Sunday, January 31, 2016

pho with space on the side

i tried a new vietnamese restaurant recently.  it was really crowded, which is always a good sign.  i ordered the nightly special as more and more people poured in the door. since i was dining alone and there were three unused chairs at my table, the waitress asked me if i would move to join two other diners.  "sure, if it's ok with them," i said.

i found myself sharing a table with two college students, two well-traveled young women who had interesting stories to share.  the thing was it became evident to me that they just wanted to talk to each other.  this was fine, but brought up an interesting social dynamic.  not wanting to err on either side of rudeness (not talking too much or ignoring them) i found myself just listening in without being invited to be part of the conversation.

i was comfortable enough while wondering if they were...except that i didn't know where to look.  usually the single dining cell phone whip-out suffices, except that i didn't want to drop it in my soup.  so i found myself studying the back of the hoison sauce bottle.  for a very long time.

it was interesting to me to listen in on not only their conversation but the adjoining tables' as well (a big group from australia).  it was like being at an international market.

is it just american of us to want a space bubble or intrinsically human?  what makes for the most ideal social dynamics?  i wonder about these questions, but there's no doubt in my mind that it was some of the best pho i've ever had.

Monday, January 25, 2016

DIY with annie sloan

winter is a great time for indoor home improvement projects!  i had an old matching coffee and end table from my first apartment days that i got really tired of looking at. 

my friend found and told me about the annie sloan paint she was going to use to redo her dressers and cabinet, so i looked it up. i found a delightful studio owner and paint stockist near to where i live:  md haney & co. that helped get me started.

what is so great about annie sloan chalk paint ($38.95 per quart and worth every bit)  is there is no need to sand or strip the wood first, just start painting!  and it covers great.  i simply used two coats of "french linen" grey and a first layer of wax before distressing the edges with sandpaper and finishing with a second coat of wax and buffing.

for me, it was all about the hardware that i found at a vintage shop up in astoria, so it was no small thrill for me to drill in and place the knobs.  voila:  new furniture for less than $50.  here's the before and after:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ekphrasial paranomania

my tiny book (1" x 1") about saint francis, given to me years ago by my oh-so-smart librarian friend, is inscribed, "to lanette, the patron saint of pastels, paranomasia and poetry..." and i must confess, i had to look up the word "paranomasia".  my guess was along the lines of super, ultra or something paranormal?  come to find out, it means "word play, the art of playing with words".  sign me up to be a paranomasiac!

the other far-reaching word i learned this week comes from "sunlight on the river:  poems about paintings and paintings about poems", the idea of which intrigued me.  the author introduces the concept by using the word "ekphrasis".  my only guess...something from the greek?  latin, it turns out. ek meaning "out of" and phrasis for "speech".  broadly speaking, it means one art form based on another.

for example, a transformed object--a poem, a painting--is further transformed by being imagined and realized in a different medium.  i had never thought about that.  what a cool art and literature nexus!

p.s.  the answer to who wrote the first book published by an african american is d) william wells brown.  he wrote "clotel" or "the president's daughter" in 1853, published in england.  the title character, one of two fictional daughters of president thomas jefferson, escapes to her freedom. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

MLK Jr. birthday book trivia

in honor of the late great martin luther king jr., here is today's book trivia...

who wrote the first book published by an african american?

a.  harriet beecher stowe
b.  phillis wheatley
c.  harriet wilson
d.  william wells brown

winter Rx

for a little winter health boost, i made my own version of the somewhat spendy organic aisle elixer:  apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne, black pepper, turmeric (anti-inflammatory), ginger (anti-bacterial), sea salt and hint of grade B organic maple syrup.

post-holiday parties, my body also seems to really like a daily dose of milk thistle (liver-cleansing) and echinacea.  i have times where i feel like i'm fighting germs, but haven't been sick this year, even around 350+people a week at school! 

in fact, heading to the grocer can be a pharmacy boost not only for you but also for your pocketbook at this time of year.  it takes a bit more time, but can be really fun if you plan for it.

