Archive for January, 2009

SPIRIT OF GIVING

January 21, 2009

There are 2 inspiring organizations on my mind today, so instead of them rattling around in my head, I’ll put the knowledge to better use by sharing them here:

1) Small Fortunes: Microcredit and the Future of Poverty

http://www.kbyutv.org/smallfortunes

This is a wonderful documentary I saw the other night on TV. Here is a description from the documentary website:

Millions of the world’s poorest—mostly women—who are unable to provide the necessary collateral to secure a traditional loan are turning to microcredit institutions for help. These institutions give “micro” loans, often for less than $100, to those for whom the entrepreneurial spirit is still in its purest, most basic form. Whether it’s through milking a buffalo, selling tortillas, or weaving cloth, most borrowers are able to pay back their loans—and have enough profits to reinvest in their businesses, their homes, and their children.

Produced by award-winning filmmakers Sterling Van Wagenen and Matt Whitaker, Small Fortunes explores the issues of poverty and microcredit as it features interviews with numerous recipients of small loans in locales ranging from India to the Philippines to New York City. The documentary tells the stories of how short-term loans of even a few dollars have resulted in dramatic changes in lifestyles for families who otherwise would have no means of lifting themselves out of their poverty.

Wow. If you can, see this film. You can click on a link on the webpage to encourage your local TV station to air it. Or become involved. The smallest amount of money seems to go an incredibly far way. What I found so interesting about this film and the subject of MICROCREDIT is that 95% of the loans are given to women only. This is because, statistically, woman pay back the loans– at a rate of about 98%! And statistically, if you empower a woman with opportunity, her priority is the entire family, primarily her children. She will make sure 1) her family is fed and 2) her children are EDUCATED. In turn, EDUCATION is the strongest tool to combat poverty. This is not always the case with men– statistically– no offense, chaps. I’m just regurgitating information.

Greg Mortenson, the American who builds schools in the poorest of the poor communities in rural Pakistan and Afganistan, and the subject of the PHENOMENAL book Three Cups of Tea, also believes this to be the case. He purports that the only real way to fight terrorism, extremism, and poverty is through education. Primarily, the education of woman. Read that book too. It’s great.

2) http://www.usaservice.org

In Obama’s plea to the nation to get involved and make a difference in the improvement of our country, his team of superstars has created this website to connect people with volunteer opportunities available throughout the US. You can search by zip code, distance, and type of opportunity. Check it out.

Until next time…

MAKING EXCEPTIONS (AND NINJAS)

January 18, 2009

I brought my summer quinoa and corn salad (see previous post with recipe) to the beach yesterday to share with friends. I normally try to cook with seasonal ingredients, but with the bizarre good weather and kiwi sunsets still on my mind, I made an exception.

Thank you to all our friends who came out yesterday to celebrate. *Thanks* for all your pinata coaching. I’m glad my flailing around like an idiot could bring such joviality. Seth, the pinata apparatus was a feat of engineering prowress– thank you.

I’ll sign off with some images of yesterday’s foolish pursuits:

beach bacci

beach bocce

the infamous pinata

the infamous pinata

audience at sunset

audience at sunset

Most of all, to the judo ninja man who kicked and twirled the entire 6 hours in front of us on the beach: we all hope you have FINALLY reached nirvana and are soaring above us as a sea falcon or something. If not, we hope you are at least resting today.tai-chi-man-21tai-chi-man-31tai-chi-man-11

BOOGIES AND JAMS

January 18, 2009

It’s a sunny, Sunday morning and I’m listening to the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial on my local NPR station. My little Grundig radio is cranking out the smooth tones of Stevie Wonder when the radio commentor breaks in to let me know the entire Obama family is on their feet doing a boogie. This is a good day.

