a little windy but still the perfect way to wrap up a summer filled with outdoor food outings. The only disappointment was that at the last minute one of our friends and his kids had to cancel. We all missed them but I can’t say I’m sorry about having the leftovers! (I’ll have to make it up to them next time with something yummy from the Bittman article.)
Last night I went to a party at Workspace artists' studio in San Francisco. It was a fun scene with music by Go Van Gogh and the work shown was curated by Deborah-Jean Harmon, Director of Hang Art. The highlight of the evening for me was seeing Jonah Burlingame's paintings and talking with him about his process. I really like the way he blends organic forms with graphic compositions + he has great titles for the work. He calls the painting above "Let's Compare The Imagined Affair." Love it!
Afterwards had a yummy Ligurian dinner at Farina. Wish I had some of that focaccia right now.
(Photo courtesy of Jonah Burlingame)
I'm surprised at how fast my wheat has grown! Already a few inches high in less than a week. What immediate gratification.
The first rains of the year are about to arrive so I’m glad I just planted all my winter garden seeds. Usually I don’t grow a winter garden (except a legume cover crop) but this year I felt the urge to have a more active connection to nature throughout the year. I didn’t plant too much–a few varieties of lettuce, chard, and carrots–but my big experiment for the season is trying to grow winter wheat.
My inspiration for planting wheat was an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about micro wheat growers. I just loved the idea of being able to mill my own flour so the very same day I purchased a 5-lb. bag of white winter wheat seed from Peaceful Valley.
Prairie fantasies aside, I’m actually fairly doubtful about being able to grow a successful crop in my temperate Northern California climate (not enough of a freeze for the requisite dormancy period), but I’m excited to try. At the very minimum it will be a pretty green cover crop that inhibits weeds, but I would be thrilled if I could actually harvest!
One of the things I love most about these gardening experiments is the opportunity for learning. If I’m able to successfully grow this crop there will be so much to discover about how and when to harvest, thresh, mill etc. Looking forward to whatever the process has to teach!
For as long as I can remember (probably dating back to my childhood
playhouse) I've always had a very strong attraction to sheds, shacks,
cabins, bungalows–all kinds of solitary, one-room dwellings. I'm also really drawn to weathered, rusted and deteriorating maritime locations and structures–old barges, boathouses etc.
So today I literally stopped in my tracks when I was driving in an industrial part of town and saw this abandoned pilot house by the side of the road. Both my shack and maritime loves rolled into one. Wow. I'd love to convert this into a freestanding studio for myself…
Today I pulled out the last of the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sunflowers etc. Most of the plants were already starting to decompose but the zinnias still had some beautiful blooms.