East comes West

by Claire: 

We were thrilled to host Casey and family on their recent trip to California. We had three sweet days together. The boys deepened their bond playing hard together. On one of those days we all drove north to Salmon Creek, a beach near Bodega Bay in Sonoma County.  We found an abandoned ship on the shore, ran down the sand dunes and played in the driftwood structures that someone had created.  The photos below are glimpse into that wonderful weekend. Parallel Coasts unite! 

This is was just one part of Casey and her family's trip from NY.  Stay tuned for more stories...

Interview - Amy

Amy is a filmmaker and lives with her two sons and their dad in Brooklyn, New York. One of her early projects was the first romantic coming of age that deeply entertained and resonated with me. In someway, Y Tu Mamá También was an anthem for my friend group. The story hit us at the right moment - leaving home, adventuring with friends and strangers, living without consequences and turning towards adulthood. Amy and I met and became friends through the ongoing friendship of our eldest sons. She is passionate, devoted, and an exceptionally good cook.

Amy and her son in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland.

Amy and her son in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland.

Place

Where are you from?  Needham, MA

What brought you here?  I followed my friends after college

What keeps you here?  My love of how much there is to do in New York and all the cool people here

How has this place helped you develop?  I finally found my like-minded, type-A career friends who became my like-minded, type-A mama friends

If not here, where would you be?  Probably somewhere in South America

What do you love about your home (domestic space)?  I love the colors and the textures.  The colors are cool, but together with the different materials make the space feel homey

Favorite place of all time?  Mexico


Craft

What is your favorite occupation?  Writing screenplays

What are you passionate about? Cooking

What inspires you? What drives you?  Filmmaking used to inspire me.  I built 20 years of my life exploring different parts of the industry.  Now I find that I am more driven by simple storytelling.  And my kids.

Who inspires you?  My kids.  And a handful of my friends who manage to keep a happy home while also working.

Why is it important for you to do your work? My work has been a part of my identity for so long.  It enabled me to have cool people flow in and out of my life for a very long time.

Do you find anything conflicting about your work?  Everything.  But seriously, I find producing to be a conflict because of how much it ultimately clashes with the art of a project.  I also find the all-consumingness of it to be a conflict with my family harmony (much of the time).

Do you have a clear idea of success?  I used to but over the years it has eroded and evolved.

When something goes wrong, what do you do?  I try to make it better.  I am a fixer.  I rush ahead, often without careful consideration in an attempt to make sure the problem doesn't get larger and so that things can continue to move forwards.

How do you cope with disappointment?  I get upset and then (thankfully) things pass very quickly for me.  I move on.


Friendship + Family

What is the most important quality of a friend? Pure motivation.

What is a characteristic of one of your earliest friends? One of your more recent close friends?  Co-dependency.  Loyalty.

What is something special you recently did for a friend?  I cooked them dinner.

If you could change something about your family or friendships what would it be?  Everything would be less complicated.  There would be weekly ritualistic dinners incorporating both. I would be more patient.  Softer.

 

Self

Do you have any daily rituals?  Coffee.

Weekly rituals?  Cooking.

What is your most treasured possession?  Materialistic?  My wedding ring.

What is your favorite flower?  I can't decide between ranunculus and peonies.  

Who is your favorite artist or author?  Mikhail Bulgakov

What are your favorite names?  James (for a girl) and Wyatt (for a girl).  Bear and Grey for boys.

What is currently your favorite poem or song?  "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone.

What is your motto?  Try to enjoy every day.  

Half Hour Gumbo

by claire: 

Half Hour Gumbo

Serves 8

Growing up in Louisiana, I ate gumbo often. My grandmother would make it, my mom would make it, my dad would would make it and, eventually, I learned to make it too. I never wrote down the exact recipe that my parents taught me but I remember flashes of the lessons: the constant attention to the slow stirring of the roux; my mom pointing out that the roux was ready when it was the same color as our brown floral kitchen wallpaper; adding the "holy trinity" of bell peppers, onions and celery.

The first gumbo I made completely on my own was a disaster. I was a freshman in college at Denison University in Ohio. I decided to make gumbo as an extra credit assignment for my French class. Getting the ingredients proved difficult without a car. When I finally made it to a grocery store, I didn’t buy enough chicken or sausage. In addition to the challenges around ingredients, my only option to cook the gumbo was in the dorm room electric stove top - the level of heat was so unpredictable. As you might guess, it didn't taste great. I used an absurd amount of Tony Chachere's to obscure the flavor.

Chicken sausage okra gumbo

Chicken sausage okra gumbo

In anticipation of attempting traditional Louisiana recipes after I left home, I packed up a small mason jar of Filé (ground sassafras) that my grandfather Belizaire had prepared. 19 years later I still have this jar of Filé. It's a tangible connection to my grandfather. I don't actually cook with it but it has a nostalgic home amongst other strange culinary relics of my southern past.  

There are countless regional variations of gumbo (variables include thickness, use of tomatoes, and many other ingredients). The recipe I am sharing with you today integrates my favorite ingredients and techniques from across several different sources…specifically the chicken/ andouille/ okra gumbo I grew up eating at home with the spices as recommended in a cookbook called The Gumbo Shop. I came up with my own modifications to cut the prep time to only 30 minutes.

