Monthly Archives: February 2006

Supporting the way of peace

Last Saturday afternoon my phone starting chirping the ring I’ve assigned to my dad. He doesn’t call me on his own too often, so I was happy to hear the ring and know that he was thinking about me. He had called to thank me for the Cherryholmes CD I had just sent him, as he walked down 23rd Ave. in Northwest Portland (near where we lived when I was in high school) to go to Music millennium. He was on his way to buy a Marilyn Keller* CD, and was telling me his plans for an upcoming peace rally and a song he’s written called, “Let Peace Prevail,” when he stopped talking and said, “whoa.”

Right in his path was a $20 dollar bill. He picked it up and started walking again. I told him he had to stop and look around to make sure that there wasn’t someone frantically looking at the ground, in case it belonged to them. There was a touch of reluctance in his voice as he paused and looked around. He told me he didn’t see anyone. The twenty was his. The CD cost $12.90 so he came out $7.10 ahead that afternoon.

The next day he went to Kinko’s to make several additional sets of song books for the peace rally. He had made the same number once before, and the total cost had been somewhere in the neighborhood of $35. He and the sales guy got to talking about the peace movement and the rally my dad is working on. When it came time to pay, my dad swiped his credit card and saw the same amount as before flash across the screen. However this time, there was a discount, and the total came up to $6.40. My dad looked up at the guy who had been waiting on him and said that he didn’t think it was the right total. To this the guy replied, “That is how much I want to charge you.” My dad replied, “So Kinko’s is making a contribution to the peace movement?” The guy nodded and with that the transaction was done.

The found twenty stretched to cover both the CD and the copying. The universe is working to support the work of the peace activists in interesting and miraculous ways, these days.

*Marilyn Keller is a vocalist who will be singing for ten minutes before my dad’s group goes on.

Columbus Blvd. Encounter

Sunday afternoon, I was stopped in my car on Columbus Blvd., waiting to turn left onto 676 to head back up to my neighborhood. I glanced up into the rearview mirror and saw the person in the car behind me was waving frantically, trying to get my attention. I took a closer look, and realized that it was my cousin Dan (who I hardly see, despite the fact that his office is two blocks from me and his house is six. We are busy people). I pulled out my cell phone and saw him doing the same thing. We both placed the call at the same moment, getting each other’s voice mail. He called me back and told me how he figured out it was me in the car in front of him,

I got behind this car, and noticed the bumper stickers. First there was the large “Coexist” sticker, which I thought was interesting. Then came the Subud sticker, which also made me go huh. Then finally, I worked my way to the top of the car and saw the Whitman sticker, and thought to myself, I know who’s in that car. It was a ten second process to figure out what should have been obvious.

We talked for a while as we both got on 676, about family, my sister’s concert which he can’t make and the shutters he was looking at at Lowe’s. About how we need to get together and do a family brunch again. We hung up as we pulled onto the stretch of 676 through Center City, and he pulled ahead we both waved as we passed. It was an unexpectedly fun encounter and one I was tickled to have.


I have never been one of those people who believes that grapefruit can only be eaten with a spoon, cut in two at the equator and sprinkled with sugar. I don’t have the time or patience for this kind of operation. I much prefer to consume it like a messy orange, leaning over the sink, oblivious to the drips running down my left cheek and the pith under my fingernails until the fruit is just a tasty, tart memory.

I peel it the way my mom taught me, cutting off the northern and southern most tips and then scoring the peel so it is divided into quadrants. The four pieces of skin come off easily after that. She learned this technique in Mrs. Downey’s (mandatory for all girls in 1959) home economics class in 7th grade. It was the only skill that stuck.

When I was in college, the dining hall would put out pale grapefruit halves in the morning along side the unripe melon and cottage cheese in the salad bar. They were saran-wrapped into bowls, a maraschino cherry stuck into the center. I have no memory of ever eating them.

