Saturday, December 31, 2005

mulching to cover

TH and I did some garden clean up today, nothing too exciting, but realized that everything does better with a bit of mulch -- bulbs to keep the evil squirrels away is a good example. Things look pretty decent considering this spring we're going to have to build some new beds and rethink the garden and if we want to build a taller fence against our northern neighbors.

I can't say our garden will win any awards for its design, beauty or plant collections, but it suits me just fine. I saw that the hellebores are really starting to pop up and the daphne is showing color. Our sarcocca is smelling very lovely and in the squirrels cool their jets, we may see some early bulbs soon enough.

Tonight, we're going to Nell's for dinner. Honestly, we have eaten at home twice in the last eight days and those were haphazard meals. I guess its nice to be festive and eating close to home will help. We went to the first of the winter farmer's markets and picked up some stuff for the new year. I plan to start it off with a nice tom yum gai, a sauteed chard dish and something that uses a roasted chicken.

Happy New Year y'all. May 2006 blow 2005 out of the water.



Friday, December 30, 2005

Review time?

I got this idea from Jen, who got it from her friend Amanda's blog . I could bore you with the pathetic details of my life, but this is better.


1. Did you have a new year's resolution this year?: Sure, lose weight, get a new job, not start shooting up heroin or start smoking. I managed three out of the four, all but the weight.
2. Who kissed you at midnight?: TH, if we were both awake. I can't remember.
3. Did it snow where you live?: No, thankfully.
4. Have you ever been to Times Square to watch the ball drop?: No, I love NY , I hate NYE.


1. Who was your valentine?: I had three - TH, Jcdm and Rppm
2. What did your valentine get you?: I can't remember, I think it was a external hard drive.
3. When you were little, did you buy valentines for your whole class?: Of course, didn't everyone?


1. Are you Irish? No.
2. Did you wear green on St. Patty's Day?: No.
3. What did you do for St. Patty's Day?: I can't remember, I may have been in Rome or was it London. I can't remember.


1. Do you like the rain?: I have to, I live here.
2. Did you play an April Fool's joke on anyone this year?: No.
3. Did you get tons of candy on Easter?: Yes, a very large egg from Cammerino that had a very small bear in it. We must have hidden 300 eggs for our easter egg hunt this year. I found one a few months ago!


1. What's your favorite kind of flower?: spring flowereing bulbs and hellebores
2. Do you like the spring? Of course, I'm a life long gardener.
3. Finish the phrase: "April showers bring...": plant sales every weekend.
4. What would you think of as a spring color?: The chartreuse of the first flush of bracts on the euphorbia and the butter yellow of the ranunculus that pop up in the lawn.


1. What year did you graduate from school?: Uni - 87, grad school the first time 93, the second 98.
2. Did you go on any vacations last June?: Nope, I had a bit of business travel.


1. What did you do on the 4th of july?: Flew back from Woods Hole/Boston in the morning to have dinner at home with some friends and run to the secret parking garage to watch fireworks.
2. Did you go on any vacations during this month?: Nope, all work related travel.


1. Did you do anything special to end off your summer?: Went to London for a few days to see my aunties.
2. What was your favorite summer memory of '05?: Nothing positive as the spring/early summer was hell.
3. Did you go swimming a lot in the summer?: No, I wish I had.
4. Did you go to the beach a lot?: Not at all.


1. Did you attend school/college in '05?: Yup, Winter, Spring and Fall - finishing up my certificate in Preservation Planning and a project management class.
2. Who is/was your favorite teacher?: I have two that stand out, one is DCS who is a professor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington and Gail Dubrow, who helped guide my thesis work. Unfortunately, she's moved on to deanship and it is a loss to scholarship in historic preservation in general.
3. Did you like fall better than summer?: Yes, because fall here is much prettier.


1. What was your favorite halloween costume ever?: When Jacques went as a s'more.
2. What's your favorite candy?: Depends, I like anything sour.
3. What did you dress up like this year?: Nothing, I was at home handing out candy and getting ready for a redeye to DC.


1. Whose house did you go to for Thanksgiving?: My parents.
2. Do you like stuffing?: Yes.
3. What are you thankful for?: My family, my health, my parent's health and love, my partner , our relationship, our friends, my education and as hokey as it is, having the "freedom" to travel throughout the world .


1. Do you celebrate Christmas?: Yup.
2. Have you ever been kissed under mistletoe?: Yup.
3. What did you want this year for christmas?: My condo to sell.
4. What's the best present you ever got for christmas?: I can't remember, they are all excellent.
5. Do you like cold weather?: Not really.
6. How would you rate your year on a scale of 1-10?: 5. Not too great, i'm sorry to say. However, there is always room for improvement. ;)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Portland wrap up

Portland was great. I love this city, did nothing of note other than eat, eat, eat, window shop and eat. We didn't have a car, so we did not venture to the Hawthorne hood or the NW 21st and 23rd areas, next time, with car.

Where did we eat?

-- the Portland darling, all over the foodie news and lived up to its reputation at lunch. We had both read reviews of dinner there -- so dark you had to use a flashlight to read the menu in the middle of the room, loud and poor service. None of these issues were apparent at lunch. I would give it two thumbs up! We took Max from the airport to near the convention center and then took a bus there, how is that for dedication?

A small lemon tarte at TH's Portland hangout, the Pearl Bakery for a mid afternoon snack. Yum. Tangy, small with the right amount of crust/curd.

Window shopping around the Pearl District (where did all those chains come from?), a frustrating Powells visit (where did all those cell phones come from?) , a nap, a bit of book reading, followed by a visit to Pioneer Place mall. Mind you I said visit, not a shopping trip!

Dinner followed at Park Kitchen, in the North Park Blocks. It was amazing. We had the chef's tasting menu which was really good - baccala fritters served with malt vinegar, duck crepes to start. That was followed by two salads with different things including a duck liver vinegarette (I'm telling you this nose to tail thing can be a bit strange). Our mains were great - pork for me and lamb for TH. Dessert was also great- chocolate pot de creme for TH and a pumpkin/cranberry upsidedown cake for me. I would highly recommend it there.

We were going to toddle to the Heathman bar for a drink, but the night was getting cool and I was getting tired.

Next time.

One more trip to Pearl and then a not as bumpy ride home.

Where did we stay?

Westin Portland. This is a serviceable hotel, we got a decent room based on TH's status (better than mine) and since they now allow dogs, may be our hotel chain of choice in a few months.:) There are lots of great hotels in Portland -- go to the visit Portland Big Deals site to find more.

How did we get there?

The SEA/PDX shuttle (free microbrewery beer) and MAX. Max rocks - 1.80 from airport to downtown. I love it.

I'm done flying for the year. No tickets booked yet for the new year, I'm working on it!


meet the f*&@$ers

Or, should I say our new neighbors.....

Looks like two more college boys complete with a low rider, tinted black windows and Texas plates.

I think the house owners of the rental next to our house really really hate us because if we have a problem with their quality tenants, we tell them - morning, noon or midnight.

Good thing we have their number memorized, the number of the non-emergency police, the fire department and the neighbor on the other side is on the same side of the hating them as we are.

Can it be possible to get renters who 1. will not be young and stupid 2. will bring in their garbage cans in a timely manner 3. be quiet when entering and leaving the house 4. realize that they have moved into a neighborhood, not frat row?


I really think they hate us.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

lessen the impact

Zuppa di Verdure, Rome December 2005.

We had an interesting conversation at dinner on Boxing Day about organic v. locally grown food, that is if organic food is trucked from a 1000 miles away is it necessarily better for the environment than conventionally grown food grown 20 miles away. Which is a better choice for the planet?

Anyways, it got me thinking. I know that this concept has been beaten to death by the well known food bloggers who have taken up a challenge of eating locally (100 mile radius), could you do it?

I think we could.

We can get locally grown chickens, eggs, beef and lamb. Fish may be a problem, but could we count G's washington troll caught salmon into the mix? Cheese as well.

Veggies -- we would be okay most of the year with farmer's markets and we would be eating a lot of kale, cabbage and mache in the winter. Carrots too. We would have to wait until early spring for sprouting broccoli and we could definitely grow that as well.

