Archive for May, 2008

4 Year Old Architecture

Posted by laura on May 29 2008 | Uncategorized

Not as in – that building has been sitting around here for 4 years. More like – some fun structures made by a 4 year old.


 This one has a kind of feudal feeling to it. 


And here’s a nod to I. M. Pei.


And this one – hmm, maybe a little bit of the Sears Tower going on there? 

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Fishs Eddy

Posted by laura on May 23 2008 | Awesome, Great design

Here is a story about a platter, a mad hatter, and some old-school customer service.

My daughter dances at a great studio here in our town. They have performances at the end of their class cycles, like many other schools. I like the performances at this school because there are the mandatory insanely cute tiny dancers all the way up to very accomplished high school dancers headed for college programs. The pieces are varied and challenging, which makes for a great show.

This spring, they are presenting Alice in Wonderland – I think the plan is to make this show a signature piece, much like the Nutcracker works for many schools. My daughter is in the performance (she’s a hedgehog) and is having the time of her life.

Not that long ago, I came across a very cool online tableware store called Fishs Eddy. I pretty much wanted one of everything on the site – but I was particularly happy to find an entire Alice in Wonderland line. This platter seemed like it would make a great gift for one of my daughter’s dance teachers:whiterabbit.jpg

How great is that?! It’s the perfect size and weight, and I love the white rabbit illustration. Here’s a closeup:whiterabbit1.jpg 

(Sorry for the image quality – I’m rushing.)

Here’s where the story gets good. When I ordered the platter, I couldn’t help but order a couple of cups from their “Birds on a Wire” line as well. Have a look…


(You have to check out the product page - there’s a cake stand that is ridiculously beautiful.)

So I put in my order, and Christmas came yesterday. The platter was even nicer than I expected, and the cups – well they were gorgeous, but they were from another product line. I sent the orders department an email explaining the situation, and this morning they wrote me back to apologize for the mixup. Here’s where I hope you’re sitting down, because they told me to just keep the cups they accidentally sent, and they’d put the right ones in the mail this afternoon.

When was the last time you had some of that good old fashioned customer service? I’m here to tell you, it’s great

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Hooray for Pie

Posted by laura on May 22 2008 | Tasty

We’ve had an unusual spell of incredibly summery weather around here, and it put me in the mood for some key lime pie. There’s something about key lime pie that makes me think about beaches and sunshine and bare feet – I just love it.


Usually I go for my brother in law’s recipe, which is quick and tasty and trustworthy. Since I didn’t have an occasion for this pie, it seemed a good opportunity to experiment. The recipe came from Joe’s Stone Crab, in Miami Beach. It’s a non-meringue version, as you can see, and the filling was quite good – fluffy yet full of tangy lime flavor. Yum.

I made a simple graham craker/butter crust since Hotwheels can’t have store bought crusts or nuts in the crust because of his allergies. Maybe it’s the type of graham crackers we have to buy for him, but the crust was disappointing. It didn’t hold together all that well. We managed to eat the whole thing, however, so it can’t have been that bad!!

The extra nice thing about this recipe is that because it calls for egg yolks, that means you have egg whites leftover, and that means you can have… 


mmmmeringues. Everybody in our house likes these. Ever since Hotwheels got cleared for eggs (he had to avoid them for 2 years because of the old allergies), we’ve been having such a fun time introducing him to all these great egg-based treats! He’s crazy about meringues now.

Here’s a question for all my baking friends… why are my meringues oozing a bit like that? Does it have to do with the beating time? Or how long I bake them? I’m open to any ideas. The taste is great, and they’re not super sticky, but I’d love to know what I’m doing.

Here was my daughter’s teatime the next afternoon:


Looks like a still life for Wayne Thiebaud!

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Who is Winning?

Posted by laura on May 22 2008 | Uncategorized

This morning my 7 year old daughter asked me, “So who is winning, Hillary or Obama?”

I told her it’s a tough call right now.

She said, “I think Hillary should win.”

I asked her why.

