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...

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)
 

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!

 

 

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....

 

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. 


 

 

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.

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?

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. 

Tilden Park

We live in small house. Not a “tiny house,” just a small home. Some mornings it feels like it only takes about 20 minutes for my boys - Arlo 3 ½ and Avery 1 ½ - to destroy any sense of order. Their toys, clothes and food subsume every surface like a flood. Yesterday was one of those days. I felt we had to leave the house to save the house. Tilden Park is often the perfect solution. This 2000+ acre park is located in the hills above Berkeley stretching south toward Oakland. We did a whirlwind tour of the park, hitting all three of our favorite spots: the Little Farm, the Carousel, and the Steam Train.

Little Farm in Tilden Park

Little Farm in Tilden Park

The first stop was "Little Farm ." Yes, it’s just like it sounds - a small public farm tucked away at the northern edge of Tilden’s woods and meadows. As is the ritual, we brought celery to feed the cows and goats. This was the first time we went that Avery was engaged and curious about the animals. He fed a goat for the first time and tried to chase the chickens. Then (ritual #2) we sought out Farmer Stanley, a gracious English farmer who oversees the farm and the dozens of students who volunteer there. Stanley wasn’t to be found, but Arlo met a friendly grandmother.  They conversed for a good three minutes, and ended the encounter with a hug. I am happy to see this quality of appreciation for and connection with elders. (It also reminds me of his dad, a historian who often interviews veteran activists in the Bay Area.)

Arlo in snake skin pants riding a carved poplar horse on the antique carousel in Tilden Park. 

Arlo in snake skin pants riding a carved poplar horse on the antique carousel in Tilden Park. 

Next, we made our way to Tilden’s antique carousel,  a short drive from the farm. The 105 year old carousel was made by the Herschel-Spillman Company and has been at that site since 1948. It is beautiful. There is so much craftsmanship, and it is really fun to ride!

Two brothers on the steam train in Tilden Park 

Two brothers on the steam train in Tilden Park 

Our last stop was the Steam Train - a must stop if you are ever in the East Bay. There is something magical about the scale of riding the little steam train through the tall Redwoods. The train takes you on a 12 minute loop complete with a tunnel and a miniature western town.

Tilden has many incredible trails. I look forward to the day when the boys are ready for longer hikes. Recently, I heard there are rock wall remnants referred to as the “East Bay Walls” or “Berkeley Mystery Walls” that can be found in Tilden Park. Apparently to see them you would need to hike quite far and high. The internet offers a handful of  conspiracies as to who made them. I just asked my archeologist neighbor about it. I’ll keep you posted.

Casey’s parallel post is about a family day trip to Fort Tilden in Queens. I was hoping that there could be a direct connection between the their Tilden namesakes, but it doesn’t appear so. While they lived at the same time - their 19th century lives overlapping for 40 years - I found no evidence of relation. Perhaps, living 2900 miles apart, the Tilden’s had their own version of parallel coasts.

I am interested in learning more about the “East Bay Walls.” Does anyone have any information about their origins, location, function?

A view of the Bay Area from Tilden Park 

A view of the Bay Area from Tilden Park 

Claire: Books On My Nightstand

This is the current pile of books on my nightstand. It's not that I'm reading them all cover to cover in a linear manner; I'm more the type who likes to read excerpts now and then.

For the past four years, I have primarily been listening to audio books. Recently I received an eye exam for the first time in many years. The eye doctor was not surprised to hear about my attraction to audio books because she discovered that I am far sighted and I need glasses! I am not sure if I have been unknowingly struggling with the act of reading for many years, or if this is a new, age-related development. It’s been about two weeks since I got my glasses and already I feel a big shift in how I relate to reading. I am feeling inspired by this simple intervention.

Top to Bottom:       Performance,   Diana Taylor;   Men Explain Things to Me  , Rebecca Solnit;   Surregional Explorations  , Max Cafard/ Illus. Stephen Duplantier;   You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination  , Katherine Harmon;   Embodied Lives: Reflections on the Influence of Suprapto Suryodarmo and Amerta Movement  , Blooom, Galanter, & Reeve, editors;   On Food and Cooking  , Harold McGee.  