The hot weather veggies would be preserved. No problem since I already can tomatoes for sauce and salsa, I could do some whole ones as well (cursing as I did it). We get lots of peppers in the summer and fall, so I could roast and freeze those. I still have squash from the fall as well, both frozen and fresh.

Herbs we still have until the first hard frost. Lots of pesto in the freezer as well.

As for fruit, we have tons of rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pie cherries etc. in the freezer and we would be eating these things all fresh from the garden during the season. I am jealous of those who took the challenge in the Bay Area because of the citrus, our little trees just couldn't keep up.

I'm trying to figure out the best time to do this challenge. I would say early summer would be most fun, the cheese at the markets are all nice and the stuff from the garden is amazing -- asparagus, arugula, cherries, fava beans.
For more information on eating locally please see life begins after 30's blog or the Locavores web site. Me, I'm going to check out Nabhan's Coming Home to eat today at Powells. Shop locally as well kids. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

clean sweep

Amaryllis, December 2005.

I have reclaimed the couch in my study. Almost. This is good, I have a pile to shred, most everything is put back into place and I may be able to see the top of my flat surfaces by the end of the night!

I'm going to work soon. I am feeling better and hope to do much the same at work, clear out email, start on a project, update calendars and scope out a project.

Dinner tonight will be yummy I hope, left over soup, artichokes, salad and roast pork with potatoes. We're off to Portlandia, weather and all (no weather) tomorrow am for a visit to TH's city of transit and hopefully to eat some beautiful food and to see a lovely walkable city.

I really wanted to get a new calendar this year for my office, but decided to give up curious george and go for the free Ace Hardware one. Seems strange, i may change my mind, but its free and has some useful coupons.

Are you the kind of person to buy a calendar as soon as you see it person (say, October) or do you wait until they are discounted after Christmas?


Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing day

Patient Mr. Scruffy, the Idaho potato terrier, Christmas 2005.

Dinner tonight will be festive, but different. We managed to get MM to make us a nice big pork loin, so we'll be feasting on Bruce Aidell's recipe from his meat cookbook for tuscan herb infused pork loin with a few less garlic cloves.

I still feel like crap and sound like a tubercular, so TH has grounded me from talking or moving for the rest of the day. I actually feel fine, I just sound terrible.

Here is the recipe - it makes an amazing sandwich the following day.

Tuscan Herb Infused Pork Loin

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed of excess fat
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoons dried
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage or 1 tablespoon dried
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seed, see cook's notes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

Pan Sauce:
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or beef broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook's notes: To crush fennel seed, process in a small food processor or place in a heavy, zipper-style plastic bag and pound with a mallet.

Preliminaries: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1. Brush meat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Combine herbs, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Rub over meat. Drizzle meat with additional 1 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Brush shallow roasting pan with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and scatter sliced garlic on bottom to provide a bed for the roast. Place roast on garlic, fat side up. Place in middle of preheated oven for 15 minutes. Turn oven to 300 degrees. Roast 1 1/4 hours longer or until instant-read thermometer reads 150 degrees. Remove from oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

3. Prepare sauce. Pour off fat and add wine to the roasting pan. Bring to boil over high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Add broth and cook until the sauce is reduced by half. If desired, strain the sauce. Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed. Slice pork and spoon sauce over the top.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutritional information (per serving): 355 calories, 22 grams fat, 7.1 grams saturated fat, 102 milligrams cholesterol, 1,007 milligrams sodium, 58 percent calories from fat

Source: "The Complete Meat Cookbook" by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly (Houghton Mifflin, 1998, $35)

Served with roast potatoes, stuffing and green beans it should be nice way to cap off the mid part of the festive period.

Cool things to note:

I noticed today that the sarcacocca is starting to bloom, should smell great in a few.
Oh, and TH found the first snowdrops! whoo hooo!



Sunday, December 25, 2005

great minds think alike

TH and I each bought eachother a new rolling pin. Is that scary or what?

Cookbooks to die for and receive...

Nigel Slater's The kitchen diaries...

I saw this in London in November and TH snatched it up for a present. It is sumptuous and easy to read and very Nigel Slatery. I am already swooning at the Boxing day ideas and thinking that our menu is very flexible!

TH and I saw this in London as well, but bought it here. It is heavy.

The Silver Spoon Cookbook - now in English!

It is fabulous and very easy on the eyes. I'm thinking that dinner this week will be concocted out of this cookbook. It is a classic and well translated. I have a few cookbooks in Italian, but this will be used a lot. Only weakness -- very few desserts, I was lusting for a nice dolci section. It seems to be quite the popular gift this season!
Lastly and coming via mail .... if the PH Vendome mailed it quickly...

Imagine a whole Larousse filled with chocolate desserts!

I can't say enough about this cookbook it is a larousse and my guess is it will dragged out at least once in the middle of a dinner party to settle some kind of arguement. It is confounding , simple and complicated at the same time with some really easy recipes and very well designed. However, it is in french so you should have a better than average understanding of cooking terms to use it. I will probably use it in conjunction with Robert Linxe's La Maison du Chocolat cookbook. I should have carried it home, oh well. I hope it makes it home soon. It does have the Pierre Herme passionfruit macaron recipe which is great.

Good eating. I better get back to the grind and start getting the plates for dinner. ;)

Nice break in the rain this afternoon. I managed to get out there and plant some christmas bulbs and deadhead the last of the frosted plants. I notice the purple hellebores are starting to bloom and the H. foetidus are quickly following.


merry chanukamas

That is it.

Happy holidays, festivus, whatever, just as long as you spend some quality time today just vegging I'll be happy for you.

Rainy here in the Emerald City - I worry about bassets under camellia bushes (cats too) and people. Looking at the forecast discussion at the National Weather Service Site, things don't look to promising for the end to the rain. You should really read the forecasts, they are more interesting than the temps.

Ran around like crazy yesterday, went to the Market for buche pickup, Madison Park for a few last minute things and cyclamens, home to bake fruitcake (looked good), run to C&B to buy two last minute presents (amazingly, found parking and saw both my mom! and my friend M. with her two adorable kidlets, so that was very fun) and everyone was in a good mood.

Came home and started to clean up. Our house looks like a disaster area with stuff not in its place quite yet. TH managed to finish cleaning upstairs, so we put back most everything. Went over to see R&A and the kids for a bit (who knew rubber pirate ducks would be a hit?) and then went to dinner at Tulios with D&M (there is another holiday tradition that is worth keeping). Dinner was great, company was great, the obnoxious football fans screaming like it was a sports bar was not fun. They probably are getting theirs now as the kids got them up at 6 am to open presents. Hah.

Anyhow, TH is still pretending to sleep, I'm going to sneak a few under the tree and maybe consider taking that salmon out of the freezer for dinner.

Oh, here is the fruitcake recipe - from one of my favourite UK chefs - at least everything I've made from his recipes has turned out really well and interesting.

Have a great day.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Traditions are hard to kill

Ornaments at R&As, December 2005.

Much like Z, we have traditions around here. Who doesn't really? I guess people who like to reinvent themselves over and over again. Me, I like things to be the same, even if it kills me at first.

Take our Christmas tree, I love it now, I hated it when its decor first graced my apartment many moons ago. Picture this, cranky grad student, hating her thesis, her job, her life. Her girlfriend, in hopes of cheering her up, sneakily goes and buys her a tree and ornaments, because she has never really had a tree before. She lived in a group house with someone with great decorations and loved, it, she had a family 5 miles away with a lovely tree, she fought with her previously girlfriend about the moral dilemna of cutting a tree. Frankly, she was scared of the whole tree thing and was just waiting to go home to her parent's tree. Her current girlfriend left each Xmas to spend it with her family, thus she would be spending the holiday alone.

So, imagine when she came back from going out with her grad school cronie, C, to find a tree in her studio apartment filled with ornaments and lights because her girlfriend wanted to cheer her up? Imagine how she felt when the tree was nothing like the tree she grew up with? It had colored lights and some tinsel and glass balls and silly bears on it. As much as she loved it for the love that went into it, it just wasn't her tree.

