Monday, December 31, 2007

Turn, Turn, Turn

The new year is upon us. The turn of the year always offers a time for reflection, resolve and planning. I love the "blank slate" feeling of entering a new year.

My head is in the clouds today and I feel a bit like Janus, simultaneously looking forward and back. I am making a concerted effort to live 2008 with more intent, more presence and am trying to determine the specific ways I might accomplish that.

I've been reading blogs, literally from around the world, this morning. To my delight, everyone seems to be able to find original words and original ways to usher in the new year. My words are by no means original but I'm holding "peace" and "joy" in my heart today.

What words are you holding close as we enter a new year?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Since when are ornaments sold without the little hooks to attach them to the tree?

Yesterday I excavated lights, trees skirt, and garland from the garage. I couldn't find ornaments in the right color; we've had several waves of tree themes over the years.

Today, I ran out and purchased a few boxes of simple silver orbs to finish the tree. No issue with the ornaments themselves. However, there were no little wire hooks in any of the boxes. I checked my old ornaments and found, to my dismay, no little wire hooks. What am I missing here?

It was a challenge to get the ornaments into a stable place on the tree. Do people no longer use little wire hooks to hang ornaments? Aaargh!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Haiku: Container

One Deep Breath's prompt this week is "Container." Container? It took me a while to connect to the prompt but this morning's rainy, windy Northern California weather showed the way.

Hands wrapped around mug
Hot coffee fragrances the
Windy, rainy morn

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Haiku: Boulders, Rocks, Stone & Pebbles

One Deep Breath's prompt for the week is "boulders, rocks, stone & pebbles." Hmm. Here's the haiku that showed up for me:

Pocket full of stones
Treasure gathered from the earth
By tiny fingers

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Fine Read

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food. Jones is a fine author but made her mark as editor par excellence at Knopf. She was responsible for bringing The Diary of Anne Frank into print. That alone would seem to be the accomplishment of a lifetime. However, Jones also discovered and published Julia Child, Claudia Rosen, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey and Irene Kuo, to name a few.

The Tenth Muse treats Jones' life from privileged childhood through Paris sojourn, where she meets the man of her dreams, and back to create a life in New York and Vermont. The book provides an engaging portrait of a young woman's coming of age after World War II and moves through the joys and challenges of her professional and personal life. However, let's be clear; this isn't an exhaustive autobiography. Jones falls in love with a married man and waits for his divorce; she treats them always a couple but his children and his ex-wife are not really addressed. Two adopted children appear and then are rarely mentioned again. Authors move in and out of the narrative as situations and story lines allow. I wouldn't call this a comprehensive portrait but rather a series of linked sketches. Still, the book works and is a compelling read.

There are two important things about this book. First and most directly, The Tenth Muse provides a great window in the burgeoning food culture in the United States in the last half of the 20th century. This is the time that America literally learned to cook and Jones was very much a part of that scene. It's worth noting that the scene is very much East Coast centric, New York specifically; luminaries such as Alice Waters seem not have intersected Jones' life or at least didn't make the final edit. Nevertheless, her firsthand experiences, insights into, and shaping of the leading culinary influences of the day prove to be a fascinating read.

What I appreciate most of all about Jones' book is the joy of the amateur made good. She journeys to Paris and stays with nothing more with a desire to develop her taste and a need to work. This is the classic liberal arts student (literally) tasting success. She develops as a person and a professional but conveys a curiosity, desire and spirit that make me long for a seemingly freer age, where opportunity seems to be at arm's reach.

If food is a passion or you wonder how many of our leading culinary influences found the light of broad public acceptance, give The Tenth Muse a read. I think you'll be delighted with Judith Jones. I am still marveling at her independence, boldness, and gifts with words and food.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Today is the biggest shopping day of the year. I didn't. I find the idea of Buy Nothing Day increasingly appealing. And, let's face it, I don't have a clue yet as to the shape of my holiday gift giving. Today, I did not contribute to the consumer economy. In the next couple of weeks, I will contribute but hopefully in a thoughtful and rational way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Work in Progress

Thanksgiving dinner prep is underway. The turkey is taking its bath in brine. We have completed roasting chestnuts. The maple pumpkin pot de creme are complete, wonderfully fragrant, and chilling in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow morning begins the marathon of stuffings and roasting squash prior to the bird taking center stage . . . and oven.

More to come.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Menu

The die is cast. I've finally settled on the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner. I am now ready to cook!