Top to Bottom: Performance, Diana Taylor; Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit; Surregional Explorations, Max Cafard/ Illus. Stephen Duplantier; You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, Katherine Harmon; Embodied Lives: Reflections on the Influence of Suprapto Suryodarmo and Amerta Movement, Blooom, Galanter, & Reeve, editors; On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee.  

This is one of my favorite neighborhood bookshops:
http://www.pegasusbookstore.com/

What are you reading now? Any recommendations?

Friends on Friendship

I am so grateful for the incredible friends I have made along the way. I asked a few of them to reflect on friendship.
Here are some highlights:

Lila and I preparing for a music video that was made as a plea for Maya to return from India. We learned leotards and pregnancy are a great combination. c. 2012

Lila and I preparing for a music video that was made as a plea for Maya to return from India. We learned leotards and pregnancy are a great combination. c. 2012

Lila (We met when Lila performed at the Subterranean Arthouse.)
I wish my heart was grand enough to feel a friend in every being. Until then, there are grand people I enjoy calling friends. People who share and listen patiently, in equal parts. Who teach kindness, mindfulness and presence in their act of presence. And who humbly remind me to be humble. A line from a song I wrote recently in evaluation of a fair-weather friendship :  "Are you a friend who really cares if you only say what I want to hear?/you held me up but you didn't lift me up." Real friends don't feed one's delusions, but rather elevate the wholesome parts of oneself. Friendship over time has the quality of a shared journey. I love these friends that I know I can see, even once a year--after almost 30 years even, and the spirit of love and play is still in tact. And the new friends, who we access at important transitions in life--being pregnant together, moving to a new place, a new career--are certainly the joyful faces along this path of impermanence. I’m living abroad this year, and watching my daughter make friends in Italy when we first arrived was a beautiful reminder that friendship has its own language. In a preternatural moment she coined the term "Destination of Voices" or "play language," describing that she could listen in Italian, reply in English and all was understood. This is helpful for me, somewhat of a word addict, but slow to pick up a second language--remembering that the trust that comes from being present with people can simply involve sitting, smiling, dancing, playing, eating (here in Italy they say, "Have we eaten together?," as in, "Do we know each other?"). I'm grateful for the ways in which technology has allowed my silver and gold friends from all over the world to be together. And even without it, space between us feels like the sweet silence between friends who are comfortable enough together to let there be quiet, as we sit side by side on the big Earth, and breath in and out. 

Maya (We met through Nicole, my business partner at the Subterranean Arthouse.)
I think with all of my good friendships it's been love at first sight, but without all the crazy effects of sexual chemistry.

Stephanie (We met in 8th grade.)
Once a friend, always a friend! 
What once connected two people as a childhood friend can be very different as an adult. But what keeps them together is a not-so-simple fact, LOVE!

It might be the love you have for them as a person; recognizing all the good they give to this crazy world. It could be the love of the memories you shared with that person, the laughter shared, hard times you’ve gotten through together, secrets that no matter how distant you've become remain secret between just you and that person. Friendships are personal and evoke feelings within your spirit about yourself, or the way that person knows just what to do to lift you up on a bad day. Maybe it’s just watching them flow through their lives that brings you a calmness which you crave and is contagious. Some friendships are unbalanced and those seem to fizzle out in my experience. I truly believe you have to put in the energy you take or you drain the bank until nothing is left.

One of my favorite Wonder year quotes regarding friendship is, “Some people pass through your life and you never think about them again. Some you think about and wonder what ever happened to them. Some you wonder if they ever wonder what happened to you. And then there are some you wish you never had to think about again. But you do.”

Andrea (We were neighbors in Berkeley and met when our babies were brand new.)
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles from Berkeley that I realized how much I love and need my friends. My best friends and I went to college together, lived together and started our lives as working professionals and young adults together. We’ve experienced the past 16 years together and that has forever bonded us. Even though we were all in the Bay Area, as our lives changed and we all got married and had kids, life would often get in the way and get-togethers would get pushed to the side or cancelled (mostly due to someone’s kid getting sick!). We took for granted how close we were to each other.