1 cooked rotisserie chicken
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound Andouille sausage
3 stalks of celery
1 medium green bell pepper
1.5 large yellow onion
1 bay leaf
1 tsp basil
½ tsp sage
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp salt

Pull all of the meat off of the cooked chicken, set aside the meat. Crush carcass and boil in 3 quarts of water with ½  of an onion, 1 stalk of celery, and salt to make the broth. Cook on med/high heat for 20 minutes, strain. While broth is cooking, chop the onion, celery, and bell pepper to have ready to add to roux later.  Start the roux by adding equal parts oil and flour to heavy bottomed pot. Stir as close to continuously as you can until the roux is a caramel color. Do not burn. Stir in the chopped onion, celery, bell pepper and let them simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broth, sage, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, salt, sliced sausage and chopped chicken meat. Let everything simmer for a bit.  
Serve with white rice and french bread.

Baby Cakes- 2 Recipes for the “baby smell”

Smelling a baby is intoxicating. I understand there is a lot going on hormonally in this act and that I am hardwired to love the smell of my babies to encourage me to take good care of them. I am developing a theory that the way a baby smells corresponds to their future taste preferences. I know my data set is extremely limited (two), but I think I am on to something…

When Arlo was a few months I started to notice that he smelled like a buttery cinnamon roll. He smelled so strong like a pastry that I could close my eyes, nuzzle deep in his neck, inhale and I sincerely felt like I would not be able to tell the difference between the two. Now he is closing in on 4 and is crazy about buttery pastry treats. I might have thought nothing of the connection except I had another subject to observe. 

Honeyman’s smells are entirely different. He exudes tones of nuts, cheese and raw dough. Since he started eating solid food, he has a strong preference for savory foods, earning the nickname, Savory Muffin. Its truly remarkable: he has zero interest in the sweets that Arlo obsesses over. 

In an effort to preserve these ephemeral smells by recreating them, I have decided to develop recipes that attempt to precisely capture in food the intoxicating smells of my two babies . 
Arlo’s Buttery Cinnamon Rolls and Honeyman's Savory Muffins

ARLO'S BUTTERY CINNAMON ROLLS  
(with bourbon sauce for the grown ups)
Rolls
3.5 cups flour
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages regular or fast-acting dry yeast
1 cup milk
¼ cup butter
1 large egg 

Filling
½ cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup butter
¼ cup chopped cashews

Bourbon Sauce
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ cup bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla 

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, salt and yeast. Heat the milk on the stovetop until very warm.  Add the milk, 1/4 cup butter and egg to the flour mixture. Mix by hand or with an electric mixer.  Gradually add the rest to the flour. Knead dough on a floured surface. Put the dough an oiled bowl and cover bowl loosely.  Let it rise in a warm place for 1.5 hours, should double in size. 

Separately mix 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cinnamon. 
On a floured surface flatten dough to a rectangle. spread 1/4 cup of melted butter and then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mix (and nuts if desired). Roll long ways. With a serrated knife, gently cut 1 inch slices. Place in an oiled baking dish. Let it rise for another 1/2 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool on rack. 

There is enough sugar in these for kids to be satisfied with out using the traditional sugar glaze. However for the adults, I recommend adding a bourbon sauce typically used in New Orleans bread pudding recipes. 

Heat butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon over medium heat, stirring constantly, until all of the sugar is dissolved. 

HONEYMAN'S SAVORY MUFFINS

1 pound bacon
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

Cut bacon, break in small pieces. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the eggs, milk, flour, and baking powder. Mix in the bacon and cheese. Fill the lightly oiled muffin tin. Bake for about 15 minutes. 

(this recipe was modified from The Stay at Home Chef)
 

Pronounced Wife and Husband - Salisbury, CT

By Casey
The invitations were printed on a press built by Christopher. The mulberry jam was hand pulled by Gabriella and Christopher in the late summer.

The invitations were printed on a press built by Christopher. The mulberry jam was hand pulled by Gabriella and Christopher in the late summer.

There are people in my life whose persona is poetic. Maybe if I live long enough I'll see the poetry in everyone, I hope I do and will. My dear friend Christopher, who is, moment to moment, unpredictable to me yet as a being makes complete sense, got married to Gabriella on a beautiful hill top over-looking the endless undulations of the New England Autumn. The brass band played and the arranged chorus of friends read Edward Lear's The Jumblies and the cold and misty air brushed our shoulders - it was spectacular.

I met Christopher in architecture school. 

One night, after many all-nighters, I turned to him and in a desperate tone asked, "Chris, how do we answer their questions? What are we suppose to make?" Chris replied with his sincere confidence, "I don't know! But, a teacher of mine once said, 'What ever you make just make it beautiful.' So, the world needs more beauty, make it beautiful." Christopher has made things that seem impulsive, spontaneous, are unpredictable, but always beautiful. I've never seen more beautiful things made than those made by him. It is amazing that an event, in all of its simplicities and complexities, can be such an elegant expression of a couple. 

Cooled down hot cider with rum and flowers picked in the fields by Gabriella's sister earlier that day.

Cooled down hot cider with rum and flowers picked in the fields by Gabriella's sister earlier that day.

Christopher, Gabriella, the officiants and the brass band.