“Because I think there should be a woman on our ‘presidents’ placemat.” 

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Beautiful bins

Posted by laura on May 20 2008 | Great design

We moved our trash bins from behind the garage to the side of our driveway. More convenient, less pretty. So Tom built us a gorgeous enclosure for them. Check it out: 


[You'll find it back behind the pool, dahling.]

Here’s a close-up


Isn’t it lovely? If you’re from around here, it probably reminds you of something, though…..


[This photo is courtesy of the SFMOMA website - check it out and support them in any way you can, because as museums go, it rocks!]

So now our bins have a modern museum-grade home. (Insert junk art joke here.) Thank you, TOM!!!

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Still cool…

Posted by laura on May 19 2008 | Awesome

Talking about cool, and how I’m just ultracool these days with my awesome new shirt, you have to see this amazing video I just watched – it’s called 

Battle at Kruger

Have you seen it? No?? Doh!!! You have to go right now and check it out cause it’s absolutely incred….


..nice try.  You have so totally seen it. You thought I’d fall for that innocent look? That, “Gosh, Laura, I haven’t seen this-what do you call it? Battle at Krugman’s? Isn’t he an op-ed columnist? Isn’t he a pacifist?…”

You are so busted.


Thirty-two million two hundred thirty thousand five hundred and five views – yeah sure you haven’t seen it.

Besides, when my view got there, it overheard your view muttering about ‘all these new views coming in’ when it had liked this video since September. (Good thing I’m not allergic to italics.) Well, don’t worry – this video is too crowded for me, and most of the other views will go home when the season is over, so you can have it all to yourself again. That is, you and the folks who have been there since last MAY. And you call yourself a local.



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Posted by laura on May 17 2008 | Awesome, Great design

This is not my usual title.

But today is an exception, because I’m wearing this:


[See that metal cockatoo hanging from our garage? It's thinking, "WOW you look cool!" and I'm thinking, "Don't I know it."]

This awesome shirt was designed by my friend Austin. He’s 6. (Look out, world.)

Just because I’m ultracool does not mean I’m ultrastingy. To prove it – I’ll even post a link to Austin’s shirt on redbubble. See? I’m using my powers for good and not evil.

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Xtra Greatness

Posted by laura on May 16 2008 | Bicycle

I’m interrupting my Lima broadcast to put up a couple of photos of my xtracycle, which finally arrived last month. Shiny! Here it is after one of our grocery runs:


My daughter was riding on the back – she kept and eye on the bread, which was threatening to jump ship the whole way home.xtracycleloaded2.jpg

It is everything I hoped for – in dozens of configurations (3 big grocery bags + one child, 4 big grocery bags + 1 watermelon, 2 children + backpacks + fireman lunchbox, bags + cookie tins + party paraphernalia…) it’s been a dream every time.

I added the foot pads and am currently looking for a good small tandem handlebar setup so the rider feels more comfortable. My friend Haywood calls it my caddy – I’d better figure out where I’m going to put the subwoofer, don’t you think?

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Posted by laura on May 12 2008 | Tasty, Travel, Uncategorized

Finally. Let’s talk about food.

Before I flew to Peru, I read a bunch of books and blogs about the country, and they all had recommendations regarding local tastes and treats. “Have a Pisco Sour!” they said. “Ok!!” thought I. “Definitely try some ceviche,” they advised. “You got it!” I promised. Once I arrived, my husband was dying for specifics. “What have you eaten?” he wanted to know. “What do you have for breakfast?” Food has to be one of the most exciting immersions into a different culture. So I started taking some pictures.


Here’s one of my meals courtesy of Perurail – on our Machu Picchu trip. We were in First Class, baby. We’re talkin’ table cloths and real dishes and even lap rugs for that cold early morning departure. This was Carmen’s fifth trip to Machu Picchu, and as we rode along in luxury, she thought back to her first trip, which she took with my Beautiful (and intrepid) Aunt Mary. On that particular train ride (8 hours round trip now, probably a bit longer then) the seats were wooden, and there wasn’t much in the way of amenities. Carmen was thinking that Mary might not believe the lovely ride we were having – we joked about calling her later and telling her that now they provide food rubs and aromatherapy and read to you while they feed you bonbons… very civilized indeed. 

