Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stopped in my Tracks

Become willing to see the hand of God and accept it as a friend''s offer to help you with what you are doing.
-Julia Cameron

I had no idea how seriously I was destined to taking a break from my daily life. I had arrived in southern California and had been thoroughly enjoying the freedom from the home schedule, the edited housework and cooking, the introduction of long hours to do with what I wanted. To dream, to plan, to explore. To have time to myself.

Last week, however, I was stopped in my tracks by a terrible cold, and an infection in my hurt toe (the toenail I lost last year had never fully grown back correctly) that was being exacerbated by running. I had to go to the doctor and ended up having minor surgery which resulted in me having to take this week off of my feet, let alone running. Through all of this, I missed the deadline for registering for the Dipsea Race.

This has not been my week.

And yet, in a way, it has been my week. I realize that I have not had a chance to really sit still and take stock of my life in a long time. I consume my time with busy-ness and don't often take the time to come up for air and see what is working and what is not. So I have been taking this time to take stock, to think about the rythmn of my days, to make sure I am using my time wisely. Am I moving forward or am I wasting time? What do I want to incorporate into my days and what can be deleted? I am editing, simplifying, and clarifying. I want to live a simpler, more elegant version of my life in which I do less while accomplishing more.

I am returning home next week and am so excited to see my garden, to see what is blooming, to reintroduce myself to my home and my life in the Bay area. I feel renewed. I feel like I have had the time away that I needed to look at things with new eyes and from a fresh perspective. My faith in life has been renewed and I realize again that sometimes misfortunes can really be opportunities, that holding onto your goals too tightly will suffocate them and you, and that by letting go you can get ahead.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lovely, Lazy Days(ze)

I pray you...your play needs no excuse. Never excuse.
-William Shakespeare

We have been in the San Diego area for a few days now, having arrived late Friday night, and are happy to report that we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves! The weekend was spent unpacking and playing. We went to the San Diego zoo with my Old Man's best friend from back in the day.

He is now married and has a little one Babou's age. It was the first time I had ever been to a zoo and I found I was more struck by the plants than the animals. There were a lot of really amazing plants in that zoo! Check out this staghorn fern, one of my favorite plants of all time and here is one of the finest specimens I've seen:

Babou and her new friend had lots of fun chasing each other and making us nervous and worn out from all the chasing!

Saturday night we all headed back to our temporary house and made a traditional Santa Maria style BBQ dinner--so good--including anaheim peppers stuffed with sharp cheddar cheese. Really fun and cool to visit with them down here--we live so far apart we don't get to see each other much.

Sunday was a relaxing day. The RV park where we are staying has a beautiful pond, little playground, and backs up to a creek that is only about an inch deep but provides ample opportunities for fun! Babou spent the afternoon throwing herself into the water and generally slapping around. Ocho busied himself racing back and forth with one of the largest sticks I have yet to see him hoist about. It was so nice to just lay in the sun in the sand and hear the trinkle of a creek. You can say I am pretty relaxed here. It reminds me of being a kid and spending my days by the creek. I am so happy for Babou to have a piece of this experience.

The internet is not working here though so I am going to have to use the nearest library's wireless, about 20 or so minutes away. I am getting library card and am hoping to actually read some books while I am here. I feel so self indulgent playing in creeks with my baby, reading books, getting to know a new area.

It feels so good to get out of my environment for a bit, out of my routine and into a new one less heavy on the household work. I still have the housework and cooking/cleaning, albeit an abbreviated version, but don't have the yard to deal with which makes a big difference.

There is always so much to do at home. Good thing I am resetting my batteries, I plant the second section of out vegetable garden when I get back, start training for the Dipsea race in earnest, and start spring cleaning. But until then, I am going to enjoy every moment of my little vacation!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring Hike

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.

Today Babou and I went hiking. It was beautiful. I hope this quote offers hope to all my east coast sisters!

That's all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dinner: MacGyver Style

Beauty is an ecstasy, it is as simple as hunger.
-W. Somerset Maugham

Yesterday I packed up the dog and the baby and headed south again, another long trip with sketchy internet access. I am determined to do better on this trip, make sure no matter how difficult to keep training for the trail race in June, try to keep eating out and junk food to a minimum, and to post at least once a week; hopefully more.

