Saturday, February 28, 2009


Door to Nowhere

I think reinvention may be my favorite word. If James Lipton ever comes knocking, that will be my answer to his famous questionnaire by Bernard Pivot.

Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, talks about how every day we have 24 brand new hours. A new world of opportunities, choices, decisions, about how we want to live our lives. I think about that often.

Many people I know have gone through reinventions, either personal or professional. I am going through one now in a sense, brought on in part by the untimely and unexpected death of my father in 2006.

I have had the pleasure of watching one of my good friends go through a professional reinvention in the past couple of years. Duncan Davidson was quite well known in the programming/geek circuit when I first met him a few years ago. He had written books, regularly spoke at conferences, and had as much consulting work as he could handle. But Duncan was feeling less passionate about coding and more passionate about photography.

Because he knew the tech world, he began by shooting technical conferences, learning the ropes as he went along. Then, as he began to have opportunities to shoot conferences internationally, he was able to merge his passion for travel with his love of photography. Shoots in the States were often taken as road trips instead of flying, so he could shoot the wonders of Yellowstone, the Mohave, the coast.

Recently, he’s become a big name in photography with his photograph of Bill Gates unleashing a swarm of mosquitos into an unsuspecting crowd at the TED conference. But my favorite work of Duncan’s is that which combines his architect’s eye (ask him about his previous reinvention!) with the palette of an artist. The details of buildings, landscapes, and people, where what you see first is the color, the play of light, and the emotion of the piece before thinking about the object of the photo itself. His shots from Burning Man a couple years ago (including the photo at the top of this post) are great examples of this.

You can view Duncan’s work on Flickr here. He also has a site for purchasing beautiful, high-quality prints here. He’ll be adding more pieces to the sale site as time allows. These days, he can usually be found behind a rather large lens, somewhere other than home.

Casa Batlló Stairs

A little inspiration

making sock puppets

Today, when Anna awoke from her nap, I picked up a book we hadn't read in a while to help her transition back into her day. The book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, is one of several by Laura Joffe Numeroff (I actually prefer If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). In Moose, a crafty (in both senses of the word) moose spends the afternoon with a boy doing various creative projects, including making sock puppets. After reading the book, Anna announced that she wanted to make sock puppets too.

Given that we always have stray socks (or the even more frequent cat-eaten sock) and various crafty supplies, I gladly obliged. This is a great little project on a Saturday afternoon with a 3-year-old. Not only was the creation process fun, but now we have hours (well, it will feel like hours!) of playtime puppet drama to look forward to as well!

sock puppets

bits of ribbon
foam shapes
glue (I like Aleene's Original Tacky Glue for crafty projects)

Mix well with one 3-4 year old and let dry overnight (the puppets, not the child). Prepare for hours of silliness.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New url

A bit of housekeeping on my end: I've changed the url for this blog to For now, you'll get an auto redirect, but please do change it in your bookmarks and feeds. Everything else will stay the same. Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Favorite Things

There are a few things I am feeling especially appreciative of these days. Of course, the list is always changing, but here are a few things that make my life better or easier. Maybe there’s something here for you too!

Wrap-n-mat: this is our solution to packing school lunch, but it’s not just for kids. This reusable wrap closes with velcro, making it easy for little (helping) hands. When unfolded, it also functions as a placemat, handy when you’re eating off your desk or germy tables. And, of course, it’s good for the environment not to be using a disposable wrapper. Just wipe this down with a wet cloth and throw in the washer when it gets really nasty.

Yves Rocher Jardin du Monde creme de douche, in Grains de Café du Brésil scent. I fell in love with this shower gel (more like a cream) in France. The amazing coffee smell is just what need first thing in the morning. It’s a serious luxury item with a bargain price. I haven’t found it in the states, but it’s on sale at the French Yves Rocher site, which might make shipping costs tolerable. If someone knows of a US source, please post it in the comments! (note: there is a US Yves Rocher site, but for some reason they don’t have this particular scent. They do have similar items though, like the African Cocoa Bean shower cream.

Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of The Cure. Every night Anna goes to sleep listening to her “special music”. This brilliant company has taken our favorite music and made it perfect for little ones to go to sleep to. They’ve got The Beatles, Metallica, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, you get the idea. There are many, many versions. The upside is that you end up with music you like stuck in your head, instead of some inane kids music. And then later, when you’re in the car playing The Cure, your kid thinks it’s their music!

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. Ok, I know I’ve gone on and on about this book, but I am truly blown away by it. I’ve now made many different recipes, and have even made up my own by following their guidelines but using whatever combination of flours I had available, and it still turned out great. I am a believer.

Dirty chai, from Starbucks. Ok, I know Starbucks is evil and “the man” and all that. I didn’t say I was perfect! I am, however, starting to make these at home because they can be really expensive. Basically, a dirty chai is just a chai with espresso thrown in. The espresso takes the sweetness down a couple notches and enables me to get my fix (a mama needs her caffeine!). For my homemade version, I use half Tazo Chai Concentrate and half Silk Unsweetened Soymilk with 2 shots of espresso.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I love to read, but what I primarily read is what I’ll loosely call high-quality fiction. Usually contemporary, but not necessarily. What matters to me is the writing. When I’m shopping for a book, I’ll turn to the first page and start reading. If it grabs me in the first paragraph, I’m in. If not, not.

So it was with not a little doubt that I approached the recent phenomenon, Twilight. On the one hand, it was a New York Times bestseller. I couldn’t help but suspect that it was too “fluffy” though, and when I spoke to bookshop staff about my reticence, they backed me up. A woman who shall go unnamed, however (to protect the innocent, of course!), found herself reading the series, and offered me the first two books. I was hooked from minute one.

If, somehow, you’ve just crawled out from under a rock and have no idea what I’m talking about, Twilight is book 1 in a series of 4 about a young woman (Isabella, or Bella for short) who falls for a very seductive, and essentially good, vampire named Edward.

I’m not going to address the controversy surrounding the books, you can read about the fact that the characters don’t have sex and that the author is Mormon, here. I will say that the sexual tension between these characters is obviously a big part of the seduction (if you will) of the book. The writing is good enough, but it’s the tension that keeps you hooked. There’s nothing like the appeal of a fundamentally good, bad boy who happens to be so beautiful that he glitters when in direct sunlight!

I’m sure I’ll read the next in the series (I mean, I’ve got it, so it’d be pretty hard to resist) and I’ll post a review when I’m done. This is actually timely, as I’ve been intending to start doing book reviews, although I had no intention of this book being my first! It just kind of crept up on me (kind of like Edward has!).

As always, I recommend borrowing books from friends (as I did) or from the library if possible. It’s not only helpful on your wallet, it’s good for the environment. If, however, you’re going to purchase it anyway, please consider linking to Amazon here (click on the image of the book). I’ll make a few cents on your purchase, thus enabling me to continue trying to feed my child and my habit (blogging) at the same time!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Channeling my inner Martha

banana bread

I had to get up way too early this morning for a call with my good friend and fellow blogger, Leslie of my Chicaboom, who happens to be on the east coast. It was 6:15 a.m. (on a Saturday I might add) so I made sure to have coffee ready before I dialed. And then I had a realization: at such an early hour (did I mention it was Saturday?!) I simply couldn't think clearly until I knew that I had baked goods available! I had to have my carbs at the ready before I could talk shop. Sigh. So, with very little brain power available, I reached for my trusty banana bread recipe. This is one of my favorites, because it uses very few ingredients, mixes up quickly, and is flexible.

Here is my recipe, modified from The Joy of Cooking:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix 2 eggs, 5 T canola oil (or butter) and a scant 1/3 c. sugar in a bowl. Add 1 c. mashed banana (or a combination of banana, applesauce, plain yogurt — whatever you have available). Add 1 1/3 c. flour (I usually use half white and half whole wheat, although today I forgot and did all whole wheat). Add 3/4 t. salt, 1/2 t. baking soda, and 1/4 t. baking powder. Mix together. Add in 1/2 c. walnut (optonal). Bake for 45-55 minutes.