Our turkey arrived today from the good folks at Whirlie Bird in Sonoma; organic and free range are promising. I'll also be brining the beast beginning tomorrow afternoon, using Alton Brown's recipe.

In my family, oyster stuffing (we say dressing) is a tradition. I'll jazz mine up with double the bivalves, fresh herbs, and bakery fresh (but allowed to dry out) bread.

My husband found a great variety of chestnuts this year, so we'll be adding chestnut stuffing to the list.

Tom Colicchio's potato puree sounds wonderful.

Fennel salad with olives and oranges should add color to the table, as should roasted butternut squash with thyme and either Gorgonzola or Roquefort cheese. We'll do an uncooked cranberry relish with orange, too.

Dessert will be maple pumpkin pot de creme. Light, prepared ahead but still wonderfully seasonal.

Our holiday guests, my cousins, don't eat meat or poultry. We'll fire up the grill and share alder-smoked salmon with them.

I'm off to hunt down a good Pinot Noir to accompany the meal.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Haiku: Adventure

Here's a haiku inspired by One Deep Breath's prompt of adventure.

The first image that came to mind was that of my Labradors and their exuberance at the daily walk. For we humans, it's a chore; for them, it's a daily adventure.

Tugging at the leash
Nostrils flaring, bent to ground
Walk as adventure

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Good Day Swimming

The kiddos swim. Every Saturday they're in the pool, learning how to move from point A to point B. Today marked a couple of milestones.

Lauren, at 4 1/2, informed her teacher that she wanted to swim without the float belt. And she did it. Forward crawl, floating, jumping in . . . all without the float belt. Go Lauren!

Graham, at 6, is a Minnow in the YMCA pantheon. The smallest little fish in the class. Today was a very different swim lesson. Lessons are in the lap pool, seven feet deep and about ten degrees colder than the instructional pool. The teacher does not actually get in the water but coaches the kids from the (dry, warm) side. I watched Graham navigate across 25 yards of water at a stretch, treading water to catch his breath. I hoped beyond hope he wouldn't disappear in all that blue water. At the end of class, his teacher said he was a strong swimmer. We just need to work on that breaststroke kick. Huzzah! Go Graham!

It's important to me and to the kids (although they don't really know it yet) to have a go-to physical activity. Today, the Delman kids confirmed that they are swimmers, tired but happy water sprites.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Joy of Audio Books

If you haven't picked up on it yet, this blogger is an avid reader. I have two to three books going at any given time. I always have a book at my side. Enough said.

As much as I love to read, I also love to listen. I can't get enough of audio books. It's reading with the ears. In some ways, listening to books can be more satisfying than reading them the traditional way. Nothing beats Sherlock Holmes with the right accent. The sound of detective V.I. Warshawski's voice, from author Sara Paretsky, will forever be linked to my listening to (as well as reading) the books. Reading the great "cozy" mysteries of Elizabeth Peters is one thing; hearing the Egyptian and Arabic words properly pronounced is a gift.

Right now, I'm ripping John Krakauer's Into the Wild to my iPod. I look forward to the audio adventure.

I encourage everyone to add a new dimension to reading and listen to books., your library, whatever the source . . . open your ears to your "reading" and you'll never experience a book the same way.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

One of those Moments . . .

Or why I love the web. Let me explain.

Tonight my son is obsessed with leeches. I cannot say why this occured or what triggered this particular interest. I do know that the boy has questions. In the old days, we would pull out an encyclopedia . . . . if there happened to be one in the house. Now we check it out on the web. There are pictures of leeches, stories of leeches, more leech information than we could ever use. Say what you will, I am grateful for and somewhat addicted to the immediacy of information we have. I wonder how information on demand will continue to change as my little guy grows up . . . .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just Closed the Cover On . . .

. . . Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co by Jeremy Mercer.

I love books and bookstores. Jeremy Mercer has shared a fascinating portrait of life inside the famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. It's a charming memoir about his time living there. Yes, people--many, actually--reside at Shakespeare & Co. Proprietor George Whitman (no relation to Walt, despite the portrait outside) welcomes strays into his shop for bed, food, and esprit de corps.

What amazed me as I read this book is that Mercer writes about his time at Shakespeare & Co beginning in 1999. If I didn't keep that in mind, I would have read this as a chronicle of the '60s or '70s, a much more freewheeling and experimental era.

