Wednesday, December 5, 2012



My dad would have been 70 today. I can remember him talking about how weird would be to be 70, back when he was 64 and thought he could outwit his body indefinitely.

I have little ways of dealing with the gaping hole of his loss; little games I play with myself. One of them is not to look very closely at those folks who, out of my peripheral vision, look a little like him. I'll see someone, or more accurately some part of someone, and I'll let myself pretend, just for a moment, that my dad is there. The curl where their hair meets their collar can do it every time.

And I still have those crazy dreams — the ones where I know my dad is dead, and yet here we are talking. And I can tell it's really deep and meaningful and then I wake up and remember nothing. I'm just left with the feeling that we had a really amazing visit. I'm still not convinced that those are just dreams.

A few weeks ago, I came across a previously undiscovered box of old photos and other ephemera from my dad's family. There were scraps of paper that belonged to my great grandfather, my grandfather, my grandmother, my dad. Gone, gone, with only the bits and pieces left behind. I savored every minute of sifting through out-of-focus photographs of people I didn't recognize, my father's elementary school report cards ("talks too much"), and a few real gems. Among them are the photos here. I'd never seen them before, and I absolutely adore them. I love how in the series at the top my dad is cut off in every single photo. So classic of bad, old pics and yet I love the quirkiness of them now.

And this last photo of my dad and I when I was about 21. I don't remember ever seeing this image before, but it says it all.

Dad, you have my heart. I hope one day you hand it back to me.

me and dad 1

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Take-aways from our summer abroad

At the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris.

We've been back from Europe for a week now, but it feels like longer. Funny how that works. The 7 weeks there feel like a dream already. There are several things though that I've brought back with me: things that I want to hold on to.  In no particular order, they are:

Be less busy. Without realizing it, we completely changed our pace to match those of our friends in Europe. It's easy to do when you don't have school, camps, work, and other commitments. Coming back and seeing how overbooked (and often stressed) our friends are here makes me realize I don't want to get back on that treadmill.

Linger over meals with friends. Every single meal we had with our friends in Europe lasted hours. With kids, regardless of their age. There was no stress, no pressure: just good food, good wine, and good company (thank you Curtis & Leila, Eric & Rebecca, Clinton & Chavi, Anne & Theirry!). This one will be harder, because it depends on our friends here to try to let go a bit and relax the pace. We'll see if anyone's willing to play.

Be inspired. Man oh man was it great to immerse myself in art again. I've got a tendency towards art snobbery and so I don't bother much in Portland with museums, galleries, etc. And, in reality, there's nothing here that compares to the museums in Paris or Barcelona. But there is inspiration to be found, and I need to make more of an effort to find it.

Walk more. For 7 weeks I didn't worry about what I ate or drank. I ate tons of amazing cheese, patisserie, wine/cider, butter. I also walked an average of 20 hours a week, with a major hill every single day. I didn't do yoga or pilates or the elliptical. I also didn't gain an ounce. In order to make the time for this, I have to honor my first goal of not being so busy. It was easy to walk for hours when I had no where I had to be at any particular time.

Be late. I am chronically early. I am also chronically stressed out about being late. The truth is, I am never late, and my stress about doesn't help anything. In Europe, everyone's late. So much so that I had to force myself to wait 15 minutes past the time our friends told us to come for dinner just so that we'd be late enough to be socially acceptable! (It was really hard.) In truth, I'll probably rarely be late anywhere, but if I try to be late maybe I'll be on time and less stressed/rushed. And if I'm late to meet you somewhere, I apologize in advance (and you should congratulate me!).

Monday, August 6, 2012

Julia for a day

Julienne of leeks and carrots.

Last week, our good friend Eric invited us to dinner at his house. His father, Michel, was in town visiting and they offered to make a special meal for us. Michel happens to be a chef and teaches at a French cooking school, so we were especially excited to accept their invitation.

When making our plans for dinner, I asked if it would be possible to observe part of the meal preparation, or maybe do some prep work for Michel. Several days later Eric got back to me to discuss plans for the menu. Eric mentioned several courses, all of which sounded both fabulous and totally new to me. Then I was told that I should plan on arriving without David or Anna, four hours before dinner.

