Monday, April 30, 2012

Portland – Green Trees and Colorful Skies

We had a really nice weekend trip to Portland, Oregon, this past weekend. Oddly enough, as much as I wanted sunshine a few weeks ago, I immediately missed the cool gray mornings that we left behind in Portland when we were back home. We did see blue skies, some drizzly rain, and sun, but I really learned to appreciate and even savor the cool days. Not cold, but just the right amount of cool to walk to my heart’s content with a jacket and not feel like I was overheating. I loved the weather and I miss it, especially since it was super hot here when we got back, so hot it sapped the energy out of me and the sun beat down on me and made me yearn for Portland’s gray skies and brisk air.

I also noticed that because of an abundance of green trees, potted flowers, and public art all around, as well as colorful buildings—old and new—people, and lots for the eye to settle on, I didn’t notice the gray that much. There was far more than enough to make up for it in all the beauty around the downtown area, which is where we stayed.

We did a lot in the few days that we were there and there is much more to do when we visit again some day. I had my small notebook with me and took it out at certain points and wrote and wrote, freely without thinking. I hope to take some of that, at some point, and type up some of our encounters.

I’ve posted a few photos if you’d like to have a look.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Marbles spin

Marbles spin
cobalt and lavender silk
raindrops inside. 

Does everything
always spin?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thinking ~ Men & Women

The last few times I’ve been at the laundry, I’ve especially noticed a few different younger couples and their approach. It seems that the women usually fall into a pattern of giving the men precise instructions while the men listen, rather than taking the lead, or expressing that they’ve got it. It then became clear, that I have done this as well; and then I began thinking of the other scenarios where this happens.

After becoming more aware of this tendency in myself, now if my significant other and I do laundry together, we load in different machines, but we do it separately. I find that it’s best if I go away because I too will fall into a mode where I start making comments, directions, questions. It’s an odd thing, really, and yes, there are exceptions. But, there is a fine line, and it’s one area where the difference in how men and women go about certain tasks becomes very apparent.

Something I hear often also is when a couple has been together so long, the man always defers to the woman: Whatever she says, wants, approves. It’s fascinating and maybe I’m just seeing the small percentage and this isn’t how it is across many long standing relationships. It makes me feel that we as women and all of our hormones and emotions are actually quite difficult and moody, whereas our men without the hormones, etc., etc., are able to be more carefree to an extent because they don’t internalize and overanalyze as much as women and they may hold a grudge, but they seem more equipped to “let go.”

But it’s these emotions and hormones and internalization that also make women special and capable of so much. Men are special too, but in very different, practical, rock solid ways.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Evening Pages - Miscellaneous Stuff

I finally purchased and downloaded the Pages App for the iPad. It makes it much easier to edit documents, especially now that I also have a budget case with Bluetooth keyboard that makes typing on the iPad a better overall experience.

Tonight I prepared Beef Patties Chasseur with hand mashed potatoes for dinner. The recipe is from My Great Recipes cards. I enjoy cooking with wine and could eat a bowl full of sautéed mushrooms, green onions, and garlic, together with beef stock, and white wine. It sounds like the makings of a mushroom soup. The flavors were pretty good, but the patties were a tad too rare. I kept them in the pan longer and ended up cutting them in half, letting lots of the juices run out. At least there is sauce to make up for it.

I heard somewhere that if in doubt about food being undercooked, drink white wine to kill the bacteria. I don't know for certain if this works, but I did have a small glass of white wine after eating an almost raw part of the center. It was so good. I didn't want to push it, so I did toss out the rest of the center and ate around it. All the patties should be medium now with the extra cooking.

We just watched a movie that was recommended by a woman running a wine tasting room where we were tasting a couple of weeks ago. It's called Bottle Shock and is based on a true story. It tells the story of how the Napa Valley wines got on the map through a blind tasting in Paris. There were times when the movie felt corny, but we're glad we watched it because we had no idea about this small part of Napa's wine history.

I've had a good reading streak and have finished reading and listening to a few more books. I hope to write about my reactions soon.

A Girl on a Bridge

Two lone images from childhood past: A little girl on a Japanese bridge; the other of a little girl in the crowd, a dragon, firecrackers, loud noises, colors, many people. The common factor in both images is of a mother in the foreground somewhere; or perhaps she is in the background, but her presence is there and so this little girl, now a woman, is drawn to the Japanese Garden. When she takes a trip to Portland, Oregon, almost a year and a half ago, part of the reason she decided to go was to visit two gardens: The Japanese and The Chinese.