Meanwhile I’ve smeared homemade Olive and Fig Jam (brought back from our recent trip to New Zealand) across a piece of toast and my taste buds are singing arias. This stuff is ridiculous, deserving (at the very least) a medal of honor for it’s contribution to humanity. This heavenly jam is the creation of Helen at Elaia Gourmet Olives…please check them out and order some of their goodies…they are delicious!:

Elaia Gourmet Olives – http://www.gourmetolives.co.nz/index.htm

We came across the jam while olive tasting at Juno Olives, a small family farm who recently opened a shop on-site for tastings. Their yummy olives have a very unique, not-too-salty, perfectly complex, rich and even sweet flavor which I can still imagine right now, a month and a couple thousand miles later:

http://www.juno-olives.co.nz/

Both farms are located in the food blessed Wairarapa region of New Zealand’s north island. So if you find yourselves in the neighborhood, search them out.

A Gift for the Southern Hemisphere:

In honor of my friends in the Southern Hemisphere enjoying the fruits of summer, I’m going to share a wonderful, summer salad recipe. Annalisa, yes, this one is for you. Like all recipes, this one is open to interpretation. I have no idea how much of an ingredient I use. I make it up and you should to. Warning: you’ll eat at least a serving of the salad in the making of it. This is required.

Ingredients:

Quinoa, Corn, Fresh Herbs (any, but I recommend a combo of cilantro (ie coriander), dill, parsley, and mint), Feta Cheese, Olive Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon, Salt

Instructions:

Soak 1 -2 cups of Quinoa for at least an hour (this is optional). Drain and cook quinoa according to cooking specifications (usually the same as rice: ie 2 to 1 water ratio, bring water to a boil, lower heat, add grain, cover). When quinoa is cooked, remove it from stove, place in a bowl, fluff, and place in fridge to cool. (You can make the quinoa a day before so as not to wait for it to cool.)

Meanwhile chop Herbs.

dill, cilantro (i.e. corriander for the Aussies), and parsley

dill, cilantro (i.e. coriander), and parsley

chop chop chop

chop chop chop

If using fresh Corn (which I recommend for taste!), boil water, turn off heat and place de-husked corn cobs in water for 10 minutes. Drain water and slice corn kernels off cob into a bowl (be careful of heat of corn…use a towel or let corn cool a bit). Place cover over corn and put in refrigerator to cool. (If using canned corn, just drain corn and rinse).

ingredients

ingredients

When everything has cooled, mix the Quinoa, Corn, Herbs, and Crumbled Feta together in a large bowl. Add Olive Oil to the mix. Add Apple Cider Vinegar and/or Lemon to taste. Salt to taste.

Store in fridge until serving. Enjoy!!

yum

yum

(I used RED quinoa in these pictures. Honestly, I don’t recommend using RED or BLACK quinoa– the taste is a little too earthy/pungent to my tastebuds. Instead, I recommend using the more common beige quinoa.)

BITS AND BOBS

January 16, 2009
cloud photo installation

cloud photo installation

The cloud installation (above) hangs in my kitchen, above the sink. I photographed the clouds on a trip to Vermont during 2006. The images are mounted on foam core.

my *precious

my *precious

This is the tiny, wooden dish where my rings rest at the end of a busy day on my hand. The handmade ring to the right was bought for me by Seth at an outdoor market on our recent trip to Sydney, Australia. I rarely make quick decisions, but this was the fastest purchase I’ve ever made. I loved it, we bought it. The ring in the middle is my perfect, new engagement ring. The photo does not do justice to the river carved through the middle of the silver ring by a local San Francisco artist, with a beautiful Canadian, fair trade diamond inset. And to the left is a teeny little snail shell…just because it’s cute.

beach glass mobile, homemade by frutz

beach glass mobile, homemade by frutz

I made this beach glass mobile about a year ago after a visit to the wild Lost Coast in Northern California and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, CA. I wish the photo better captured how sweet and whimsical this little baby is as it catches the light. It hangs over my bed.
baja, mendocino, joshua tree, baja

baja, mendocino, joshua tree, baja

The photos (above) are mounted on foam core and are hung vertically in my kitchen using cooking string. From top to bottom: Sea Star – trip to Baja 2003, Flower – Mendocino Coast, Seth – Joshua Tree, Beach Sand – Baja 2003.