Happy baking!

Thursday, February 19, 2009



I was a creative kid. Very creative. Always working on this or that art project. Then I went to art school and subsequently became a graphic designer. And for some reason, the creativity changed. I don't know if it was age or the fact that I was now being paid to be "creative" on someone else's terms, but I stopped doing art around that time.

Years passed and I dabbled in this and that, but the passion for it was never the same. And then I had a child. I was so excited for her to begin "doing art". She, however, had different ideas. Of course, knowing nothing about children I was off by a couple years in terms of ability (she didn't yet know not to eat the crayons, for example).

Now that she's 3-and-a-half, I am floored by the way creativity is ever-present. It doesn't have to be about art — in fact it usually isn't. The other day we were playing "school" and it was lunchtime. Instead of going into the kitchen and collecting things one could actually eat, Anna came up with the most beautiful, interesting collections of objects for our "lunch".

She and her friends play this way all the time, making something where there's nothing — creating languages and universes where none exist. There is so much creativity and beauty, and not a small amount of hilarity in their efforts.

She is my role model. The goal is to unlearn, to see a world of opportunity in the nothingness, to play again.


Migraines, part 2

Ok, let me begin with the obvious: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. What I am is a lifelong sufferer of headaches and, more recently, migraines.

For years I didn’t realize that what I had were migraines because they came with none of the classic symptoms: no nausea, no weird vision stuff. I just got what I referred to as my "5-day headache". I would usually wake-up with a horrendous pounding in my right temple, which would get worse with movement. I found I could get the pounding down to a dull roar with a combination of over-the-counter meds. (My usual cocktail was 2 each of Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve).

This began in my late 20s and probably happened a few times a year until I had my daughter. After that it became a regular, monthly occurrence, usually beginning about a week before my period was due. At this point I finally realized they were migraines and went to my doctor for meds. I tried a few common migraine meds, but so far nothing has worked.

Recently my doctor referred me to a neurologist. Being the medical geek that I am (I love the “Annals of Medicine” stories in the New Yorker!), this was a fascinating meeting. I won’t bore you with the tests, etc. because what matters is the outcome. Basically he said I am a healthy person who gets cycle-related migraines and deals with pretty much constant, mild headaches the rest of the time. What was exciting is that he had some pretty benign suggestions as to how to approach treatment.

For the regular, ongoing headaches he has had a lot of success with a combination of two vitamins: Riboflavin (B2) and Magnesium Oxide. I take 100mg of the B2 and 400 mg of the Magnesium twice a day. Additionally, the week that I anticipate a migraine (which I can do since they’re cyclical), I take 1 Aleve twice a day (I could also take 1 Advil 3 times).

He also mentioned that the medical community is starting to see results with a supplement called Butterbur. I’d never heard of Butterbur before but when I mentioned it to the vitamin guy at New Seasons he got very excited and said a lot of people are using it for migraines now. I picked up a box of Petadolex for around $15, which was the brand he recommended. You take it at the onset of a migraine, much like you would a prescription medication. There is also a version that you can take daily, as prevention, but I didn't want to try too many things at once and it was quiet expensive that way.

I have only been doing this for one month but so far, the results are encouraging. I think I’ve only needed to take Advil one additional time for headache and managed to get through a cycle with no migraine. This could be a coincidence, but I’m encouraged. I will continue to follow this path and I’ll post results again in a few months.

Let me know if you decide to try this and what your results are as well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The all-chocolate dinner party

A few days ago, I posted about my new chocolate addiction, courtesy of our trip to France. I was curious about an all-chocolate dinner party and decided to attempt one for my birthday dinner this week.

The idea began with this recipe for molé, from David Lebovitz. A few weeks later, he posted a recipe for this chocolate cake, and the decision was made. I had the main and the dessert, now I just had to round out the menu with some sides and an appetizer.

