Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 1513

Mom's hard work: the hand-made and hand-painted nativity scene at church!

Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

I salute you.  I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. 
There is nothing I can give you which you have not.  But there is much,
very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.  No heaven can
come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.  Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow.  Behind it, yet within
our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. 
And to see, we have only to look.  I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver.  But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.  Remove the covering, and you
will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.  Your joys, too,
be not content with them as joys.  They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.  Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and 
forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

~ Fra Giovanni ~

Friday, December 21, 2012

Letter from a Buddhist Monk from Newtown, CT

This is truly a profound letter that touched me deeply. As my dad said so poignantly, "With all that has been written and said since the horror one week ago, this is the most helpful thing I have seen."

Not only that but reading this letter, for me, has itself been an experience and a journey of compassion. I hope it finds you like it found me. Though it might be difficult, pease read all the way to the bottom.

Brother Phap Luu, a monastic at Plum Village, grew up in Newtown, Connecticut. He has written an amazing, heartfelt letter to shooter Adam Lanza, that you can read here:

  Saturday, 15th of December, 2012
Dharma Cloud Temple
Plum Village
Dear Adam,

Let me start by saying that I wish for you to find peace. It would be easy just to call you a monster and condemn you for evermore, but I don't think that would help either of us. Given what you have done, I realize that peace may not be easy to find. In a fit of rage, delusion and fear—yes, above all else, I think, fear—you thought that killing was a way out. It was clearly a powerful emotion that drove you from your mother's dead body to massacre children and staff of Sandy Hook School and to turn the gun in the end on yourself. You decided that the game was over.

But the game is not over, though you are dead. You didn't find a way out of your anger and loneliness. You live on in other forms, in the torn families and their despair, in the violation of their trust, in the gaping wound in a community, and in the countless articles and news reports spilling across the country and the world—yes, you live on even in me. I was also a young boy who grew up in Newtown. Now I am a Zen Buddhist monk. I see you quite clearly in me now, continued in the legacy of your actions, and I see that in death you have not become free.

You know, I used to play soccer on the school field outside the room where you died, when I was the age of the children you killed. Our team was the Eagles, and we won our division that year. My mom still keeps the trophy stashed in a box. To be honest, I was and am not much of a soccer player. I've known winning, but I've also known losing, and being picked last for a spot on the team. I think you've known this too—the pain of rejection, isolation and loneliness. Loneliness too strong to bear.

You are not alone in feeling this. When loneliness comes up it is so easy to seek refuge in a virtual world of computers and films, but do these really help or only increase our isolation? In our drive to be more connected, have we lost our true connection?

I want to know what you did with your loneliness. Did you ever, like me, cope by walking in the forests that cover our town? I know well the slope that cuts from that school to the stream, shrouded by beech and white pine. It makes up the landscape of my mind. I remember well the thrill of heading out alone on a path winding its way—to Treadwell Park! At that time it felt like a magical path, one of many secrets I discovered throughout those forests, some still hidden. Did you ever lean your face on the rough furrows of an oak's bark, feeling its solid heartwood and tranquil vibrancy? Did you ever play in the course of a stream, making pools with the stones as if of this stretch you were king? Did you ever experience the healing, connection and peace that comes with such moments, like I often did?

Or did your loneliness know only screens, with dancing figures of light at the bid of your will? How many false lives have you lived, how many shots fired, bombs exploded and lives lost in video games and movies?

By killing yourself at the age of 20, you never gave yourself the chance to grow up and experience a sense of how life's wonders can bring happiness. I know at your age I hadn't yet seen how to do this.

I am 37 now, about the age my teacher, the Buddha, realized there was a way out of suffering. I am not enlightened. This morning, when I heard the news, and read the words of my shocked classmates, within minutes a wave of sorrow arose, and I wept. Then I walked a bit further, into the woods skirting our monastery, and in the wet, winter cold of France, beside the laurel, I cried again. I cried for the children, for the teachers, for their families. But I also cried for you, Adam, because I think that I know you, though I know we have never met. I think that I know the landscape of your mind, because it is the landscape of my mind.

I don't think you hated those children, or that you even hated your mother. I think you hated your loneliness.