However, the amazing love and effort that went into the shopping for ornaments, hiding them and schelping of the tree was what really counted. When I went to Berkeley the following year, I saw a tree of blue and green with a few white and ornaments from TH's childhood, while it was not what I grew up with, it was still beautiful.

Today, I still love these trees, I have grown used to the green and blue lights of TH's childhood that grace the tree here. I covet the same silver, green and red glass balls that we have managed to keep whole for the last 15 years and the bears and elephants and various glass balls that festoon it. We add ornaments every year and sometimes we do a small tree with white lights to sooth my need for white, but now I feel this tree shimmering with blue, green and turquoise (don't ask) lights is just right.

So, I think I better get to my baking, eh? I am not sure how I feel about grating butternut squash and g-d help me if I forget to pick up the centerpiece for the table today.


Friday, December 23, 2005

finally baking

I have recaptured my kitchen -- I just made a blackberry crisp for a potluck. Tomorrow, we try the butternut squash fruitcake to take to R&A's tomorrow. If it is deemed a success, I may try it again.

I just sampled my mom's orange/cherry scones, M's speculaas (yum and thanks) and Ms. M's mince pies. Gosh, all I have had today is sugar, no wonder I am tired.

Finally had an epiphany for the last presents for the hard to shop for, TH is going to have to wait on her present though.

Oh, the tree is now partially decorated. Imagine that!

TGI something

Tree is lit, need to find more blue lights. I wonder where will have them at this late date. House seems quiet, that is there are only two of us in residence. I should get my shoes on and drop off a baking sheet for my mom and drive car to shop and walk back. It better not be anything big I tell you.

I uploaded pics of Paris -- you can see them here.

Rome next and London and then maybe I'll fill you in. It is all very interesting.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

capturing the flag and the house

MMMMM, marzipan from Patrick Roger, Paris December 2005.

We got the all clear to move back into today, so we are moving forward with christmas festivities chez nm. Tree is now hung and settling in, main floor is getting mopped, vacuumed and everything else to get back to normal. We made a list for dinner shopping - troll caught white salmon from G's boat for Christmas and roast of meats (joints as they say in England) for Boxing day. Buche has been located and ingredients have been approved and maybe things will get back to normal soon enough.

It feels really nice to be sitting here by myself in the living room and typing away. Its been a good two weeks since I have been able to do this, alone.

I'm still sound like crap and am tired, but I think I'll slink into work and try and get something done tomorrow. We have the floor peeps coming in tomorrow afternoon to give us an estimate and my parentals expect at least one of us for lunch, so maybe making an appearance in the am is a good thing.

Oh well, at least I got a few holiday chores - presents for the kids, mom and dad and TH taken care of. I only have one person that I am having a devil of time finding something for!



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

keeping cool

So, along with all the interesting things happening chez nm, I get news that my cleaning diety (CD) is in the hospital with pneumonia. Yikes for him and yikes for me, but TH has graciously offered to spend part of tomorrow cleaning the house. I want CD to get well soon as I really really like him. When I talked to him yesterday, he sounded awful. I hope he recovers quickly under the care of his sister and mom.

Miss P and Mr. S are still on for Xmas eve and Xmas day, so that will be fun. My mom is jonesing for a shopping trip, I'm not sure I have it in me. We still haven't braved the camera store to get them presents. We still haven't been able to locate the presents for the more selective in our groups, some people are soooo hard to buy for. TH and I are still not sure what we're doing, either! All I want is my house back.

Oh, did I tell you my check engine light is on? Seems to be driving fine, could be anything. Good thing old blue is still with us.

For some reason, even with all this crap going on (more on this later), I seem to be cool and honestly, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tonight, TH and I are staying at in Bellevue, I've only been there once since the remodel, new rooms, plasma screen tvs (nothing on, so why bother?) and new beds. Not bad if you consider the 2K bonus, a 1K diamond amenity and a 50 buck amex gift card for 107 bucks. Too bad we both have to be at work tomorrow am.

Oh well, free breakfast on the AAA rate as well. Sweet/Suite.


Winter Solstice

'With all my pains, there is still the hope of recovery
Like the eve of Yalda, there will finally be an end' (Sa'adi)
It is the solstice and it is honestly one of my favorite days of the year, because the from the depths of these four o clock dusks, it will soon be getting light again. I'm one of those people who gets depressed on the Summer Solstice because the days are shorter. Things will get better as the winter progresses right?

We're not big celebrators of the Shab-e Yalda, a tradition Iranian holiday marking the longest night, I think because its too close to Christmas. My parents went to a party a few days ago and if I was, you bet your sweet bippy I would be making a hearty stew and sit around with the family eating ajiil (Persian Trail mix), pomegranates and reciting Hafez's poetry. As it is, I had split pea soup for lunch and will probably sample some kind of ajiil my my mom brought up from San Diego, but I'll be celebrating the solstice by decorating a christmas tree with A, R, W &W and hopefully catching a bit more spirit. Gosh, I have too as time is running out!
I find it interesting that rituals in Iran are based on seasons and the passing of one to another. I can't wait until the Vernal Equinox and Noruz. I find the rituals of cleansing of the house, the jumping over the candle and the idea of another chance to start again somewhat refreshing.
Anyways, for those of you freezing your butts of in the midwest and north east, I wish you a happy winter that will get warmer and may the longer days bring you a chance to experience a bit of light.
still horser than stevie nicks after a pack of kools

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

well, its starting to look like something here

Yesterday night, TH and I started decorating my parent's condo for Xmas so it would less like a beige corporate apartment and more like a home. It looks pretty decent thanks to vases and hurricane lamps from Crate and Barrel, a hundred glass ball ornaments, a small table top tree and some flowers. I hope they like it as we are sort of getting used to it. I never realized how beige my parents furniture is and in all the houses I grew up in, how well, neutral things are. I guess I always lived in a amazingly beautiful locations, so you wouldn't want your couch to clash with the lake or ocean, would you?

I guess not.

Our tree is outside waiting for the all clear.

It will come on Friday. I hope.

Other than that, marshmallow making and the last of the panfortes are the gift of twelfth night.

Man, I hope my mood improves for everyone's sake.


Monday, December 19, 2005

why exactly did you come home?

Well, my trip to Portland was really a trip to Spokane thanks to a snotty ice storm in Portlandia. Oh well, at least we have another chance for that Carl Greve discount coupon and a chance to fly down one day for lunch at clarklewis.

Not that I slept in my own bed, but at least we had a place to sleep.

The Bellevue Hyatt may be my home for the forseeable future.

Off to Top Pot for a business meeting.

Hacking, still.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

sunny sunday - recovery (you would think?)

Glaced fruit at Hediard, Paris December 2005.

Boring but true. Unpacked, deefloofed, mail sorted, recycling out, pictures downloaded and soon to be flickered, restaurant for tonight picked, garden surveyed.

Still no tree.

Oh well, there is always tomorrow night.

This could shape up to the most organized before christmas rush followed by a lack of enthusiasm for the whole holiday based on a number of pixy sticks that are all starting to fall into place or not.

So, stay tuned.

Off to airport again.

Portland tonight.


yours hackingly,

the still sick nm

Saturday, December 17, 2005

to date

Every flight I have been on in on this journey has had delays. To paris, from paris, to london, an unexpected stop today in ORD because of nonfunctioning lavs. So, now I have wasted 12 hours of my vacation sitting around dealing with weather, beauracracy and engineering.

I give up.

Somewhere on the way to ORD I crossed 100,000 BIS (butt in seat) miles on American Airlines only to be greeted with a gate far from immigration, no customer services agents to help rebook (lucky me, I called from the plane when we landed in ORD), a non-working escalator at DFW immigration and a two hour wait for the next flight.

Oh well, at least I still have a first class seat on the next leg.

I'll post about the actual trip, right now I'm just cranky.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

cucina povera

Cucina povera is Roman cooking, cucina on the cheap, tasty, filling and uses every bit of whatever you have. Much like the snout to tail cooking made popular by Fergus Henderson who runs St. John, Romans have been using offal as part of daily cooking. Yesterday for lunch, TH had trippa alla Romana - a tripe stew with tomatoes, tripe and pecorino cheese, which pronounced pretty decent. It is found on many menus here, along with cervelle (brains) and fegato (liver). I'm not a big fan, but I appreciate that its still simple, straightforward cooking that is still available and not elevated to superstar status.

