Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Palettes

The sky above finally clears and assures us below that blue can indeed stretch from horizon to horizon over Western Washington. Looking at the ground when my eyes are not turned up toward this hopeful summer expanse, a gathered coat of white reminds me of another summer-time scene from the near-underside of the globe.

to look down
In New Zealand, the Pohutukawa trees inevitably shed their soft pink bristles and coat the ground around them. A year and a half ago, I paused on a well-tread sidewalk and, stepping down next to the curb, bent low to capture an essential part of the land's summer palette, seen in the photograph above.

Here is my driveway today, and the concentration of nature's shedding and settling in this particular land.


And I just have to share photographed evidence that the skies surely cleared. The sun shone fearlessly. The temperatures climbed brazenly (that's all subjective of course, considering the high was around seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit).

Eating dinner inside would have been an injustice to this gift of a day, so I tossed together a panzanella inspired by a leftover portion of Breadfarm's Black Olive Baguette and settled into the mossy grass outside my front door (picking white fluff out of my bread salad along the way).


Thursday, June 16, 2011


An idea, a concept, an intrigue has been floating - sometimes swirling - around in my head and pinging my heart recently. I catch it in song lyrics, conversations, and turning pages.

Home has been a fluid experience in my life, while also steady and stable enough in certain senses to keep me grounded in shifts of geographical location, school environments, and community circles. I am not trying to nail down a definition of it for myself right now, but I am wanting to churn through it intentionally in my art, my interactions, and my writing.


I know right now that "inner settledness" makes a lot of sense in relation to home, and in seeking this, the ability to name a place home for as long or as short as may be the case comes more easily. And love. Love is essential here; being in a place of receiving and getting to offer overflow.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chronicling Days Off III

Days off come around every two weeks or so. I am not complaining (a couple work days are only three to five hours, anyway). When I woke up this morning confused briefly as to what day it was, it was delightful to realize my neglected alarm wasn't making me late for work or a running date.

Going into the day, it was a toe-curling pleasure to see sunshine and need car windows rolled down, riding with James Vincent McMorrow and Oh Land in my speakers; to match Pickwick with screen doors and open kitchen windows; to pair Lisa Hannigan with measuring flour under evening light; and to wear whatever colors and uncomfortable shoes I wanted because there was no decor to match or good soles needed for long periods of standing...


[Days off are for] strolling through Fairhaven in good company. Stopping for poppies along the sidewalk; sipping margaritas; acquiring a madeleine pan.


[Days off are for] finding a used copy of a cookbook I've craved for its smooth aesthetic and clean typography, the charming British voice of Nigel Slater, and recipes like pistachio cake.




[Days off are for] taking the time to walk over to the neighbor's fence and see their rose blooms through a viewfinder.


[Days off are for] spontaneously gathering together the ingredients for an old familiar from my mother's kitchen and making it my own: Sally Lunn Bread.



Friday, June 10, 2011

Travels to Seattle: A New Favorite Cookbook


It has been more than a month since I went to Seattle for Heidi Swanson's book signing. The albums of photos on my computer have grown and stories and thoughts along with them. There will never be time to always share all the moments while they are fresh, and I suppose this is why we have memories to store up more than we have time to express at once. I love recalling something forgotten for a good ten years.

Before moving into the present, I want to note my appreciation of Heidi's new cookbook Super Natural Every Day. It has already received much due praise from bloggers much more reputable than me. Check out the words of Matt Bites, Smitten Kitchen, Steamy Kitchen, Lottie + Doof, and La Tartine Gourmande.

101 Cookbooks was one of the first food blogs I ever encountered. I have been returning to it for four years, drawn to the author Heidi Swanson's photography, voice, and clean organization and thoughtful arrangement of typography and details. Heidi's graphic design skills shine through here, and the same fine aesthetic has transferred into both her cookbooks, Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Every Day.

I have recognized a natural affinity for the recipes within these pages, embracing new ingredients and combinations and drawing to old familiars like Japanese flavors, Indian spices, and grains like quinoa (a friend commented the other day about how my mother was serving quinoa at the family table long before half the Northwest knew what it was!).

The first recipe out of the new cookbook that I mentally earmarked was the Tutti-Frutti Crumble. If I do not start reading a cookbook from the dessert collection, then I struggle to put it down before flipping beyond the savory pages. I have an undeniable sweet tooth but not the frosting-laden sort, which is why I mesh so well with Heidi's palate. I grew up on half-whole-wheat claufoutis and fruit-rich crumbles for dessert, so the thought of enhancing such a simply perfect dessert as a crumble or crisp with poppy seeds, currants, and Beaujolais wine delightfully challenges the definition of perfection.



Between my fantasies of that crumble and the present, I was drawn back into the lunch and dinner pages, and I know this is a cookbook I will continue to flip through from cover to cover. (Breakfast deserves due attention, as well.) I acquired tarragon and remembered that I had seen it mentioned in the subtitle of a Wild Rice Casserole. Cremini mushrooms, mustard, and Gruyère were also components, and considering that Western Washington has kept us bundled in sweatshirts and slippers through May, it sounded like a lovely warming dish. (Oh, it was.)


And then there is the kale salad that I ate for a week straight, and even still, this pattern could have pleasantly lasted longer. Salty tamari and toasted sesame oil infuse crunchy roasted kale leaves and thick coconut flakes. Then these are tossed with whatever grain is at hand, like the big batch of cooked brown basmati rice in my fridge. It is such an easy recipe, I have enthusiastically relayed it in conversation, and I have already played around with it based on our vegetable supply. Kale is not the only hearty green that works, and a successful adaption involved thick coins of white leeks in the roasting pan along with the kale and coconut. A poached egg on top, and I could live on this meal.


On a side note, I rolled out of a friend's bed at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday to get home to Bellingham that weekend. Swinging by Cloud City Coffee on my way out of Seattle, I stocked up with an Americano and treat for the drive. That treat was a slice of Coconut Bread, and - oh wow - it was sublime. I would love to find a good recipe for such a loaf. Do you have any recipes to share?