I cried because I have failed you. I have failed to show you how to cry. I have failed to sit and listen to you without judging or reacting. Like many of my peers, I left Newtown at seventeen, brimming with confidence and purpose, with the congratulations of friends and the approbation of my elders. I was one of the many young people who left, and in leaving we left others, including you, just born, behind. In that sense I am a part of the culture that failed you. I didn't know yet what a community was, or that I was a part of one, until I no longer had it, and so desperately needed it.

I have failed to be one of the ones who could have been there to sit and listen to you. I was not there to help you to breathe and become aware of your strong emotions, to help you to see that you are more than just an emotion.

But I am also certain that others in the community cared for you, loved you. Did you know it?

In eighth grade I lived in terror of a classmate and his anger. It was the first time I knew aggression. No computer screen or television gave a way out, but my imagination and books. I dreamt myself a great wizard, blasting fireballs down the school corridor, so he would fear and respect me. Did you dream like this too?

The way out of being a victim is not to become the destroyer. No matter how great your loneliness, how heavy your despair, you, like each one of us, still have the capacity to be awake, to be free, to be happy, without being the cause of anyone's sorrow. You didn't know that, or couldn't see that, and so you chose to destroy. We were not skillful enough to help you see a way out.

With this terrible act you have let us know. Now I am listening, we are all listening, to you crying out from the hell of your misunderstanding. You are not alone, and you are not gone. And you may not be at peace until we can stop all our busyness, our quest for power, money or sex, our lives of fear and worry, and really listen to you, Adam, to be a friend, a brother, to you. With a good friend like that your loneliness might not have overwhelmed you.

But we needed your help too, Adam. You needed to let us know that you were suffering, and that is not easy to do. It means overcoming pride, and that takes courage and humility. Because you were unable to do this, you have left a heavy legacy for generations to come. If we cannot learn how to connect with you and understand the loneliness, rage and despair you felt—which also lie deep and sometimes hidden within each one of us—not by connecting through Facebook or Twitter or email or telephone, but by really sitting with you and opening our hearts to you, your rage will manifest again in yet unforeseen forms.

Now we know you are there. You are not random, or an aberration. Let your action move us to find a path out of the loneliness within each one of us. I have learned to use awareness of my breath to recognize and transform these overwhelming emotions, but I hope that every man, woman or child does not need to go halfway across the world to become a monk to learn how to do this. As a community we need to sit down and learn how to cherish life, not with gun-checks and security, but by being fully present for one another, by being truly there for one another. For me, this is the way to restore harmony to our communion.

Douglas Bachman (Br. Phap Luu)who grew up at 22 Lake Rd. in Newtown, CT., is a Buddhist monk and student of the Vietnamese Zen Master and monk Thich Nhat Hanh. As part of an international community, he teaches Applied Ethics and the art of mindful living to students and school teachers. He lives in Plum Village Monastery, in Thenac, France.

A Whole Lot of Love

left to right . top to bottom

Lillet Blanc. Roses. More Roses. Honesty from Honest Tea.
Me & Steph. Moss on a pond. Duets at karaoke.
A thanksgiving walk. Homemade dulce de leche chocolate ganache pie (by dad). Friends.
More friends! A cute couple. The tree and ceiling of 30th street station.
Fuel the Cure. Lush soaps. A singing Justin Beiber doll. Philadelphia skyline...
Take 2. Winter blooms. A dying rose. Feeling infinite.

Know why I love pictures? Because when you look back at pictures, you only remember the goodness, the beauty, the connection. They paint the world in a certain hue to reaffirm that yes the world is good and lovely and beautiful and bountiful and plentiful and worth living in and living for.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Any Morning
Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.
People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.
Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People wont even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.
Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.
~ William Stafford ~