Mercer does a great job developing his characters, most notably friends Kurt and owner George. Mercer chronicles his own challenges, fears, and ultimate triumph and paints a sweet, though eccentric, picture of life there. We see relationships forming and unraveling, scavenging for food, and bathing in public spaces. Underneath it all is the joy and power of books.

Mercer's book is a delightful read for the bookishly inclined. It'a amazing that a place like Shakespeare and Co exists, indeed thrives.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Haiku on Belonging

Another One Deep Breath prompt: Belonging

And the haiku based on it:

His rough hand and mine
Grasp their smooth, slender fingers
We are family

Monday, November 12, 2007

At His Request

My son just asked me to write out two pages of math problems . . . single and double digit addition. He completed them with great spirit and joy. The reason, I believe, he did this stems from the fact he attends a progressive school, part of the Palo Alto public school system. The only reason the Ohlone School kids have homework is if they don't finish their work during the day. That leaves evenings and parent time open for exploration . . . reading, talking, and yes, math.

The concept is that he will ultimately drive his own learning and be responsible for it. I admit to thinking "yeah, right" and "what's the downside of trying." What I see is a curious child who genuinely want to learn, to test his knowledge and increase it. He's aware of his level among his peers in math and reading. He's comfortable with it. He'll say "I'm not at that level yet." And he'll ask to practice math.

I have no idea whether Graham's curiosity and spirit will continue for four more years at Ohlone and beyond. I hope and pray it will. There's a bit of magic starting to happen now. The spark of learning and the journey to mastery are evident. I'm thrilled to be along for the ride.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just Finished Reading . . .

I just finished reading Catherine Goldhammer's Still Life with Chickens. It is very gentle and pleasant read. We enter the story at the point of Goldhammer's divorce and purchase of chickens for her daughter. She chronicles her departure from upscale "Hearts-Are-Cold" to a smaller, ramshackle beach community where her bank account runs low but not dry as she renovates her house. A year of raising the chickens sets the story line and pacing as we witness Goldhammer re-build her life. In the end, her house has become a beautiful home, the chickens and the people have truly found their place.

Goldhammer's book is worth picking up to appreciate her eye for detail and the way she moves between mundane and higher themes. You'll learn more than a bit about chickens along the way, too.

N.B. As you can tell from the giant "Search Inside" banner, I picked up the above photo from

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cocktail Satisfaction

I love a good martini. Let me say upfront that I am a martini purist. The ingredients are simple--gin or vodka, a wee bit of vermouth, olive or lemon twist--shaken with ice and ushered into the glass. Period.

My dear husband just mixed a wonderful martini with a gin called Hendricks; it has stolen our hearts. The gin comes in a squat, black bottle, seemingly a throwback to ages past. What makes Hendricks special for me is its subtle cucumber finish. In a radical departure of martini purism, we will occasionally garnish a Hendricks martini with a cucumber slice to heighten that finish. Published information on Hendricks indicates there is a note of rose there too but I find that challenging to detect.


Friday, November 09, 2007

How Have I Missed This?

Today I volunteered in my son's kindergarten/first grade classroom. His excellent teacher was reading to the class from James and the Giant Peach by Road Dahl. How did I miss this book? I got myself to a bookstore, pronto, and picked up a copy. Now, we'll be reading at home in parallel. Road Dahl can be a bit dark but definitely appeals to the kiddos.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Television for All?

We're not big television watchers, as individuals or as a family. When the tube is on, the kids tend to steer the proverbial ship. With Graham at 6 and Lauren at 4 1/2 we're beyond the little kids programs and (thankfully) not yet into High School Musical and American Idol.

Our family viewing these days revolves around Avatar and The Secret Show, both Nickelodon shows. Avatar is the story of a young boy who will come to master the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. As he makes his mythical quest, he fights the evil Fire Nation and allies himself with a brother/sister team from the Water Tribe. The Secret Show is a secret agent show gone weird, stealing airtime from Floppy Bunnies and battling the evil Doctor Doctor. Professor Professor provides wise and friendly advice and advantages.

Every family needs their downtime. This is our primetime distraction. If you've looked at the broadcast line-up of late, you know it could be much, much worse.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Haiku on Fog

NaBloPoMo is certainly a demanding mistress. I find myself thinking "and what will I write about today?"

One always-good answer is haiku. Today, I was struck by the fog that enveloped Palo Alto, making everything a bit more damp and feeling of fall.