At this point I should mention that neither my French nor Michel's english are fluent, and that I was totally intimidated. But Michel is a sweetheart and didn't wince once as I clumsily attempted the various tasks he set aside for me. Let's just say I did more observing than actual cooking, but I learned a ton and can't wait to reproduce everything I learned (except, of course, the decorative handwork done to turn fruits and vegetables into things like flowers and baskets. That remains beyond my capabilities!)

In the blink of an eye, a carrot becomes a rose.

Grapefruit basket with carrot and mushroom blossoms and parsley. He made this for Anna, just because.

Preparing the insides of les aumenieres ("monk's pouches": pastry filled with shrimp, scallops, braised leeks and carrots.


Les aumenieres are tied with strips of blanched leeks.

David and Eric, waiting patiently by the kitchen door.

A final brushing of butter before going in the oven. I'm not even going to tell you how much butter was used in this meal! By the way, butter from Normandy is the best in France. True story. It's its own food group.

Anna's seat, complete with lily made from fennel and carrot, her basket, and the menu she wrote for each of us.

French radishes with butter and salt before the meal.


Plating and saucing.

From upper left, aumenieres served with a sauce made from shrimp shells and heads, whisky (which was set on fire), white wine, saffron, tomato sauce, garlic and carrots; zucchini drums filled with a garlic cream made from tons of garlic which was cooked 3 times to reduce pungency; potato pancake; eggplant cakes made with too many things to list here, which were cooked in moulds and then topped with a tomato confit. It was all crazy good.

A selection of cheese Michel chose for us. Cheese here is also its own food group!

We finished the meal with assorted pastries David, Anna and I brought from our favorite patisserie. And yes, you can come over for dinner!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Barcelona: reflections and textures

Layers of paint on an exterior wall.

Reflected light cast through stained glass at Sagrada Familia.

Reflected towers of Fira de Barcelona.


Awesome exterior walls.

Reflected archways at Muesu Picasso.

On the roof of Arenas de Barcelona Multicines.

Looking at part of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya reflected in a modern building.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sagrada Familia


Barcelona has been an amazing whirlwind. Somehow seven days have gone by and we're packing up to head back to France already. I have to say, we have all fallen in love with Barcelona, and are already talking about what we'll do when we return.

I have tons of photos to go through and post, but none quite as breathtaking as those of Sagrada Familia. Neither words nor images can do justice to what Antoni Gaudi has created here. Construction began in 1882, and is still underway. I believe the current completion date is set for 2026.

Although the architecture is mind-boggling, for me it was the stained glass and the play of light and shadow that captivated my attention.











Friday, July 27, 2012

Dinner with Clinton and Xavi

View from the front balcony (photo by Anna).

I know I've said this before, but without exception the best experiences we've had when traveling have been when people invited us into their homes. This summer, we've had the privilege of making many new, lifelong friends over a meal and a bottle (or four!).

When David tweeted that we were coming to Barcelona, he immediately received a response from Clinton, a fellow Perl programmer living in Barcelona with his husband, Xavi. They invited us over for dinner, sighed heavily over our dietary restrictions, and then treated us to an amazing evening.

Their home is beautiful. They have turned a 200-year-old flat into a modern oasis. I was beside myself taking pictures and asking questions. Xavi is a jewelry designer and has created or modified many of the details and fixtures. I was incredibly inspired and plan on stealing lots of his ideas!

I love everything about this room. Notice the painted picture frame hanging from the ceiling — brilliant!


Again, it's in the details. See how the picture over the bed only fills half the frame and then there are lights filling the rest of the space? Love the wall color, too.

Clinton on the back balcony. This was my favorite space in the house — an outdoor sitting room complete with astro-turf!


Sitting on the back balcony, lost in their respective Apple devices.

Anna modeling a ring designed by Xavi. It is encrusted with Swarvorski crystals.

Xavi hard at work over dinner while the others sipped Cava. The sink is the original marble.

Gazpacho with asparagus. Catalan gazpacho is amazing. One of my new favorite foods from this summer.

Xavi's homemade Romesco salad dressing is also a new favorite!

Salmon with fresh-squeezed orange juice. Ok, everything from this meal is a new favorite!

Perhaps the focus (or lack thereof) is due to the four bottles of wine??

The finishing touch. Nougat ice cream with stewed cherries. Killer.

The meal lasted til almost midnight, at which point David carried Anna to the Metro!