Thursday, May 07, 2015

On Mentorship

A photo posted by Nazila (@nazilam) on

Last week we flew to the Bay Area to see a friend and mentor give his last lecture to his students before retiring.   It seems that we spend more time attending memorials than retirements and weddings these days, so it made us happy to be present and catch up with dear friends for a happy occasion. 

Paul Groth is a professor of geography and architecture at UC Berkeley, he was also TH's father's student. Over the years, Paul took a genuine interest in our lives and scholarship. When TH was contemplating returning to grad school to get her PhD., he reviewed her statement of purpose and provided excellent editorial advice.  As she worked towards finishing her degree, he provided needed encouragement, advice and when it was time, Paul helped hood her.

When I was in grad school (again), Paul helped narrow down my broad desire to write about the connection between health and landscape history to a topic that was well-defined but not well studied. The thesis ended up being a lot of fun to research and write.   

Prior to this trip, TH and I talked a lot mentors and influencers in our lives.  Does that person have to be called out as a mentor? Does that person have to be someone who gains from your accomplishments?  Should they? Does that person have to be someone you shadow or check in with on a regular basis? Does that person have to be within your discipline?  How much do you need to give back as a mentee?

When I went back to school for the second round, I felt more grounded in my scholarship and felt like the professors that took a genuine interest in me acted as mentors.  From them, I learned to research, analyze and write about topics of gender, landscape and built environment in a way that made me feel proud of my work and felt like they were also happy with my results.  I still hear them in my head when I write or look at a building or urban plaza.  I remember to think of the context and events that impacted the design or placement of buildings.   Now I think of software and app design in the same way, so what I learned is bigger than a building footprint. 

What makes a good mentor? Have you mentored someone? 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


A photo posted by Nazila (@nazilam) on

I cam out of my shell a little more today, was more gregarious and asked a lot of questions. In doing this, I learned a lot. While this all is so energizing, I'm just as knackered as the day before. Collision Conference, you killed it and you killed me.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Collosion Conference Day 1 is over. I am exhausted, but happy I came. 

Deeper thoughts of conferences tomorrow. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Lettuce Planting for Dummies

This is one of a series of posts to get you in the mood to garden. Short of serving your guests stuffed rhubarb leaves with a castor bean stew, growing your own food is easy and fun and not too hard if you don't over think it.

So many cute lettuces to choose from these days. 
There have been spring showers galore in Seattle, but we’re now in a pretty stable weather pattern of the slow and long Spring.  We’re likely to get more rain, but the ground has warmed up sufficiently to start planting all of the things we’ve been buying at the grocery store and letting disintegrate in our produce crispers.

I’m talking to you lettuce.

Lettuce is one of the easiest things in the world to grow and honestly, is one of the most satisfying to harvest.  There is nothing more gratifying (smugger) than serving a salad that you picked yourself from your back garden beds. There are a million varieties out there for the small garden and ones that are way more interesting than the run of the mill iceberg, romaine or loose leaf we see at the grocery store. Lettuce requires a little warmth, not a lot of space and minimal soil prep.

If you have about a two by three foot area, you can grow lettuce from now until mid July.  First, prep the soil by removing all the overgrown weeds and tags from last year’s plantings.  With a trowel, loosen the soil to about 3 inches and to lightly aerate it.  Next smooth it out again and let it settle for a few hours if you have the time.   If you don’t have such a big area, scale down what I’m about to tell you. If you don’t have a bed prepped – go buy a 2 cubic yard bag of planting mix and use that bag as your new raised bed.

If you have purchased some lettuce seedlings at the grocery store or nursery, good on you.  Starts are a great way to get your garden going. Just make sure to separate out each plant if they are planted in a mass by teasing them gently from each other and plant them into individual holes. I try and space them about six inches apart on a grid if possible so that they have a little room to grow and can crowd out any weeds. Try to be careful not to destroy the root structure when you pull them apart and make sure that the roots and the base of the lettuce plant are covered with soil. 

We've resorted to growing lettuce in gutters around here. It works, mostly.

At the same time you should sow some seeds to keep that lettuce train going into the summer.  I usually plant one or two short rows nearby the grid of lettuce seedlings.  Lettuce seeds are pretty narrow and long, so I create a ½” furrow to drop in the seeds and then cover them over gently with some soil to keep the seeds from being exposed.  Under the right conditions, the seeds should germinate within 10 days.  From these rows you can directly thin your lettuces by either transplanting some of the seedlings to another place or put them into a salad. 

Baby lettuces are great mixed with other things  such as baby kale and herbs

About ten days later, I do another sowing, either in rows or I broadcast the seeds (lazy gardeners FTW) in a small (1x1 ft) square to use a nursery area.  These seedlings can go into the spaces where we’ve harvested the first seedlings we bought to encourage us to keep going.  The trick is to keep sowing to stagger the harvest.  There is only so much lettuce that one family can eat in a day.