Christopher, Gabriella, the officiants and the brass band.

The Jumblies

BY EDWARD LEAR
I
 
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
   In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’
They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
   In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
 
 
II
 
They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
   To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong
   In a Sieve to sail so fast!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
 
 
III
 
The water it soon came in, it did,
   The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
   And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
   While round in our Sieve we spin!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
 
 
IV
 
And all night long they sailed away;
   And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
   In the shade of the mountains brown.
‘O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
   In the shade of the mountains brown!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
     Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
 
 
V
 
They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
   To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
   And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
   And no end of Stilton Cheese.
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
 
 
VI
 
And in twenty years they all came back,
   In twenty years or more,
And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’
For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
   And the hills of the Chankly Bore;
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, ‘If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,—
   To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
 

 
 

Empresses, Warriors and Elders

By Claire

Starting around age sixteen, I would occasionally find myself staring in the mirror for so long that my face would melt away. Have you ever tried this? It would take twenty minutes or so before the ordinary visual perceptions of myself would fall away. I would keep staring through my disappearing face and eventually something uncanny would happen. Sometimes visions would emerge: empresses, warriors and elders. The visions of this solipsistic exercise deepened my curiosity about temporality and the body. These themes are still playing out.

messy lined face. a drawing from one of my old sketchbooks 

messy lined face. a drawing from one of my old sketchbooks 

Years later, I met a friend who was in the same MA program in Performance Studies at NYU.  Somehow I discovered that she liked to do the same thing; she told me it was called “scrying.” For her, it was one of the ways she worked on character development for her performances. This friend, who now lives in Berlin, recently visited me in Berkeley. Her visit reminded me of scrying, and I thought I would try it again. It had been a long time, maybe ten or fifteen years since I had last done it.

I tried it last night. I was a bit tired, but I enjoyed it. I sat through the severe face of low light, noticed I am getting older with new lines and habits of tension. Trying to relax my eyes and to not anchor to ideas, I felt, once again, that rush as my face disappeared and for a moment there was something unfamiliar. This time it was only subtle characters that emerged. It was nice to revisit this practice. If anything, it is an interesting way to source material. I think I will try it again soon.

 

Favorite Moments of Summer

by Claire

As the summer shifts to fall, I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments of the Summer.

Honeyman snuggles; Costa Rica property; Rosie the pig; Wolf at Oregon Country Fair; Lasqueti Island: washed up ship part, blueberry farm, feral sheep, AJ at the shore; Steam Train at Tilden Park. 

Honeyman snuggles; Costa Rica property; Rosie the pig; Wolf at Oregon Country Fair; Lasqueti Island: washed up ship part, blueberry farm, feral sheep, AJ at the shore; Steam Train at Tilden Park. 

  1. 11 years ago my parents packed up a few crates of personal belongings, sold our childhood home, and moved from Louisiana to Costa Rica. At that time I was traveling around Central and South America so I greeted them as they arrived to their new life in the tropics. Adjacent to their rented house was a beautiful property, land that had been farmed for the past 10 years with crops of maize and black beans. Prior to that, the land had been used as pasture for cattle. Before that, based on nearby archeological finds, it was likely part of the site of a small indigenous village. I walked that land with my dad as we started imagining their new home. Using principles from Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language” and with the specifications of the ADA accessibility standards, they made an amazing new home. My mother, who has had Multiple Sclerosis for 25 years, loves this house. The extensive network of enables her to explore the lush gardens that my dad has planted. The downside to all this beauty is that we don’t get to see them as much as we would like to. Our summer started with a family trip down to Costa Rica so my folks could meet Honeyman (my younger son). It was really a special time. AJ (my older son) regularly talks about going to visit the Bombero (Fireman) in Costa Rica. He also learned to care for Rosie the pig and the baby chicks, “Tomorrow” and “After.” “After” died, which was AJ’s first experience with death. As for Honeyman, he gave some serious, much needed snuggles to his grandparents. If you want to learn more about my parents’ ex-pat life, check out my dad’s online magazine: Neotropica

  2. In July we took a family trip to the Pacific Northwest. Traveling with two young kids was by no means easy, but we planned an itinerary that was family centered. While we moved around quite a bit, at each given stop we took it slow and were not overly ambitious. We have friends sprinkled along the coast that we stayed with and shared meals with. Our first stop was Eugene Oregon where we auspiciously started the trip with a day at the Oregon Country Fair. I had no idea how special this gathering was going to be. We met unicorns, dragons, and wolves. There were kids on stilts, musicians, artists, and amazing food. The booths were all permanent structures with a feeling of mythical wooden tree houses. It was part stepping through time, part stepping through the looking glass. We will definitely be going back.