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Gratitude Day

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (or Gratitude Day as I am moved to call it) and it's a holiday that, for many of us, can be stressful (seeing family, an abundance of food) and awesome (seeing family, an abundance of food.) I'd like to share with you a letter from Marc David, the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. The letter is called "How to Digest Thanksgiving" and I find it to be so poignant. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you have a truly lovely Thanksgiving.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story by now that one of our most brilliant founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, lobbied to have the wild turkey be our national bird rather than the bald eagle. When I think about it, how un-cool would that be to have a turkey be symbolic of all that is American? But Benjamin Franklin knew a different turkey then you or I do today. Indeed, if you’ve ever seen a wild turkey you would surely conclude that it’s a very interesting bird. These creatures are big, kind of clumsy and appear completely un-designed for flight. When they fly, they make a heck of a lot of noise. When they’re on the ground or in trees, they’re whisper quiet. Wild turkeys might very well be the easiest prey for the worst hunters. For the Native Americans and the early American settlers, a wild turkey in sight pretty much meant a guaranteed meal.
Nowadays, the turkey you’ll eat at Thanksgiving can’t fly at all. It has absolutely no street smarts. The turkey companies will birth, harvest and sell millions of these flightless birds in the next handful of days. How times have changed. As I prepare to host friends and family for the Thanksgiving event, I like to search for meaning that can sometimes be overlooked in the holiday chaos. Some of our guests are vegans. Some are vegetarians. Some are carnivores. Some of the carnivores don’t eat gluten. The vegans and vegetarians don’t mind gluten – they just don’t like the dead bird. I assume there will be many different dishes on the table to accommodate the various nutritional philosophies present. Can you imagine a bunch of pilgrims dealing with the same issues?
I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that feels guilty at a Thanksgiving feast. I know there are plenty of people out there who are hungry, starving, and in need. Can I really celebrate this holiday in an opulent way while over 50 million Americans are living in poverty? And how can I celebrate a memorable day that ostensibly recognizes the graciousness of Native Americans who helped save the hungry European settlers while those same settlers have been anything but kind and gracious towards their hosts?
As far as I can tell, we live in a chaotic world. Sometimes it seems that there’s no justice. Sometimes it seems that life just isn’t fair. And it’s a sure bet that at any given time in human history, there are always the haves and the have-nots. It’s a spiritual challenge to be thankful for what we have, while holding and embracing in our hearts the enigma that others in the human family seemingly have far less to be thankful for. It’s a moral conundrum to feast while others about us are in famine.
So this is why the “thanks” and the “giving” in Thanksgiving are so important. Gratitude for what we have, for anything and everything that we’ve been given in this life is one of the most important spiritual nutrients. Oddly enough, it’s not the kind of nutrient you ingest – it’s the kind of nutrient you feed back to the environment. It keeps the gods well fed, and willing to bestow upon us even more.
When my parents and grandparents grew up in this country, they were called “citizens.” Today we are called “consumers.” The word “citizen” implies an active participant. The word “consumer” implies something that spends its life cycle devouring. Let’s just stick a fork in this label called “consumer” and consider it done and over with. Be a cosmic activist. Give thanks. Be gracious. Sprinkle a little bit of humility in the stuffing. Bless the chaos that is humanity. Give some love to the meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Drink the wine. Don’t drink the wine. Feast. Overeat. Go on a diet the next day. Or maybe just eat the salad. Feel guilty. Love yourself. Pinch your body fat. But amidst it all, take just one moment, a personal one between you and the divine, and give thanks for the life you’ve been given.
Warm regards,

Thursday, November 15, 2012

at easter island (a poem by me)

photo courtesy 3191

at easter island

at easter island where the fur of the sandpiper moves in segments
to the wind off the coast of the jetti 
and the docks creak against the bulkheads, supple
from soaking and dried from the salt
I heard you laughing like a child
eyes flickering like sunlight dancing on the surface
of the blueberry water. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Succulent Saturday

Mom and I by the bonfire
Jumbo candy canes, jumbo people!
Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert & Christopher Curtin "Good & Evil" chocolate bar from Eclat 
Succulents that looked like elephant hooves (or dinosaur paws)
My favorite: burnt orange dried Japanese lanterns

