Archive for March, 2008

People in your neighborhood

Posted by laura on Mar 26 2008 | Uncategorized

Some of the friends who came to our party on Sunday:

  • architect
  • photographer 
  • programmer
  • teacher
  • surgeon
  • artist
  • writer
  • mother
  • dog groomer
  • event guru
  • scientist
  • father
  • IT specialist
  • finance wizard
  • inventor
  • project manager
  • program director
  • human resources 
  • graphic designer
  • lawyer
  • sales director
  • accountant
  • musician
  • journalist
  • entrepreneur

This isn’t everybody, and some of these people hold more than one of these jobs. Also, I’m just looking at what they get paid to do, not what they are, in the interest of space. (With the exception of the mothers and the fathers – that gets a little complicated when it comes to compensation, but they’re full time gigs.)

How cool were the conversations?! I particularly loved it when the artist complained to the scientist that her job description was inconvenient – “I can’t put you into a box!” said the artist. Going by stereotypes, you’d think it might have been the other way around. But then, the scientists and the artists always seem to have much, much more in common than stereotypes allow. 

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Easter Treats

Posted by laura on Mar 24 2008 | Tasty

Some of my fondest memories are wrapped up in tasty packages. In fact, not that long ago some friends of mine started listing their favorite food memories, and I quickly realized that my list was embarrassingly long. It was also wonderfully rich, though, since the items were all paired with specific people. When I dream about the Nime Chow from Apsara’s in Providence, I hear my best college friends laughing and talking all at once. I’m still amazed by the perfect walnut meringue that finished a gorgeous dinner with my husband and parents-in-law at Greens in San Francisco. When I think of favorite specific foods, they always fill my memory with favorite friends as well.

Dominating the taste memory hierarchy, however, are my childhood foods of epic proportions. These are the ones I loved, but only had on special occasions. Mind you, we had lovely things to eat all the time – kids at school would always want to trade for my homemade cookies. There was just something big about those apple pies or dinner rolls that graced the table less frequently. You can count on it that all the cousins on my mother’s side still dream about our Nana’s incomparable chocolate chip cookies. I still remember sitting at my grandfather’s kitchen table, eyeing my Beautiful Aunt Mary’s killer Irishbread and waiting for the moment when I could have a piece. These memories are interwoven with anticipation and celebration, which makes them heavy hitters.

 At Easter I make some of the foods from these childhood memories, to share them with my friends and my children… because otherwise I’d eat them all by myself in about an afternoon.

Our first allstar Easter Item in today’s review is Mum’s cinnamon rolls, batting a stunning career average of .400. These rolls are crazy good. Here they are, progressing from dough to first rise, to second rise, to mostly eaten:

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This year I proved to myself that you can, actually, start these rolls at 8:30 pm the night before. Something in me thinks that you shouldn’t begin working with yeast after about 4, unless you’re making pizza dough. 

The second (and last) item in this year’s review: Lena’s Ricotta Pie. This treat is legendary in our family. Every Christmas and Easter morning, without fail, we would visit our next door neighbors. They were remarkable Italian cooks; when we walked in to their kitchen on those mornings, the house would be filled with the aroma of the 900 lasagnas and dishes they were making for the family dinner. It would be about 10 am, and they would place before us on those holiday mornings an arrangement of a dozen different types of cookies. COOKIES. 10 am. And as if that were not enough, people, they would ask us if we would like a glass of ginger ale. Have a heart attack.

Easter was super special, though, because they would make Ricotta Pie. It’s a pastry that really looks a lot more like a calzone than a pie, and they’d cut it into 1 inch wide slices of pure heaven. They only made this on Easter – we’d have it that morning, and sometimes they’d give us one to take home. We’d savor it, and then settle in for the long year’s wait till the next Easter. It was inconceivable to have it, say, in July. Something terrible would happen.

Here’s what it looks like in the process:

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Before my first California Easter, I called Lena to ask if I might be able to get her recipe. She said sure – and within a week she’d FedExed me not only the recipe, but two of the ricotta pies as well. On the recipe she wrote out the measurements for the sweet ricotta filling, and then just wrote “use pie crust mix,” and the temperature. Well she had a little too much faith in me, because I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I used a pie crust mix and filled it, and boy! was that ricotta pie chubby. The proportions were all wrong. So I called her again and told her what I did. She nearly cried laughing and choked out, “Laura – that recipe makes 12 pies!!” Ah yes. So here’s the finished product:

ricottapie.jpg

It is a thing of beauty.