  3. This trip through the North West brought us to Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver. From the northern part of Vancouver Island we took a small ferry to Lasqueti Isand. This is a magical place. The island, which is about the size of Manhattan, has approximately five hundred year round residents and many more come for the summer.  There is no car ferry to this island, so there is almost no tourist infrastructure. We arrived on the small ferry to the weekly community market.  We ate homemade donuts and enjoyed all of the art stands selling things like hand-made animal pelt fanny packs. The kids area included a big wooden jungle gym and a cob club house. When AJ arrived, the kids all stopped playing and stared. One little girl asked, “Who are you? We haven't seen you before.” This energetic and somewhat feral pack of kids seemed to be tough and adventurous for living on an island that is totally off the grid. The local electricity comes from micro-hydro systems (often custom made) and many solar configurations. For water, some use rainwater catchment, some have a well. Our hosts were very gracious. They have been coming for the summers since the seventies. Like many people there, they built their home over a number of years. One day while the kids were napping, I read through a book on the history of the island. It was fascinating, full of personal stories of families that settled through time, tragic accidents, and generational gossip. These stories filled my imagination as we walked through the green mossy woods. For the kids, these woods inspired talk of fairies and monsters and...sheep. Sheep were introduced to the island and with no predators these now wild sheep travel in large herds through the woods. Their stampede would be followed by a gust of lanolin wind. It was hard to resist the urge to chase them with sheers and cut off those heavy woolen dreads. After three days, we took the small ferry back to Vancouver Island, then a larger ferry to the city of Vancouver.

  4. It is an understatement to say traveling with kids is hard. They have so much energy and the confined space of cars and planes can be painful for all of us. We decided for this trip to the Northwest to try out taking trains between cities. Although the stretches of time are a bit long, the constantly changing landscape, the extra space and the option to walk between cars made this part of our trip a memorable. Sean and I loved seeing the country. There is something about staring out of a window of train that provokes nostalgia.

  5. Being married to a musician, music is a priority in our home.  Going to concerts in the summer is something that we aim to do a lot of. This summer, our biggest shows included Paul Simon at the Greek, Ben Harper at the Fox, Sean Hayes at the Novato Hop Monk. 

  6. Something I am thankful for are all of the great nearby kid oriented places that are also fun for parents. This summer we frequented the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Fairyland, Adventure Playground, and Little Farm. Any of these can easily take ½ the day, which is time not wasted indoors. 

  7. My good friend Catherine visited from Berlin. Catherine and I first met in grad school at NYU. The last time I had seen her was my wedding five years ago. She and her boyfriend rolled through for a few days on their way to Burning Man. Reconnecting with an old friend was a highlight of summer. 

  8. I love being a mom to these two boys, but, as many parents report, the experience can estrange us from meaningful engagement with other adults. Sometimes I feel so distant from making creative choices outside of my role as mother. Starting this blog with Casey has already helped to reintegrate creativity into my daily life. I am grateful for that. One month of blogging already!

 

 

One makes me bigger and One makes me strong

By Casey

Does this ever happen to you, a banal moment, a faint hum, then words and harmony, the sound fills the space and the moment becomes an event, enlivened with a reverberating song, and then, faster than it started, the sound track ends and I hear the dishwasher, kids' utensils clinking against their bowls, the humid air, and my husband's voice asking where the paper towels are? 

two necklaces.jpg

Jefferson Airplane has been playing in my head every morning all week, while I stand at the kitchen sink looking at the two necklaces. The necklaces are usually in my jewelry box, but I've realized it's easier to just keep them on the ledge above the kitchen sink. 
 

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

One necklace is gold, from a trip through Egypt, a cartouche with hieroglyphics that say Beatrice (amusing and absurd), on a heavy gold rope chain. It belonged to my grandmother - a matriarch, a powerhouse, a feminist, and a true believer in me. The other is a Victorian piece, cut crystal and silver, translucent and delicate, found by my cousin an antique watch dealer in London. It was given to my mother - an adventurer, caregiver, mystic, truth seeker, and a true believer in me. She gave the necklace to me last year.

One necklace makes me bigger and one makes me strong. They were both given to me by strong mothers. As I put it on and clasp it around my neck, I think about the associations with these powerful women. Today I am strong.

 

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

 
 

Written by Grace Wing Slick • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

 

Pickled Beets

When visiting my parents earlier this year, I inherited two shoeboxes of my maternal grandmother's recipes. Her name was Sarah Fletcher Bordelon. Sarah was raised in Ruston Louisiana, but spent her whole adult life in Kaplan, 40 miles southwest of Lafayette. She and my grandfather (who was from Bordelonville) loved to cook. Some of these recipes reflect the Cajun culture they were immersed in, and some reflect the era that she collected and developed recipes. I feel close to her when holding these recipes- the contours and rhythm of her handwriting, the food stains on the notecards. Cooking these recipes is an act of cultural transmission. I will periodically share her recipes on Parallel Coasts.

Pickled Beets with Onion and Peppercorn

Pickled Beets with Onion and Peppercorn

Pickled Beets

3.5 pounds of fresh beets
2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
2T salt
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ lb. onion- sliced

Cook beets in boiling water until tender. Drain, retaining 1 cup liquid. Peel and slice beets. In saucepan combine 1 cup beet liquid, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices tied in cheesecloth bag. Heat to boiling add beets and onions; simmer 5 minutes. Remove spice bag, continue simmering while quickly packing jar. 

I cut down the proportions by ⅓. Based on what I already had in my spice cabinet, I substituted the cloves for peppercorn.

Recipe as written by Sarah Bordelon in Kaplan Louisiana. 

Recipe as written by Sarah Bordelon in Kaplan Louisiana. 

I am curious to hear variations of this recipe....

 

Homemade Yogurt - Is it worth it?