On a whim this past Saturday my mom and I decided to venture out to Terrain at Styers in Glenn Mills. As soon as I stepped out of the car and heard and felt my boots crunch against the uneven stone-filled parking lot, I felt an instant calm that saturated my whole being. In fact I was not in the place for more than ten minutes before I started choking up. I felt as though something tightly wound in the center of my chest was beginning to release and unwind and unravel and make its way up into my throat. Hot tears welled behind my eyes, and a glob of emotions wedged itself in my trachea and trapped its fist behind my breast bone. I quickly scooted into the bathroom to pinch a few tears out and take some soothing breaths. Words can't explain the emotions, which is maybe why the emotions came flooding out at the sight of a few bushels of dried Japanese lanterns arranged together just so and the smell of delicately brewed drip coffee sputtering into porcelain mugs, balanced on a slab of chosen wood. My mom looked at me, puzzled by my seeming sadness, and all I said to her was, "it's just so kind here. I am not used to this kindness." Deliberate kindness towards everything - a handful of orange winterberries, a carefully crafted homemade penny candy made to look like a rooster, a burning fire pit, a plaid, wool blanket. Everything my eyes and senses took in was itself a poem - each smell (burning balsam and fir), each sight (a miniature octopus ornament crafted from newspaper), each sound (hunks of branches cracking into ash in the fire pit) and each touch (smooth, cool measuring bowls made of jadeite.) The atmosphere begs you to slow down, to notice (really notice) and to take it all in. The careful attention taken for each minute detail at Terrain reminds me of a quote I read once by my buddy Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.” 
How can seeing a teapot as sacred help us? Well, if we see every single thing (every twig, every keyboard on a computer) as neither good or bad, or less more than or more than anything else than we can apply this same acceptance to the feelings tumbling in our own emotional beings. Jealousy and wrath are as real as tenderness and compassion- and none of them are worse than or better than the other; feelings are not inherently good or bad. They are just feelings. (A good friend often reminds me that feelings are also not facts.) It's what happens when we judge the feelings as wrong, or believe the feelings as facts, or try to stuff them down, or run away from them or control them that we suffer, make poor decisions and end up hurting ourselves or others.

But back to my succulent Saturday at Terrain. We ate lunch at the cafe where we enjoyed freshly baked bread (in a clay pot!) with maple syrup butter and pumpkin salt, butternut squash bisque (which also made me cry), a goat cheese and arugula omelette, and a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie - all washed down with sweet blueberry, vanilla tea. I am sure the waitress thought it strange when she came to the table and saw tears streaming down my face. Perhaps she wondered if it was the soup she recommended. (It was.) But not in the way she might have thought. Moreso it was that, again, I was made acutely aware at a sensual and physical level of the deliberate kindness taken towards the simple act of creating a meal. A kindness that I could taste, that warmed my throat and whole body - and most importantly, a kindness that I allowed myself to take in and fully absorb.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stories, Storms & Speakeasies

Story-telling at Lucas' party
Toes in the leaves !
Cousins <3
Homemade meatballs (Rao's recipe)

Words of wisdom
"We see much turbulence when we are seated in the eye of the storm"

Homemade arugala, mozzarella, artichoke & tomato pizza 
Bridget and I at Andrew & Jessica's wedding !
Speakin' easy at the speakeasy (;

The "Words of Wisdom" in the first picture is quite apropos at the moment as we happened to have just survived a nor'easter-hurricaine-frankenstorm or "apocalypse" if you ask my dad was busy for 3 days straight preparing our house for the end of days. (I told my brother and sister that if the world should end in December 2012, as the Mayan calendar has predicted, I just wanted them to know that our dad is ready.) Unfortunately Sandy was not as much of a tease as Irene (remember this post?), and her bark was actually as big as her bite this time. Thankfully our home house was not hit too bad, but Nana's dock was a bit shaken.  I hope everyone weathered the storm unscathed!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Empty Aching Blue

(Pictures of blue skies taken around Philadelphia with my iPhone)

I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured
a peninsula, wide enough
for a couple of ladderback chairs
to wobble on at high tide. I thought
of us in breathless cold, facing
a horizon round as a coin, looped
in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls
from sea to sun. I planned to wait
till the waves had bored themselves
to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles,
growing worried in the hush,
had paddled off in tiny coracles, till
those restless birds, your actor’s hands,
had dropped slack into your lap,
until you’d turned, at last, to me.
When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant
skies all empty aching blue. I meant
years. I meant all of them with you.