Today I had a lovely lunch of carciofi alla giudia (deep fried whole artichokes), cacio e pepe and an insalata mista, TH had carpaccio con rughetta, a dish of guiancale e porcini pasta and we shared an tarte di ricotta e ciccolata. It was all delicious, it was at a restaurant suggested to me by our friend D, I can't remember the second recommendation, but this one was pretty darn fine. The weather was amazing, but alas, it was a scootch bit too cold for Romans to sit out and dine. The room was decorated most sweetly, without the typical over blown checked cloths of some trattorie/osterie or the smoker's pink that is found in some of the more bespoke restaurants in Rome.

I'm still not feeling at my tip topness even after all that Airborne, so we're laying low and just schelpping across the Campo for dinner at La Carbonara. Some think this place is overrated, me I am salivating over their antipasti and my saltimbocca alla romano. TH and I are becoming big fans of puntarelle, so we may have to get one to share.

Tomorrow afternoon, we schelp off to London to see Miss J. and then N &R. I will be sorry to leave here, but I know I'll be back sooner than later and that it will be as lovely as ever.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Rome - mostaccioli, antipasti and auguri

Good day all.

Slept better than I have in months. We had a lazier day than I had planned, but we're not complaining.

Lunch at Vecchia Roma, coffee at Cammerino, shopping for a small dinner, taking in the christmas lights and shopping for little things and answering - si, c'e un regalo when they ask if its a gift, even if it is not, because they wrap with such panache. Oh, I forgot, gelato at Della Palma and Giolliti - all in the brown to tan color range. :)

Tonight TH is making omelettes con funghi for dinner. I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I think I'll pass on gelato, however, methinks I've made another Alberto Pica convert.

Well, guess I'll take an Airborne and cuddle up with the latest Alice Munro.

Oh and try and remind me I'm on vacation and that checking work email is a bad, bad, bad thing.


Monday, December 12, 2005

benevenuti a roma

All roads lead to Rome, but between a manifestation on the RER ligne B, a Air France delayed to the rafters full flight and a 9-5 strike by the Italian Rail workers, our what would be 5 hour trip became more like a 8 hour trip.


However, here we are on a coolish evening. We have stocked ourselves with latteria de commune di Roma milk, decaf from cammerino for the moka, some lovely tulips and crackers for all the cheese that TH purchased in Paris. We'll do a frutta e verdura shop tomorrow am at the Campo for tangerines etc.

I have had my hat trick of carbs today, something I've been pretty good about avoiding these days. They were all delightful-- macarons from Laduree, pizza from place I like and a exquisite cono picolo from Alberto Pica on via de seggiola. It is my belief that this gelato far surpasses San Crispino or Giolliti. Tonight I had a tiny scoop of riso con cannella (cinnamon and rice) and miele di arcancia de l'estate (orange honey from the summer). TH went with limone, cafe and cioccolato, which are good ones to use as a measure of gelato quality.

Rome is quite strange now, restos and bars are all non smoking on the interior. Yup, you heard me, vietato di fumare. This makes eating for me a much more pleasurable activity. Smokers can still smoke at outside tables and in Rome, eating outside is a 10 month a year gig, so things aren't that bad. There are restaurants I have been dying to eat at that a year ago, I couldn't have even stood in for five minutes due to the amount of smoke. Now, I can't wait to eat in them.

Well, I should sign off now. Tomorrow off to run a few errands, visit the scuderie di Quirinale and the Chiostro di Bramante and visit the lovely shops in the campo marzio and via della scrof area.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

sunday in paris


breakfast at les orchidees
raspail market
le bon marche for us paper whores
lunch of crepe avec oeuf et jambon et cidre
pavillion du arsenal
walking through the marais
bhv for yet more paper
book shopping
buying yet another collismo xl and realizing that the hotel can deal with the post office
dinner at lutetia complete with conversations about g spots by drunken middle aged english holiday goers
walking from place de la concorde to the larc de triomphe and back including a visit to the drugstore publicis
place vendome at night with all the christmas trees in white lights

off to Rome tomorrow .....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Is that a baguette or are you happy to see me?


More on that later.

What can you say about a city that has more Cartiers than Starbucks. After a late arrival due to snow, we enjoyed ourselves walking around and doing a bit of chocolate shopping.

Today, it was bright and sunny and we walked instead of metroing and are now very tired. We must now run back to first hotel and get bags and drag them to bespoke new hotel.

Then run to Pompidou to see if indeed the post is open tomorrow and we can ship another XL box home. Remember kids, ballotins of 300 grams of chocs still weigh alot when you buy four a day.

Keep warm all and a big shout out to miss JK who stepped in on a fashion emergency for TH.

You rock and dinner is on her. ;)


Thursday, December 08, 2005

ORD report

Greetings from the Flagship Lounge at ORD. I'm sitting here anticipating that we will leave eventually. Right now it is snowing pretty hard, but our inbound equipment in here, so we'll be delayed at least an hour. The Lounge has a nice selection of food, so TH and I are basically full. I'll trundle onto the plane, curl up with the blanket and pillow and sleep until somewhere over Ireland. That is my hope.

I did stop at dish d'lish on the way out of Seattle and picked up some hummous and tuna salad, so with that, the crudite from the lounge and a water, I'll be fine.

Trust me, the food is not worth staying up for.

Anyways wish me luck, in 12 hours I should be walking around Place de la Madeleine (after a shower) and doing a bit of shopping.


Planning and Implementation

I'm great at planning and can suck at implementation. For travel this isn't as bad as for work. Trust me.

Planning trips is great - where to go, how to get there, how much will it cost, what will we do? We both do the where, I take care of the how and the cost, its a crap shoot.; )TH is the spreadsheet planner, which helps enormously for longer trips and places you are driving to, just to get an idea of what you can do near your destination. This worked great when we went to Wales in September. We were hell bent on getting to a few gardens, but were not sure if we would make it based on distance travelled, traffic and when specific gardens or properties were open. Turns out that we spent about three days in a pretty tight area which was great as well because we could always go back if we wanted to see something again. This doesn't work well with other countries such as Australia, but smallish regions, this is a good approach. A regional map, a bunch of those skinny plastic post it flags and a sense of humour is necessary, especially if one party loves art and the other not.

So, where am I going with this?

We love farmer's markets and so we'll spend this Friday morning in Paris looking for a market to go to, perhaps one we've never been to or maybe one we've seen before. As in Seattle or the Bay Area, they are all very different from each other. The one's in the 18th and 19th are full of North Africans and all sorts of spices, the very elegant one near the Musee de l'art moderne de la ville de Paris is very neat and tidy with great kitchenware. We both like the Batignolle organic market in the 17th and will maybe even venture to the tried and true Boulevard Raspail Market on Sunday morning, even if I can tempt TH with lunch or at least tea at Luteitia. How do I know so much about markets? A couple of sources, including Paris in a basket, one of the best and prettiest books about farmer's markets around. It serves as a comprehensive guide to markets in each arrondisement and nice tables listing market opens by day and they rate them. Not a bad investment of 20 bucks.

Did I mention it was beautiful to look at with lots of recipes?

Other great planning tools for Paris -- Time Out Paris, Patricia Wells' Food Lover Guide to Paris , Egullet message boards, the Paris est a nous series (in french) and travel message boards. Don't get too carried away, sometimes too much planning doesn't allow for the serendepitous discovery of the new patisserie or great little brocantes.

Enjoy more than anything.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

packing for three countries and two climates

Wales, Aberglasney, September 2005.

I guess this may be second nature to some of you, but it can really drive me crazy. I love to travel and hate to pack. I envy my female travel friends are great at it. I can toss and turn all night before I leave just thinking if I packed correctly. Note I did not say, enough, but correctly.

Winter in Europe is great because the mighty radiator/towel rack means that I can limit my smalls and socks/tights to a minimum because they'll dry very quickly. However, what to wear can be a challenge. I'm not the most stylish girl, but I do try. My coloring and accessories get me mistaken in Italy and Spain as a native, so I guess I'm doing something right.