I eat yogurt everyday and so do my kiddos. It's one of those things I feel is really good for me. Plain whole fat organic yogurt with frozen blueberries, a dollop of raw almond butter or sunflower seed butter, and a teaspoon of cinnamon is totally where it's at. So very good.

I've been a little turned off by all the big plastic yogurt containers we go through though, so I thought I'd revisit my yogurt machine, which comes with seven well proportioned glass cups. I have to use a carton of milk, either in a plastic container, a cardboard carton, or glass jug, so I am still left with waste, but sometimes I do find that glass milk bottle with the deposit charge, and sometimes I manage to bring back the bottle and get my deposit. I do like that most of the process takes place in glass cups, not plastic.

I remember making yogurt once, only once, with my mom when I was four. It was memorable and I truly appreciate the adventure in making things that we take for granted. Frankly, it's a lot of work for something that companies do a pretty good job at, but I still want to be able to make it well. In the past I've made it alright, then failed (runny and yuckyuck), then had a success. Today I will attempt it with mild expectations of success. 

All that's needed is:

  • yogurt maker
  • 6oz of favorite plain yogurt or a starting powder
  • whisk
  • ladle
  • measuring cups
  • very clean cloth towel
  • large pot
  • milk (with any fat content)
materials and tools

All you have to do:

  1. Make sure everything is clean. Rewash glass cups if they have been sitting unused for a while. 
  2. Measure 42oz of milk and bring to a boil in a very clean pot. Let the milk rise a couple inches then turn down heat and let cool to room temperature, under 110 degrees.
  3. Once cool, add 6oz of your favorite plain yogurt. Whisk into the milk until consistent.
  4. Use ladle too pour into the cups. 
  5. Place cups into the yogurt maker, place lid, and set to the correct hour - 8 hours for whole milk - and hit the start button.
  6. Wait. Consider the end time when you start this so you don't have to wake up in the middle of the night. Yes, I've woken up at 4am to put the cups in the fridge.
  7. When the yogurt maker is finished and beeps, place individual lids on each cup and put cups in the refrigerator for at least three hours before eating.
  8. Done! 
     

My results:
It was a definite improvement on previous times I made yogurt. The consistency is not perfect but it's consistently inconsistent, which makes it completely edible. The kids didn't flinch. The flavor is very close to my favorite yogurt. I'm feeling more confident than when I started, but I still don't know why it's not as creamy as the grocery store brands. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you made yogurt? Did you get the consistency down? Would you share your secret with me?

My breakfast: Whole milk yogurt, blueberries, cinnamon, and sunflower seed butter.

My breakfast: Whole milk yogurt, blueberries, cinnamon, and sunflower seed butter.

Friends on Friendship

I understand myself through my friendships, the dearest ones are closest to my heart, but the passing ones, seeming momentary encounters also deepen my understanding of my place in this world. I'm so grateful for them all. Here are three of my close friends speaking on friendship.

Cherished hug from Nova at my wedding reception. She flew in from Mexico to be there. 

Cherished hug from Nova at my wedding reception. She flew in from Mexico to be there. 

Nova
I first saw this magical being, late in the evening, at a country fair. She was twelve years old and captivated everyone around her with larger than life stories, gesticulations and movements that made me question the reality of her presence. She is so full of life and truth. We became inseparable for many years, lived wildly in the South and shared a tiny room together, with our friend Jude, in a crazy loft in Tribeca. 

Friendship: A love poem

My friends glow
larger than life, 
we speak with eyes,
and infinite variation of smile - 
an effortless language.
The rhythm: intuition.

Vivid colors,
Collapsing walls,
I am spellbound, wrapt. 

I am fearless.
I clasp your hand, I cannot fall.
We are masters of our universe.
This moment: our work of art.

Painted in light, free from shadow
in awe of your grace,
the electricity that we create: my potent fuel.

Perfect is replaceable, replicable.
But you? Never. 

 

 

Dominique
We met at the tiny local coffee shop four years ago when my son was six months old and her son was a couple months younger. I loved her as soon as I saw her and felt thrilled at the enthusiasm we shared from the very beginning of our friendship. Those early months of motherhood are so tiring, a new relationship that gives energy is an unexpected treasure.

To me, a friend is someone who sees you with all your gifts, contradictions, weaknesses, blindspots, and strength and loves you without needing to erase or hide from that complexity. Equally important, a friend can say what you need to hear, ideally in a moment when you can hear and bear it. And real friends are willing to roll through sometimes bruising each other's feelings in the process of real, committed, loving communication.
 

 

Jenny
Mother's Day weekend I met her and her five day old daughter. Frequenting the tiny coffee shop and always having to negotiate getting through the tight space with a baby led me to bump into Jenny and talk with her about the most important things in my very new motherhood. Four years later we gravitate towards each other and I find our friendship deeply grounding and supportive. She expresses so much strength and care in all she does. I'm not sure how to express how grateful I am to have her as a role-model.
 