Now why do I write these posts at night? I really have to go to bed, and I’m starving

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Happy Easter Egg Day

Posted by laura on Mar 22 2008 | Uncategorized

It’s been too long since the last post, and that’s because I had to work on our taxes. No one wants to see a picture of our taxes. Or me working on them. I’m such an art student – we have a bookkeeper for work AND an accountant who actually prepares the taxes for us, and still I manage to make a drama out of it.

There is so little I have to do – keep track of all the home expenses, collect the 1099s, run the end of year reports for the office – and yet every year without fail I sit in front of our accountant with that pit in my stomach wondering when the first mistake will be discovered. It’s the grown up version of sitting down at a piano lesson and launching into a piece that you neglected over the week, and you’re just praying you can sight-read it through with enough finesse to convince your teacher that you really did practice quite a good deal but are having an off-day. You try to put on a good show, but deep down you know she can see right through you. (Of course, Mum and Dad, this example is purely hypothetical. One could certainly imagine something like this happening to a child…)

This year I lasted all of, oh, a minute and a half until we discovered that I’d printed all our office reports on an accrual basis when we’re actually cash based. Yup. It’s a small defense to note that our program preset the reports to print that way – at least I didn’t actively choose the wrong approach. But I sure didn’t notice! There appears to be some small part of me that is desperate to leave our accountant wondering how we manage to stay in business.

Other than that character building exercise, things have been pretty quiet. The kids painted easter eggs on Friday, and on a neighborhood bike ride that afternoon, Hot Wheels called out “Happy Easter Egg Day!” to all the neighbors who were out. Here’s what the eggs look like:paintedeggs.jpg

Honest – I wasn’t trying to be melodramatic with this photo – it just got late. Check out these great colors, though… 

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 I wish we could have dyed dozens of these – they are just so beautiful. Only problem is that I really like to keep the eggs, so I blow them out, and finishing just these four nearly did me in. Now that I think of it, though, I’m heading off to Peru next month to see my godmother, and this could be a great altitude training regimen for our trip to Machu Picchu! 

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The time has come, the Walrus said

Posted by laura on Mar 11 2008 | Uncategorized

Let’s start with the ships.

We took a drive over to Alameda last weekend with my parents, to check out the insane flea market there – talk about many things! It’s always fun to look around there, but ultimately I was foiled, since I was hoping for square dance petticoats, but unwilling to spend $40 on them, when the last time I went I spent $5. We also had the kids with us, who loved it at the beginning but really only went for the kettle corn. So they weren’t the committed bargain hunters you need at at flea market. After a while we split and spent a couple of hours on the USS Hornet, which has been turned into a museum. A great museum.

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Woah. I didn’t want to embarrass any of the volunteers who were clearly devoted to this ship, so I didn’t mention the fact that something this big clearly can’t float. It would have been cruel to burst their bubble. Dad worked on the USS Siboney, which was an escort carrier and apparently did manage to float somehow. He was so fun to tour the ship with, since he had real experience with these crazy things, and some great stories to tell. 

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Up on the flight deck we met a great docent who had worked on the Hornet some time ago – he would have been WWII since he was a landing signal officer in the days before they had radio contact with the plane. Not being super familiar with these ships, it took me a little while to learn that the LSO would have to be a very senior pilot, and the job (particularly pre-radio) would have been on the dangerous side of things. To his credit, I didn’t learn these things from him.

He was kind enough to get his own signal paddles out (each LSO made his own paddles – or as another docent mentioned, his wife might have made them for him) and walk us through the basic signals. Both arms up meant ‘you’re coming in too high,’ arms out even meant ‘just right,’ and low meant – you’ll never guess this one – ‘you’re too low.’ There was the slash across the throat gesture that told the pilot to cut the engine and commit to that controlled crash onto the deck. The LSO would get some help from a fellow officer with binoculars who could see if there was something wrong with the hook, landing gear or flaps, which could then be signaled to the pilot. My favorite signal was a low rolling gesture to the side which our docent told us meant, “Lower your hook, dummy!”

The question I couldn’t quite shake was how this experience is built. As a pilot, this man would have learned a great deal about judging distance and speed from inside the aircraft. But wouldn’t it be a huge learning curve to stand on an enormous deck, looking at a smudge in the sky, and develop an understanding of whether that plane coming in was too fast or too high? When I ride bikes with the kids, I make them stop at every street we cross, even the tiny and quiet ones, because they don’t have enough experience to judge the speed of a car approaching the stop. But with experience, they’ll develop an understanding of speed and driving behaviors until they’ll understand when it’s safe for them to go, even though they might not even be aware of how they know. Maybe it works in a similar way for the officer on the flight deck. Only problem is that we can practice looking at cars at every intersection – how many times do you stand in the path of a landing plane?