She begins to wonder if she conjured this childhood image of a girl on a bridge. There is no one to confirm whether this happened in reality or in her mind. All she knows is that she has always been drawn to the Asian mode—the little she has been exposed to along the way and the little she has inquired about. She knows that she can never be a part of that culture because it is not her own by birth, yet she feels a deep connection to the nuances.

So she goes through life, with this image, that surfaces at different points and that is when she asks herself if part of her draw to these magnificent gardens, besides naturally loving nature and simplicity—she asks herself if this is yet another reason that the gardens have a hold on her—that she finds a little piece of her mother and her self in them and that she someone knows that although her mother was not obviously present in her memory, she knows she was there somewhere sharing these precious moments with her girl.


My trip to Portland, Oregon, was largely a pull to see both gardens. That was in October of 2010. Since then, I have visited the Hayward and San Jose Japanese Gardens; and I have also revisited the San Francisco Japanese Garden and saw that bridge that I remembered from my childhood. My significant other took me early in our relationship, and he also had childhood memories of the bridge. I didn’t take a current photo. I was more interested in admiring the bridge and I know we'll be back to visit.

Of all the Japanese Gardens, each had a specialness; and in Portland, that was the first Chinese Garden I had ever visited.

I don’t think I will ever travel to Japan because it’s quite too expensive for my budget, but it is said that the garden in Portland is one of the most authentic outside of Japan. I loved it. It was grand and I immediately felt a sense of peace and tranquility. I plan on going back, and this time I will share the experience with my other half. The part of me that is now we. And this will be very soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

At the Stop Sign

At the stop sign she sees an older couple.

The man is on the woman’s left, and with the subdued colors of his clothing, it seems he is the canvas for the woman—his beloved—in her turquoise shirt. She holds his right hand in her left as her right hand rests on her cane with firmness and grace. The woman watching is glad there is no one behind her at this stop sign, and the couple so dearly attentive to each other, aren’t aware they have a witness.

She stays watching the couple for just a few extra moments—a pause to the day.

The couple continues looking, standing on a walkway that overlooks the mountain and the highway. They stay there looking; she, holding onto her cane, her white hair blowing in the breeze. They watch the cars pass by—a finger points to the mountain in the distance, the sun shining brightly on them.

There are still no cars behind on this back road, at this stop sign. She must move on, though, from admiring the love she sees from a distance, in the moment, and into the future.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Two Moments: Lentils and Pansy Amongst Calm Pebbles

The other day I made lentil soup only I didn’t add any seasonings other than salt and later other vegetables.  I’ve come to accept that I like lentils best simmered in salted water with lots of garlic cloves.

When I began, I poured the lentils into the strainer to sift through and take out the bad ones; I lost myself into the calm. Fingers sweeping carefully, feeling the lightness in these humble legumes all the while wondering am I being too picky? There are lentils that are not suited to be included and must be tossed because they appear damaged, but then there are others that are in between. Sifting and sifting, I am as though in a rock garden, raking my lentils, admiring the pale green skin of these legumes.

It’s time.

I’ve sifted enough, taken possibly longer than was necessary to enjoy the moment of being fully attentive to these lentils. I put the colander under the running water to rinse and yet another mingling with these legumes, heavier with the weight of the water, bathing and readying them for the pot of water.

I like taking photos with my camera—and also with pen, pencil, paper, napkins—with words. I like seeing emotions through my camera and also with words. I like taking pictures; seeing images—creating images with my whole being, filtering what I see through to—in my heart, my gut, down my spine, to my arms—causing my hand to move into motion.

I like taking photos with words and with my camera.  One informs the other.

This is my second pansy photo. The feeling from both is slightly different for me. The colors, the flowers in the background, the angles, close or far, sun drenched or partially shady. I call this one Zen Pansy because it reminds me of a Japanese rock garden. I noticed the small rocks when I was taking the photo and I was being sure to include them in the composition, but when I later viewed the photo at home, that’s when I really felt the tranquility and I saw the rock garden and I had that same feeling as with the lentils earlier in the week.

I love rocks and pebbles—earth—and I saw and felt the presence in these two separate moments—small but significant pebbles.


lentils in pebbles
pebbles in lentils
she sifts and rakes
calm pansy—
rock garden within

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Little Bits ~ Rain and Pansy

Rain was forecast for Easter Sunday. It didn’t rain at all. Instead the air was warm, the sky—a soft blue with wisps of white clouds. Quiche Lorraine was a success, despite a small portion of the bottom edge of the crust burning. I could see it when I looked under the glass pie plate. I was happy to hear when one person said they do not usually like quiche, but this one they liked. I once had a quiche that was really burned, the broccoli blackened. It was mostly inedible and unappetizing, but I ate around it too busy to take it back to where I will not go for a very long time.