A friend is:

Joy, Inspiration, Laughter, Family, Embrace, Concern, Reassurance, Love, Forgiveness, Understanding, and Kindness

There are a few friends that I have known for my whole life who can remember my first crush and my skinny awkward nerdiness; the people that still always keep me honest and grounded. There are the friends who became my weekly support network complete with wine and wisdom after my relationship ended; the care and love that made it possible to evolve. There are my colleagues at work—people who I might not see for 6 months or a year as we fly the friendly skies but with whom I share a common passion and a history of traversing similar paths to our current lives.  There are my real and true grown-up friends that chose me every bit as much as I chose them; the beautiful smart talented fun women that both welcomed me to my chosen city Brooklyn and supported me in my surprise pivot to motherhood. These friends are the women who always make time for coffee, for a phone call, to sit together in a park, to pick up my child, or drop off flowers, or fly in for a visit, or open their fold-out couch for me and these are the friends who I hope with all my heart that I live up to the wondrous gift of their friendship. I want to support and cherish and celebrate these friendships every day and through all the joys and turmoil of our daily lives.  With friends I feel like the better version of myself, the one who listens more patiently, feels more empathetically, learns more willingly, forgives more easily, and loves more self-lessly.  To live a life amongst friends is to constantly and actively and generously be available.  I live in gratitude every day for friendship.

 

On Weaning At 3.5

Moments after Arlo was born, at the instant he latched on for the first time, I remember laughing at the sudden and total reorganization of the function of my breasts. For a moment, I felt like an imposter mother. That feeling was quickly followed by wonder at how smart our bodies are. I remember my doula saying something like, “Get ready, this is going to be what it’s like for the next three years.” At the time I thought three years seems like a bit much.

breastfeeding for the first time

breastfeeding for the first time

Flash forward 3 ½ years, my son was still nursing. I knew it was time to initiate the transition to weaning because although he only nursed once a day I found myself getting annoyed by it. We had already weaned once already when I was 4 months pregnant with my second son, Avery (aka Honeyman). But when his brother arrived, Arlo became seriously interested in nursing again. In a moment of total engorgement, we regressed. It's been a year.

I often see on Facebook posts about breastfeeding in public and the negativity some mamas experience. Maybe it’s because I live in Northern California, but I have managed to not have any bad public experiences. I am not shy about when or where I nurse.  

There is a family story of my grandfather Belizaire, who we named Arlo after (Arlo James Belizaire). He was the oldest of four kids and he nursed until he was six years old. He lived on a farm in rural Louisiana and his younger brothers and sisters were also nursing at that time too. Hearing my mom tell me this story growing up, I got a sense that six was the limit. But that was a family story, now I was the breastfeeding mom. Three and a half felt enough.

I told Arlo that the “Milk Fairy” was coming soon. She was to bring a special gift in exchange for no more “ninnies”. Last month, early one morning, when Arlo crawled into my bed, I whispered to him that I thought the Milk Fairy came in the night. With a similar excitement as Christmas morning, he ran to the living room in search of the gift she brought. He was thrilled to find his first Lego set. It had a “fire rescue” theme -his favorite topic. The gift worked! He prefers playing with his Legos more than breastfeeding. He hardly talks about nursing. Recently he told me that sometimes my “ninnies” talk to him and say “Nurse me, nurse me” and he says “No, I am all done and have Legos now”. I have not delved into the psychological implications of this but whatever, it worked.

I recommend reading this fascinating article about breastfeeding. 


 

 

New (School) Year Resolutions

Happy New School Year!

This year feels much different than last year. With my older son in school full day and the younger in school three days a week we really do feel the rhythm of the school schedule in a way I haven't since I was in high school. We're just getting started and, I have to say, it already feels relentless. 

As we begin this school schedule, pack lunches for the first time, dig for clean clothes, figure out new subway routes, find closed toe shoes, learn new names, forget 4"x6" photographs, I see how the next few month could go and I see room for improvement. We can make it more organized and a little calmer. While we're still feeling fresh and ready, I'm going to introduce (and impose) my ten New (School) Year Resolutions. 
 

1. Walking meditation on the way to school - I love the idea of my children learning to meditate at home, but these busy little bodies are always moving so we need a gradual approach to a sitting meditation. Walking meditation could be a good step towards sitting meditation. For one city block, probably a couple blocks from school, we will spend a week doing the following:

  • Count steps out loud. 
  • Count steps to ourselves.
  • Tap our thumb and finger together with each step.

2. Family Artwork review - Every few months we’ll review artwork then photograph, archive, frame or discard artwork. I'm not a kid's artwork hoarder, but collecting artwork is something I take seriously. As a child my father and I would make lots of artwork and irregularly but memorably we would take dozens of pieces of artwork, place them on the living room floor and, with alternating votes, narrow down the selection of artwork. We would drop off the two selected pieces at our favorite uptown New Orleans frame shop. It was great seeing my father admire my work and the process heightened my self-respect. It's a tradition worth keeping.

3. Commit to reusables and compostables. I’m really sensitive to the amount of waste we create. I cringe when the big bag of recycling goes out. It feels like too much, so I’m making an effort to decrease the waste. I’m going to only use paper towels (1 roll per month) when there’s an emergency, like poop. We’ll use cloth napkins, glass containers, reusable for wrap and compostable snack bags.

The basics: reusable food wrap, glass food containers, cloth napkins AND wax paper snack/ sandwich bags (not shown).

The basics: reusable food wrap, glass food containers, cloth napkins AND wax paper snack/ sandwich bags (not shown).