As the season continues, you might find that your lettuce has bolted and turned bitter.  This is the time to pull most of it up and calls for a lettuce holiday.  In this case, I encourage you to let a few heads go to seed because they are both pretty and the seeds germinate the following season giving you a new crop of free seedlings and start eating all those beans and chard that has taken off.

You can start the lettuce train again in early September when things cool down a little bit, the days are getting shorter, but if you pick a lettuce variety with a short harvest time, you’ll be golden.

Here are a few of my favorites –

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Musings - on Travel

A photo posted by Nazila (@nazilam) on

My friend Joan just posted to Facebook a great article from the NY Times on what makes a good travel companion - you can read it here.

I met Joan by posting on Flyertalk in 2000 (remember that far back?). I had posted that we were visiting Paris for a day and would like to meet up with anyone who wished to go exploring with us. Joan took a morning train from Brussels and we spent a delightful day wandering, eating and marketing.  From that trip a million miles ago, we've traveled to Paris again, London, Japan as well as the US. We talk about doing some more traveling soon. What made our trips work is that we have many of the same interests (quirky museums, eating, markets and fine hotel lounges), we have similar schedules and stamina for long days of walking and know when to give each other space.  We're also pretty good planners and communicators and this helps tremendously.  Joan is also the only person in the world who could get me to eat sweetbreads and I sort of liked them.

The past July, I took another short break with my friend Elaine to Paris. We had seen each other off and on over the years when she lived in London, but had never traveled together.  Again, we had a great trip because we had the same interests (sight seeing, shopping and eating), similar levels of energy and stamina and were mature enough to enjoy our own company.  I would repeat the trip again in a heartbeat.

Trips together don't require flying on the same flights or the same day, but they require some discussion prior to leaving to figure out logistics such as reservations at hard to get into restaurants and booking that burro ride down to the bottom of the gorge in 100 degree heat.  They also require a little flexibility, which can get harder as we get less flexible in our bodies and minds.

Where to go next?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday wrap up

Grand Central detail 

2600 miles flown
Many rows of needlepoint completed
Awesome catch up with a friend
Great food at Craftbar 
And a high of 78 tomorrow 

Friday, May 01, 2015

May Day

A photo posted by Nazila (@nazilam) on

I'm not calling for reinforcements -  but I am making my May goal public. I would like to blog every day this month, no matter where I am and when.  I like those gold stars that mark my calendar for completing tasks.

Last month my goal was to record everything I ate - that was interesting. I learned I love sugar and early in the day and late at night. I don't eat enough vegetables and that I walk a lot and get plenty of exercise.

All these goals start to snowball in a good way - I track my food, I try and exercise daily and I need and want to write about all sorts of things.

Happy May.

What are you goals for the month?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Needlepoint Mania

I have not really mentioned my new obsession here, but my friends and family have seen me stitch up a storm. I'm not making my own clothes, but I have gone back to needlepointing.  Needlepointing is something I did in high school. I wasn't very good, nor did I really finish any one project, but my mom was happy that I picked up a "domestic art" that I could do pretty much anywhere.

Fast forward a few decades later and I have nearly completed one of my high school projects - a needlepoint pillow sampler in a lovely pale pink. I've also finished two other tapestries and am now struggling loving my new project which uses a 18 mesh canvas and cotton thread.

The truth is that the more I needlepoint, the less I look at my phone. I also seem to be eating less because you can't really eat or drink with a canvas in your lap. I like the fact that for the most part, I'm working on portable projects and that they are good conversation starters.  

It is great for me because TH is also doing some needlepoint, so she's okay with me dragging her to needlepoint stores wherever we travel. 

My favorite thing to make - pillows.  I estimate that I'll have completed six of holiday accent pillows. I can't believe I've become that person.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Step by step, goal by goal

Happy April.

I have set goals the last two months and will continue to do the same for this month. I'm not into setting huge goals but little ones that build upon each other.

February I focused on tracking my sleep using my fitbit. I continue to do the same thing in March and hopefully for ever. In March, I tracked (for the most part) what I spent money on and it was very interesting. I've been super lucky to never have to budget and given my current job situation, I thought it might not be a bad idea to consider trying it and seeing where it takes me.

This month I'm focusing on writing daily and trying to capture what I eat in some sort of written form. I'm also adding some new stuff to my work out mix including swimming and barre. I thought about running, but that will have to wait until I can find a good sports bra.

My other goal is to start using the new Story Corps app to get my parents talking about their life in Iran and what it was like for them when they first came to the US. Whenever my mom tells the tale, I start crying and I want my niece and nephew to realize what their GaGa and GrandPa did to make a better life their kids.