A year and a half ago I moved quite suddenly with my husband and son to Los Angeles for my husband’s job. We had 3 weeks to pack our house and move, and I didn’t make the time for a proper goodbye fest with my friends. I was nervous about the move and was only a few weeks pregnant with our second son.

Getting our new life set up in L.A. took time but I got in a routine and was relatively happy except for one thing – I didn’t have any friends in L.A. I didn’t realize it when I agreed to move, but it is incredibly hard to make friends as an adult, especially for someone who’s a shy introvert like myself! I often felt isolated and alone the first year as I didn’t have anyone to talk to during the day when I was home with my 3 year old. Sure there were the other moms at my son’s preschool and the moms in my Mommy and Me classes, but to truly build a friendship and relationship with someone is hard when life revolves around your children’s schedules and no one has the time to meet for coffee, see a movie, or really do anything where kids aren’t demanding your attention. And unless someone’s a recent transplant like myself, most people have their core group of friends already. That being said, I’ve made a couple of friends whose company I enjoy but it will never be the same as spending time with my friends at home.

 

Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream"

Like all kids, my son loves ice cream; it's his favorite afternoon or evening treat. And, like most parents, I cringe at how wild he gets in response to the ridiculous sugar content in market brand ice creams. That’s why I came up with a simple, delicious, no-sugar version of ice cream made by blending frozen bananas and strawberries with greek yogurt, a splash of milk, and a dash of cardamom and vanilla. My son (and I) love it. He has never questioned its "authenticity."

I wish my parents had had these kinds of recipes when I was a kid. I grew up in a mostly sugar free home, but, to be honest, sugar was the reason I lied to mother for the first time. In elementary school, the house rule was I was allowed one chocolate milk a week at school. The truth is, I chose that option every day. I would report back a different story. Now that I have little ones and can see how refined sugar changes their mood dramatically, I understand my parents choice to make limits on what comes in the house. Earlier this year I made a commitment to cut out sugar almost completely. I feel great! More on that another day. 

Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream"

Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream"

Arlo enjoying "ice cream"

Arlo enjoying "ice cream"


Check out this recipe, it's a great alternative to the sugary stuff..

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream
1 cup of strawberries (frozen)

1 cup of chopped bananas (frozen)
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Pinch of cardamom
¼ tsp Vanilla
Blend all ingredients in food processor.
Serve.

Do you have any low sugar dessert recipes I can add to our family repertoire? I would love to hear about them...

On Friendship

Welcome to Parallel Coasts - a blog about creativity, community, and place rooted in a long and beautiful friendship I’ve had with Casey Atre. We grew up together in Louisiana and now live on opposite coasts. Casey lives in Brooklyn, and I live in Berkeley. 

Casey and I met on the first day of sixth grade. My parents had decided to move me from public to private school because I was starting to "act up." They felt that a small class size, more teacher attention, and greater academic rigor would provide the support I needed. At this new school, there were twenty-four kids in my grade. Many of them had been together since kindergarten. I was both excited and terrified. On the first day of school, Casey sat next to me and oriented me to who was who. We became fast friends. From the beginning, we had much in common: our phone numbers were only one digit different; we both had new-agey moms; we shared a sense of adventure. In the decades since our meeting, there have been many moments where we have noticed continued parallels. 

As teenagers we spent so much time at each other's houses. Through Casey, I gained a second mother and little brother. Together we learned to drive, joined the Explorer Scouts, made movies, got into trouble with teachers, tried pot for the first time, snuck out to New Orleans, studied bharatanatyam, shared family trips, and spent many nights at the local Waffle House. We supported each other through both our mother's diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, rented a house in New Orleans after college, spent time with our other amazing friends, hosted crazy parties, moved apart to try new cities, met each other's boyfriends, went to each other's weddings, met each other's kids (2 boys each), made plans for family trips, brought our kids to Mardi Gras, made plans to start a blog! Born from this treasured friendship, this blog is place for us to reflect, document, and share as we engage in our parallel lives as friends, mothers and artists.

Claire and Casey in High School c.1995

Claire and Casey in High School c.1995


Casey creates brilliant solutions for problems I hadn’t even noticed existed.
Casey is up for the adventure.
Casey is an entrepreneur and inventor.
Casey has a great capacity to notice subtlety.
Casey appreciates beauty.