A list for Sunday

Already failed to dos:

  • Get up early


  • Homemade French toast.
  • Laundry begun.

Absolute must dos:

  • Complete, fold, put away laundry
  • Grocery store (bare minimum: coffee and milk)
  • The dishes
  • Give the kitten his medicine
  • Plan a 30th birthday party

Want to dos:

  • Bake banana bread
  • Get started on knit afghan that would clear 10 balls out of my stash
  • Watch Downton Abbey

Really ought/Unlikely to dos:

  • Vacuum
  • Clean my room
  • Organize kitchen cabinets
  • Organize basement
  • Assemble workout bench

Ought not to dos:

  • Spend all day knitting

Wedding planning, bleh


Maybe I’m being a little too picky, but I feel like a good number of the vendors and sales departments I’ve dealt with the last few weeks have been unnecessarily difficult. For example:

1. Probably three out of four companies whose online contact forms I fill out never email or call.

2. I called three hotels to find out block room rates and rehearsal dinner catering packages, having no idea how many questions they would have (“Tell me Sara, what’s important to you?). Or how long I would have to be on the phone in order to get copies of the PDFs that they surely have on file and what must be the standard $20-$30 deduction off the usual room rate. More than 24 hours after those conversations, two out of three have still not emailed me the information they said they would.

3. I stupidly put my phone number on something at a bridal show, which means I get a lot of unsolicited calls now. An entertainment company called and when I asked the guy to email me his price list, he said “I can do even better, just go to our website and fill out the online quote request form.” But sir, you called me.

4. I also stupidly put down my email address, and I replied to another entertainment company’s email solicitation requesting her price list. That person replied that she did not work in sales and did not have price information (then why are you emailing me?) and cc-ed sales, but was I available to go to  Manayunk that night for a live demo?

No, I said, I am not available to go to Manayunk tonight.

Then, the sales person, who does in theory know the price information, writes that she prefers to have the first conversation over the phone and to let her know if I’m available Thursday at 4:30. A) Why did you email me then, B) Why would I talk to you (or go see your DJs) if I don’t know I can afford your services?

Anyone have a DJ in Philly they recommend?

Dancing is permitted


George Washington @ Bartram's Garden a long long time ago.

George Washington @ Bartram’s Garden a long long time ago.

I foresee reading a lot of wedding venue rental agreements in the near future. Highlights from Bartram’s Garden:

Music may be played in the Coach House, Courtyard or Barn, provided noise levels are inoffensive to the surrounding community. Dancing is permitted.

What a relief, dancing is permitted. But wait…

Absolutely prohibited.


The Yellowwood tree, located in the area of the Common Flower Garden, is one of the oldest trees at Bartram’s Garden. For its protection, caterers/clients are prohibited from setting up chairs, tables, serving stations or any other type of equipment in the area of the Yellowwood.

I only find it interesting/amusing that there is a Yellowwood tree clause.

My public transit rage is worse than my road rage these days

If you block the subway doors, you are going to hell, I just don’t know how else to put this.

It only took me five months after changing jobs to hate commuting. On paper, it hadn’t seemed like a meaningful shift. I went from a disgustingly convenient 10 minute, four stop commute (I could roll out of bed at 8:15 and not even be late) to a 20-30 minute commute depending on how lucky I am with the transfer.  I must make only one transfer, I ride four additional stops.

NBD, right? Except for all the door blockers.

I can deal with the people who refuse to scoot to the inside seat or who won’t sit down at all and block the aisles. Or the ones who leave nondescript smears and stains on the upholstery or snack bags, crumbs and dried coffee all over the floor. I can just barely deal with the sports fans who take over the train during home games, because sports have seasons.

I cannot handle the ones who block the doorway.

There are the door-blockers who ride the whole way in the doorway area, sometimes two people facing each other so that everyone getting on and off has to squeeze between them down to a single file line. During freaking rush hour! I want to throw elbows. Or stomp on their feet. Because they would deserve it.