I always set my eyes on you when I walk on by.
I stopped for you purple pansy.
You are a color burst of purples and yellow—
A faraway galaxy of my imagination.


An internally quiet morning,
raindrops—tink, tink—on the
outside to the inside—tink, tink.
The quiet.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mushroom Polenta Pie

This morning
I would like to settle into
a large pot of warm polenta,
slathered in butter.

Two evenings ago, for dinner, I made mushroom polenta pie from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. I have had ready-made polenta rolled up and ready to cut, but found the texture coarse. As simple as polenta is to prepare, this was my first time buying a box of cornmeal and making it. When I poured the cornmeal water mixture into the boiling water, it was moments before it was a silky smooth consistency. With each effortless stir, I escaped into the softness and the gentle steam.

I used the new glass baking dish I got from IKEA for the mushroom polenta pie. After the cornmeal was done, I smoothed it into the baking dish and on top of that added the gently sautéed mixture of mushrooms, onion, garlic, and chopped spinach. To the top was added fresh grated Parmesan cheese, then into the oven for 25 minutes. This was the recipe that was to go with the tomato wine sauce that I prepared on Sunday. I heated some of the sauce in a small pan. It did go well, but it was just as tasty without. In fact, my significant other preferred it plain and thought the sauce too overpowering for this dish. We had a very light meal that night paired with avocado and a spinach salad.

This will definitely be a recipe that I prepare again, knowing that I can change the ingredients and play around.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday Morning Surprise ~ Limp Flower Blossom

I took a small plate of banana cake to work for the others to enjoy. I took a slice to my desk with the latte I bought at the nearby café. I try not to make a habit of buying lattes and instead make sure I’ve eaten breakfast at home and have plenty of snacks and a filling lunch. I don’t always put a lid on my hot drinks, but yesterday I did. I didn’t want my drink to go cold, so I was taking big gulps after a nibble of banana cake. It was a nice combination. I lifted the cup and was down to my last swig. I lifted it and began drinking, getting all the warm milk down when I felt something entering my mouth. I stopped thinking, wait a minute there isn’t supposed to be anything extra except foam. I pulled my lips away and saw something dark go back through the hole. Right at this point the boss had called me into his office with a question and I was making shrieking sounds because I had either just seen, and had in the tip of my mouth, a bug of some sort or a limp flower blossom. I didn’t know which. I went to the garbage can and spit out the liquid. I went back to my desk, lifted the lid and didn’t see anything but a bit of coffee and a little foam. Whatever it was, sunk to the bottom.

My boss said, “Rebbecca, is that you making that noise.”

“Yes,” I said. “There is either a bug or a flower in my latte!”

“Too much information,” he said. He didn’t want to hear about it, so we got down to business. I squirmed inside, curious to drain the cup to see what lay in the bottom of my cup.

The question he had form me was answered quickly. I went to my cup took it to the garbage and drained the remaining liquid out. I looked inside and at first I thought, a fuchsia blossom or some other complicated blossom. I moved the limp body around with my napkin. No, it was an insect! And it was at least an inch and a half long. Eeeeek. I was slightly disgusted and thought of all the times I’ve eaten and drank from this café. I thought of all the episodes of Kitchen Nightmares I’ve watched and the undelightful surprises that Chef Gordon Ramsay finds in the kitchens.

I stepped away and took my cup to the café to show the woman my discovery. In line I was slightly shaky: In one way absurd that this grossed me out so much and in another way quite valid feelings. I kept the lid on and waited my turn and then asked her to step over to the side. I took the lid off and said, “look what was in my latté.”

“That looks like a grasshopper,” she said in her British accent.  “Did you take the lid off? Maybe it got in when you weren’t looking.”

“No, the lid was on the whole time and when I went to take my last sip, this touched my lips.” We couldn’t stop looking at the hopper.  “And I don’t think we have grasshoppers hopping around in the office.” I couldn’t believe that she was insinuating that this critter had hopped into my coffee. I pointed to the canisters that hold the milk for preparing hot drinks. “It could have come from one of those,” I said. “They are there open all day and the flowers there. He could have hopped in.” She considered this but would not commit.

We looked at each other then back to the inside of the cup.

“That must have been awful for you then. Well, here, let me make you another.”

“No, nono. I don’t think I’d like another.” We were both friendly since I come here often. I was in double disbelief. Would I like another? After that? Who was she kidding? “I think I’ll just take my money back, thanks.”

“Oh sure. No problem. Gosh that must have been awful for you.”