Without further ado, today's haiku:

Fog blankets the house
Water droplets everywhere
Walking through grey clouds

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Meatball Hero

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I am pleased to report that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, has won universal acclaim with her spaghetti and meatballs . . . at least in my household. My husband returned from a business trip and came home to the scent of meatballs sauteeing in olive oil. A mere thirty minutes later and dinner was on the table; he was saying "this is delicious" as he tucked into the pasta, sauce and meatballs. Graham particularly enjoyed the red sauce, given body by Chianti. Lauren took such pride in having made meatballs, she ate two. The ultimate test of acceptance included both kids saying "I want this in my lunch tomorrow."

As mom and chef tonight, I say "huzzah!"

Monday, November 05, 2007

Putting the Best Foot Forward

We try to cook as a family most nights and have become masters of the 30 minute meal. With a six year old and a four and a half year old, we try to make mealtime as much of a calm, welcoming, if sometimes adventurous, event as possible.

This week my son had a special request: spaghetti and meatballs. Believe it or not, we've never made spaghetti and meatballs. I think he may have found his culinary inspiration in Judi and Ron Barrett's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I'm encouraged that what we read about can find its way to the dinner table, and vice versa. I want his first experience to set the benchmark.

I found this recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, and laid in the supplies today. Tomorrow will find us shaping meatballs and making the simple but delicious red sauce to grace the pasta. It's not a quick meal but I am hoping it's one to remember. Stay tuned and I'll let you know if we hit a family culinary high note!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Haiku, Loneliness Theme

Skeleton tracings
Branches shiver against sky
Above leaves' carpet

A Few Minutes' Diversion

Please check out You demonstrate your vocabulary prowess by correctly defining words (multiple choice) and Freerice donates grains of rice to those in need based on your correct answers. You clear your head, exercise your mind and others eat. Sounds like a fine arrangement to me. I've made it vocabulary level 45 before beginning to make mistakes.

I learned of Free Rice via Michael Leddy's very excellent blog, Orange Crate Art. Visit to read his writing and gain his perspective on the world.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Morning Person

I love to start my day with a strong cup of coffee and pages from a good book. The bed is still warm under the duvet, the air deliciously cool. For a while, the boundaries of my world are defined by the pool of light from my bedside lamp.

With husband, children and dogs asleep, the house is exquisitely still. The heavy grey clouds of northern California mornings act like a giant comforter, keeping everyone and everything snugly tucked in dim light a bit longer.

Joy swells my heart as the family begins to wake, stumbling and stretching, seeking hugs and snuggles or a scratch behind the ears (for the dogs). There is room now for softly spoken words or a gentle backrub.

I sip the hot, milky coffee and am conscious of my breathing. In moments, the day will burst upon us all.

Friday, November 02, 2007

An Eater of Words

I have become an eater of words. They nourish and sustain me.

I've always been a bookworm, reading any chance I have. It's been that way since childhood. I have never been more than an arm's reach from a book. Magazines are part of the diet: food, home, culture, business, photography, art, and literature. Add to that nearly 350 RSS feeds of blogs. Audiobooks and podcasts emanate from my ever-present slender white square, filling drives, chores, and otherwise lost time with words.

The challenge for me is to balance the taking in with the putting out. I may consume words but I write less than I'd like. One of the compelling aspects of November is this drive to put words out, online, on paper, however. I'm taking in great material; the opportunity is to put out equally great stuff.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November (Already)

Statement of the obvious: today is November 1. Another SOO: It has been far too long since I've written here. The great news is that any day can represent a new beginning.

For some, today marks the firing of the virtual starter gun for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. One month. 50,000 words. One novel. For the past two years, I've been thinking about it. And that's as far as I've taken it. November 1 sneaks up and catches me unawares, finding me not having thought about plot, characters, or much beyond a core idea. Ah well, there's always 2008 for a dash-to-the-finish novel effort.

In the meantime, November 1 also heralds the launch of NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month. One month. One blog post a day. Last year may have not seen profundity on a daily basis from me but my writing habit increased. Indeed, my technical sophistication did too, as I made my first moblog post in this month last year.

Here's to new beginnings, for this blog and for a more regular writing practice. Watch out world, there might be pictures too.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Around the corner stands a small Russian Orthodox church: Protection of the Holy Virgin Church. It is a tiny building but its blue onion domes help it stand out in this neighborhood of low-slung Eichler homes.