The other kind of offender doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t get on the train until everyone gets off anyway, so you might as well not stand RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FREAKING DOOR WHEN IT OPENS.

When I’m waiting to get on the El, a hoard of door-crowders force all exiting passengers to thread through them, slowing the entire disembarking/boarding process to a crawl. (The silver lining being that this has to be the only reason I am ever able to catch an immediate transfer from the subway.)

That’s annoying enough, but what’s worse is trying to get off and staring down a wall of people.

This morning was especially crowded at City Hall, and everyone did the slow transit shuffle to the doorway. As I came around to the threshold, there stood this yuppie blonde guy waiting to get on the train, leaning casually against the inside of the doorway playing on his iPhone and blocking an entire person’s width of egress. Sometimes I actually think smart phones are the worst thing that ever happened.

This was my internal monologue:

“Excuse you–do you not see all these people trying to get off this train? Are you stupid? Why are you in this doorway?  YOU ARE RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE. For fuck’s sake, step aside aside, Sir!”

One of my goals for life is to become a person that calls strangers out in public for bad behavior. Instead, I said “excuse me” in an annoyed tone of voice and slightly jostled him more than was absolutely necessary.

I want to believe in public transit–I do! But some days I just want to sit in a car and fume at drivers because at least I don’t have to look at their stupid faces.

Photo illustration/meme source: J.S. Clark. Thanks, Creative Commons Licensing.

Spared by Sandy

Have you ever seen one of those photos taken after a natural disaster where there’s one house left standing while every house around it it lies in rubble?

I feel like that’s Philadelphia right now.

I am actually cursed when it comes to water–every place I’ve ever lived in Philly has flooded or leaked in some significant way–but yesterday we had only a few small drips that quit by evening when the rain tapered off. Sandy didn’t even rip the paper mummy off our light pole or knock over my mums.

Spared by Sandy.

No disrespect to those without power or with trees that came down on their personal property. But I think as a city we made out alright. I like Mayor Nutter’s line that our challenge was “striking the balance between nonchalant and hysterical. The reality is in between.” Seems right.

But New Jersey and NYC–shoot.

It’s telling, to me, that when the Atlantic set out to fact-check the photos doing the rounds on social media, they were suspicious of so many real pictures. No, that is not the earthquake ride at universal studios–that is actually a flooded PATH station in Hoboken. However, the Statue of Liberty being hit by a wave, that’s a still from a disaster movie done up to look like news clip. Come on folks.

But the surfers have already returned to Rehoboth Beach.

Nothing like a potential disaster to remind you that people are stupid


Above image courtesy of Philebrity

Among the most inane pieces of advice I have listened to or read today, because, ok, I admit it–I have had the 24 hour Sandy coverage on in the background and have been regularly checking Twitter:

  1. Do not use portable generators inside your house. Or, as the fire commissioner put it, they must be used “outside of your environment.” Because carbon monoxide.
  2. Do not use candles. Because fire.
  3. Make sure you have a manual can opener in order to access food.
  4. No alcohol or weapons allowed at Red Cross shelters.

God help us.

And do field reporters get some kind of basic training to prepare them for having to stand on an island that’s under a mandatory evacuation notice and calmly describe how the sand and water are stinging like daggers?

Waiting for Sandy

Disaster preparedness on my block seems to consist of wrapping outdoor decorations in plastic bags.

Wouldn’t want the faux flowers to be over-watered?

The neighbor a few doors down wrapped the autumn leaf garland on her banister very securely with plastic and duct tape (because that’s less work than taking it down?) But left the hanging plastic skeletons, because Sandy will not cancel Halloween!

I wedged my mums into the corner of the stoop and told them to be strong. One badly needs water. Little does it know.

I started to worry about whether there’s enough food if we’re hurricaned in tomorrow and can’t go to the store and second guessed the decision to buy only whiskey, milk, ice cream  and batteries.