Having been spoiled silly on the ride to Cusco, our only real option upon arrival was to order room service.cuscosoup.jpg

Turns out neither of us has all that much room service experience, so we were pretty giddy when the ‘light chicken soup’ and the sandwich ended up looking like this. Or maybe it was the lack of oxygen. Either way, this soup was ridiculously good. And you can see how they stacked the fries – very nice. You can also see our coca tea on the table there as well. Carmen taught me many things on this trip, and one of them was the altitude-adjusting diet; eat light, eat mild, and drink your coca tea. Very good advice.

Up at Machu Picchu, we saw some of the natives having their lunch:



Back in Lima, I was loving breakfast. We had this delicious fresh cheese from Cajamarca – it looked a bit like a tall block of feta, but wasn’t crumbly. It was moist and mild and addictive. Plus buckets of fresh grapes that tasted just like the Concord-style grapes I grew up with in the back yard in Massachusetts. Fresh fruit and a wheat roll and a cup of tea made it a breakfast I could wake up to happily any morning. One morning, though, I came down to see this on my plate:


Now that’s a breakfast of champions! 2 chocolate eggs, 1 real egg (with the promise of being cooked any style), a Reese’s, and smile of grapes. Look where the cheeks are – those are piles of dried corn from the mountains – crunchy, light, amazingly good.

Then, on one of my very favorite days in Peru, a gorgeous group from Carmen and Martha’s parish came over with lunch. (Another note for the possible one non-family member here – Carmen and Martha are Sisters of Charity in Chorrillos, Lima, and they belong to a truly brilliant parish there.) The Vicentinas, as they’re called, are mostly women, with one great guy in the group, who look after pretty much everything and everyone in the parish. One of them basically was the parish, back when it was starting up. Many of them have grown children, they all have jobs and families and are the kind of people who give and give and give. I was one of the lucky recipients that day.

I’ll never forget the sight of them all walking into the house in a line, arms filled with baskets and dishes and wine and glasses and flowers and the biggest ceramic baking dish I think I’ve ever seen. They embodied that group of women (the one man didn’t arrive until just before lunch) from the village that you remember from old stories; laughing, preparing, correcting, knowing, providing and just being the very heart of a place.

Here’s what they made for us -


It’s called Papas a la Huancayina – a traditional potato dish with a cheese sauce. It’s one of Carmen’s favorites, and now I know why. Lovely. We also had a chicken and rice dish from the magnificent clay pot they brought with them – the rice had been cooked in a light puree of cilantro and spinach, so it was green and crazy good. The chicken was also so tasty I’m glad there were lots of people there or I would have eaten it all! That meal was memorable not only for the tastes but for the laughter and conviviality – the Vicentinas were so warm and welcoming and we had some fun trading recipes around. 


Martha’s stunning nieces, Romina and Roxana, run a tour company called Highland Peru Tours - I couldn’t recommend them more if you’re headed to Peru. They set us up with our brilliant guides in Cusco and Machu Picchu, and they managed all our arrangements with absolute ease and efficiency. It was a gift to meet them. As if that weren’t enough, they also treated us to a beautiful buffet lunch in Miraflores. Oh, yum. I finally had my ceviche – it was perfect. In fact, I could have eaten nothing else. But I did. It was so good! At the top of the photo, you can just see my glass of chicha morada, which is made from purple corn and in this case was not fermented (I had serious food to attend to and needed my wits about me) and the flavor was mild and sweet.

This lunch was wonderful and varied and at the end of it I figured I was set for the rest of the week. But oh, no – we had a birthday party that night at one of the Vicentina’s homes and they brought out an enormous dish of chicken and potatoes with super spicy delicious sauce. I explained, or rather Martha explained, that we’d already eaten – so they disappeared into the kitchen and brought it back to me, minus one small piece of meat. It was a tough job, but someone had to eat that beautiful meal. I have no regrets.