- Kate Clanchy, "Patagonia"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E. B. White

photo via elephantine

Hmph. The dilemma of the Manifest Destiny Hedonist? Perhaps.

For as long as I can recall, I've wanted to save the world. (And write books. And love songs. And be an actress. And a lawyer.  At one point I settled for maybe playing the part of a lawyer on a television show which I deemed a good enough compromise.)

With the hope of saving the world in mind, I spent much of my extra curricular high school career aimed towards this end. I was President of Students for Justice, helped implement and establish a school-wide recycling campaign, wrote letters to Amnesty International to free innocent prisoners, joined Greenpeace and the American Civil Liberties Union, gave a PowerPoint presentation to over 400 people on the plight of the Uganda invisible children and even went to Capital Hill to discuss illegal logging of the Brazilian rainforest with the Brazilian U.S. foreign ambassador and the Pennsylvania Congressman. Then I graduated and went to college where I was thrown into a whole new state, living situation and wrenched from the comforts and familiarity of home and the all-girls school I had called home for nearly 7 years (which is, by the way, the length of a life span for a cell.) I lost all of my bearings and was completely destabilized. Lacking both my family and former all-girl-Catholic-school community as reference points, I felt like I was walking in aimless, meaningless circles in my own heart and head. I felt  uprooted, anchor-less, stripped bare of my once-so-certain beliefs and value systems and scared to death. Not only was I afraid of the newness around me, I was afraid of the newness within me. I was afraid of myself. Who would I become in this new environment where I was a stranger to everyone with no history and no past and where everyone was a stranger to me? More frightening, who could I become? The possibilities were endless and I felt like I had been swallowed whole.

photo via andrewandcarissa

And then I found yoga (big.HUGE.monumental.discovery!), and re-remembered how much I love to walk outside and to be in nature. I discovered how much I love to cook and create, and to know where food comes from. I started to journal, began reading more poetry and esoteric spiritual texts, becoming more honest with both myself and others. I ended up transferring and going to a college in a larger city (which fed my spirit) but that was also closer to home (which fed my soul.) I started to realize that maybe being able to enjoy the world in my own skin was in fact a way to improve the world at the same time. These days, loving oneself from the inside out is one of the most radical decisions one can make.

Who is to say that the earth's plates don't shift a micro-inch every time one girl decides to love every inch of her thighs? Who is to say that enjoying - really enjoying - a square of rich, (fair trade!) dark chocolate made with careful hands isn't going to help cocoa bean farmers in Africa? Who is to say that every time I decide to come back to my yoga mat and rediscover my toes (my toes!) and how to balance my weight evenly on all 10 of them, that the balance of love and hatred, light and darkness in the entire cosmos is not somehow altered? And actually, science can back me up here since according to the butterfly effect, one infinitesimal act such as the fluttering of a butterfly wing in one part of the world can effect something as colossal as the materialization of a hurricane in another part of the world.

Maybe someday down the road I will move to D.C. and try to change the flawed system of politics (by using the flawed system of politics.) But until then, I will try as best as I can not to beat myself up for not being enough, having enough, or doing enough to save the world. I can walk lightly, tread softly, blessing the earth with each breath, bestowing small prayers of gratitude in every moment.  I can remind myself, always of my two favorite quotes:

"There are a million ways to kneel and kiss the ground." - 13th century mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi

“Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world.” ― Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

photo via andrewandcarissa

Or, I can always re-read "Where Everything Is Music"  (another one by Rumi):

Don't worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn't matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world's harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can't see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Weekend


How about a few fun links to start your weekend off right?


A pretty song

Words of wisdom

The movie I want to see tonight

A meal I want to make

Enjoy (:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Grains of Gold

Inevitably when cooler temperatures start to trickle in and the sun's rays begin to pale, my heart grows hungry for a steady dose of golden light.  Anticipation for something -anything be it a vacation, an event, a party, or yes even a movie can get one excited about the future, propelling one forward through one's daily motions with a sense of passion and purpose, a yearning towards that faint glimmer. So it is with me and the most recent film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic 1877 novel Anna Karenina. The film which is set for a limited US release date of November 9 stars powerhouses Kiera Knightly, Jude Law, Kelly Macdonald and Aaron-Taylor Johnson with a small appearance by Emma Watson (swoon.)