But I’m pretty sure there’s easily enough peanut butter, fresh fruit, salad greens and apple cake to meet our caloric needs for at least a few days. If things get really hairy, I’ll be eating chickpeas straight out of the can. First world problems.

And just to be safe, I put some water in some things, even though I’m not on well water. Can you imagine how dumb you would feel? If, after being told for several days to prepare for the worst, you didn’t even have potable water? I can’t be that person.

Stopped short of filling mason jars.

Red lentil risotto, root vegetable pancakes, plus microgreen and romaine salad

Haven’t been to the grocery store in at least 2 weeks, as a result, I’m making my way through some dry goods that I’ve probably packed and moved more than once. For example, a bag of red lentils that I think I’ve had longer than Adam and I have been dating–which is longer than a lot of celebrity marriages.

Tonight’s recipes: Red lentil risotto and Mark Bittman’s template for veggie pancakes. Plus a salad so that I don’t feel guilty for wasting more lettuce.

Have a lot of root vegetables from our last CSA delivery of the season (a bittersweet day–no more fun squashes that just show up every week, but also no more lettuce unless I want it). So, these include turnip, purple carrot and rutabaga. Which is something I’m not sure I ever thought I would eat.

Purple carrot.

Also on the agenda: Pear sauce, because I have two bags of pears in the fridge and I need to stop making desserts. Plus, I was thinking carrot cake pancakes in the morning.

As I learned this evening, search results for “carrot recipe” are at least 66% carrot cake, and I am weak.

Didn’t get much else done today, other than re-potting some of my herbs for a winter window herb garden, then trimming and freezing the rest in advance of the hurricane possibly killing anything left outside. Thanks Sandy, I’d been meaning to do this anyway.

Spearmint, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, oregano, basil, sage, and two of the three total peppers that my pepper plant managed to produce this season.

I may have gone overboard when I put all the patio furniture downstairs, but we lived in Tampa when I was a kid. And my only vivid memory of hurricane damage is that one blew over our picnic table once. Better safe than sorry.


First Snowmageddon, now Frankenstorm. Whoever coined that must be feeling very please with his or herself right about now, though I wish “snor’eastercane” had caught on.

If you have some time on your hands and can tolerate a lot of static, you might choose to watch Mayor Nutter’s somewhat plodding press conference from this afternoon on how Philadelphians should prepare for our impending doom by flooding and wind. Did you know, we have more than 77,000 storm drains? Other highlights:

“Never enter a flooded basement due to the very real prospect of being electrocuted as a result of entering a flooded basement.”


“We’re in the height of leaf-falling season.”


“Do not leave your pets in your home which, again, you are leaving because it is flood prone. You do not want to leave your pets behind.”

But my personal favorite is when an ambulance tries to navigate the traffic hell that is Broad Street around City Hall, and the thirty seconds or so during which everyone looks awkwardly off screen, presumably watching it try to get around all the people who drive in Center City and DON’T KNOW HOW TO GET OUT OF THE WAY.

Main takeaway: If you live on Main Street Manayunk, just leave now.

In other news, the National Scholastic Surfing Association Northeast Conference had to be postponed. You can surf in New Jersey–who knew?

So now among my weekend plans: cutting any fresh herbs I wanted to enjoy this season and bringing in any plants and/or pots that I am attached to.

Now off to purchase some spare D batteries. Maybe this year there won’t be a run on every store in the city because people bought them all for Irene last year and then didn’t need them.