for starters, i'd like to introduce you to two fabulous chefs i met via their cookbooks from the library:  marcus samuelsson and tara o'brady.  perusing their recipes, making a list, organizing my shopping by pantry section and eating before i went to the market made for an enjoyable time.

i let myself wander the aisles and explore new foods and flavors.  because of this i discovered a delicious coffee from new orleans called "french market" that is a medium-dark roast blended with chicory, giving it less caffeine and more robust flavor.  (i'm sipping it now).  then cooking ahead for the next week and a half commenced (i gave myself two days for the planning, shopping, chopping and cooking).  light a candle and turn on some music, you'll be so excited for your next meal!

you'll start to find your palette.  mine tends toward the rich and spicy, so i stock up on quality:  cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, garlic, nutmeg, vanilla, peppercorns, sea salt, dark chocolate and smoked paprika.  i also stock basics for sauces and spreads such as:  tahini, fish sauce, red & white wine, rice & white or apple cider vinegars, organic lime & lemon juices, cocunut oil, balsamic, and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.

i have my own chicken eggs, so i usually add cocount milk, yogurt, soft & hard cheeses to the diary list. a friend shares organic beef with me which i alternate using between trips to the local seafood supplier. lentils, chia seeds, flax meal and quinoa round out the grains.  and, while we're waiting for spring, the produce aisle can be a dose of sunshine.  i was craving the vitamins and minerals in:  pomegranate, papaya, blood orange, black cherries, mushrooms, bok choy, zucchini, cilantro, onion, basil, kale, fennel, tomato and avacado.

from all of this i was able to make:  chia pudding & golden tumeric sauce w/fruit, organic beef and tomato vegetable stew over couscous, asian rice salad wraps with peanut sauce, and homestead egg and potato fritters with fresh basil and mozerella.

what is your favorite food Rx?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


this is a great scandinavian word that means "not too much, not too little".  it describes the "just right" feeling of being in the perfectly happy middle; a feeling of contentment and satiety.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

courage works

how did i bring in 2016?  in the same ways i want to live it:  i read elizabeth gilbert's book "big magic" about creative living without fear and i emailed thank you notes to famous people.

(or, rather spent most of the time looking up how to contact the famous people and then writing them.  i didn't just want to send out another "tweet" or "like" into the social media universe.  those have their place, but i wanted them to get an honest, old fashioned email which is more difficult than it may sound.)

you see, i was grateful to elizabeth gilbert, oprah, and brene brown for their ideas. i didn't write with the expectation of a reply, though it would be fun to hear from them (or from their people's people's publisher's office coffee errand person...)

because my thanks started with a link to brene's interview of oprah:  courage works interview

and it continued with an article i read on the plane in oprah's latest magazine about how to really be present for people without over-identifying or absorbing, so as to be truly helpful.  (i tend to want to fix things which conveys intense emotions that are not as helpful as my heart wants to be, so the article helped me practice what to dial down and what to dial up in the form of some new and better ways of truly being there for others that actually work!) this also gave me the idea to ask others what were some of the bravest things they'd ever done.

while at the getty museum in LA, i saw, among many beautiful collections, what i thought was an extremely courageous photography exhibit called "scars" with big--and i mean larger than life-size--healed wounds that people allowed to be shared through pictures.  we all have scars, right?  on our bodies and in our souls?  visible ones from jumping too far from a tree when we were little (what kid doesn't like to tell how they got an owie) or the removal of a the invisible scars we get in the search for meaning, love and belonging that, if we're honest, are how we all grow, learn, fall down and get back up again.

everything about courage seems to point to vulnerability; the more willing we are to open ourselves up, the braver we can's to getting out and doing more of what makes us sparkle!

Monday, January 4, 2016

book trivia

for christmas, i received a nifty little desk calendar of book trivia.  ready?

"cape town central library set a world record in 2013 for what?"

a.  most overdue library books
b. first all-digital library
c.  having the most books fall in a domino chain
d.  collecting the most first signed editions

answer in a forthcoming post...meanwhile, you can guess and if you're right, receive unending praise from the blogosphere...