Directed by the optical master, Joe Wright (think Atonement, Price & Prejudice) and written by the playwright Tom Stoppard (think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, among others,) the film was originally set to be shot on location in Russia. Due to budgetary restraints, Anna K was created as more of an actual play, with an artifically constructed linear moving set. However, lest you think that this might detract from Wright's talent for using natural landscapes as characters in his films, Kiera Knightly noted that she thought the budgetary "restrictions made him [Wright] incredibly creative, out of necessity." Judging from the film's luciously colorful costumes and set design based on pre-released images, trailers and clips, it seems as though Wright fans will not be disappointed.

Check out the trailer below and let me know, will you see Anna Karenina? P.s. I also added some quotes from the actual novel by Tolstoy. My personal favorite is the very last one.

Anna Karenina Quotes, Leo Tolstoy:

“Sometimes she did not know what she feared, what she desired: whether she feared or desired what had been or what would be, and precisely what she desired, she did not know.”

“It's hard to love a woman and do anything.”

“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”

“But I'm glad you'll see me as I am. Above all, I wouldn't want people to think that I want to prove anything. I don't want to prove anything, I just want to live; to cause no evil to anyone but myself. I have that right, haven't I?”
“She smiled at him, and at her own fears.”

"...the thought occurred to him that the power of working for the general welfare – a power of which he felt himself entirely destitute – was not a virtue but rather a lack of something: not a lack of kindly honesty and noble desires and tastes, but a lack of the power of living, of what is called heart – the aspiration which makes a man choose one out of all the innumerable paths of life that present themselves, and desire that alone.”
“The children themselves repaid her griefs with small joys. These joys were so trifling as to be as imperceptible as grains of gold among the sand, and in moments of depression she saw nothing but the sand; yet there were brighter moments when she felt nothing but joy, saw nothing but the gold.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Favorite Song

I actually can't decide which I like better. The original (above) or the cover for Holy Motors by Doctor L (below.) What do you think ?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to Make a Mouth Water

...or, how to make the best lemon custard tart ever. Basically, you just gather all of the ingredients which you most likely have on hand if you are someone like me who happens to be obsessed with lemons and yogurt.

What you'll need: lemons, yogurt, rosemary, flour, butter, sugar, salt, eggs, ice water, a whisk, a pie pan, 2 bowls, and a food processor (or blender) *
* sunflowers not necessary, but certainly recommended

Below are the exact measurements/directions from So Good and Tasty's guest post on Happy Yolks.

For the crust:
1 1/3 cup spelt flour*
3 tablespoons cane sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
pinch of salt
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1-2 tablespoon ice water
for the filling

For the custard:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.

Place the flour, sugar, rosemary, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter and pulse until little pea sized bits start to form. Add in the ice water, starting with just 1 tablespoon. Pulse a few more times, then check the dough to see if it holds together when pressed between your fingers. If not, add the 2nd tablespoon. The dough may still seem crumbly, but as long as it holds together when pressed it will be perfect.

 Dump the dough out into the prepared tart pan. Starting from the center, work your way out to the sides by pressing the dough firmly into the pan. Make sure you press it up along the sides evenly. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place in the oven to bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before filling.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Place the yogurt and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then add the lemon juice and zest. Whisk until smooth and everything is evenly combined.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set and only slightly jiggles when shaken lightly.

Allow to cool completely then place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Tart can be made the day before and kept covered and chilled in the fridge. 

*If you decide to use whole wheat flour instead of spelt flour, I suggest adding an extra 2 tsp. of butter and 2 tbsp. of ice cold water if the dough is too crumbly - but warning: the dough is very crumbly and this is ok!

Mix. Bake. Slice. Savor.

If You Asked My iPhone, It Would Tell You That...