If you’re going to have women in the workforce…

I can’t decide what the most offensive thing is about “Democrats Underestimate the Complexity of Female Voters.” Is it:

  1. The a self-avowed non-mother speaking in the first person plural for all women, especially working class mothers?
  2. Is it the sweeping generalization (in a column that purports to be about complexity) that “most” women wouldn’t go back to work after having children if they didn’t have to?
  3. Or the notion that working class women don’t “have the luxury of worrying about birth control,” because family planning apparently isn’t a financial issue?
  4. I think it’s the conclusion that “We ladies are a lot smarter than some people give us credit for being.” As though we still live in a world in which the value of women’s contributions (to matters other than childrearing, of course) still remains to be demonstrated? The fact that Christine Flowers is herself a 51 year old, childless woman with a column in the Philadelphia Daily News in which is able to express her opinions is a testament to the contrary. (Extrapolating her age from the fact that clicking on her name at the end of the article sends you to a contact form with the email handle “cflowers1961.”)

It’s the same sentiment at play when Mitt Romney said in the last debate:

“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible.”

IF being the operative word.

Andouille Pumpkin Soup with Kale and Farro


First: I have no ambition to be a chef or recipe-writer.

But I winged this soup from scratch last night, and after ravenously consuming half the bowl above for dinner tonight (after daydreaming about it all afternoon) I decided I should write this down.

It was inspired by this farro risotto with acorn squash and kale recipe that I also recommend and have made using several variations of squash and greens.


  • 1/2 a pound or more Andouille sausage, cut out of the casing (I purchased turkey andouille from DiBruno Brothers in Center City, since the BF is a non-pork eater.)
  • 3-4 cups pumpkin, pealed (I used longneck pumpkin, about the equivalent of a large butternut squash. In fact, I think you could use any squash with good results, though it might be a sweeter soup.)
  • 1 bunch of kale or other leafy green (I used dinosaur kale.)
  • 1 cup tomatoes (I had cherry tomatoes on hand.)
  • 1 cup farro
  • 6 cups broth (I would have preferred to use veggie broth, but I only happen to have beef bullion cubes at the moment. With cubes I use much less than the package calls for. In this case I only used 2 cubes to 6 cups of water.)
  • Spices (I was pretty generous with the salt and pepper and used about a tablespoon of dried parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil for browning the sausage

Optional: Shredded cheddar cheese for serving.

Directions (more or less like this):

  1. Roast squash and tomatoes until tender. I cut mine in slices and removed the skin after, but you could peel before if you are feeling less lazy or pressed for time.
  2. While squash is roasting, brown the sausage in a large pot. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add broth and farro, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for, like, 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime chop the kale–I chopped mine pretty small–and then add to the farro and broth.
  5. Once the squash and tomatoes are tender, puree with 1/2 cup of the broth from the pot. Or, you could reserve some broth for this purpose. I also highly recommend an immersion blender to anyone who is big into soup. Easier, less to clean afterwards.
  6. Add the squash broth back into the pot, add the sausage back into the pot, add spices, cook all together until the farro is tender and everything is heated through.

Worth noting, the farro does continue to absorb liquid, so the day after it’s more of a hearty stew and less brothy than the night of, but that didn’t bother me.

It might be time for seconds.

Knitting, Cats, Grants and Politics

After two years of inactivity, I am trying to reboot this blogging business. I feel like I need to write something longer than a Facebook status update–other than email and grant proposals. Likely topics moving forward:

  • Knitting. After work, it is what consumes the largest share of my time with the possible exception of sleeping. Possible.  Here’s a recently completed project (fresh off the needles in this pic):


  • Cats. I have two, Tiny and Hugo. There was also an outside tabby’s successful invasion and subsequent expulsion from our home, though as I understand it, she was difficult to convince and not terribly afraid of being poked by a golf umbrella. She has since adopted the potted dracaena I have outside as a litter box and hangs around the patio. But she will not win me over with her big brown eyes. Because I already have these two to contend with:

Human: Claimed.

  • Federal grant proposals. In my 4.33 months as a grant writer, I have yet to come across one for which the guidelines are absolutely clear and for which all materials are provided without inconsistency or a single typo in the instructions. Also, this is a thing:

Translation: Where do bears eat deer?

  • Politics, but only the memes.