Some other fun trips with my parents were to Chrissy Fields and the Warming Hut near the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Warming Hut is one of my favorite spots with guests – fantastic views of the bridge and the bay AND hot chocolate. Does it get better than that?

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They reopened in December, after a fire did some serious damage last year. We’re glad they’re up and running – go and have a great lunch and pick up some excellent National Parks goodies while you’re there. 

We also took a trip to the rebuilt de Young museum in San Francisco. The new building is crazy cool.

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The view from that tower is insane. Plus all the materials are incredible. Wood, concrete, glass, steel – all beautiful.

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The art is pretty nice too. My daughter was completely taken by a sculpture by Cornelia Parker titled “Anti-Mass.”

corneliaparker.jpg

This gorgeous piece tractor-beamed us in from the door of the next room over. As I looked at it, I felt as though time had just stopped – these pieces of wood, hung from the ceiling, created a suspension on several levels. Afterwards I learned that the wood had come from a church that had been burned down by an arsonist. It was quite powerful.

I also saw two pieces by glass artists I was fortunate enough to know as undergraduates at RISD. Right next to Cornelia Parker’s piece was one of Josiah McElheney’s mirrored glass installations. I didn’t get a photo of it, but there’s a great photo I found on a blog called Jumping in Art Museums (what an awesome idea) and Josiah is even in Wikipedia. Now that’s fancy. Great work by a really great guy. Then, upstairs I was psyched to see this piece by Karen Lamonte - 

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You should absolutely check out her website - there’s a stunning photo of one of these dress sculptures on the home page and it will knock your socks off. Karen was my first TA in the glass department, and she was always just so kind and generous with her time. (She’s also the first person who told me that “when a glassblower goes to hell, it’s a deja vu!”)

I was just so impressed and pleased to see that both of these artists are doing such great work.

Now my parents have flown home and we’re all a little deflated. To say the time flies is such an understatement. I’ll miss just knowing when we all roll in from work and school that they will be here. I’ll miss walks and teatimes and discussions and consistently having enough people to really fill our dining room table – and that perfect feeling when you first wake up and you know something great is happening that day, but it takes you a second to remember what’s different. 

The kids will miss having the answer to “Can you play with me?” be “YES,” any time or any day. (Turns out you can be far better parents when there are four of you.) I’ll also deeply miss going to get dressed for work in the morning and coming back to the kitchen to find all the breakfast dishes magically cleaned and put away. I just don’t seem to have the knack for training birds and woodland creatures to do that stuff for me, so it was a real luxury, I tell you.  

 

 

 

 

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Now Showing

Posted by laura on Mar 04 2008 | Great design

Hey all you arty people – get yourselves over to the RISD Northern California Alumni Biennial 2008 at the Oakland Art Gallery! It opens tonight, March 4 (happy birthday Mike D!) and runs till March 29. When you get there, make sure you check out our friend Peter’s photographs – they’re fantastic.

Have some lame excuse, like you don’t have time, or a car, or you live 3000 miles away? Well you’re lucky because you can still check out his work online at Peter Belanger Photography. Way to go, Peter!!

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The Flower Room Grows

Posted by laura on Mar 01 2008 | Making

Well it’s been a busy week. We finished up the painting in the garden room, and all the furniture was replanted with a few edits. Here’s her new desk area – I found an old bulletin board in the garage and painted it with her room paints. Ditto with the little drawers from IKEA – just painted and sanded down. Woohoo that was original! But it blends in nicely.

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Amazing what a few new curtains will do to perk up a place, too -

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I have to say, though, that hemming those sheer curtains nearly did me in (the pink ones, not the white ones). Maybe some of my sewing friends could steer me in the right direction when it comes to that kind of challenge. It doesn’t help that I’ve never been a big fan of the preparation chapter of any big project – pre-washing, swatches, priming, masking, stretching, measuring – even primaries. Time and many lessons in wasted material have forced me into more of a ‘measure twice cut once’ approach, but I’m never happy about it. I didn’t really have time for lots of mistakes with these curtains, so I measured carefully from the bottoms, marked them with pins and cut them on a lined mat with a good metal ruler and my rotary cutter. And they still weren’t straight. Doh!

Thankfully we have a rug in our art room with lines on it, so I stretched the curtains out on the floor and pinned them right to the rug and started over. That was more successful – but what do you do if you don’t have the room or the rug? I suppose I would have had better luck with a marking crayon instead of pins. 

I have so much admiration for people who can deal with very different materials when they’re sewing – those sheer or slippery ones that always seem to cut strangely or get sucked into the foot of the machine as you go. All my sewing experience is trial and error, so I still have a great deal to learn.

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And here’s the bureau – my parents came in at the end of the week, and Mum thinks that the pirate boat really completes the look!

 

 

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