Browsing at Powell’s, I found this book from Scharffenberger, which is filled with amazing recipes and information for the chocolate-obsessed. I decided on a goat-cheese and cacao nib spread, with homemade lavash from the previously mentioned Artisan Bread in 5-minutes a Day (a second plug for that book: the more I use it the more I love it.) I added an aged gouda and some quince paste to the plate to round it out. I also had little chocolate disks (74% cacao, Dominican Republic), some salted almonds, and some nibs by themselves. I hadn’t eaten nibs before, but apparently they are quite good for you (no sugar, high in antioxidants and fiber).

Following the apps, which were served with Prosecco, we moved on the the molé, which I served with roasted butternut squash (from our garden) dressed with an olive oil/balsamic/shallot/cacao nib dressing (all these recipes are from the Scharffenberger book). Both the molé and the squash were amazing! We paired these with a Russian Hill syrah, which held up really well to the spices of the molé. This course was followed by a salad of baby spinach, pears, toasted walnuts, and more cacao nibs. More syrah, hilarious conversation, and a brief pause to recover before moving on to the dessert followed.

For dessert, I served the chocolate cake (which is almost like a dense mousse) with fresh raspberries, a little whipped cream, and a tawny port. Yum.

I have to say, the menu was exactly what I wanted it to be. I was able to incorporate chocolate into every single dish, but without anything being overly sweet or rich. Portions are definitely a part of that (we kept them reasonable) as was the use of good, dark chocolate. Even the cake has only a couple tablespoons of added sugar. So, as my gift to you, I present the cake recipe, in English, and with step-by-step directions (which you don’t get when reading David Lebovitz’s scrawled note off the bathroom wall at Racines, although it makes for a great story!) Enjoy!

Gateau Zoë
  • 8oz salted butter (although I unintentionally used half that-8 tablespoons-and it turned out fine)
  • 1/4 c strong espresso
  • 2-3T superfine sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 8-11 oz good, dark chocolate (we used 11, bien sur!)
  1. beat yolks with sugar
  2. beat whites until stiff
  3. melt chocolate and butter, add espresso
  4. mix in yolks
  5. fold in whites
Put the mixture in a buttered, floured, 9-inch cake pan (we used cocoa powder instead of flour). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The center will be molten, but the sides should be firm.

Note: we had a hell of a time getting it out of the pan, and basically it just fell apart. I suggest a spring-form pan if you’ve got one. If not, embrace the mess and pretend it’s mousse!

One last note: for my birthday present, David bought me a fancy crepe pan to further my francophile tendencies. I can only assume that a crepe post will follow soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The date night that almost wasn’t

Last night was date night. Date night is usually a pretty informal affair, often just a chance to go out to dinner and enjoy some grown-up time for a couple hours. Usually I’ll look online and come up with a suggested destination sometime earlier that day, although we often get in the car to leave with no idea where we're going.

I had recently read about a new restaurant not far from us called Ned Ludd. The reviewer was a friend of the owners, but the description of the environment (casual) and the food (wood-fired, local) appealed. Since it was early, we decided to stop somewhere for drinks first. I’m partial to sangria (although it's not really sangria-weather here) so we headed over to Toro Bravo first. Toro Bravo is a popular tapas restaurant, very trendy and a bit overpriced. But for a pitcher of sangria at the bar, it was a perfect choice and, due to the early hour, we got in without a problem.

Of course, once there we had the option of staying and I do admit to being tempted by their scallops. But we had a plan, and $10 for 2 scallops did seem a bit hard to justify these days, so after about a hour we took off for our dinner destination. And so began our first face-to-face encounter with the recession.

After driving past Ned Ludd by several blocks, we doubled back and pulled into the parking lot. It’s also a very trendy-looking place, in a not-so-trendy (yet) location. We got out and walked up to the doors only to find them locked. A quick glance inside confirmed that the restaurant, only open for a couple months, was closed at 7pm on a Wednesday. Hmmm. Odd, but not too surprising since now is an unequivocally bad time to be starting a high-overhead business.