I am doing research for a direct mail letter on the appalling fact that the school lunch program is sold a large amount of chicken from used up egg laying hens, which is also traditionally used in dog food and compost. I came across a gem of a paper called RUNNING HEAD: Spent Hen Meal for Layers, which basically investigates the question, can you feed your dead garbage chickens to your live chickens? Answer: Yes.

Conclusions: Nutritionally valuable high-protein meals can be
produced from whole spent hens using conventional rendering
procedures. Such meals may be safely used at levels up to 10%
in diets for laying hens provided good analytical procedures are
followed to determine nutritional content. Due to the high level
of residual fat and the highly unsaturated nature of this fat, it will
be necessary to insure that adequate amounts of a suitable
antioxidant is used during manufacturing to prevent rancidity

No more chicken for me, thanks.

Among the pitfalls of Gchat

Me: Hey, is the guy in this doctored political ad recognizable?

Is it Bush?
BTW, i just sent that BUSH IM to WF.
Is it Bush?
Come on i think it’s kind of a problem if it is Bush

Me: It’s not Bush
So you just IMed WF with nothing but “BUSH”?

MS: Yes!

Me: Did you explain it?

MS: Nope
I said “that was supposed to go to Sara”

Bienvenido a Miami

Disgruntled laptop user looking for an outlet: “I’m from Key West and we say when you come to Miami you’ve left the United States. You may not realize it, but you’re in Cuba right now.”

Me: “I had a great mojito, so maybe that explains it.”

This is 1,500 years old (and other interesting things I saw today)

I picked it up on the ground outside an archeological mound and handed it to Dr. David Periera. Oh, this is from the Foundation period, he  said. It´s probably 1,500 years old. Good eye!

How about that.

The Cordillera Oriental and two rebuilt Inca grain silos. They have doorways in them because the first four that the archaeologists rebuilt were vandalized by people who tore down the walls to see if anything was inside.

Not very  spectacular, but these are original Inca foundations, all in a row.

And this is a black figure of Christ on the cross, wearing a rainbow sash, being carried down the street in Quillacolla, followed by a brass band.

A health exhibit in the public square, complete with hand drawn informational posters, put on by the military police. Other posters included communicable diseases and vaccinations.

And apparently the story here is that unions of taxis and suchlike will decide on a saint who should protect their vehicles, and then they perform a ritual to that saint. That ritual being to decorate your car with baby dolls, llamas and cutlery and drive it around the public square.

En cafe

Sitting in D’Kaffe on the Avenida Prando, drinking cafe latte and agua con gas. I’m writing and taking some time for myself before it gets dark and I turn into a pumpkin who has to take a taxi anywhere.

I sneeze. At the next table there is a rotating crowd of men, anchored by two guys who are playing with gadgets–a phone, a watch, a camera.

One says “Salud,” when I sneeze and then in Spanish asks if I like his spandex sleeve that is printed like a tattoo sleeve. I can’t remember the word, so I say in English that it’s weird and they laugh and forget about me. They leave.

I’m writing about the morning’s trip to see Inca ruins and reconstructed grain silos. Because the site is out in the country and the tourist center is under construction, I have go to the bathroom behind some scrub, which is treacherous because it all seems to have thorns.

Then two return and my friend with the fake tattoo sleeves says something, and the only part I understand is “novio.”

“A letter to your boyfriend?” his friend translates. They move from their table to the couches and the first produces a stack of more spandex tattoo sleeves to show to someone else. They’re drinking Jack and diet cokes.

I wish I hadn’t quit studying Spanish when I was 16.

Week one, some reflection

Friday evening, one week after arriving in Bolivia, I´m sitting in the Casa International living room with Thomás´s two dogs. He is out with this wife and son, bowling, for family night. I´ve just finished The Girl Who Played With Fire, and I´m covered in dirt and paint from the worksite, but there hasn´t been any water for the last two hours. And so I kill time.

