Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo: Did It!

I am delighted to complete NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Yes, as November draws to a close I can proudly say that I have posted every single day to this blog. Whoo-hooo! Seriously, this marks the most committed writing practice I've ever done.

I posted a few days ago that I wanted to be a maker. I did indeed deliver on that goal as well. My daughter is carrying around a stuffed felt mouse that we sewed together (photo forthcoming). It's not exactly what I had in mind when I declared my desire to create but at least I did it . . . and she loves it. Chocolate chip cookies also grace the kitchen courtesy of me; perhaps this is also the mark of the maker.

Tomorrow December begins. Here's to a wonderful month. And, looking back, here's to a pretty terrific November.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Love This Idea: Food + Community

San Franciscan Marco Flavio is an avowed foodie and man of action. His blog, Cook Here and Now, is replete with weekly farmer's market reports, recipe suggestions, and general enthusiasm about great food.

He's also been running a very successful series of open dinners. The idea is simple and the execution brilliant. He posts a monthly theme, interested people visit his blog and sign up to prepare various courses, and everyone cooks and eats together. Travel and Leisure, Food and Wine, and Lonely Planet have all written about Marco and his magnificent meals.

I've seen the posts for dinners and thought "I'd like to do that." I would then have a crisis of confidence, either in my cooking, creativity, or bravado to join cool people in San Francisco. Today, Marco posted photos from his most recent dinner. What an amazingly diverse group of people thisese events attract. The guy cooking the andouille sausage got it from Dittmer's in Mountain View. I know that place. I can do this. Attending one of Marco's dinner's is on my list for 2009.

If you're interested, he's written a post on how to host your own communal dinners. Let me know if you try!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Random Friday

Today has been one of those random kinds of days. My husband is painting various rooms in the house. I played many, many games with the kids. My son went off with a friends' family to see his basketball coach play in a local high school game. My daughter and I are making a stuffed mousie for her, complete with signature pink scarf. We kept the cooking light, the snuggling long. And yes, I even made it to the gym. It turned out to be a good day overall.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I am truly thankful--today and, frankly, pretty much every day. A smile or hug from my kids, a nuzzle from the dogs, or a shoulder rub from my husband are daily reminders of my blessings. I could go on about my gratitude for many people and many things in my life but I'll keep it short and simple: I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Preparations are Underway

Thanksgiving preparation is in full swing. We're dining with cousins and we'll be bringing the turkey, oyster stuffing, and a fennel apple salad.

We're roasting the turkey on the rotisserie this year. Our Gaggenau oven delights us with perfect birds . . . crispy outside, juicy inside. We'll see if it's up for a larger fowl tomorrow. There is no turkey "formula" for us. We've roasted, fried, tucked butter and herbs under skin, and filled cavities. Thus far, we haven't found a cooking or seasoning technique that dominates all others.

The oyster stuffing is a proven favorite. My grandmother's recipe provides a well proportioned foundation and I've contributed the foodie embellishments--double the amount of oysters, fresh herbs, and artisanal bread. I hesitate (actually I do not) try variations on this theme. Departures from my mainstay recipe become stand-alone dishes.

The fennel apple salad is an attempt to provide a light, fresh taste in what is typically a heavy meal. The recipe is Charlie Trotter's, is posted on Epicurious and extremely simple. With my trusty mandoline and a lemon from the backyard, this should be fast, easy and delicious.

Looking forward to a fun and delicious day tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Want to Be a Maker

I have the urge to create. The only problem is I'm not sure just what to create. I love Craft and I have books like Making Stuff. Still, I don't quite know what to make.

I admit being jealous of my husband who has projects just pop into his head. The other week, he removed keys from an old, unusable typewriter, drilled holes in the bases of the letters, looped wire through and came up with great wine glass charms. He just did it. Wow.

With the long weekend stretching ahead, I'm determined to make something. I have a feeling it will be surprise to all of us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gearing Up for a Week

Thanksgiving week begins. The kids are home from school. All week. We've already had highs . . . the kids reading together, snuggled into a single chair. . . and lows . . . tears and near blows over a game of Sorry!. My son was rescued by a play date this afternoon.

As an antidote (or maybe prophylactic) to the week ahead, we trooped to the library this afternoon. Audio books, DVDs, and yes, good old fashioned printed books all accompanied us home. Here's hoping for a week of engagement and entertainment for the kiddos.