REASONS TO CELEBRATE:

January 16, 2009

The weather has been freakishly beautiful for January. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. January is typically our most rainy month. We rely on the January rain– for farms, for reservoirs, for everything. But N. California is in the middle of a 10-day-sunny-nirvana-spell with no end in sight. It’s difficult to complain about sunny weather. So instead, I’ll celebrate it:

ocean swallows the january sun

ocean swallows the january sun

gulp

gulp

my urban backyard, a.k.a. the happy clover patch

my urban backyard

my beach cowboy, seth

my beach cowboy, seth

our petite porch

our petite porch

lemon mousse neopaliton

lemon mousse Neapolitan

the nose picking wafer

the nose picking wafer

I’ll end this post with the delicious 5th course lemon mousse dessert I feasted on last night at Aziza in San Francisco as part of the birthday celebration. In an attempt to photograph both Seth and I AND a Hazelnut Madelaine dessert, we arrived at this shot of the wafer seemingly picking my nose. Voila!

HELLO WORLD!

January 15, 2009

There’s no right way to start this, so here I go. If you had told me yesterday or even 2 hours ago that I would be writing a blog today I would have looked you in the eye a few moments, thought about it, and then said, “naaaahhhh I don’t think I could ever really do a blog.” My reasoning and excuses would be numerous, and they would boil down to the essence of 3 points:

  1. I could START a blog, yes. But after about an hour or 2 of enthusiasm, I’d become bored upon realizing how much effort would be involved. The blog would wither in my mind or in the infancy of a blogspot username account.
  2. I can’t write down the thoughts in my head. This is true. I’ve tried. If any of this is making sense, it’s luck. It won’t last long. And
  3. I’m too scatterbrained. I have a million ideas that get lost in the throes of sporadic conviction. My interests are many and my talents are genuine, but only surface deep. I’ve dug a million holes looking for water, but the holes are all too shallow to reach the water.

So here I am, turning to a blog. The blog– a perfect tool for wrestling scatterbrain demons and self-defeating excuses, all wrapped within the facade of productivity. I never understood blogs before. But I had an “aha!” moment about an hour ago, and this blog seemed the only and best answer. So I’m giving it my best shot. Ahhh…blogdom.

(If I were a good blogger, you would now see a little black and white pencil illustration of this analogy:

my blog = me bailing out a sinking boat which actually is my brain filled with all sorts of pretty objects that happen to be causing my brain/boat to sink. Got it?)

So that’s my reason. Oh, and the fact that I turned 30 yesterday, which is just a coincidence that happened to collide with my “aha” moment. But it’s a good coincidence.

Aha!

This all started because I received a bouquet of flowers from my lovely aunt yesterday. As I sat in my living room talking to friends today I kept looking over into the kitchen, eager to get the chance to take the bouquet apart and arrange the flowers in various jars, bowls, and glasses. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do– put flowers into vessels. I pick flowers and branches from all over my San Francisco city neighborhood and backyard and bring them home to scatter around my home. I’m not sure if this is legal, but I do it. There’s a lavender and rose patch growing wild and un-tended just a few houses down the street–literally sprouting up through cracks. There’s a magnolia tree that blossoms the most spectacular flowers next door. Anyway, I was jones-ing to get at this flower arrangement.  I thought, “This is something I’m good at.  This is something I like to do.”  And then I realized, “Aha…I could have a blog recording this type of nonesense!”

Here’s the flower arrangement BEFORE, as it arrived for my 30th birthday:

beautiful, but boring

beautiful, but boring

And here’s how it looked after I attacked it:

simple relief

simple relief

(Insert into blog a pencil sketch of me roundhouse kicking the “before bouquet”. Boo-yeh!)

So that’s what you can expect from my blog: Snapshots of tiny, domestic inspiration, the magnetic pull of bold colors and patterns to my eye, an obsessive preoccupation with simple food, and an over-stating of the praises of nature’s perfection. Enjoy, blogopolis!

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