This trip I have a book release party to attend in Paris, one nice foo foo dinner in Paris, dinner in Rome and a concert in London. I figure I'll take two pairs of crushable light jeans (velvet and something with spandex) and one pair of slacks that look decent with my danskos (the horror, I know) and a pair of mostros and boots. Boots are insane, but moderately comfortable and if I really hate them, I'll mail them back from Paris.

I will take two cashmere tops, both in neutrals, a pashmina like object in a brighter color, one large bag (lancel?) as it is "bright" and a small dinky bag. I'll layer everything with a t-shirt underneath it and realize that one less is okay because I can always do laundry in the middle and besides, for the most part who the heck is going to notice if I'm wearing the same pants three days in a row?

I always carry another bag for the trip home, usually a fold up one. I have a set of those longchamps les pliages that I love, even if ever coed in town sports on or two now. I have a set in "pick up spit and dust" beige (whose great idea was that?) and black. Black is good for travelling. They are not the easiest things to manage with a rollaboard, but they hide a multitude of things -- the latest Hello!, some duty free from boots and an extra sweater and hat. I can't live without them.

So, I'm nearly done pontificating here. Remember, most of us travel to first world countries where we can find almost anything we need, so if you forget underwear, use it as an excuse to buy some. If you are almost done with your anti-perspirant, buy some. If you believe in the wear it and toss it, do it, just don't expect the hotel housekeeping staff to take it as a gift. I can't imagine wearing holey underwear and grotty tshirt to Laduree, but if it floats your boat, go for it.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

wet blanket

How come edamame taste soo much better fresh that dried?

I feel like I've been sucking on peas.

This of course, is to stop me from running to the carbo/candy machine and getting something to eat. I am really hungry today, maybe because I'm tired (up until midnight working on the paper) or just hungry. I did weights this morning and then 25 minutes on the elliptical.

I managed to get two things done this morning that were positive - post office run and the library. However, now I really feel like I'm coming down with what everyone else and their cousin elmer has in this fair city.

Oh well. If I still feel like crap at 3, I'm going home.


Monday, December 05, 2005

argh, can it be over soon?

Nuff said. This quarter has sucked the big egg.

I will be sooo glad to be out of that class and five credits away from that certificate and maybe far away from

Now, I love or two of you, but this quarter has really really been bad and I'm slogging and trying to finish tonight so that tomorrow I can just chill.

Chill, wow, what a concept. I haven't chilled since my last transcon.

Hmm. Maybe I should look for some cheap chilling flights.



Sunday, December 04, 2005

sugar high sunday

Sugar, sugar, dragees. December 2005.

Okay, so it's not Sugar High Friday, but man, there is more sugar on my floor than I have ever imagined. I feel sorry for my cleaning diety, but methinks he'll manage.

Here are just a few highlights:

The calm before the storm: Lots of newspaper padding the table, table covered with sheet, carpets rolled up, paper towels handy. Food a plenty - hummous (homemade), baba ganoush with crudite, green chile artichoke dip, baked brie, other nosheri. Greens galore around the house and lots of spiced cider for thirsty guests.

Paris before it got toppled. My little friend W. loves Paris more than anything. I won't let him get to the cars quite yet as his little bro is too young to play with them, but I think this year for Xmas, he's getting New York and Tokyo.

The troll with a pierced lip, done by miss A, aged 5! Very very cool.

The very artistic ms. C.

Who would have ever thought that dragees could have made so many happy? I can't say much more than there will be some pretty dedicated five year olds keeping the martha stewart empire running for a long time.

I'm pooped now, the house is nearly back in one piece. We have a million dragees and non-pareils on the floor and at least another two loads of laundry to do, but once again, we survived the great cookie decorating extravaganza of 2005.


We still have cookies, so come on by.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

cookie cutters

Camel, lobster and friends, December 2005.

Just thought I would share.

I have nearly 100, which I know is probably not really that much, but if you can splurge and buy some from Hammersong, you'll be happy for life. I wonder if I can get TH to roll out a few anatomically correct gingerbread women?

I get these fabulous cutters at La Cuisine in Alexandria, VA. If you can't run to Paris every few years to visit Dehillerin and buy your copper (or just can't deal with shipping it or waiting to pay for it while there), come here. They have some of the coolest things for both the amateur and professional cook. I haven't been there since last October, so I guess I'll need to make a trip soon!

Road trip anyone?


More exciting than I need this morning

We have a lot of bookshelves in the house. More than most people would consider normal for sure and TH is always looking to put another one somewhere.

Well, soon enough we're going to have to expand into a library wing.

I went to move one book and a whole shelf sort of toppled or looked like it was going to. Good thing I had a couch handy and took all the books down, righted the shelf and then put it back. I found my old sketchbooks from grad school, I still suck at sketching, but it was fun to look anyways.

I can't wait to redo the floors, take out all the bookshelves and start with sturdier one, cause gosh knows, you can't get rid of books!

soon to be found under a mountain of them.

Slogging away Saturday

Don't forget the University District Farmer's Market is still open. Market, November 2005.

Slogging away on my essays. I have not a clue why this is being so difficult. I'm 3 of the 5 pages into it and could really give a whack at the same time, I do, which makes things difficult.

TH managed to blitz through some more cookies - so we have owls, hippos and trains along with stars and bears and cowboy hats. I wonder if she remembered the chile peppers.

Most of the other shopping is done and I only have hummous and artichoke dip to make. JK sent me a link for a baked brie from chowhound that I may try. My dearest Miss PRI is up from Mineral with her dog Mr. Scruffy, so hopefully she can fill me in on planning. In any case, what a great chance to catch up with someone near and dear to moi!

Still need to think about packing... and work. What is with that?


Friday, December 02, 2005

flight, what flight?

Ever have that nightmare that it is the end of the quarter and you forgot you signed up for quantum physics or underwater basket weaving and you forgot to go to class all quarter?

I hate that.

Imagine how I felt when I logged into my email today to find out that my upgrade to JFK cleared for my 8:05 flight this morning and I hadn't booked it or remembered I was flying!

On my last SEA-JFK turnaround, they were oversold, so offered my seat and then offered me another flight and voucher. Turned out they didn't need me and my upgrade cleared, so I boarded the original flight. Apparently they had rebooked me anyways - leaving today and coming back tomorrow.

Hmm. Anyways, I called cancelled my flight and made sure that she had my flight next week still in the system.

Darn, I could have used ten hours of uninterrupted work time.


unexpected evening

Panforte makings, November 2005.

I'm sitting here writing an essay and thinking about advocacy planning and TH is busy baking up a storm, or I should say, rolling out a storm and cutting out dozens of bears, camels, stars, hippos, cowboy boots and hats for our cookie decorating party.

It smells great and this is just the gingerbread.

We decided not to get a tree until we get back from our Paris/Rome trip, it was just one too many things to deal with and it'll be neat to have something to look forward to when we get back. I think TH was relieved that I came up with that decision myself.

We had a nice unexpected walk tonight when we saw a dog walking himself on a busy corner by top pot donuts, we followed him/her until they decided that they had found their people. That is, I went back to Top pot to get a cake donut to try and get the dog to come to me and TH walked with the dog. We spent about 3o minutes walking around looking for eachother. Nice walk, snow on the trees, lawns and the decorations were pretty tasteful.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

let it snow

Back garden ornament, November 2005.

Actually, I'm kidding.

However, I have two lovely wreaths sitting in my office (One is for you, Miss L!). And tomorrow TH and I will buy garland. Tonight, she is brave enough to deal with buying a tree.

Why buy a tree so early? Because I want one and besides, with small children over this weekend, we'll only decorate the top half.

I think its time to weigh the cost/benefit to getting a dog and a cat. I am really missing the furry ones this time of year. The dog who used to love the tree because he could drink out of the bucket it was standing in, but didn't like it because the lights shined in his face while he was trying to sleep.

I think the cat loved the baking more than anything. That cat, even in her dotage could hear the egg carton come out of the fridge and be in the kitchen doing the "egg dance" in five seconds.