How did we survive before this multimedia world?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Your Own Backyard

Shutter Sisters has a terrific post today about finding beauty right where you live. As much as I love the message in the post, the comments are amazing. Women have shared photos from their daily lives and immediate surroundings; I am staggered by how beautiful this work is. Who knew a turkey sandwich could be a kaleidoscope of color and texture.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Day Without Words

So this picture will have to suffice. It's amazing what you can see when you walk slowly and look closely.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Toward Fitness . . . Part II

I happily took the second step toward getting in shape today and established a weightlifting program. Getting everything set up--seat position, reps, form, actual weight--was time consuming but put me solidly in starting blocks. Thank you Rico for making sure everything is all set for me.

I do want to comment on how technology is changing the face of the gym. My local Y has a program called Fitlinxx. All of your data, including all machine settings, is entered into the system. At the beginning of a workout, you log in and it moves you from exercise to exercise with all the information you need. It even tracks you minimum and maximum movement to ensure you're working at the proper speed (slow!) and getting the greatest benefit from the exercise. All of your data is available at the gym, at partner gyms, or online; if you're doing exercise that isn't wired directly, you can enter the data manually. Pretty impressive.

The tools are all in place. Now I just need to do the work.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toward Fitness

Today marks the day I got back to the gym.

Robert Maynard Hutchins, famed President of the University of Chicago (and my alma mater twice over), once said "when I have the urge to exercise, I lie down and hope it passes." Thus far, Hutchins' mantra could well be mine.

But today, I tied on the sneakers, strapped on the heart monitor, and went about the business of cardio. One small step . . . to be followed by many more on the road to fitness and good health.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with iron: the weight training regimen begins. Keep your fingers crossed for me (and remember to exhale on exertion and inhale on recovery!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Worth It?

This past weekend, we saw Chrisopher Kimball on America's Test Kitchen extoll the virtues of prepping a steak in the oven prior to hitting the grill or pan to finish. 250 - 275 degrees for 20 minutes, seasoned with salt and pepper came the advice. After that, 2 -3 minutes per side to medium rare goodness. Kimball showed steaks that came directly from pan to plate and (the admittedly thin) layer of more cooked meat that encased the steak. The oven-prepped steak had more uniform color and texture and, frankly, looked compelling.

Since we consume only a steak per family, we didn't conduct our own side-by-side comparison but we did cook a ribeye to America's Test Kitchen specs. The result, in our humble opinion, was good but not appreciably better than our traditional method: onto the coals or into the pan, straightaway. The interior of the steak was uniformily pink and juicy. We're just not sure it delivered anything superior to the way we usually cook steak. And it took significantly longer.

It's worth disclosing that we cooked a bone-in, organic ribeye steak weighing about a pound.

Don't get me wrong, the steak was good. Very good, indeed. It just wasn't better than we've been muddling through on our own. And it took longer.

Honestly, I don't think it was us/the meat/the grill. I'm not sure this technique overdelivers a superior tasting steak for the time required. America's Test Kitchen's won't agree but that's the Delman household verdict.

At least we tried.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I'll come clean. What has spurred the daily writing this month is NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month. The idea hatched as a method to get people writing. NaBloPoMo parallels NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month--but doesn't have the 50,000 (!) word requirement.

The challenge here is a daily post. I'm not yet halfway through the month but I am satisfied with my progress so far. A Stanford writing professor recently remarked that a blog counts as a writing practice. Getting the words out is exercise we need.

Monday, November 17, 2008

ITunes U: A Different Mix

ITunes has been steadily expanding iTunes U, a collection of great, substantive content (often) from the world's great universities. I noticed that Oxford is now in the mix with a series of philosophy and fine art lectures. If you haven't explored iTunes U, get thee there. History, humanities, education, science and technology, literature, mathematics, social science and more are waiting for your click.

Treat your brain as well as your ears. And please share your favorites!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Tale of Crab

Tonight, I found myself making crab cakes for the family. It's straightforward and, frankly, delicious. Key to our happiness is a crab cake that is comprised of crab . . . and nothing else. Tonight's dinner becomes lunchbox fare and a special dinner treat (again).

The best recipe, in my humble opinion, is Mark Bittman's Crabby Crab Cakes. It emphasizes the good stuff and nothing but.

My advice? Go for Bittman's reco. You won't regret it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We Are Having Technical Difficulties

I sincerely apologize for this. However, I feel completely out of control on this particular topic. I can't seem to get a photo to upload nor can I get my feed aggregator to work. Whether this is my issue or a greater system issue, I cannot say.