My parents spent a year and a half in Chicago in the late 70’s, managing to live through two of the coldest winters the windy city had had in the last 100 years. When the temperature reached 19 below with a wind chill of 79 below, my mom declared that there had to be better places to raise children. I was born the next year in Los Angeles. Throughout those winters, she ate grapefruit everyday, craving anything that would help her remember places where layers of down and wool were not necessary for survival. She ate those grapefruit like oranges too, getting strange looks from the other teachers at the Montessori school where she was doing her student teaching.

I’ve always wondered who decided that grapefruit was to be eaten cut into halves, with a spoon. Who declared that it was only appropriate for morning meals? I encourage you all to reclaim this unsung member of the citrus family along with me. Peel them, break them into segments and enjoy.

Random Friday–The Chuck Berry Edition

Sometimes there are moments, when only Chuck Berry will do. Yesterday afternoon, as I walked home, I experienced one of those moments. I turned to my pod, slightly concerned, as I had a vague memory of heartlessly deleting Chuck during a pod purge. As I scrolled down to the C’s, I exhaled with relief. I had left myself 11 of the “Great 28” which was going to be plenty. A smile spread over my face, as the “Maybellene” filled my head.

My relationship with Chuck started early, one of my first set of memories are of my dad playing “Johnny B. Goode” and “Memphis” in the living room of our house in Eagle Rock. When I was 8 he gave me a copy of “The Great 28” on cassette. I’d say that I wore it out, except that I know I still have it somewhere, so that would be a lie. I think it’s enough to say that I love Chuck.

Enough with that trip down music memory lane. Time for the random set. The rules are simple, set your digital music device to random/shuffle and report back the first ten songs it spits out, no skipping, omitting, hedging or justifying.

1. Harbor Lights, Elvis Presley (The Sun Sessions)
2. Workin’ Girl Blues, Cherryholmes (Cherryholmes)
3. Caramia, Indigo Girls (Shaming of the Sun)
4. Don’t Cha Wanna Ride, Joss Stone (Mind, Body & Soul)
5. You Rise and Meet the Day, Dar Williams (My Better Self)
6. Language or the Kiss, Indigo Girls (1200 Curfews)
7. The Young One, Ruth Gerson Band (Very Live)
8. Ice Cream, Sara McLachlan (Mirrorball)
9. Two Little Girls, Ani DiFranco (Little Plastic Castles)
10. Shooting Star, Elliott Smith (From a Basement on a Hill)

Favorite Song: You Rise and Meet the Day, Dar Williams. I got this cd when I was back in Portland for Christmas, and have to admit that I haven’t given it as much of a chance as I should. I didn’t find it as immediately appealing as some of her past cds, and so it quickly rotated to the bottom of the “new” stack. But last night I popped it on and listened to it twice. Each time this song grabbed my awareness as it played, and so I was tickled to have it show up today in the random ten.

Favorite Album: Cherryholmes. I heard about this family band recently, while listening to Saturday NPR. I found their story appealing, they were a family living in California, when the father decided they were going to become a bluegrass band. Everyone learned to play instruments, started writing songs, moved to Nashville and poof, a success was born (okay, so I simplified their story a little. They did work very, very hard). I waited about a month to buy the cd, giving it time to drop off my mental map. Only I kept thinking about it and wanting it, so on about a week ago, I stopped into Tower Records and got myself a copy. We’ve been very happy together ever since.

Seen Live: The real question today is, who haven’t I seen live. I’ve seen Dar, the Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco and Elliott Smith (at the Troc, just months before he died, it wasn’t the greatest show). I’m hoping to see Cherryholmes live someday. Elvis is dead, I don’t really care about Joss Stone so much, and I’m sure I could see Ruth Gerson if I wanted.

Final Thoughts: I’ve got no final thoughts on this set of music, except to tangently say this. Only two weeks until my sister will be in Philly, playing at the Unitarian Church. Saturday, March 11th, from 7-9 pm. I can’t wait!

