Sunday, July 26, 2015

chef + the farmer

i just finished watching season one and two of OPB's "a chef's life" starring chef vivian howard.  vivian and her husband ben worked for some of the finest restaurants in new york city before her parents offered to help them start their own restaurant.  but the catch was it had to be where she grew up in north carolina.

at first, vivian wanted the farmers to grow fennel, jerusalem artichokes and other ingredients she had been used to cooking with in the big city.  eventually, however, she let the farm produce and seasons dictate what they served at chef + the farmer.

what i enjoyed about this series was how real it was: there is no sugar-coating the pressures and arguments involved in restaurant life (add to that the fact that they have twins, are building a new house, had a kitchen fire and want to start an oyster bar!)  honestly, as someone who automatically absorbs her environment, i had to take breaks from the vicarious stress at times.  i enjoy cooking and hospitality but definitely have no desire to run a food business!

when it comes to "farm to table", the howards really do know their locals; everyone from the pig guys and collard green farmers to the dairy men and grape growers.  you learn how to make recipes, too, that look amazing and have what she calls the balance of acidity, sweet and herbacious.

a chef's life is going to have a place at my table, especially when fall rolls around!

Friday, July 24, 2015

a willing partnership

i went horseback riding this week and learned to think of it as an exercise in willing partnership.  first of all, let the horse come to you.  horses have been coming up to me most of my life; usually when i'm out walking and stop to say hello or just quietly lock eyes with them.  i had a favorite back in junior high that i would visit down the country lane from my childhood home.  i also had a shelf devoted to horses growing up--those plastic action figures of the animal world--and would spend hours drawing them.

this week, i started with ground work.  just getting to know the animal by observing the hows and whys of their movement; learning their language. i learned not to invade their space and also not to let them invade mine, imagining boundary lines around our respective bodies.  i also observed that--like us--they move away from pressure, so that is how to guide them as well, and it doesn't take much.  with a well-trained horse, the slightest shift in body weight or turn of wrist will tell them where you want to go.  and, as pack animals, they want to be led.

they can tell if you aren't comfortable leading and will test you to see if you know what you're doing.  mean what you say.  do one command at a time.  don't give them mixed messages.  don't over correct.  do hold the reigns loosely but firmly.  and when they do what you want them to do, release the pressure immediately.  saying something over and over causes it to lose meaning.  and no amount of pushing, prodding, coaxing or yelling (which are not my style anyway) will move a two-ton animal, in fact, quite the opposite. 

horses and humans have such affinity for one another and are so much alike.  when they are afraid or anxious, there's a reason. they seem to internalize their surroundings, so this is not the time to layer on more commands, but rather to focus on removing them from the stress in order to soothe them. the perfect storm is when their fear sparks yours or vice-versa and ignites a frenzy.  a calm horse, however, is once again ready to listen and will go anywhere with and for you.   

this willing partnership revealed a lot to me about fear, trust, potential, and power.  their strength under control makes for a truly amazing, insightful and enjoyable ride.  oh, and it doesn't hurt to take a bunch of carrots along with you, either. 

titles r us

some writers get inspiration for the title first and write from there, others i've heard come up with it after the book is formed.  either way, like naming a child, the pressure's on. 

i have to laugh every once in a while because, just like trends with kid names, book titles seem to go through phases.  right now, i feel that some words and phrases are very overused when it comes to novels.  *disclaimer, some of them are favorite reads of mine.

here are the words i think could use a rest from titles:  paris, wife, beekeeper, apprentice, art, thief, french, tale, journey, forger. 

there's more, but i think it would be funny to come up with some combination of these just for fun, say, "the stung tale of the french beekeeper's wife" or "art theives forge in paris" or "journey of the apprentice."

what's in a title?  a book by any other name would smell as sweet.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

love, Motivation

dear Excuses,

you have served well, all of you.  thank you for your protection when it was needed, but i've got this and your services will no longer be required.  remember when i started giving you longer and longer break times and even shoved one of you aside that day on my way in?  well, that's because i can hear Trust's voice over yours now.

when Trust starts singing that catchy little tune of hers, it's time to give you notice.  you are stalwart guards and do an incredible job.  i mean, your work is kind of misunderstood.  to give you credit, you're strong and kind of like bouncers at the door of people's greatest needs.  you're not all bad; you're good guys who are designed to do temp work.  TEMP work, get it?  but yes, we all need you around sometimes because you're really good at showing us what needs attention.  your distant cousin, Priority, made sure to point that out to me recently. of course i told her i know that because we've all worked together before.

so back to my point, if you stay any longer, certain parts won't get air, so i'm just going to walk past you and bring them out into the light of day, ok?  you can stay and watch if you want, but only for a few minutes. don't worry, i touched base with Talk and they built up your paycheck and had it sent over to Action for your severance check. i'm not really sure if you'll be called on again here, so enjoy a nice long vacation somewhere and let me know when your retirement party is. i'll be the one in the active wear.

love, Motivation

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

a love story and a riddle

a package arrived for me today containing a gifted and signed copy of my friend robin's book, "a love story and a riddle:  the life and letters of helen hunter dixon evans".

after perusing it, i made some tea and became quickly and completely absorbed.  finding myself all of a sudden at page 80, i realized this is a profoundly layered work that she has done here, collecting her mother's letters that span two continents during the years between 1929 (when her parents first meet and also the stock market crash that sparked the great depression) to 1944 (her mother's death when robin was 5). 