Halloween oreos are yum (with 5 Boo-rific shapes!)
This is what Alina looks like while learning how to walk...
(she falls down and then lounges in the sun like meant to do it because wouldn't you know that lying in the grass in the sun is much more fun after falling down?)
Moving like Jagger on the dance floor isn't as easy as it sounds
My favorite candy... wrapped in dental floss. Ironic.
In the presidents' room at the Union League there are alot of Dubya's
My paintings of the two lyrical masters were finally framed & hung

Billy Shakespeare's words are as appropriate today as they were in Elizabethan times
Dragonfruit is the most gorgeous color magenta on the inside
I have some really beautiful (inside and out) friends

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Analogy of the Train

When is the right time to let someone know that he or she isn’t “the one”? I’ve recently been turning this thought over in my mind like a pancake on a low-flamed griddle.

And then it came to me like most realizations happen to come, in a metaphor (see pancake reference above) while talking to a friend on gchat. While my realizations typically come in the form of metaphor they usually occur while on gchat, in the shower, putting on lotion or walking. I was trying to explain to her how if you aren’t totally sure of someone you’ve been seeing, it feels a lot like you are on an Acela-paced train headed towards a brick wall. Or down into the quagmire of the Louisiana gulf coast. Or veering onto a track that you know will suddenly end, dropping you off a cliff. The train itself is comfortable enough with plushy velvet seats and brass spouts spewing Ghiradelli hot chocolate into porcelain tea sets. You feel safe and warm and cozy, however, like a teacup rattling ever so slightly a small and nagging sense of impending doom stirs in the place just right behind your heart and below your belly button. You alone are the only one on the train in possession of the knowledge of what lie ahead. Do you tell anyone? Do you risk everyone losing it? What if you don’t know for sure that it will happen? Can you trust the subtle rattling in your teacup heart? Is it a phantom shudder? Are you sure the brick wall isn’t a tunnel? Did you just imagine that salty whiff of marshlands and bays? What if the train doesn’t switch tracks? You keep breathing, sipping your hot chocolate letting the smooth sweet tang of the cocoa linger on your tongue.

The question is do you risk telling someone that you know they aren’t the one and derail the train yourself? Or do you keep quiet letting time run its course, hoping the leaks and cracks and subtleties of decay will soon show? I am not sure hence the overwhelming number of question marks speckled throughout this post. In truth maybe the analogy doesn't work as well as, say, Plato's allegory of the cave or the Cherokee parable of the Two Wolves. Perhaps it is too dramatic; equating the end of a relationship to that of death. (There are many things I have claimed to be in my life, but never "rational.") The problem here - if there is a problem at all - is mostly guilt-based with a love of the fantastic and extreme. (How Puritanically American of me, no?) What is the problem of two people enjoying eachother's company with no specified "end" goal in sight? Does there always have to be a goal? Must it always be so black and white (black tux, white dress) and end in Pachelbel's Cannon?  Must it end at all even though marriage isn't in sight? Where is the harm in the pleasure of the process? Or as Elaine Sciolino notes in her book La Seduction,
"Seduce me with a delicious meal and a glass of excellent wine, a promise of romance, an intoxicating scent, and a lively game of words. Have you done me harm, or have you led me to a place where I find freedom to enjoy and savor the best life has to offer? And if in the process you also serve your own purposes, isn't it - as long as I understand the transaction - a fair trade?"
I see though that the harm might lie in the withholding of information from the other person; information that could possibly enlighten (and hurt) the other person and cause them to rethink the time they spend with you. It seems there is a fine line between telling the truth for truth's sake, telling the truth to make the truth-holder feel less guilt, and telling the truth for the sole benefit of  giving the other person all the information to use at their discretion. But it leads me back to my original question... when is the right time to tell them? After how many "dates"? How much time do you allow to go by before you break the news? Right before the train is about to hit the wall, as soon as you know, or at some point in between?

What do you think?

Friday, September 14, 2012


... to the weekend

(I'll drink to that.)

What are you up to?

I am going to finish watching Sabrina, attend a gala to support this rad foundation, and hopefully make this tart.

Links I Like

No, not this kind of lynx... But check out at that stare! Watch out, Tyra

How do you want to be seen?

Recent photos of space (How cool are those polar mesopheric clouds?? That blue.)

Best animated movie I've seen in a while (free on Netflix under Just for Kids)

This. Song. Frank Ocean, I heart you.