Something else makes it stand out: at 10:00 (ish) every Sunday morning, Protection of the Holy Virgin Church's bell tolls. It's not the deep, throaty toll I remember from St. Johns when I was growing up. This bell sounds more like the bells I heard at Buddhist temples in Kyoto. When I first heard the slightly tinny, high pitched ring, I assumed a neighbor had some sort of bell or gong. This is California, after all. One day, I was passing by the church and heard the bell. I'd found the source of my Sunday morning call to be present. I just heard again a few moments ago and wanted to share.

The Dog Days of Summer

The last few weeks have been filled with tinkering. I have been reading and writing. I've been cooking, drawing and picking up the camera more, too. This is all good progress but the words and images seem to stop in the physical world, not quite making the jump to the web.

I attribute this desultory wandering among topics and activities to the dog days of summer. I've never been a big summer fan. I remember long, sunny days curled up on the patio of our Midwestern home, endlessly reading books and sipping iced tea from a dewy glass. Those were happy days, indeed, but I'm happier still when I have a purpose.

August just doesn't lend itself to purpose. The month feels betwixt and between. The hot weather slows me down. The kids have completed their summer reading programs. We're down to a final week of day camp.

The beginning of the academic year always shakes out the cobwebs. It's the kids that are in school now but the turn of the year brings new energy for me. I relish mapping out the calendar, choosing activities, making sure shoes fit and ensuring that everyone has a warm sweater for the cooler fall mornings. The coming of fall brings new energy to my personal projects as well as renews my professional perspective. Soon, very soon, it will be time to get in gear again.

Just writing this and thinking of fall quickens my heart. I think I'll kindle that spark of energy and see if I can't cheat the season a bit, muscling through the next couple of weeks so I'm very ready for my favorite season. One of my summer goals was to live more in the moment. I've made good progress at that. I'm just feeling that familiar tug of fall, of future purpose and energy, and I cannot resist.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reading . . .

I've recently finished Peter Tremayne's Master of Souls, the latest in the Sister Fidelma series of mysteries. This book is deep in the series (number 16 to be exact) featuring Fidelma of Cashel, sister to the King of Muman (Ireland), advocate of the Brehon law courts, and a religieuse in the Celtic Church. As you can tell, this is a series about an accomplished woman in times where such women are few and far between. The series provides great and accurate insight into the Celtic past; Peter Tremayne is a pseudonym for Peter Berresford Ellis, a noted scholar of Celtic history.

This particular book features Fidelma and her husband, Eadulf, solving the mystery of the disappearance of a group of religieuse. The abbess leading the group is murdered and warring clans need to set politics aside to enable a solution to the murder. Fidelma also finds bloodshed at the abbey she uses as a temporary residence; this murder links to those gone missing on pilgrimage.

The final reveal of the murderous culprit hearkens back to Fidelma and Eadulf's earlier adventures, making this a good read but, with prior volumes under one's belt, an even more satisfying and complex tale.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lessons From My LIttle Ones

Hanging out with Graham and Lauren this weekend, I see two key behaviors that I could benefit from applying to my adult life. Following the little ones' lead could result in a pretty joyous time.

First, the kids create like crazy. They are constantly building, drawing, painting, collaging, making me bookmarks, asking to write poems and stories. Yes, they can be couch potatoes too, but their first and primary orientation is to make stuff and express themselves. They do this with whatever is on hand and are not bound by materials or any other constraint.

(The question that follows from the above activity is "what do you do with all that stuff once it's "made."" However, I won't trouble myself about that right now.)

Secondly, the kids are always learning. It's Graham practicing his lower case letters, Lauren doggedly trying to write her name, both of them seeing what new colors come from mixing paint. When we read, they're always asking "why" and "what does that word mean." The kids are continually taking it all in, processing it, and trying their best to use it. None of this is a chore but rather a simple joy. They reach for learning as easily as they reach for a pencil.

My resolutions: a) focus on creating more . . . more stuff, more freely, with a greater sense of play b) pay attention to what I can be learning at any time, embrace it, and use it!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Alice Waters & Chez Panisse

For summer reading, I've had the pleasure of spending a several hours with Thomas MacNamee's book
Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Utterly Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution. This is a suprisingly candid, arguably unsparing, portrait of Alice Waters and the legendary restaurant Chez Panisse.