If you need more of the Friday Random Ten than I can give you, go check out some of the other players:


When my mother was pregnant with me, she craved borscht (Russian beet soup). She would buy the jars of the ready-made Manichewitz soup on the “ethnic” foods aisle and drink it at room temperature, straight out of the bottle. In a more superstitious time, the village bubbes might have been concerned that the baby inside her would come out tinted purple, from all the beets she consumed while I was sharing her body. Luck for me, I came out the normal color, but with a healthy love for beets.

For many years, my father would grow beets in his garden (he may still, but I haven’t been around much lately to partake in the bounty of the garden. It’s one of the things I miss most about Portland). They would be ready to be pulled in the late summer or early fall, when the rest of the garden had started to go to seed. The deep green tops and rhubarb-like stalks would get roughly chopped and steamed with the dark red roots, and sprinkled with a puckery vinegar/olive oil dressing, garlic and salt. That taste, of tangy red wine vinegar with earth-y, fresh, shockingly magenta chunks of slippery beet, makes me see the backyard of my parents’ last house in summer, with the rusty, once-white outdoor table sitting in the middle of the patio, covered in pots and garden implements.

The first time I met my ex-boyfriend’s mother, she served beets, complete with the greens. I took a helping of the beets, but avoided the greens. I don’t know why I did it, normally I like the greens, but that day wasn’t in the mood for them. She noticed this, and pounced, asking why I hadn’t taken the greens along with the roots, and gave me a lecture on the nutritional importance of the greens. I stood my ground, and said I didn’t care for them (I was too far in to cave and just eat a bite). It made me feel slightly uncomfortable, as if I had committed a major error in eating judgment. I always wondered if she remembered, and if she had thought, when her son and I broke up, that it was a good thing, because really, what was her son doing with a girl who didn’t eat her beet greens!

A couple years ago, a friend of mine was dealing with some food allergies, and hit a point where winter roots vegetables were all her body could tolerate. She ate a lot of beets that winter (along with carrots, parsnips, rutabagas and sweet potatoes). She was the first one to introduce me pureed beet soup, totally unlike the borscht of my childhood. It was simple, beets cooked in a little chicken broth, with some onion thrown in for added sweetness. She would do batches with both red and golden beets and then pour them into bowls from pitchers, swirling designs into the bowls. A hunk of spelt bread from a local bakery on the side and we felt like we were eating something special.

Tonight I felt a change in the air as I walked home, a slight touch of spring. It made me crave salad, but not one that was completely summery. I ran into my local produce market and grabbed a head of butter lettuce, grape tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, a couple of lemons and a bunch of beets. The beets gave the springy salad a winter tie in, as if to tell my palate that it could start looking forward to spring, but don’t get too excited yet. I went home and popped the beets into a pot of water, just cutting off the ends but not peeling them. A couple of years ago, I learned from a friend that if you cook them with the skins on, and then run them under water after they are cooked, you can slide the skins right off. If I don’t roast them, I always cook them like that (it’s fun to rub the skins away and have them come up to clean and perfect with so little effort). I cut up one of the smaller beets and ate it tumbled into my salad. The greens I sauteed separately with a little red onion and then combined them with the rest of the beets, to take to a potluck tomorrow night. I hope everyone else likes beets as much as I do.

Headaches and dreams

I went to bed last night with a headache, and when I woke up this morning, it was still with me. I stumbled into work, eyes blearier than usual for a meeting. My go-to headache remedy of caffeine and ibuprofen didn’t make a dent. After the meeting was over, my boss took a good look at me and said, “go home.” Not one to argue when it comes to leaving work early (although departing at 11:30 am hardly counts as having been there at all), I turned off my computer and headed for home. I called my mom at noon (I’m not allowed to call my parents in Portland until 12 noon in Philly as they think it’s rude to call people before 9 am, even if they are your parents). She said all the right mommy things, and told me to get into bed. I did. I slept a sticky three hours. I woke up several times, each time struggling towards consciousness, only to slide back down into dreams.