However, looking at pics of them last year, with Jacques' ramp to get up on the couch and his cat on the ramp in hopes of a cream cheese treat during his pilling, I get all sad. It will be a quiet holiday around here.

I really can't do a cost benefit analysis, I think it has to come from somewhere else, n'est ce pas?

I think it is still snowing, dammit.


another sleepless night

Exhausted from work and class (oh, what a class) and in bed by 10:00 pm. Someone's car alarm (I'm thinking mine) started beeping at 1:15 am. By the time I got out to check on it, it was off, my car was fine. I think it was mine, I need to check in the daylight.

It has yet to do that in the time I've owned it.

Can you disable those things?

I love keyless entry, butt warmers and leather interiors, but I can do without the car alarm.

So, I spent the next four hours tossing and turning and replaying all the things that are driving me to sleeplessness.

It is going to be a long day.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I thought I taught you something

TH and I text message eachother while she is commuting by train. I have gotten some doozies in the past and today is no different

TH: If you have a clear suitcase for your prada it is good to hide you thong
NM: I didn't know prada made clear suitcases
NM: Was it my training that let you determine the shoes/thong were prada or could you see the labels?
TH: The cloth overbags and the suitcase is close to me.
TH: The thong is striped
NM: Probably bought the overbags from ebay.

Silly, yes, but interesting none the less.

So, moral of the story, keep your thong out of view and do you really need overbags for your shoes? I have lots of them and never use them. Maybe I should. Maybe I should invest in clear luggage.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How do I get on these mailing lists...

Honestly, its an International Polar Year and I love Arctic data (I do, I do), but can you imagine going up to someone at a bar and telling them that you belong to this?

Isn't science wonderful?


It looks scarily like me

Thanks to J. at random chatters, I have a face to put to this prose, however, the coffee is much too small!

15 minutes a day

H, who used to work out at my local gym, used to add 15 minutes to her work out from Thanksgiving until the New Year to combat that perceived weight gain over the holiday period. Yes, we are led to believe that we gain 5 to 10 lbs during the eggnog blitzed out turkey fests, but indeed it is usually a scant pound, that stay with us for the rest of the year. However, I like the idea and am trying it myself - not the eggnog and turkey, but adding 15 minutes to my routine.

It is hard, it is not like I'm lollygagging in the morning before the gym. However, my schedule is flexible for the most part, so I can indulge another mile on the treadmill if time permits.

I'm trying to conjure up some ideas for snack food for my holiday party. I have a few ideas - crudite with baba ganoush and hummous, cheese and crackers and chutney, little quiches from Nancys and maybe cheese straws. There will be enough sugar in the room, so no sweet things except for cider and royal icing. I'm trying a few things to shake up a few of these pounds before settling into the winter, I'm glad that Ann Taylor is at my beck and call when things get rough, but I have a closet full of clothes I would much rather be wearing.

Ack, I leave for Paris, Rome and London in a bit over a week. Must get organized.

Monday, November 28, 2005

insert foot in mouth

So, babbling away on the voice mail of our account manager for a software vendor who happens to be a personal friend of ours and after wrapping up what I need from him, I end with "love you, bye". I do like him, but WTF?

Maybe we use love you too much?

I hope he calls back, I really need info from him.


frosty monday

Apples at Neal's Yard, Shorts Garden, London EC1. November 2005.

I had to scrape my car today, first time this year. We're supposed to get a scant dusting of snow tonight, which I'm sure our local tv stations will turn into "Winter Blizzard 2005", with round the clock coverage of snow sightings and grocery stores being raided for beer and cheetos. I'm sorry don't watch tv, it could be an interesting way to spend some time.

In any case, time to bring those lemons up on the porch and think about mulching the rest of the tender perennials. I noticed the last the of the dahlias been done in by the weather. We still have 150 bulbs to put in the ground. Guess they will be going into containers or maybe next week it'll get warmer.

Yesterday I was a baking, preserving and prepping machine.

I made a lovely quince/ginger preserve with the last of the quinces, six batches of sugar and gingerbread dough for next Sunday, more quince juice, eight panfortes and started thinking about hors d'ouevres for next Sunday. More on that later....

I stopped by the "Village" on the way home from the train station and the University Library today. Got my glasses adjusted, caught up on the love life of the guy who sold them to me, went to Frans for a latte (such will power I have not to get a mocha!) and a few chocolate santas and then went in pursuit of the impossible -- a jean skirt that is not 1. ripped or holey 2. longer than a pair of boxers 3. under 300 dollars.

First stop: Abercrombie - they should card you before you enter, unless you have a credit card to pay for your daughters 200 dollar purchase, they just should not allow you in. Second, Lucky Jeans - only long dust catching 70's retro patched skirts or hootchie mama skirts (like abercrombie). J. Crew had something, but at 88 bucks, I reconsidered. Mercer had very little and frankly, unless you are a size 2, don't bother. Finally, I went into Ann Taylor and low and behold - two skirts, functional, that new demin that looks steely and more professional on the sale rack for 19.99 each. Sold to the girl who never thought she would need a bigger size again!

Whoo hoo.

At least I have options until I get rid of some of this stress induced poundage.

Well, off to clean up breakfast for dinner - green chiles from billy's gardens, fresh eggs from Growing things, last of the organic cheddar from Marks and Spencer and Hempler's canadian bacon all scrambled up. Didn't have any tortillas, so I served them with a side of Carr's table water crackers! Yikes.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

tired of sleeping

Tons of pumpkin fun, November 2005.

I can't sleep, so I got up and went to the couch where I am catching up with netflix. I am trying hard not to worry about things that cannot be solved at 3:30 am. I am watching Arrested Development and wondering two things - 1. When did Jason Bateman get some damn cute? 2. Why does Tony Hale look so much like David Gest?

This week is crunch week here, tons of work to catch up on, cookies to make and bake in preparation for next weekend's cookie fest and school stuff. Holiday stuff is starting in full force. I managed to start the panfortes and cards. Cards are hard this year, what do you say? This year sucked, hopefully next year will be better?

Well, it is light out. I guess it is time to start melting butter for gingerbread and start baking pumpkin and quinces.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

sunny saturday

Schizostylus coccinea (Oregon Sunset) November 2005.

Gosh, it is beautiful out. Sunny, windy and brisk. TH raked leaves and I better run out and bag them, but alas, I'm still inside making gingerbread and sugar cookie dough. I should really reverse my strategy and go outside now and do the baking when its dark.

Truth is folks, I'm procastinating.

Yup. I need to get started on the first of two essay questions for my final exam for my planning class, due 10 days from now. I just can't get into it and I have tons to do (work, large party, getting ready for 10 days in Europe etc... before its due), so I better get cracking.

Well, just thought I would share.


If you are going to make gingerbread cookies, make sure you have enough ginger and molasses so that you don't have to make a trip to the store.



Retirement Fund

When I was last in London, I had dinner at my aunt’s house. We were joking about travel and talking about routings that we all do to get back and forth to London from the United States. TH and routed ourselves through Dallas. Like us, she questioned why. I told her that it was because we needed the maximum mileage for our routing for retaining our frequent flyer status and for my retirement plan. Retirement plan? I’m not just talking about your work pension, IRA, outside investments or 401K, if you are lucky enough to have these things available to you, but my frequent flyer retirement plan.

You may raise your eyebrows at this point. What idiot would bank that their airline will be around next year, let alone in 20 years? Ditto for the frequent flyer programs that many of us collect points that are not redeemable when we need them.

I’m about 250,000 miles or points away from what American Airlines calls Lifetime Platinum. What does this mean? It means that I have either flown or earned through various channels 2,000,000 miles on American Airlines and their partners. With this vaunted title, I can claim a lifetime of mid-tier perks while the program exists. I will always be able to access the club on international flights, get double miles on any flight. I will always get to use the first class check in and my upgrades on domestic flights are still mostly going to clear, without ever having to fly another mile through Dallas!