Babou was intent on helping me pack which made everything go a little slower than usual,

and the day was pretty rainy which also slowed the process. However, my dear friend surprised me with a going-on-a-road-trip-gift: the soundtrack to my new favorite movie, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Do I have the best friends or what? It made the whole drive! It tinted my glasses a warm gold color as I drove, making everything more beautiful, mysterious, and a little foreign!

The road ended at my parents where I delivered Practical Sis, Mary Alice, and my birthday gift.

And then ran out the door and to the store to quickly shop and prepare her birthday dinner. It was 5:30 and they like to eat by 7 at the latest. The problem is my parents live in three houses, each with 1/4 of a kitchen. It was raining heavily and steadily by the time I got to their house, so I wanted to make everything in their house, not walk back and forth between them. Their house has a modified kitchen; a refrigerator, sink and the electric skillet they use to cook with. So that was my challenge for a special birthday dinner.

I got wine first, that always enhances everything you make, gauranteed! Then I got some garlic rosemary polenta (pre-made, in a roll). filet mignon, black peppercorns, canned pears, chocolate sauce, crispy oatmeal cookies (I had wanted meringue cookies, but they had none), and really good vanilla ice cream.

I rushed home and opened wine, fielded Babou, and started dinner while Mum caught up with Rescue Ranger who had called to wish her a happy birthday complete with an a cappella "Happy Birthday." (We have a tradition in our family of calling each other on our birthdays and singing as loudly and wildly as physically possible--even the dogs get into it, I have heard many a howl but really we get so into it it could be any of us for that matter!)

I first sliced the polenta into medallions, dusted them lightly in salt and pepper, and sauteed them in a little olive oil. Once those had cooked, I set them aside, covered, and then added more olive oil to the pan. I got it as hot as an electric skillet will get while I prepared the filets. I cracked the peppercorns and mixed them with seasalt dredging the filets through the mixture. I then seared the steaks, took them off to rest, and next prepared the sauce. I deglazed the skillet with about a 1/3 cup of pomegranite juice and let it reduce in half. Then I added maybe 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and let that reduce in half again. I added a little salt and would have added a little butter to finish the sauce but they didn't have any so I just left it be and it was still quite good. I whipped up a little simple salad with a balsamic dressing and dinner was on the table!

For dessert, since I was too late to bake a cake or anything, I had decided to make a version of one my favorite desserts we used to serve at the restaurant I worked at during college. It was a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two meringue cookies topped with a poached pear and covered in chocolate sauce--divine and easy! Couldn't find meringues to save my life so I used a crispy oatmeal cookie as the base, added a scoop of ice cream, and then topped it with a canned pear half and loads of sticky chocolate sauce! Candles were lit and singing wildly ensued and present opening after that!

I think our dear mother had a really wonderful birthday and was so pleased with all the phone calls and attention. That's what I love about birthdays and what makes me so avid about celebrating them, they can make you feel so amazing, beautiful, and loved. All of which our mother is...amazing, beautiful, and very much loved.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I can't guarantee the lovemaking because I happen to be very moody.
Cristina, Vicki Cristina Barcelona

I had the great pleasure of watching Vicki Cristina Barcelona over the weekend, and have to say that if I could drink this film, I would; that if I could consume this film, I would. It is one of the most beautiful, sensual movies I have seen in a very long time. Now I say this with a disclaimer for movie buffs, I watch movies for very different reasons than maybe a lot of people watch movies. I am less interested in the story line than most. I watch movies for the background, for the houses the characters live in, the clothes they wear, the thoughts they think, the passion they express.

This movie fulfilled me completely in this way. It reminded me of traveling with girlfriends, of how different cultures hold different ideals, how art is valued much more highly in other cultures than our own (at least in my experience), how sexuality and love are often subjective and can be used as a catalyst to self knowledge and growth. How it feels to be free. The romance of unfulfilled love; that its incomplete nature is its beauty, it's charm.

I felt like I had gone somewhere after I had watched this movie. In a way, to a place very much like home to me as I have often felt more at home in other countries maybe because I grew up so much more on the fringes of American culture. Not only did I feel I had come home, I felt the well of my soul had been filled with beautiful images. I loved Juan Antonio's home, the pond, the garden, the way they ate, the style of life they lead. I absorbed it, soaked it up, and it made me feel as though I had gone somewhere without having to go anywhere. Which makes all the difference.

So...the big question is (if you've seen the movie) would you go to Orvieto?