I started this project a while ago, but am excited that there is an easier way to do this now.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Marching On

Yay.  February is over. 

I hate February. This year has been especially trying from a trying to keep myself up and happy point of view, but I made it.

The sun and early (very) spring has been a great help. 

What does all of this early spring mean for the late spring and summer? As a gardener, I'm delighted and scared that the summer will be long and dry. I'm scrambling to figure out what to plant and how to mitigate for any long dry spells.  I'm also using some of my newly acquired spare time to work in the garden to clear away debris, mulch like heck, decimate weeds and pull out the things that I do not love in the garden.

While I can't control the weather, I can control to some extent what I cultivate and want to make it the best year we've had in a while. 

I've been reading a lot about organization, decluttering and productivity and trying to apply some of these principles to my life at home, but also to the garden and how I approach this craft.  

My biggest concern is not getting so in the weeds (HA), that I lose the big picture view of what the garden means and how it functions.

More on this later.

March is moving forward - this is my favorite month of the year - it is our New Year and that makes me happy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to not be a wall flower

To be blogged

I listen to the radio in the car when running errands, this is not helping me to get through my goal of listening to my whole iTunes collection sometime this year.  I think I have something like 35 days of music.

I typically listen to the local NPR station and was fortunate enough to get to  listen in on the Gardening Panel a few years ago.  The subject of hellebores came up and how to grow them. I have to admit, I listened closely.  At one time in my life, the hellebore was my holy grail plant. I thought only expert gardeners could grow them, they were mysterious and so gorgeous.  They are one of the first things to bloom in the early winter garden and if you are lucky, their gorgeous seed pods will see you through until June.  They are both delicate and hard as nails depending on the kind you have growing in your garden.  Some of the more fleshy varieties, such as the Corsican hellebore  (Helleborus argutifolius) look down right alien depending on the size and placement in the garden.  I suppose it is partially due to the climate in Corsica and CAM metabolism, but let's not go down the plant photorespiration cycles of my misspent youth.  

The more delicate forms (Hellebore niger) Christmas Rose and these are the kind I and many other gardeners cherish.  They flower stalks pop up in early January (or earlier) and wow you with amazing displays of flowers ranging from clear whites to dark purples with all sorts of strange crossings that occur. They emerge right when we are starting to lose hope that anything will emerge from our damp soil.  These hellebores are not difficult to grow, just find a few smallish plants you like at your local plant sale, put them in the ground in a location with partial shade and remember to water while they get established. 

Here's the thing about hellebores - they older varieties of Hellebore niger are really really shy plants -with flower stalks full of gorgeous flowers that spend most of their lives looking down at their feet.  In order to take in their beauty, you have to lift up their chins and give them a good look.   They remind me of someone who just can't seem to get it together and summon the courage to say "HELLLLLOOOO WORLD" look at/to me."

It takes an persistent person to keep lifting up these flowers to see their beauty and qualities.  The other option is to cut the flowers off and float them in a dish of water to get a good look.  In both cases, you see all the beauty, variation and details of the hellebore.

The newer hybrids that are being bred for their lovely flowers that tilt upwards to reach the sky or look you right in the eye. Pow. There is nothing shy about these beauties.  While the ones I have seen seem to lack some of the delicate grace of the Hellebore Niger, they still are lookers that last for months. 

I realize that there is something  aloof about not showing off your colors, spots or petal count.  I wonder if this is such a good way to go on the world - remaining quiet and retiring and letting others capture the glory, the spotlight, the credit, when you may have spots, color or some other feature that deserves attention

It might not be such a bad idea to start breeding in new habits into your life.

Sunday, February 08, 2015


My wicked cold remains wicked, but at least it is now just in my nose. I'm not sure that is good or bad. I am going to offer my seat opponent a nice chocolate bar and some hand sanitizer for having to sit next to me for eight hours. I'm also going in search of a nice sinus pressure reliever for my flight. That should be fun!

Friends, wash your hands religiously, drink lots of fluids, get lots of sleep and never don't touch your eyes with your fingers, especially after taking public transport. I have managed to stay healthy more months if not nearly a year by doing these things,  but something out there caught me off guard this time and I'm going to fight to keep myself well for the rest of the year.

Sunday, you were awesome, what I saw of you after I stayed in bed until the last possible moment before my check out time.

Saturday, February 07, 2015


I ate a lot of lemon cake today 

I read a lot. 

Slurped noodles and did nothing. 

I highly recommend it. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Buy this now - the St. Valentine's Day edition

You could always just buy your true love some bubble wrap to keep the plants warm and toasty, Chelsea Physic Garden, 2015.

I'm not much for St. Valentine's Day as it is gushed and shoved down our throats by my kindred marketers.  I hate watching desperate people flocking to the candy store or into lingerie stores looking for a little something at the last minute. St. Valentine's day is a foreign concept in Iran, but one my mom worked hard to integrate into our childhood.  I loved getting little presents from her - little notes or new pjs.