Many get to this exalted status by accruing miles through credit cards purchases, buying and selling real estate, eating at restaurants or hotel stays. Some people attain multimillion-mile status without setting foot on a plane, which gets my goat. Most of my miles are butt in seat miles (BIS) and I’m going to be very happy to reach that goal in the next year. I may drag my friends to some more questionable restaurants that will garner me 400 miles per meal, but they will humor me. ;)

A great source of information on frequent flyer programs and picking one that works for you is Webflyer. If you have specific questions about routings, meals, products and the life of frequent flyer, visit Flyertalk, the consummate frequent flyer message board. NB: read a while, search and then post a question.

Friday, November 25, 2005

My little pomegranate Pip

Supersize me.

This week I got the “joy” of watching an episode of Oprah. She was making
her famous martinis with pomegranate juice. What the hell? Our peeps have been eating pomegranates from time eternal. When did they become so chic? So available? So Oprahfied?

We were in Tucson this past April and were amazed at the number of pomegranate bushes that we saw at old farmsteads, ranches and home sites we toured. The fruit is beautiful and exotic and the plant itself lovely with beautiful red flowers that develop these full red orbs. We never got the full story as to why a Hispanic-settled area had such a profusion of these bushes. I haven’t been able to find too many accounts of pomegranate use in traditional Mexican/Arizonan cooking. In Iran, they are used as a fresh fruit, juiced and pomegranate syrup is used for cooking. In the fall, the markets are full of pomegranates. A term of endearment in Farsi is calling someone a doone-anar (my little pomegranate pip).

When my mom was pregnant with my brother, she way 12,000 miles away from her family in Chicago. She had few cravings, but her strongest was for pomegranate. In the early winter, my father searched the city and found her two wizened pomegranates, which she savored. When I was growing up, the pomegranate was a treat. They would start to show up in the stores around October and they were tiny shrived fruit that we would pull apart and then marvel at the jeweled pips in the funny membrane. They were very biological, reminding us of brains, lungs and later to me, fish ovaries! We would take out the pips and either suck off the juice and flesh, leaving the pip, or eat the whole thing. They were so much fun and so exotic, but comforting and familiar.

Our American friends learned to love them as well. If my mom was particularly lucky and scored at the store, she and her friends would get together, put on the gloves and remove the fruit from the membrane and serve them all ready cleaned for special occasions. The seds/pips would be piled into a huge cut crystal bowl and you were able to enjoy them as dessert without dealing with the mess of cleaning them yourself.

Pomegranates are now found at Costco and their juice in your local health food store. They are no longer as magical as they were before, but piled high in the crystal bowl from my childhood, they are still majestic.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thankful for ...

Echinacea, October 2005, somewhere near Duvall.

Recently I have been wallowing in self-pity. Its not worth blogging about, but honestly, in the whole timeline of my life, this too shall pass. If you look at my life, I have it wonderful, easy and blessed.

I woke up in my parent's house in one of the most beautiful places in the world. My father dragged me out at the COD to go to the gym, which is our regular ritual and then stopped at Starbuckles (his term) so that I could get a cup of coffee of which he will take a sip of and pronounce that it is bitter. This is coming from a man who drinks strong Iranian tea without sugar! I am greatful that he is healthy, sound and always thinking. Most importantly, he is patient man with his daughter who chose the path of greatest resistance -- and became a scientist instead of the typical corporate lawyer much like most of peeps and is proud of me.

I came home to a house that smelled of ginger and a table that was set for breakfast. My mom has started the "not too complicated" Thanksgiving feast that now has two turkeys and two kinds of stuffing. My mom had a knee replacement this summer and after a few bad weeks is back to her normal busy self. I can call her and know that she will mostly make me smile and that she always has either a recipe or a joke (not all I get), for this I am thankful.

I am thankful that my brother is here and will be the life of the party later, after he plays 18 holes this morning. :)

I am thankful for TH and our relationship, our friends, our home, our life and our ability to laugh at ourselves. I am thankful that we remain sane considering all that we have gone through this year. I am thankful that I can still afford to travel on a whim and visit friends in far places and do it with freedom that comes with having an American passport.

Please spend part of today, be it a moment outside with your dog, a nanosecond before you knock on your host's door or an hour you get to yourself before you are deluged by guests to give thanks.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

jello salad and other Thanksgiving treats

Red on Green, right in time for Christmas shopping! Maple in Corvallis, October 2005.

My mom is currently chopping celery and apples for jello salad. While, I can't stand the stuff, I know that it is integral to Thanksgiving dinner, as is alboloo polo and her famous sweet potatoes with candied orange rind (don't knock it until you taste it).

This year my cousin, who is a fabulous cook, is making the turkey for our family gathering of nearly 18 (my father's side here in SD) and bringing many of the fixings. My mom, now has decided that Thanksgiving will not be the same unless she makes another tiny turkey so that the house smells good.

Why is this happening?

When my parents downsized a year and half ago, they didn't look carefully at the bespoke oven of 'casa de gated development with repeating gates ' (hmm, i wonder what that is in spanish?) and did not realize that you cannot get a turkey worth carving at the table in that miele stove for love nor money. They have already spent more money than most people sink into buying a house in Seattle just remodeling this place, and the oven stays, so someone else gets to make it.

It heartens me that my mom wants to make a bird, even if it goes home with her cleaning lady who will be happy for a nicely made bird for her family to eat or that gets carved up and I get enough for at least two or four turkey pot pies. She had a partial knee replacement this summer and she's back to her normal pace of cooking and entertaining which is great. However, the days of getting up at 4 am to stuff the 28lb bird to feed 40 are over unless they move and that ain't going to happen.

Yes, folks, 40 for dinner. My parents came to this country 40 years ago knowing not one soul and believed that you should invite everyone who has no where to go for Thanksgiving, we have had a myriad of postdocs, grad students, newly immigrated and lonely at our house each and every year. It is really no big deal. She has china for it and no it is not sit down at the table, but it is fun nonetheless. Do you see where I get this gene from? I get itchy thinking of a small table for a holiday.

So, where am I going with this? Tradition is good, having lots of people around is good if that is what you want and smelling stuffing and bird if that is what you need to feel good is even okay.

Off to battle the hoards at the lamest and scariest Whole Foods in the world, at least there is a Peets nearby. ;)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pathetic, si -Normale, non

Iron casting mold details, Welsh National Slate Museum, Llanberis, Wales, September 2005.

I can't remember when my flight is today. I can't even remember making a reservation, selecting a seat or paying for it. I remember most of these minute details, but for some reason, this one has passed me by.


Could it be the fact that as much as I love and cherish my family, sometimes, you just can't cope with the travelling, visting and more importantly, just being away from home to spend time with those who love you to death.

Any of you ever get picked up at the airport by your parents and have been ready to jump out at the first light knowing that you'll make the turn around flight if you can get back to the airport in the next five minutes?

Is there anything you do for self-preservation in these cases?

Me, I have work to do and I'm going somewhere to do it, even if it costs me tmobile hot spot time in a terrible corporate coffee place to do it.

I wish you all travelling today and tomorrow to visit your familes luck, fortitude and hopes that there is a decent independent coffee place and bookstore nearby to escape to.


How SAD it is

Building Detail, Tuscon, AZ April 2005.

Living in Seattle, we're deluged with news reports every fall and winter about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I like this definition as it sort of sums it up for me

(SAD) a cyclically recurring mood disorder characterized by depression, extreme lethargy, increased need for sleep, hyperphagia, and carbohydrate craving; it intensifies in one or more specific seasons, most commonly the winter months, and is hypothesized to be related to melatonin levels. In DSM-IV terminology called mood disorder with seasonal pattern.

They say that you can help alleviate the symptoms with exposure to light - be it a light box or going outside in the daylight, which makes alot of sense to me, but not always practical. There are lots of ideas on combatting it here and goodness, the UK cares enough to map it. Check it out.

TH and I were talking today and realized that one reason we do okay (relatively) this time of year is that we spend so much time above the clouds while flying. Being up in the light helps us both. I revel in this when I fly across the country and rail against people who try and get me to put the shades down so that they can watch some stupid episode of everyone loves raymond.

I tried to get out today and it didn't work, I'm going to try for the next few weeks and hopefully, it'll put the pep back into my step that seems to be lacking.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

sunday wrapup

Thanksgiving floral arrangements - not too Martha, but TH requested less green and more autumn this year. My own vases from SB Evans, London.