What I can say is "I'm sorry." And I sincrely hope a new day brings restored functionality to this tiny corner of the universe.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Joy of . . . Kale

I love autumn, I love Fridays and yes, I love kale. This morning, Mark Bittman's blog, Bitten, featured an article on this healthiest of vegetables and some fine recipes for it as well. My favorite variety is lacinato or dinaosaur kale; the dark green leaves hold great flavor and cook relatively quickly.

My go-to recipe for kale is Arthur Schwartz's White Bean & Kale soup found in his book, Soup Suppers. The first step is boiling the kale for five minutes or so, cooling and chopping it. You then saute a couple of anchovies, rosemary and garlic in olive oil, add the chopped kale, toss in white beans (cannellini or navy or whatever is on hand). Add four cups of chicken stock to the pot, bring it the boil and add a cup of your favorite small pasta shape; ditalini rules in our house. After the pasta is cooked, the soup is done. I drizzle a bit of olive oil on each dish and grate Parmesan to guild the lily. This easy recipe is an uncontested favorite with my family, especially the kids.

It's autumn and time for hearty flavors. Get thee to a farmer's market (or your supermarket), grab the kale and make some soup or check out the recipes on Bitten. You won't regret it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leave Me Alone . . . I'm Reading

The title of this post is the title of a book--a fantastic book--by Maureen Corrigan, the book critic for NPR's Fresh Air. She writes a wonderful memoir of reading, tracing her love of books back to childhood (with some ambivalence on her upbringing) and on through university and adult life. In her choices and interactions, it sometimes seems Corrigan prefers books to people; what's wrong with that, I ask?

Biographical oddities aside, Corrigan's book conveys the deep passion of a reader. I especially appreciate her commentary on mysteries and female adventurers. Corrigan's book has sent me scrambling for pen and paper to ensure I don't miss a great read.

For what it's worth, this is my second tour of duty through Leave Me Alone . . . I'm Reading. I read the book when it was first released and spied the audio book on a recent trip to the library. I'm glad I grabbed Corrigan's book for a second time and, hearing her read, a different experience.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Lieu of Words

A day of small, random thoughts and actions. When words fail, there are always pictures. This one seems apropos to the season.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Omnivore's 100 and Me

This meme has been floating around the blogosphere for a while. I first saw it on one of my favorite food blogs, Becks & Posh. Very Good Taste seems to be the point of origin. I consider myself an adventurous eater so I thought I would see just how far I may have gone and what possibilities remain.

With a score of 85/100 my conclusion is that I've eaten broadly and often well. Travel, a desire to explore various ethnic cuisines, and family heritage have definitely pushed the boundaries on what I have consumed. I realize I've been too timid about just "going for it," as was the case with insects (grasshopper in Japan). It's just a question of pushing the edge, whether it's a new flavor of ice cream (pistachio) or a super-hot Indian curry (phaal).

Here are the details:

How the Omnivore's 100 Works:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions

2) Bold all the things you've ever eaten

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

85/100 My Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison [both cooked and raw]

2. Nettle tea [hmm, need to check this out]

3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile [it may have been alligator]

6. Black pudding [one of those things I keep trying thinking I'll like it THIS time]

7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp

9. Borscht

10. Baba ghanoush

11. Calamari

12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi

15. Hot dog from a street cart [but I prefer Papaya King]

16. Epoisses

17. Black truffle

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns

20. Pistachio ice cream [I have no idea why not. Next time I'm at Ricks . . . .]

21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras

24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn or head cheese [not a favorite but I've eaten it. You cannot come from Polish or German ancestry and not have tasted head cheese.]

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper

27. Dulce de leche

28. Oysters [My favorite food!]

29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl [definitely clam chowder and I'm pretty sure in a sourdough bowl]

33. Salted lassi [no but I want to!]

34. Sauerkraut

35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar [in NYC with great colleagues]

37. Clotted Cream Tea

38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O [I have no idea why this is on the list nor why I have tried it but I'm not feeling regrets, either]

39. Gumbo

40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat [I'm pretty sure I've eaten curried goat. I have also done roasted goat at home and the whole family ate it!]

42. Whole insects [Had a chance in Japan and decided not to. Shame on me.]

43. Phaal [The hottest Indian curry? Can't say that I have but I'd like to try]

44. Goat's milk

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more

46. Fugu [See #46. Had a chance in Japan and didn't. Shame on me. It's the whole miserable death scenario that put me off.]