I was not a terribly popular kid growing up and didn't get tons of cards or had sweethearts in my youth who cared about such things, as a result my feelings about the holiday soured until I met TH. She was skeptical about the holiday as well. Over time we both warmed up to the holiday. For the past twenty plus years,  we've enjoyed some nice dinners, bought flowers or plants near the day and exchanged some lovely mementos that we both still use.

I think on our first Valentine's day she gave me a flat bladed shovel.  Romantic? To me, yes. Practical? Hell yes. I still have that shovel and use it often.

As I walk around the gardens of the Shires, I wonder what I would get a gardener to celebrate the holiday - something that would last and be special. I have spent a little time today listing a few of these. It may be too late to order some of these things for delivery next week, but the gardening season is coming up and lasts a while, so I'm sure they will still be appreciated.

Here's my favorite wash basket that we use for carrying seedlings, shears, and seeds to the garden and fill up with produce on the way back. It is sturdy, gorgeous and goes well with your wellies.

I can't live without my Felcos.  I have to change out the blade occasionally, but these size 6 right handed pruners are by my side or in my skort all summer long.

I cannot get enough of seeds from  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, especially these chicories or these Renee's garden sweet peas.

I do wear gloves when I garden and these are the best I've found. They go right into the wash and hang dry. Do yourself a favor and buy two pairs.

If you love a good garden book with some awesome recipes, I highly recommend finding a used copy of this great book by Christopher Lloyd.

If you want to read about an amazing story of gardening and family, pre-order my friend Tara's book The Orchard House and go to her Seattle reading.

That garden spade - it is still worth a million boxes of truffles.

Go out, get dirty and then get romantic.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Snowdrop Mania

I'm in London for the next few days partially to clear my head, but really to see the snowdrops that are popping up all over gardens in the UK.  I love snowdrops. I have a few different varieties in my garden, but nothing like the crazy number that are cultivated here.

I wish I could take them home, but I can't.

They are some amazing beauties.

Follow me on instagram to see my latest pictures.  Today I visited the Chelsea Physic Garden and got to talk around with the head gardener to hear what he liked to see in the winter garden.  Some of his choices were amazing and gave me some great ideas. He also hit upon something that I have queued up and ready to go for next week - the new hellebores.

Tomorrow, I'm going North to Cambridgeshire to visit Anglesey Abbey and their gardens. I'm really excited also because I haven't been to Cambridge in a really long time.

Saturday, I'm off to Welford Park in Berkshire to see their collection. It is a little crazy to get places like these houses and gardens without a car, but I'm going to give it a go.  It was gorgeous and a little chilly today. I believe Saturday is going to be much the same.

I am debating if I want to add two hours to my visit.  The thing is that even with a tea room, I'm going to be freezing and a little bored. The buses are conspiring against me in this case. If I feel like I was shorted, I'll just come back next year with TH.  Every place I go I wish she was here.

Ack, it is nearly midnight here. Time to hit the hay.


I would share the photos, but they are taking their sweet time to upload, so I'll add them later.


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Two letters, one sentence.

I really meant to write this post on January 2, but then I got busy with AMS and soon the job thing followed.  I didn’t get a chance to share with you what I believed then and still believe is my “Focus” word for 2015.

That word is NO.

One of my childhood friends stated recently that No is a complete sentence in two letters.

Saying No means that I will not overcommit and under deliver which disappoints both of us.

Saying No means that you have more time in your life for the Yeses that are important and usually come after someone hears you say No.

Saying No does not mean that I’m being selfish with my time, nor being a slacker and pulling my weight.  This year it means I am being more thoughtful about the choices I make, the projects I’m willing to take on and the people I’m going to spend time with in 2015.  To me, by saying No I’m going to do the best that that I can and give what I can give.

I wish I could say it was a more cheerful word like embrace, joy, smile or what what, but it is what it is.

I say yes to that.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Sunday, February 01, 2015

A month late

The last month has been a bit of a trial.  I'm still working through it. I'm happy to say I'm healthy as a horse and my family is fine.

My job, however, is not.

I knew working at a startup was going to be risky, but I was willing to take that risk.

I'm happy to take it again.

I learned so much and I can give so much. I just need to figure out the best way to approach my next opportunity.

More later.

I'm challenging myself to write everyday this month. I missed it last month.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The day

Has been long and so much to process!

I'm in Phoenix, away from my home, but blessedly with TH and my friends.

I'm happy to be part of this amazing community of climate scientists, meteorologist,  and some of the smartest people in the room.

Thursday, January 01, 2015


The first thing I baked in 2015 was sweet and fresh. I am hopeful that this year will be much the same.