robin's life began between these two continents, on a ship from the united states bound for south africa.  a professor of english literature, she and her husband emigrated back to the states in 1973 where she taught at linfield college for 25 years, raised two sons and grew grapes together for their winery.

to learn more about robin myfanwy lawton and order copies of her book, please visit 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015


i wrote this song at the piano after attending a fabulous house concert last night.  it's called "meadowlark".

lark, the only bird who sings in flight
lark, who's not afraid of the night
can hardly wait to tell you where she's been
and somehow knows places not yet seen

fly, oh fly
mistake not these fragile-looking wings
for to herald the day means you've waited
through a thousand different darks

fly, oh fly
to new realms of air
awake and rise
drink in and share the joy
the someday only heaven can provide

lark, if you sing with her in flight
will tell you not to fear the night


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

let us eat cake

this is a cool sketching exercise from a page i found in artist's magazine.

"illustrate a recipe" (carrot cake, below)

and my sketch (right) that i plan to bake tomorrow:  coconut cake!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

if you want for clear sky

i've nearly completed my 40th my birthday approaches, i am reminded of my father's words to me.  he said, as only a father can gift a daughter (thanks dad!), "you are not a circus pony.  you are a wild arabian mare."  those two sentences mean the world to me and i come back to them in times that call for solace, guidance, celebration or grounding.

in conjunction with that, i was gifted the book "holy is the day:  living in the gift of the present" by author carolyn weber (who also wrote "surprised by oxford").  she writes, "irreverence begins in not paying attention.  and yet, i think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely.  the eternal cannot be insisted into a pricks our want for clear sky, our ache for the star by which to mark our journey.  we crave the wisdom from within the flurry of beauty that startles and quiets".

these two concepts come together for me in that to run wild on the mountainside takes great strength.  it takes courage and boldness and grit.  it takes a willingness to enjoy being alone while also finding your tribe of those to run alongside.  sometimes i envy circus ponies.  what's not to love about them?  it seems easier because they're cute and their routine is simple.  not so the wild horse.  with such capacity that wants not to be tamed comes great responsibility, sometimes great pain and an often uncharted journey.  and yet i wouldn't want to be or have anything less.

just for now, however, in the midst of my running free i want to stop and do nothing.  i want to enjoy the views that the climb thus far has to offer and just be grateful for the experiences i've had.  i want to turn away from the fear of "who will do everything if i don't?" and, after i have reared up in response to the beauty of it all, simply stand in this one wild and holy moment.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

economy of movement

i learned firsthand about economy of movement after walking the portland marathon:  less is more.  trying to muscle through with long strides only wore me out, while those taking smaller, quick steps seemed to finish not only faster but with more energy.

and then i watched this concept come to life recently when i watched award-winning musicians play their guitars, fiddles and mandolins.

whether it's bluegrass music, bikers in the tour de france or a chef dicing onions, i notice a common pattern in that they conserve any energy that's not needed for the task at hand, working actually very hard but rendering their skill with seeming ease.

the same is true for the underwater portion of synchronized swimmers or the skill with which irish dancers keep their top half still while dancing.

anyone practiced at what they do has disciplined themselves through training to focus their motions and the result is a stunning economy of movement that lets anything unnecessary get out of the way so the music, food, or bike can shine!

as kingfishers catch fire

as kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
as tumbled over rim in roundy wells
stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
selves--goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
crying what i do is me:  for that i came.

i say more:  the just man justices;
keeps grace:  that keeps all his goings graces;
acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is--
Christ.  for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
to the Father through the features of men's faces.

gerard manley hopkins

Thursday, July 9, 2015

ex libris

ex libris:  "from the library of"...and a fantastic young adult novel by chris grabenstein called "the island of dr. libris".

where else could all the characters read by a boy visiting the island for the summer come to life in a parallel universe?  where robin hood is talking with hercules and tom sawyer runs along jack and his beanstalk? 

it's a hilarious and smart read that i highly recommend to book lovers of all ages. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

close to home

it's no surprise:  i love where i live!  so much so, sometimes it's hard to make myself leave during my usual world of home being a place to sleep, shower, and pack a lunch in the revolving door that can be the school year.  but summer's another matter altogether.

i entertain myself so much that i barely realize sometimes that 72 hours have gone by and i haven't left my nest because it's filled with so much fun cooking, sewing, reading, drawing, painting, writing, practicing music... the name of community, however, i do also love going out and about, doing errands in different places from usual, driving a new way home, supporting the local coffee and bbq pork sandwich economy, and connecting spontaneously with people.

there's plenty of time to play with small children on the swings, nap in the shade, bike to farmer's markets to buy fresh vegetables--eat ALL of the berries in your pint and have to go back to the farmer's market!--and lounge on neighborly front porches for afternoon iced tea.  in honor of july (31 days uninterrupted by school!) here are some photos from both my staying in and going out time.

*for over a couple of years i've been meaning to photograph our old mill and also the herringbone pattern of the tire stacks just before my turnoff.  so, in the spirit of not just talking about things but doing them, today i finally stopped with my camera. 

white linen sewing project

newberg's old mill
love these!

herringbone pattern
mobile wood fire pizza oven