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.