“Yes, it was.”

The grasshopper was red and it really did remind me of a fuchsia blossom before I started moving it around with the napkin and seeing the legs, and yes, those were eyes. I’ve never seen a red one and I don’t often see them at all. I’m guessing he was red because he was steamed with hot milk or maybe he was a different species than the green I’m used to. This doesn’t make me want to get lattes there anymore and I don’t think I will or maybe I need a break from lattes altogether.

It’s different when you can see what you’re drinking or eating, but these types of surprises drowning at the bottom of a pool of whatever. It could have been soup or anything else thick and cloudy.

He was beautiful though.


Sipping latte
On a Monday morning
Our lips touch—
Red Grasshopper

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Morning Page ~ Sunday In the Kitchen

Yesterday was a cooking marathon. It seemed I was in the kitchen all evening from the time we got home and I started preparing food for the week and dinner for the night. Dinner would be Tilapia dredged in seasoned flour topped with a warm tomato wine sauce served with rice, roasted asparagus, and a spinach salad tossed with a new good garlic olive we bought on Saturday.

Tilapia is not one of my favorite fish, but I wanted to give it another try. I think it may be the way the fish feels in my hand. It seems to lack the normal oils and feels like a stiff piece of cardboard against my palm. Alas, little Tilapia, this is just your nature. I liked how it tasted as it got a nice crust from sautéing in olive oil, tender and juicy inside. I made the tomato wine with the hopes of using it on another recipe I hope to prepare this week. The sauce reminded me of a spaghetti type sauce, which was good, but will probably pair better with the other meal. I think it was the combination of oregano and basil that took it to marinara side. The wine didn’t come through as much as I would have liked and I was missing crushed fennel because I couldn’t find it in the stores. I still favor white wine and lemon caper sauce with white fish.

After dinner, I cleaned up and began cooking for the week: a whole chicken cooked in water with garlic, later to be pulled apart; a quiche; a pasta salad with bell peppers, red onions, and the leftover roasted asparagus tossed in a vinaigrette; and banana cake. As the night was closing in, I knew I wouldn’t have time for both a quiche and banana cake. I went with the banana cake and will make quiche tonight. I finally went to bed at 12:30 a.m. I’m usually in bed much earlier. It was nice being in the kitchen and I didn’t mind washing dishes as I went. As I begin experimenting more and more in the kitchen and just trying to prepare more fresh foods and fewer prepared foods, I am finding peaceful moments in the washing part, which used to deter me.

I used the new blender that I bought a few weeks ago for the sauce. I had exchanged some nightclothes that I didn’t really need from Christmas time and instead got the blender.

And yesterday we went to IKEA because we knew they would have a few kitchen items that I wanted and needed at an affordable price. We came home with a large and a small mixing bowl, tongs, and a cute glass baking dish that I couldn’t resist and was only one inch smaller than what was suggested for one of the recipes I want to make. It’s a MIXTUR size 11x7 inches designed by Susan Pryke. It’s a piece of art and I like the way it feels. This little baking dish is made in Czech Republic. I thought that was interesting. I’ve never bought anything that was made there. I also bought a new flour canister because if I’m going to do more baking, it’s too messy to keep it in the bag inside another bag navigating the awkwardness of dipping the spoon in the bag and trying not to make a mess. It’s a round acrylic canister from Bed Bath and Beyond and it fits right where the bag used to be stored. The only thing about all these new items that seem minor enough is that we are running out of space. When I say our kitchen is small, it really is small. Luckily the mixing bowls nestle and I’ve had to creatively rearrange a few things.

That’s about it for this Monday morning.

Turned to the kitchen,
Full pantry.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two Trees ~ Two Crows

Two trees planted on the city walk outside the brick building between a bed of of vibrantly colored pansies, orange marigolds, and yellow and pink snapdragons.

I pass them on my walks and watch them change. But over the years I haven’t seen the contrast of these two trees, side by side, where one appears in its Winter wear: lifeless in color, dried pods hanging; the other shedding its Winter coat, beaming with soft pink blossoms peeking out from their pods.

The first time I pass and notice the juxtaposition: Life and death flash before me. Death and birth holding hands in these two trees, and I looking on in awe because something about this image stirs deep down because today these two trees speak to me about life and death; birth and rebirth.

The succeeding times I pass, new growth continues on the Spring tree while the Winter tree is still sleeping, then at last, the Winter tree has begun to show signs of life and it is dormant no more.


crow overlooks the city at dusk
from high tree branches—caw-caw—
joined by a second crow
caw-caw turns a sweet purr.