We spent part of today under cloudy dull skies planting bulbs, we made a good dent in our collection, we only have another 150 or so to go, which I know TH will plant the majority of on Thanksgiving as is tradition. We had a great gathering last night, the food was sumptious, the conversation lively. Now the dishes are all put away, the chairs as well, and as the evening starts we are ready for hazelnut tortellini with a mushroom ragout and an arugula/fennel salad for dinner. Yes, there still may be a bit of chocolate cake for dessert. ;)

The turkey carcass is in the stockpot burbling away. We will make a turkey wild rice soup sometime this week, or maybe later. We made a pumpkin black bean soup that we haven't much put a dent in yet. I wonder if the flight attendants will heat it up for me this week? (NOT).

TH will deal with the goose carcass as well. The best part of any fowl meal is the making of the stock afterwards -- leftover mushrooms, carrots, limp celery, parsely and onions all go into the pot and three hours later, we have a golden base that can be used for a myriad of recipes.

I have a friend who does a very lovely and rich broth with two birds, leaving her with chicken meat that she can add to any recipe and a dense, thick and flavorful broth to use in her amazing repetoire of recipes.

I will leave you with a nice recipe that uses stock and other goodies from this time of year. Please don't overseason that carcass (brining is not always the answer) and remember your Thankgiving Feast a few weeks down the line.

Winter Squash Risotto from Martha Rose Schulman
Serves 4 generously - 6 not so generously

6 to 7 cups chicken stock, as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, or 1 tablespoon each
1 small or 1/2 medium onion (I like yellow onions)
1 pound winter squash (about 1/2 of a good-size butternut, for example), such as butternut, banana or hubbard, peeled, seeded and finely diced (cheat, if you are in a hurry and use TJ's already chopped up and peeled butternut, I'm going to use the rest of the hubbard I grew)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 cup) - I used shaved
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper


Have the stock simmering on low heat in a saucepan.

Heat the oil or butter over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick frying pan and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes, and add the squash, garlic, and about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the squash begins to soften, about 5-7 minutes, and add the rice. Cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate and beginning to crackle.
Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The wine should bubble, but not too quickly. You want some of the flavor to cook into the rice before it evaporates. When the wine has just about evaporated, stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock, enough to just cover the rice and squash. The stock should bubble slowly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, adding more stock when the rice is almost dry, for 20 to 25 minutes.

Taste a bit of the rice. Is it cooked through? It should taste chewy but not hard in the middle. Definitely not soft like steamed rice. If it is still hard in the middle, you need to add another ladleful of stock and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Now is the time to ascertain if there is enough salt. Add if necesary.

Add another small ladleful of stock to the rice, stir somemore. Remove from heat and add nutmeg and parmesan. Add freshly ground pepper, taste one last time and adjust salt. The rice should be creamy. Add parmesan and parsely. Stir for a couple of seconds, and serve.

Adapted from Martha Rose Schulman

i heart you CD!

For bringing a quart of half and half so that I may revel in my morning coffee at home for the next week or so.

Big smooches from me.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Saturday before Thankgiving Thanksgiving

Ginko biloba - Temperate House Kew Gardens November 2005

Today we will celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends. The goose and turkey are thawed, the flowers are ready to be picked up, the silver polished and placemats are ironed. The house is clean and ready for guests.

You may ask, why make people suffer through more than one meal of turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potato gratin and too much pinot noir in one week? Because it is a tradition that has grown out of a time in our lives where we were expected home for Thanksgiving by our nuclear familes on Thanksgiving. It offered us a chance to sit at a table with all our friends and give thanks for all that we have - roofs that don't leak, jobs, educations, a bit of cash in the bank, health and friendship, without the emotional baggage that follows many of us home to our nuclear familes. It is a safe zone, with lots of interesting conversations, time to catch up and love and warmth that is genuine. The table size has ebbed and flowed over the year and some of the dearest people to us have moved too far away to join us, but they are there in spirit.

This is the 15th year of the Saturday before Thanksgiving thanksgiving and we will feast on goose, turkey, sweet potato gratin, hubbard squash, apple sauce, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauces (two kinds), vegetable casserole, freshly baked bread, freshly smoked salmon, gravy, mashed potatoes and good wine. The only traditional dessert will be pumpkin pie. I have to see pie at the table.

Not everything will make it to the table, invariably one stufing will end up crisped in the oven. We will all sit down together at one very long table, all 18 of us and be very thankful for all that we have survived this year.

That is something to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

love is

Very good chocolate cupcake - Dia: Beacon September 2005

Using 8 cups of confectioners sugar to make a few pounds of mocha buttercream frosting and making the frosting all swirly to look just like betty crocker.

happy birthday cupcake !

Why I love the bus and more flora

Temperate House - Kew November 2005

Dragged myself out of bed in time to have breakfast at the Club. It is now all non-smoking which is great. It caters to many different cultures so there is a combination of toast racks, french yoghurt and olives and cucumbers. I love it. I didn't love the guy who came in all sweaty from his workout in his shorts, this is definitely not that kind of place.

TH got up, ran into club to get a latte and then we went towards the tube station to go to Kew Gardens. The weather was cool, but bright. We took the camera, a book and our scarves westward to see the Chihuly exhibit and for a putter. The District Line has great nostalgia for me. As a child I lived in Orme Court (off of Bayswater Road) and used the District and Circle line to get places. As a young girl, I visited my aunt when she lived off of Chiswick High Road and the Stamford Brook station. The District Line emerges from below ground while in the center of London so you get to see things, even if they are as mundane as clotheslines and volunteer butterfly bushes cropping up the wierdest places. The trip to Kew isn't very long and the area around the train station/underground station has some pretty cool places to eat and shop. It now has a Starbucks and a Tesco express. The Tesco has a decent range of sandwiches and drinks for the visit.

We used a 2 for 1 ticket which saved 10 GBP. It wasn't very crowded when we got there and we were able to walk around the Palm house, the lake, the Prince of Wales Conservatory and the Temperate House and see the different installations in each place. I went by myself in August and it was strange to see how fast they take out the summer plantings to prepare for the winter season. All the bedding plants for early spring were installed along with the plant tags. What a change from the hot and wild summer plantings. (I really should get things loaded into flickr eh?).

We had a quick bite to eat at the Kew Orangery, puttered about a bit more and then decided that the crowds were starting to kill us and that maybe a nap was in order. We had to go to Finchley that night, so we needed to steel ourselves for that. However, at Earl's Court, TH made a request for a trip to the Orangery at Kensington Palace (gardens) for a piece of Orangery Cake. So that we did. It is yummy and the recipe is posted in a London Cafe's cookbook, so I'll post it soon. I had a bowl of sweet potato and rosemary soup that was pretty damn tasty. Did a quick run into Habitat and off we went into the darkening dusk (bad, bad, bad).

Orangery Cake November 2005

Made it back to Portman Square, ran to buy a book I had been remiss in picking up yesterday, went to check on a cheese thing at Marks and Spenser and back to room to pick up stuff to take to aunt. Now, this is where the fun comes....

I love to take the bus in London, I love being above ground, I love to see things and the people who ride the bus. I do not like to take the bus when everyone is done with their shopping day and have tons of packages and talk incessantly on their mobiles about the stupidest things.

Riding the bus gives you a sense of what a jumbled up place London is. The bus that we take, the 82 starts at Victoria, goes to Oxford Street and Baker Street, to Swiss Cottage and then down Finchley Road by Golders Green and to North Finchley. You go from a major transportation hub, to the biggest shopping district, to a really posh part of town, to a very Jewish part of town, through a very Japanese area to end in North Finchley, which well, has a new coffee place, which is really exciting. If you were taking the underground, you would see nothing of interest -- not the kosher butcher, next to the Iranian greengrocer two doors down from the halal doner kebab place. You would not see the storefronts, the decorations, the traffic and the life on the streets. I love it as it just is soo real and on occasion, the air is fresher.

It took a while due to all the stops, but we had a nice dinner, discussion and a short ride back to the hotel to sleep, dream and then in the morning --pack.