MacNamee chronicles Waters' growing fascination and delight in all things French. He covers the early years in Berkeley when Chez Panisse operated like a dining club for Water's friends. Growing pains, profit pains, a parade of chefs and stories of key staff are currents that wind and flow through the book. MacNamee brings the Water's activities up to date, including her sustainable, organic farming and Edible Schoolyard projects.

I found two key themes recurring throughout the book. First, Alice Waters has powerful vision. In spite of a variety of challenges--personal, financial, political--Waters has stayed true to this vision and willed things to be so; it has worked to an astounding degree. Secondly, the right people seem to show up at the exact moment they're needed, serendipitously, in the life of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. Whether is was chefs, staff, funding, or inspiration, the right people walk through Water's door. This is somehow, I'm sure, a byproduct of her rock-solid vision and commitment but it is still uncanny.

MacNamee is balanced in his profile and his assessments of Waters and her circle; strengths and shortcomings, moments of triumph and failure appear in equal measure. This book is a great window to food history, life in Berkeley from the 60s on, and a terrific profile of both the lady and the food legend she has created.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Amazing Blueberries

The most amazingly delicious blueberries I've ever tasted are from Sorensen's Triple Delight Blueberries. The Fresno farm produces multiple varieties of blueberries and the larger ones this season have been extraordinary . . . sweet but not overly so, heavy with juice, and rich with fragrance. We've enjoyed them in and on everything and just out of hand. My son devours a container in a single sitting. Look for the Sorensens at the Palo Alto Farmer's Market (Hamilton Avenue) and enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2007


I've been thinking about this blog a great deal of late. The question I've been tossing about concerns what this space becomes. Do I focus on food, books, family, projects, inspiration, or commentary? Do I need to spin off topics into separate blogs?

The blog is more aptly named than I had first imagined. Life is a random walk, filled with bits and pieces. Sometimes those pieces are cohesive and sometimes the center does not hold. In the end, that crazy, mixed-up world nurtures a life. I can separate things out into neat piles but that doesn't quite reflect who I am and how I live.

So what for this space? First and foremost, more consistent writing. My writing teacher suggests that this effort really is a writing practice for me. Practice I must and post I shall. I'm also going to be more diligent about tags for topics; this should enable a bit less of the crazy, mixed-up posting if you or I want to find something specific. I would love to include more photos and images here and that will require more time with a camera in hand--hooray! I love a challenge. Making this space more robust promises to be satisfying.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I awoke to the sound of birds singing this morning. I cannot imagine a more glorious beginning to the day. Yesterday was hot here on the Penninsula and last night we kept the windows open wide. Before light, birdsong made its way into my consciousness. The air was deliciously cool. Soon, the warbling, burbling, and cheeping rose in intensity with the pink-tinged dawn. Nature's morning music proved a pleasant beginning and effective motivation to rise and embrace the day.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007

Today is Earth Day. The Google logo appeared watery and blue to celebrate. Interestingly, kids seem to feel Earth Day in their little bones. My kids know more about the environment and caring for it than I certainly did at their age. The little people also motivate our family to act. We recycle more now than ever before. "You don't want to hurt the earth," says my son. My daughter currently keeps earthworms and has learned about composting. I'm now aware that I have a carbon footprint and am trying to reduce it. I've written about small steps toward greening our household. My mother in Decatur, Illinois (!) has taken to using microfiber cloths to dust furniture. She trumps my unbleached paper towel habit. This weekend, I unwrapped the microfiber cloths. This represents another steps toward my goal of "six green acts in 2007."

The bottom line is that every bit helps: a microfiber cloth, a flourescent bulb, recycling, composting. Do what you can and we all benefit. Push a little harder and we benefit all the more. I may be taking small steps but I am taking them steadily. What steps can you take to live lightly on our beautiful, watery blue sphere?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Something Green

When I listed my goals for the year back in January, I committed to doing six "green" things this year. I'm making progress on this goal and wanted to document the progress.

First up, we've installed bamboo floors. I feel great about having floors that come from a sustainable source. They are beautiful and remind me every day to be sensitive to the environment.

Second, we've converted our Eichler lighting (original to the house) over to flourescent lighting. 150 watts of brightness per bulb for 30 watts of energy. This is a good deal. Our foyer and kitchen are brighter for the effort. Scandinavian nations have legislated the use of these flourescent bulbs. I'm not a huge fan of government intervention but could go there for such a simple change and a big environmental impact.