4. Compost the compost - I’m pretty good at collecting veggies, fruit peels, egg shells, egg cartons, coffee grounds, for the compost but I need to get back in the habit of walking them over to the NYC compost collection at the weekly market. I’d love to organize a compost collection in our building. 
Imagine these as week old leftover scraps. They'd make such nice new soil...

beets
IMG_0270.JPG
corn
tomato

5. Add closet hooks (at the right hight of the child) for back packs, hats, and jackets. Maybe if we make a clear “staging area” at their young age they’ll be inclined to keep up with it at later ages - yay for no lost keys later on!
6. Learn all class parents' and kids' names asap.
7. Create a family calendar and have weekly meetings with kiddos to review the activities and commitments. 
8. Give new responsibilities - Luc turns out lights and River turns off music and A/C. Every few months they're given new tasks. We've got make bed, clear dishes, put shoes away, and throw dirty clothes in hamper.
9. Ask three daily questions - What was a challenge or disappointment today? What did you learn? What are you thankful for?
10. Breathe and Smile. 

The days are long and the years are short.                                                       - Gretchen Rubin (via Lauren Kesner)

The days are long and the years are short.                                                       - Gretchen Rubin (via Lauren Kesner)

Interview - Jimi

I recently met Jimi at a children's park in Fairfax, CA. Jimi moved a year ago from Brooklyn to Fairfax. She teaches yoga and has three kids. For just meeting each other, we had a lot to talk about. I was immediately struck by her graceful energy, so I reached out to her for a brief interview.  This interview series was sparked by an interest in learning more about how others maintain their personal or artistic practices while navigating through the everyday obstacles of their lives. We have a lot to learn from each other.

Big sister and brother admiring the new baby. 

Big sister and brother admiring the new baby. 

PLACE
Where are you from?
London (2001-2015 NYC)

What brought you here?
(Homesick husband and willingness to add another chapter to my life, aware that I could find small town living challenging)

What keeps you here?
Promised to try for 5 years.

How has this place helped you develop?
Found out what lostness is and am having to seek new ways to function. 

If not here, where would you be?
New York / Rome

What do you love about your home (domestic space)?
Stars at night, sound of creek in winter. 

Favorite place of all time?
London as a teen.

CRAFT
What is your favorite occupation?
Practicing / teaching yoga.

What are you passionate about?
Excellent people, good conversation, learning curves, not being dead yet, practicing the art of mothering.

What inspires you?
People, travel, new information, experts, wisdom, knowledge, beauty. 

What drives you?
School drop of and pick up and bedtime

Who inspires you?
My family, my friends. Great art - Cezanne, Bach

Why is it important for you to do your work?
So I don't go mad.

Do you find anything conflicting about your work?
Time time time.

Do you have a clear idea of success?
Yes, it's no regrets.

When something goes wrong, what do you do?
Swear and try again tomorrow.

How do you cope with disappointment?
I cry and leave it.

FRIENDSHIP + FAMILY
What is the most important quality of a friend?

Brilliance.

What is a characteristic of one of your earliest friends? One of your more recent close friends?
Joy/ Ambition

What is something special you recently did for a friend?
Bring food / flowers

If you could change something about your family or friendships what would it be?
Regular time together.

SELF
Do you have any daily rituals?

Working on it - skin brushing and sesame oil / control breath and stop before I start cooking.

Weekly rituals?
Dinner out with kids and a glass of something. 

What is your most treasured possession?
Baby Thomas.

What is your favorite flower?
Black blue sage in garden that is watered by bath water and is daily food for hummingbird friend.

Who is your favorite artist or author?
Morandi paints.  Dickens.

What are your favorite names?  
Blythe, clementine, Beatrice, Ella, Gregory...

What is your motto?
Steady as you go kid.

The First Day - My (Dis) Orientation

The expression - eyes squinting, confused and in pain, aching - the non-verbal response of a mother as her child recoils, into the opening arms holding her. The moment was rehearsed, but one cannot prepare for the vulnerability felt on this day. Please let go. I feel the confinement of my skin.

I step through the threshold and leave, as I start to molt. My small concentric being is in that room, behind the closed door, up those stairs, past the security guard, on the other side of the courtyard. Mothers become tender in the moments that turn us inside out. 

The moment passes and I am in a new place. The reflection firms my loosened self. Out on the street I watch another mother, the light changes, three beats pass and she starts to cross. I pause thinking about her delay. The first day of school is different to all people. It’s different with the older child and different with the younger child. When I was thirty-two my strong sense of orientation was focused in my body’s center, above my belly button below my rib cage. Then, my first born was conceived and my center created a beautiful new being, always a part of me and soon apart from me. It’s all so simple, it’s all so easy, the separation we all do, I tell myself. 

The connection I have with my children and myself fluctuates, and now as I recall my self I sense an odd appearance in a familiar mirror. I’m not always so disoriented, but days like this occur more often than I ever would have thought. 

Walking back into the class room, to his smile and, “Can we get lunch?”, we continue our day together.  

Berkeley, A Map

Disorientation has been an ongoing pursuit of mine - so has attraction to maps.  Today I made a map of my neighborhood that guarantees delightful disorientation. 