We decided to head up the road to Nutshell, a vegan place we’d eaten once before on a date night, maybe 8-months ago. Nutshell also opened fairly recently, let’s say within the past 2 years. Reviews are always good and I was pleasantly surprised David suggested it, since vegan is not usually his first choice. So again, we parked and walked up to the doors, only to find them locked! Two for two at prime dinner hour in the middle of the week.

A few storefronts up the road is yet another fairly recent addition, Lincoln. Also well-reviewed and recommended although decidedly more meat-centric than our usual choices. At least here there was a sign on the door informing us that they were closed because they were cooking at the James Beard House in New York this week.

By this point we were just about to head home and fire up a pot of spaghetti but we decided to make one last stop. Lovely Hula Hands has always been good to us, and happily they were open. An established Portland-restaurant with a reputation for good, local cuisine they did not disappoint. David and I shared the ricotta and black-trumpet mushroom ravioli and the sole, both of which were delicious. And we made it home in time to watch Lost, which is often how Wednesday date night ends for us these days!

But the experience was sobering. We’d both been commenting recently that the recession didn’t seem to be effecting the restaurant business here yet, judging by past date night observations. This week indicated otherwise. And I do fear that it’s only the beginning of a very long journey. Perhaps there will be more spaghetti in our future after all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Her Morning Elegance

Every once in a while something truly unique comes along. This video is very, very cool. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


My trainer, who also happens to be one of my very best girlfriends, is getting frustrated because the longer we work out together, the fatter I get. Not that I’m fat, but I’ve got a belly. In all fairness to her, she is frustrated on my behalf, because she knows I’d like to have a nice, flat stomach. Apparently not as much as I’d like to have a muffin, however.

I’ve battled with this back and forth about food and weight my entire life and, ironically, I don’t think what I look like has shifted much in that time. I’m not one of those people who gains and loses a lot of weight, or who yo-yo diets. I’m a slightly thinner than average 40-year-old woman who has had a child.

I used to care a lot about how skinny I felt (note I didn’t say looked because who the hell knows how they really look, anyway?). But over the years, I’ve gradually cared less. A bottle of olive oil, which used to last years (really, years!) now needs to be replaced every couple months. I think part of the growing ambivalence comes with the wisdom and security that comes with age. What seems like a big deal when you’re 15 turns out to really just be a pimple when you’re 30.

Going to France was definitely the turning point. The quality of the food there was just so high that it seemed like an insult not to appreciate it properly. And now that I’m home, it’s that kind of eating that appeals to me. Not the mindless snacking or eating endless muffins (although I do make great muffins), but the appeal of fresh, home baked bread with good chèvre or this molé, which I plan to make soon.

I still want to look good, but mostly I want to be happy. I’ll keep exercising because I want to be strong and healthy for myself and my family, and because I enjoy my time with my trainer girlfriend. But I think the days of striving for no belly fat are long gone. And, honestly, I’m glad. Because enjoying good food and good wine with friends is one of the things that makes me happiest. About that I have no ambivalence.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yuppie child

Anna: Mommy, look at the croissant!

Me: That’s not a croissant, honey. That’s a football!



I’ve never been a chocolate person. As a child I was partial to strawberry, and my preference for fruit-based ice creams and other desserts has remained pretty consistent. I’ll always choose the lemon tart over the chocolate cake.

In the past year or so I’ve watched my daughter discover chocolate, and I drew the conclusion that one was either a chocolate person (like my daughter) or wasn’t (like me).

And then we went to France. I’m not sure how it happened, except to say that a small amount of good, dark chocolate accompanies many things in France. Without realizing it, I developed a habit.

Since returning to Portland, my new-found love of chocolate has become obvious. First I made these outrageous dulche de leche brownies. Then, our good friends (confirmed chocoholics) introduced us to these candies, imported from France.

And then yesterday I had the pleasure of discovering Cacao. Located inside the Heathman Hotel, the tiny boutique chocolaterie sells “drinking chocolate” as well as coffee-based drinks (I had the dark chocolate mocha — divine) and imported chocolates from all over the world. I am especially excited to try the dark chocolate Grey Salt Caramels. Just in time for Valentine’s Day (hint hint)!

Sunday, February 1, 2009