I want to go to Iceland with Andrew & Carissa !

Salt that smells like violets? The art of harvesting fleur de sel

Perfect dresses for fall, with black booties and a leather jacket! Here and here.

Who is your celebrity alter ego? Mine is Rihanna... nailed it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Photo Diary

A Bug's Life aviators
Drinks at Devon to celebrate 29 years (of marriage!)
Ugh, cutest baby on the block? Yeah I'd say so
Water fire sunset
USPS mail girls
Alina doing her "Like, whatever, I can throw my drink on the floor
because it's my party" pose

The 2012 Pantone Fashion Color Report
(Ultramarine Green & French Roast, swoon)
It's all in the family
Spindly sculpture near the Rodin exhibit
Flowers & Flags
Les petits chocolats from Scoop DeVille

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

To Speak of Heroes

'our mind is a virgin forest of killed friends.
And if I talk to you with fairy tales and parables
it is because you listen to it more sweetly, and you can't talk of horror because it's alive

because it doesn't speak and moves
it drips the day, it drips on sleep
like a pain reminding of evils.

To speak of heroes to speak of heroes: Michalis
who left with open wounds from hospital
may have talked of heroes when, that night
he was dragging his foot in the blacked-out city,
was screaming feeling our pain 'in the dark
we go, in the dark we move...'
Heroes move in the dark.

G. Seferis, Teleftaios Stathmos

Nobel Prize Laureate Georgios Seferis wrote this poem about the horror of war and those heroes that die in its wake. I read it for the first time in my Mediterranean Studies class in college and was immediately taken with it the way you can be sometimes taken by a fast-moving train zooming by so quickly that if you blinked you could have missed it. The way it tears through your consciousness, ripping up the rotted old floorboards of your mind clearing the clutter, afterward leaving your thoughts to settle dumbly like meandering specks of dust. What was I thinking before? It doesn't matter and somehow there is only a feeling in the chest, a moment of stillness and reverance and oneness. The moment in which you are sitting on the painted duck-green bench becomes illuminated; you are suddenly aware of your thighs on the wood, the feel of your feet on the uneven cobblestone, the sun casting iridescent flecks of auburn in the hair of the man sitting beside you who moments before was just tapping away at his cell phone. You now sit - the two of you - breathy and alive and aware looking into eachother's eyes, brushing the hair from your mouth and acknowledging the other in a bowl of silence.

That's the way I felt when I read this poem and the way I felt the morning of September 11th. And didn't everyone? Doesn't everyone remember exactly where they were, in place and time and space, the moment they first heard or first saw? I was in 8th grade in my first class of the morning, Language Arts, sitting in the front row near the door. Our teacher Mrs. Riley welcomed us with a somber look and without saying anything turned on the TV mounted in the upper right hand corner of the room. The teacher, the fourteen or so other girls in my class and I watched as the punctured towers released billowing clouds of black-grey smoke. I remember thinking, of all things, that I had never seen so much smoke in my whole life. I kept clinging to the color grey, amazed by its ability to be one color but so many colors all at once. I noticed the differences in the grey of the clouds, of the smoke, of the towers, of the tie of the newscaster. I remember feeling confused, stunned, suddenly uprooted. I don't think I realized at the time that the images meant death, that people had died or were actively dying as I sat there watching in my plaid kilt and new school sneakers. I don't think I knew people were still in the buildings, that the buildings were going to collapse, that people were diving from the buildings, calling their wives and husbands for the last times, that firefighters were trudging up 90 flights of stairs to a black death. All this I didn't know or couldn't fully grasp until college when I took a Sociology of Disaster course where we studied the logistics of what had happened inside of the buildings that day. That people in building #2 were told to stay where they were because it was an "isolated incident," that the people who didn't listen to the announcement and left were walking in black stairwells, stairwells that kept ending and leaving them off at different floors to find another stairwell, grasping in the dark. As the poem notes, to imagine or to even speak of the horror of that day for those involved seems futile.

" and you can't talk of horror because it's alive

because it doesn't speak and moves
it drips the day, it drips on sleep
like a pain reminding of evils.

To speak of heroes to speak of heroes... "

thank you.