47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin [One of my favorites]

51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi [I love these. So deliciously salty and sour.]

53. Abalone

54. Paneer

55. MacDonald's Big Mac Meal

56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini

58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine [Need to spend more time in Canada.]

60. Carob chips

61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads

63. kaolin [Not knowingly unless it was the base for a medicine I took]

64. Currywurst [I guess the German heritage thing that afforded me head cheese and sauerkraut missed this one]

65. Durian

66. Frogs’ legs

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis

69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings or andouillette

71. Gazpacho

72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost or brunost [thanks to Swedish friends]

75. Roadkill [I grew up in the rural Midwest. Dad would often bring home various things to share that the guys at work shared with him. Accordingly, I believe I have eaten both racoon and squirrel that met their ends roadside. Both, by the way, were in some sort of barbeque sauce.]

76. Baijiu [If I had it on a trip to Beijing, I don't remember it.]

77. Hostess Fruit Pie

78. Snail

79. Lapsang Souchong

80. Bellini

81. Tom Yum

82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky

84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu [This is on the list. Definitely on the list.]

85. Kobe beef [Raw and cooked]

86. Hare

87. Goulash

88. Flowers

89. Horse [Cooked (somewhat sweet) and raw (in Japan, called sakura nikku (cherry meat)]

90. Criollo chocolate

91. Spam

92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa [Regular harissa yes. Rose no. Where do I find this stuff?]

94. Catfish

95. Mole poblano

96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor

98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake [Same time as the alligator/crocodile and also accompanied by Rocky Mountain Oysters. Not a stellar food evening.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day of Firsts . . . Reprise

On Saturday, I referenced two firsts for my son: the violin recital and his first necktie.

The violin recital went very well. Graham did not seem nervous prior to performance, although he did refuse to take his violin out of the case for a picture once he had finished practicing earlier in the afternoon. The picture above shows a hint of the black violin case. When his time in the program came, he strode confidently to the music stand, took his bow and waited for the pianists' cue. He played flawlessly. After another bow and cue from the pianist, he completed his second piece, again with excellence. Another bow, a big grin, and he was back to his seat.

One of the most delightful parts of the evening occured during the reception when Graham and a friend slipped away, took out their violins and began to play one of his pieces. Everyone seemed delighted at the spontaneity of the moment. The little guy seems to have a true love of music. He is also quite comfortable and poised in front of a crowd. It's a wonderful thing to see and experience his confidence and joy.

The necktie was a big hit. After a surprising number of calls, Nordstrom's delivered and with a wide selection. He loved the tie and remarked it was very much like one of Dad's. Appropriately, after the recital, he loosened it for a bit of informal play.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Best Laid Plans . . .

Sometimes life just likes to throw a few curve balls. Today was one of those days. One of the day's challenges was my son's 102.5 fever. And my daughter's simultaneous need for extra attention.

I keep reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Today's firsts: son's violin recital and son's necktie.

Pictures tomorrow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Miscellany

NPR has been my constant companion today.

I was impressed that Science Friday has a Twitter address. Not only can you call or email your comments and questions, you can now Tweet them. Based on Ira Flatow's commentary, the Tweeting exceeded expectations.

Obama's press conference proved interesting. I think we have come to expect clear, direct and succinct communication from Obama and he delivered once again. He left some distance between the current economic crisis and his transition to power, saying "Amerian only has one President at a time . . . ." He also had a crew of esteemed economic advisers standing with him at the press conference, offering silent hope that we do have great minds and proven talent working on the issues.

I was struck by the fact that Obama was running about half an hour late for the event. He didn't apologize for the late start, either. I'd like not to believe that's how he values others' time.

Finally, a reporter predictably asked a question about the promised White House dog. He addressed the puppy question with the same seriousness and intensity that he addressed everything else. The commentary, you ask? Malia is allergic to dogs so the dog needs to be hypo-allergenic (his words, not mine). His preference is for a mutt from a shelter but he isn't confident that they'll be able to find a hypo-allergenic mutt. He got a big laugh for saying he preferred "a mutt like me [Obama]." I'll bet every animal shelter around is searching their charges for a hypo-allergenic dog.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Rocks, Screws, and Stray Socks

Today I've been playing archeologist, excavating my son's room. He can maintain a space (well, not quite actually) but having him around for the heavy lifting just doesn't work. The games are all organized on shelves, the off-season clothes boxed up, his desk neat and ready for work. I have one smallish box of "stuff" including the aforementioned rocks, screws and stray socks to sort and the mission will be complete.