I visited the middle school I might have gone to but didn’t, only the fountain from Rittenhouse Square was in front, being demolished. I walked down a block that wasn’t recognizable to my waking self, but felt familiar and home-like to my unconscious memory. Dressed in a frilly blouse, I ate cake disguised as cookies, was reprimanded for eating too much and then praised when I magically made more appear. I discussed real estate values, fell in love and pulled feather boas out of a vacuum tube. I squeezed more interaction and experience into those three hours of sleep than I do into most weeks of my life.

At four o’clock, I finally was able grasp the vines of consciousness and pull myself out of the fog of sleep. I walked groggily out into the living room, where the light had changed from bright afternoon to dim pre-evening. I got a drink of water and realized, my headache was gone.

I make shrubs cower

When I was learning to drive, I took out a bush. I backed over both the curb and it, gently mauling the undercarriage of my mom’s brand new minivan in the process. The Nissan Quest proved to be resilient, regretfully the shrub did not possess the same powers of imperviousness. It happened because I thought I was in drive, instead of reverse, and punched the gas, flying backwards instead of straight away. I hit the brakes as soon as my brain could transmit the signal, slowly shifted to drive, delicately bounced off the curb and popped it into park.

My dad and I both exited the vehicle and walked around to assess the damage. The van was excessively leafy, but unblemished. But the poor bush. It was bent at an unnatural angle, looking a lot like my sister’s arm had after I accidentally closed the car door on it when she was four. After a second, my dad let out a howl of laughter, fueled by gratitude that no person or vehicle had been injured as well as the inherent humor in the situation. I looked at him, close to tears, and he kept laughing and gave me a hug. I asked, “do you think the bush will make it?” He tried to give me hope, saying that maybe it would recover, but I knew he didn’t believe it.

Unfortunately for my ego, this particular bush had been growing about 100 yards from the warehouse that, in those days, held my dad’s music distribution business. Over the course of the next couple of days, he took many of his employees out to the parking lot, to point out the damage I had done. Many of them had known me for years and were deeply amused.

Anyone else have a good memory of when they hit something with a vehicle for the first time?

clean up

I’ve put a set of pictures together from Georgia’s birthday party on Friday night, that include the cake(!), my friends lounging on the glamorous red couch and Ingrid and Ajayi swing dancing around the living room.

Send thoughts of safety out to my sister and her traveling companions, as they were in a little fender bender over the weekend in Arkansas. Not realizing that the overpass they were crossing would be icy (Oregonians are not always known for their cold weather driving skills), they didn’t slow down, and slid into the side guard. The white van is a little banged up, but still driveable, and hopefully some valuable cold weather driving lessons have been learned. (Who else is surprised to learn that it snows in Arkansas? I always assumed it was one of those states that never got cold).

I didn’t tag anyone to play along with Pax’s meme in the post below. I’m normally not much of a tagger, believing that it’s akin to asking people to buy tickets to your 7th grader’s school play (a practice to which my parents were firmly against). But today, I just feel the urge to tag, and so I am. I tag people with whom I’ve been in movies theaters in the last week:


Go forth and meme.

The Pax Romano meme

The fabulous Pax Romano wrote this puppy, I am happy to have played along.

1: Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies?

I like movies to appear in the color they were recorded. Miracle on 34th Street should always appear in black and white, but When Harry Met Sally would just look wrong in black and white.

2: What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death?

Advanced math. My ex-boyfriend used to make me listen to him explain the math he was taking for his PhD in computer science, and I listened because I loved him, but it made me want to tear my hair out.

3: MP3’s, CD’s, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for pre-recorded music?

I am the CD generation, that’s my preferred format.

4: You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?

Not in a million years would I take the ticket and money. My life would be worth nothing without the people in it.

5: Seriously, what do you consider the world’s most pressing issue now?

The number of people who are living without food, shelter, clothing or medical care. The manner in which life in general is not valued.

6: How would you rectify the world’s most pressing issue?

I got nothing good here. I don’t know how to make it right, other than to hope that people start treating each other with more kindness.

7: You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be?