What an abundance of wonderful tastes. I wish I had photos from the markets – bags and bags of every possible color and size of potato. Spices, grains, cheeses, fruits – all beautiful and varied. I wish I had some shots of the dishes that Martha made for us – her father was a chef, her mother an amazing cook as well – and she put together the most beautiful soup, wontons, chicken and potatoes… oh la la I wish I could intern with her! I did get a shot of one treat she made for me:


That’s my Pisco Sour in there!!! What’s hard to see in this picture is that the bottle on the left just has a piece of tape stuck to the front with ‘PISCO’ handwritten on it. Bit dodgy for a Sister of Charity, don’t you think?

It was delicious


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Posted by laura on May 04 2008 | Travel

Back again – now trying to figure out what to do with this crowded head of mine. All the memories from my trip are very rudely pushing each other around in an effort to be the first ones onto the page. I’ve never been comfortable in a crowd, so just sitting down to this blog has been intimidating. In the end I decided to let them out just one section at at time, and it made sense to start with the rocks, since, well, they’re rocks and I don’t want to make them testy.

[For the one possible non-family reader here, I went to Peru to visit my amazing Godmother (and aunt) Carmen. She's lived there for 25 years, and although we've discussed this visit many times, I just managed to sneak it in before she moves back to the States this spring. Whoo! That was a close one.]

As part of our great Peruvian adventure, Carmen and I flew to Cusco and spent 4 days there. We breathed it in deeply – mainly because if we didn’t we’d get a big altitude headache. But more seriously, we wandered streets that were the foundation of the Incan capital city, took a fantastic city tour, spent a day in Machu Picchu, and saw tons (literally) of truly spectacular rocks. Check these out:


 These beauties are from Sacsayhuaman, a site just outside of Cusco – the Spanish called it a ‘fortress’ but its real use is hard to determine. That might have something to do with the fact that the Spanish also took heaps of stone from this site to make their cathedrals in Cusco. Funny how it’s hard to get an accurate read on a place when it’s been mostly destroyed.

Looking at the remaining structures, though, we were awed by the size and precision of the stones – you really cannot slip a paper between many of them. There is no mortar holding these stones together – just precision and placement. Talk about elbow grease!


Our guide, José Angel, pointed out something interesting to us. These incredibly massive rocks were hauled to the site from quite a ways away, when a short distance across a field from the site we couldn’t miss this:


So the obvious question is – why haul mammoth rocks from far away, when they could be quarried right across a field? José explained that we were looking at a huaca – the Quechuan term for a revered natural formation. I’d love to fly back in time and understand what determined the sacredness of one place over another – do some stones just resonate? And what did the landscape look like then?

Here are some cool Cusco walls:


More of that amazing stonework. And you can get a bit of a feeling for the angled walls – part of what makes them immune to earthquakes. Check out the street too – the roads were beautiful. Here’s some of that rock patterning from the courtyard of the Regional History Museum in Cusco: 


And a closeup:


Now, Machu Picchu is really a place to see rocks. Because it lay hidden for so long, it’s preservation offers a breathtaking window into Quechuan genius. Check out these agricultural terraces:


And steps!


And retaining walls. (YIKES I’m here to tell you that this would not have been a relaxing detail. It’s a loooooong way down and as you can see, it’s not exactly a gentle slope.)


Wagner, our guide at Machu Picchu, was an engineering student before he worked in tourism, and he really illuminated the science under the beauty of this city. These were some crazy smart people. And boy did they move fast. From what I’ve read, they had a couple hundred years of development in Cusco, but the expansion period – the Inca Empire – was only a bit more than a hundred years in length. They must have been downright persuasive and motivating, as well as brilliant, to build the thousands of miles of roads, the sophisticated farming techniques, the architecture, the aqueducts. Unbelievable.

They certainly weren’t afraid of heights.

Here’s one more rock shot:


 Check out the terracing at the top! Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if the Spanish (and the smallpox) hadn’t arrived.

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