I cleared space on his bookshelf and replaced the batteries in his reading light for late night adventures in words. I'm up for anything we can do to deepen his engagement with books.

The books which he has left behind moved his to his sister's room, my "dig" for tomorrow.

As hard as it can be for me to let go of things, it's brings me joy to see clear surfaces and space on the shelves. I just need to take it step by step.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, We Can!

And we did! I have never been more proud to be an American. We have made history. We have taken a huge step toward reclaiming our future as a great nation with freedom and justice for all. Congratulations President (elect) Obama and Vice President (elect) Biden!

The road ahead may not be easy but it is full of promise and hope. I look forward to Barack Obama's leadership. May his tenure as President be a blessing to our nation and the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Get Out and Vote!

I want to add my voice to the many, many out there encouraging everyone to vote. It's the single thing that needs to be on every American's "to do" list today.

No excuses.

Let your voice be heard.

(Why are you still reading? Get out there!)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Parent Teacher Conferences: Mission Accomplished and New Practices

It's that time of year. The leaves are turning, skies are cloudy and grey and parent teacher conferences ensue. With two kids in elementary school, we've now completed both sets of conferences.

I need to say how much I respect teachers. They do an amazing job of moving kids forward. My husband and I are always ready and willing to help on the journey but they drive the process and do so with great effectiveness.

We're blessed with capable students (at least at this level) but there are a few things we're going to try to move from good to great. First, we're instituting family reading time. My husband and I are avid readers. My son, who is reading well, doesn't turn to a book as his first source of entertainment. My daughter is an emerging reader who could always use the practice. Thus, family reading time is born: 15 - 20 minutes of dedicated reading time, family discussion to follow. We may not do it every night but we will do it the majority of the week. Second, we need to incorporate a greater sense of gratitude and community in our lives. Kindergartners are about themselves. Second graders have a slightly wider sphere. Our kids demonstrate the foundational elements of empathy but we're choosing to push for more. Dinner time conversation (and maybe journal time) will focus on that for which we are grateful and how we can help others. We want to push the edges of that sphere of self outward, a bit at a time.

Feedback is a wonderful thing. As much as we enjoy the praise, it's always good to ask how we can get better. Those magicians of the classroom always have ideas, the one additional thing that can make the difference. I find these conferences energizing. And I want to hug their magnificent teachers.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Good Food . . . For the Ears

Last month, I started thinking about my "go to" podcasts, the ones I dash to the computer to sync and enjoy on a weekly basis. Today, I wanted to highlight KCRW's Good Food with Evan Kleiman.

The show is LA-based BUT . . . . (as a Northern Californian, there's always that moment of qualification when connecting to something in the southern region). It's a wonderful hour for foodies, highlighting not only what's fresh at the market (I need to confess to the Northern California region lag) but also just great food experiences and encounters. Whether I make it to the specific dining spots highlighted is less important than my understanding a new aspect of Thai food or a newly discovered Mexican delicacy that I can seek out on my own.

Evan Kleiman hosts the show. She's the chef/owner of Angeli Cafe and a smart, wise food guide. She bring folks like Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer to the show as well as eclectic characters like Eddie Lin, the "Deep End Diner" for (even) more adventurous fare. KCRW's show is focused on L.A. and Southern California but the content is so very, very good that I find it relevant to my own life a bit further north.

Check out Good Food and I promise: you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Music in the House

On this rainy, grey California afternoon, I'm listening to my son play his violin. He's been taking lessons for six months and loving it.

We are a week from his first recital and he seems very ready. In fact, tonight we have rehearsal with his accompanist in preparation for the big event. It boggles my mind that a seven year old requires a pianist for "Bessie the Cow" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" but it really does add a different dimension to the work.

I am staggered by how challenging the violin can be. I never understood how physical it is to play the violin. Indeed, his first month of lessons seemed primarily focused on just getting the violin to meet his body in an acceptable and comfortable way.

I am also in awe that my son has learned to do something of his own motivation and wholly apart from me. He speaks of open strings and various fingerings with a fluency that sends me dashing for his music books. He practices (mostly) of his own volition, working through lessons and memorizing pieces. I watch him play, from a respectful distance, as often as possible. The concentration that furrows his brow, the tiny foot tapping out rhythm, and those mutterings of "rest, rest" under his breath speak to his complete engagement.

Keep up the good work, kiddo. Bravo!