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!