I wouldn’t have gone horseback riding that day on the beach when I was 15, which means I wouldn’t have broken my ankle, which means I wouldn’t have had to have surgery twice.

8: You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be?

I would have stopped the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

9: A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole Opry. Which do you choose?

Grand Ole Opry, hands down.

10: What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you’d like to solve?

Hmm, greatest unsolved crime. I’m not real up crime history, although I would like to know what happened to Jon Bennet Ramsey (stupid, I know).

11: One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?

I would love to have dinner with Madeleine L’Engle, she’s been my favorite author since the age of 9. I think I’d keep it simple and do a roast chicken and veggies, and maybe that chocolate cake I made three times this week.

12: You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky: what’s the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact?

I don’t live my life trying to get into heaven or stay out of hell, so it just doesn’t apply.


I’ve now made the same cake three times in the last three days. Well, that’s not totally true. I have made three cakes, but I made two on Thursday night and only one today. Baking these cakes were by far the most satisfying things I did all week. I’ve been working a lot, and have been spending much of days with my head buzzing, trying to keep documents straight and my boss from imploding. I’ve gotten home most nights at 7:30 or 8:00 ready for dinner and a little televisionary oblivion. But the baking let me relax in a whole other way and until I did it, I didn’t realize how much I needed it. I was able to release the part of my brain that the computer required all week long, and allow a quieter element of myself to take over.

This happens to me often when I cook. Standing in my kitchen, I can focus on chopping, stewing, sauteeing or braising, my focus complete on the activities that are taking place on the stove, the cutting board to my right or in the oven. I really enjoy the space my awareness retreats to during the preparation of food. These cakes helped me remember how deeply pleasing baking (and then serving the results to an appreciative audience) can be.

This is the recipe for the cake I made. I got it here and he said he got it from the Gourmet Cookbook (oh how I long to own that big, yellow cookbook of goodness. Someday). Of course, he didn’t put alcohol in his, but I’m always on the lookout to find ways to use up the enormous bottles of Frangelico I inherited from my grandparents, so in it went.

8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (although I used a little more, I get the big hunks of the Ghiradelli stuff at Trader Joe’s)
2 sticks of butter

Melt those two ingredients in a double boiler (I just used a metal mixing bowl over a saucepot with some water in it).

When it’s all melted, take it off the heat and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and whisk well.

Then add six eggs, one at a time, taking time to really beat each one in.

After the eggs are all incorporated, sift in a cup of cocoa powder and whisk some more.

At this point you can add a little booze if you’d like. I put in about 1/4 cup of Frangelico, but there are lots of things that would be good, or you can skip that step all together.

Pour batter into a buttered springform pan, that has the bottom lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. What I do is check it at 35 minutes with a toothpick, to see how it’s doing. I also give it a half turn in my oven after about 20 or 25 minutes, because it heats really unevenly.

When it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes in the pan. When it’s cool enough to handle a bit, remove the springform pan sides, place a plate on the top of the cake, and invert the plate and the bottom of the pan, so that the cake is now sitting on the plate, with it’s lined side up in the air.

Let cool. It’s best to let it cool completely, but if you can’t, it’s not bad warm. The center will sink a great deal during cooling, don’t freak out.

Serve frosted with whipped cream or slightly sweetened, whipped creme fraiche (if you put either of these on while the cake is still warm, they will melt. I learned that the hard way).

Caramel sauce or raspberry sauce also make it even better. Raspberry sauce is incredibly easy, just puree defrosted frozen raspberries in a food processor or blender with some sugar (how much is really up to you). Put the whole mixture in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and work at it with a spoon to push all the sauce out and keep it seed free. Three frozen bags of berries from Trader Joe’s and 1/2 a cup of sugar will make about a quart of sauce

Caramel sauce requires more work, and the amount of butter and heavy cream required might my make my mother’s head (or arteries) explode, so I just say that there are plenty of recipes for the stuff out there, or you can buy it premade. I used the recipe in the most recent edition of The Joy of Cooking.

It is so good.