Berkeley-Map.JPEG

This map is one example of layered fabric cut-outs that I have been making lately after learning the technique of reverse appliqué in a sewing class at Stone Mountain and Daughter. The fabric is cut away at various depths, revealing the different layers of fabric below. In my map, the lines made by the red thread represent routes to nearby parks, blue thread leads to the restaurants and the yellow thread to markets and grocery stores.  

Steps to make this style of reverse appliqué. 

Steps to make this style of reverse appliqué. 

Great Kid Books (read in Berkeley)

We read together everyday- usually before bed. As my older son has grown out of board books, I find myself increasingly intrigued by the stories we read together. I am looking forward to reading longer books that we can get immersed in for weeks. 

Our current favorites:

kidbooks.JPEG

I recently got a copy of my favorite book from growing up-  My Puppy is Born. The graphic photographs of a puppy birth have stayed with me my whole life. This book was a big part of me understanding childbirth. Since reading it to my son he asked if he arrived in a sac when he was born and if I ate that sac like the puppy mom. I was happy to report, no and no. 

My Puppy is Born.  Joanna Cole with Photographs by Jerome Wexler

My Puppy is Born. Joanna Cole with Photographs by Jerome Wexler

Mother Goose in California, Aesop in California, California the Magic Island are all by Doug Hansen. We have been loving this series. The passages are the perfect length for my son’s current attention span and it feels good to steep in regional mythology. 

Anything about adventures is a hit here. Each page of Atlas of Adventure is an illustration of a different place in the world. His favorite pages are the underwater scenes: snorkeling in the great barrier reef, river rafting in the grand canyon, or swimming in the dead sea.  

I was starting to get asked technical questions about how flying machines work. The Way Things Work has been helpful for both us in explaining the physics of basic machinery. I have a feeling we will hang on to this one for awhile.  

Animalium is a wonderful, oversized natural history book. It is organized as a museum might be with each chapter being a different gallery. The illustrations are a beautiful invitation to learning about the amazing creatures we share the world with. 

Animalium . curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom

Animalium. curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom

Do you have any book suggestions we should check out?

Great Kid Books (read in Brooklyn)

In our home we read books often, when we're sitting around our apt, on public transit, while out and about and waiting, and of course before bed. With a 2.8 year old and a 4.8 year old there is always a negotiation at play. These are the bedtime books we're currently reading that satisfy both kiddos. 

The Adventuring Pack (The Little Reader Series), by Kyla Ryman (Author), Case Jernigan (Artist)

Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell

If You Want To See A Whale, by Julie Fogliano (Author, Erin E. Stead (Illustrator)

A Family of Poems, by Caroline Kennedy (Author), Jon J. Muth (Illustrator)

Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Complete Book Of Nautical Codes, by Sara Gillingham

Lightship, by Brian Floca

You Can't Take A Balloon In The Metropolitan Museum, by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman (Author), Robin Glasses (Illustrator)

Where's Warhol, by Catherine Ingram (Author), Andrew Rae (Illustrator)

This is a page from The Adventure Pack - Maps. Six small books come in the set - delicate and evocative, great conversation starters. 

This is a page from The Adventure Pack - Maps. Six small books come in the set - delicate and evocative, great conversation starters. 

Page from  Hug Time . "The polar bear asks, 'Would you like a hug?'"

Page from Hug Time. "The polar bear asks, 'Would you like a hug?'"

Pages from  Alpha Bravo Charlie . This is the Juliet flag along with the Morse Code to identify the signaled issue to other ships. Yes, we're learning Morse Code from this book, well very specific Morse Code signals (like Juliet).

Pages from Alpha Bravo Charlie. This is the Juliet flag along with the Morse Code to identify the signaled issue to other ships. Yes, we're learning Morse Code from this book, well very specific Morse Code signals (like Juliet).

I'll leave you with an excerpt from Lightship: 

You may never have
heard of a lightship.
Once, lightships
anchored on waters
across America,
on the oceans
and in the Great Lakes,
floating where lighthouses
could not be built.
Smaller than most ships,
but more steadfast, too,
they held their spots,
through calm and storm,
to guide sailors
toward safe waters...

One of my favorite new family bookstores opened this summer by a neighborhood family. Please check out Stories Bookshop + Story Telling Lab

Stories Bookshop + Story Telling Lab; (718) 369-1167458 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 

Are you able to find books that satisfy age spreads? Please let me know if you have suggestions.

At Home in Berkeley

This is the beginning of a series where we celebrate the quotidian details of our life.  Below is a collage of pieces of my home, little things I look at daily.  

A snapshot of my everyday views.

A snapshot of my everyday views.

 

  1. Sprig of mint. I am hoping this sprouting sprig will survive its upcoming transplant to soil. Tea soon!
  2. Legos. A new constant in our home: small pieces of Legos all over the house, all of the time. 
  3. Stained glass owl. We have a large amount of owl themed objects. 
  4. Hanging guitar. Music fills our house. My husbands band is Professor Burns and the Lilac Field
  5. A little hand in soil. 
  6. Fabric. I inherited a collection of beautiful fabric. This is a pillow I recently made for our couch.
  7. Galimoto bike from Kenya. I found this toy bicycle at an estate sale last year. I’m inspired to make a wire and cloth toy with movable parts.  
  8. Metal Letters. This will be included in a mobile for the boys room. 
  9. Books. We all tend to collect them here.