Third, we're ramping up the recycling. Moving to California, I thought I could not recycle more. I was wrong. Paying simple attention to what can be recycled (and trying to reduce waste in the first place) can be very productive. We've even gotten the kids in on the action. "Do nothing that hurts the earth," my son proclaims. I cannot echo his sentiments enough.

The Saga Doesn't End

Huzzah, the bamboo floors are in! They are beautiful and do change the gestalt of the house. WIthout the fireplace, the common areas have a more loft-like feel. The place feels lighter and more spacious. Somehow it feels we're living more lightly in this place.

Make no mistake, it has been a long and dusty journey. The family had to decamp. Dust is still settling. A number of our posessions are still in boxes. Art is propped against walls, not yet hanging. Like childbirth, I'm told I'll forget the pain in about four weeks. I hope the same applies to my dear husband, who endured the mess with the kids while I flew off to Europe for a week long business trip.

The saga isn't over yet. One change begets another. Now we need new closet doors. Mark wants to give the study a fresh coat of paint. Spring has sprung and we should tend to bits of landscaping. I guess these are the inevitable steps to making this house truly our home.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dust and Destruction

We're renovating. It's taken a fair amount to get my head wrapped around the concept. We live in a mid-century modern home in Palo Alto, California. Mid-century modern is a nice way to say it. The reality is that we have decent sized lot (for Palo Alto) with a ranch-style house built by Joseph Eichler. The best features of the house are the post and beam construction (read open space) and the walls of glass. Less attractive features of the house include the greenish carpet, faux tile, and cinderblock fireplace.

Right now, the last three things mentioned are gone. Beautiful blonde bamboo flooring awaits. Between the current state and the serene bamboo state stands a few more days of dust, adhesive removal, concrete and leveling compound pouring and drying, and (yes!) floor laying.

We started with "let's replace the floors." That lead to a rather ominious phone call from my husband saying "we need pour concrete." This was followed by "if we're going to take out the fireplace, we need to do it now." Men came. Dust covered every imaginable surface. Today, my dear husband had a brainstorm to move a piece of kitchen cabinetry so we could experiment with a new (and arguably better) layout. Of course, we have to do this before we lay the flooring. So now it's done.

We're living in the bedrooms, bathrooms and study. We're sleeping together as family, piled into available beds. Soon the men will come down the hall and we'll live in that big, open, loftlike space while they disrupt our bedrooms and study. The kids are watching DVDs; we can't get to the TV. The good news is that we're reading books. But dust is still everwhere.

Despite the dust and chaos, we remain optmistic. This is certainly the biggest step we've taken toward making this place--or any place for that matter--truly our own. I am confident we will endure and, indeed, prevail. I'm trying to be an optimist here, even as I feel the dust on my keyboard. Aargh!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Good Mystery Series

I cannot believe it's already the end of February. The new year is already flying by and I often feel mired in quicksand. One consolation is discovering a terrific mystery series by Dana Cameron. The series features a female protagonist, Emma Fielding, who is an East Coast professor and anthropologist with a strong sideline interest in forensics. No matter where she goes, the bodies turn up in due course. The characters, relationships and dialog are smart and engaging. Get thee to the bookstore!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sardines: The Latest for Kids

I love the Gastrokid blog. Why not, I say? I have kids and I love food. Sometimes, they love food too. When they do, life is truly an adventure.

This post on sardines for kids touched me (just click the title here to go there). I loved sardines as a kid and I love them today. However, I have not shared the fishy little morsels with my offspring. The Gastrokid guys give me inspiration. The penguin angle (eat the whole fish!) just might work.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I can't figure out how to do umlauts on my keyboard for a properly presented "uber-list" but the intention is there. Mama Says Om, a mommy blog site I follow, presented the uber-list concept for 2007 resolutions/goals--call them what you will. I was inspired by what I read there. Without further ado, here is my "uber-list" for 2007:

1. CRAFT: Experiment with crafting . . . felt stuffed animals, maybe knitting, maybe cooking differently
2. CRAFT: When I figure out what it is that I can and want to do, do it--at least monthly
3. CRAFT: Read more about crafting and creating
4: CREATIVITY: Read six books on creativity over the next year
5. CREATIVITY: Keep a paper journal (Moleskine) to facilitate the creative journey
6. CREATIVITY: Make everyday life a bit more creative and inspiring
7. CREATIVITY: Take more photographs
8. CREATIVITY: Take a drawing class
9. CREATIVITY: Add more music to my life
10. FAMILY: Play more
11. FAMILY: Listen better
12. FAMILY: Raise my voice less
13. FAMILY: Celebrate more
14. FOOD: One new recipe per week
15. FOOD: Six great restaurants per year
16. FOOD: Six new regional cuisine explorations
17. FOOD: Cook with the kids more
18. FOOD: Read at least six food books this year
19. FOOD: Shop farmer's markets at least once a month (as available)
20. FOOD: Introduce new artisanal products to the family
21. FOOD: Build personal favorite lists . . . olive oil, oysters, cheeses
22. FRIENDS: Re-connect with old ones--one a month minimum
23. FRIENDS: Make new ones--one a month minimum
24. HEALTH: Get caught up with doctor visits
25. HEALTH: Get caught up with dentist visits
26. HEALTH: Drop weight
27. HEALTH: Find an exercise form I like and get to it
28. HOME: Maintain clean, organized common closets
29. HOME: Quarterly donations of old/unused stuff
30. HOME: Monthly progress toward at clearing clutter
31. HOME: Introduce touchstones of comfort
32. HOME: Introduce six green habits over the year
33. HOME: Grow stuff . . . herbs, vegetables, fruit
34. HOME: Improve and enjoy outdoor spaces
35. HOME: Paint as appropriate
36. HOME: Organize kids closets
37. HOME: Find a solution for incoming mail
38. HOME: Bills, documents . . . on time, all the time
39. LOVE: Surprise hubby with insightful gifts
40. LOVE: Date night on a to-be-established frequency.
41. MIND: Take a writing class
42. MIND: Chronicle books read this year
43. MIND: Ensure mix of topics in reading
44. MIND: Take a poetry class
45. MIND: Make progress reading the great books series
46. MIND: Include notes on reading and learning in journal
47. MIND: Make progress learning Latin
48. MIND: Make progress learning one other language
49. MIND: Establish calendar and attend lectures
50. MIND: Actively view art (galleries, museums)
51. PROJECTS: Identify six projects for the next year
52. PROJECTS: Record progress on projects
53. PROJECTS: Do something with scrapbooking/memory recording
54. PROJECTS: Make progress on CLSC readings
55. TRAVEL: One major vacation
56. TRAVEL: Explore the Bay Area (home)
57. TRAVEL: Add creativity/adventure to business travel
58: TRAVEL: Continue armchair travel (reading)
59. WRITING: Blog weekly
60. WRITING: Take a writing class
61. WRITING: Send at least one piece out for publication
62. WRITING: Send at least one letter per month to an author
63. WRITING: Work with the kids on storytelling and book making
64. WRITING: Start and keep a paper journal
65. WRITING: Write poetry

Okay. Sixty-five seems like a good number. I probably have about half as many items again on the professional side of my life. As the next few days and weeks go by, I assume more items will show up since I am now actively thinking about what I want to do in the next year. I will add them to the "uber-list" and also find a way to track and post progress. This exercise has been fun and gotten me pretty excited about the year ahead. If I'm successful, I will end the year with a very different set of experiences and learning.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Welcome, welcome 2007! I'm still nowhere close to 100% on the health front; the year-end flu has well and truly laid me low. However, I remain a firm optimist about the year ahead. No doubt, the new year will be filled will challenges on both the work and home fronts. However, nothing can top the embrace of my dear husband or terrific children; the exuberant Lab lick also brings joy.

I'm thinking today a great deal about resolutions for this year. I'm caught on the horns of a dilemma. Should my resolutions be bold, "stretch goals" per the popular phrase? Should my resolutions be more moderate, e.g., taking vitamins, reading and writing something every day? Perhaps resolutions are best not made exactly on January 1st. My bias right now is for the moderate resolution: tend to health, of the body, mind and spirit; be kinder to those around me; indulge more in the simple joys as my children experience them.

I clearly need to think and reflect a bit more. Meanwhile, there's laundry to fold in preparation for re-entry tomorrow and dinner to consider in a few hours. Aha, another opportunity for a new year resolution: to eat more healthfully!

The bottom line is that I will do a set of new years resolutions. Those promises will likely be more moderate than not. I'll keep them short and post them here, as well as in the paper journal I'm starting.

"The longest journey begins with a single step," said Lao-Tzu. I am not at all sure where the journey will lead in 2007. However, I can begn to mark those individual steps to greater goals. Perhaps just getting comfortable with the single step is a worthy first step into the new year.