We´ve nearly finished the first two pieces of our mission–the digging of the garden and the painting of one previously very orange, very ugly set of shelves. Although we did break the mirror, which we´re replacing, and I ran out of paint before giving one of the doors a second coat. Today we also helped Claire, another foreign vounteer there, drown a mouse and set traps.

Last night, John, Thomás and I went to a wine bar around the corner to have Bolvian wine and chew coca, which Thomás carried in a green plastic bag in his vest pocket. You take a small wad, maneuver it into your cheek, add a little baking soda and just let it be there.

Almost instantly my mind felt clearer and the baking soda made my tongue go numb. The only other documentable effect was that we drank three bottles in a few hours and walked out like it was nothing.

Llama fetuses in the withcraft section of La Cancha, one of the world´s largest open air markets. These are apparently part of offerings made to Pachamama–buried at the site of a new house, for example. But the arrangement all depends on what sort of protection or good fortune you are after. And it´s a gruesome corridor to walk down.

There are also little packets of good fortune–tiny dollar bills and other things made of gold colored foil mounted on a piece of cardboard–that are made to be carried in wallets or in your car.

I had fingered a little  owl figurine back in the handicraft section and asked Jean Carla if she could find out what it meant. Wisdom, said the seller–tyical. And for 5 bolivianos, I bought it.  Something you can always use.

Most of the graffiti here is people signing there names or occasionally putting penises on people´s security walls.

Cochabamba may not have the most spectacular scenery, and I may be forgoing some of Bolivia´s more exciting sites–Lago Titicaca, the Amazon basin, the salt flats–but it´s spring and it is full of flowers.

The worksite

We got our tour of the worksite from Caroline, a woman with a head full of dreadlocks trailed by her son Zion. She´s the orphanage´s nutritionist and wife of the founder, though she points out, orphanages aren´t just for orphans.

All of the kids here are 5 or younger and are, as she puts it, “affected by AIDS.” They have it, or their parents have it and are unable to care for them, or their parents had it and passed away.

There´s a psychologist and a social worker and the kids are getting regular medical care. The orphanage is small: only 12 kids that live on site and as many as 6 that come for day care. The idea is to give quality over quantity and for it to feel like a home, though Caroline says it doesn´t yet. There´s been some staff turnover, maybe it´s the AIDS thing, maybe it´s the late shifts, she´s not sure.

And there are two projects they have had on their list but haven´t had time for. One is to start a garden in the yard where they would grow fruits, vegetables and herbs, and the other is to repaint some furniture inside.

¨So you came from America to paint a bookshelf?¨ This was Thomás, the proprietor of the Casa de International where we´re staying and John and I are having Chilean wine with him over cheese empanadas and fruit salad.

We laugh, because it´s true and a little absurd, but I like it. Rather than me coming in to do poorly what they are already doing well–caring for these kids–I´m able to work on  something they haven´t been able to do and wouldn´t spend money on.

Whether or not we´ll finish is another matter. Between siestas (which I love), the fact that there are only two of us, one of whom is 85, and the short time we have, I´m not sure we can pull it all off.

But dammit, I´ll try, because the people here have made the kind of committment to this cause that I´m not willing to. So if I can do something that makes their work better in some way, then it´s worth it.

Though in a country where labor is cheeper than powertools, this means sanding off paint by hand and digging holes with pick axes. At least the weather is great for working outside.

In other news: the doxycycline no longer makes me want to throw up every morning, but it´s probably a waste to be on it at all because I haven´t seen a mosquito since I got here.


My first view of La Paz out the window of my taxi from the airport. Mount Illimani in the background. This road is the most spectacular view of the city, clinging to the walls of the canyon and filling it in.

A lovely square in La Paz that I stumbled upon while trying to get somewhere else. That is the Legislative building across the way, and the president´s house is next door, I think.

Coca tea from the cafe at the coca museum. Maybe it is my imagination, but I do think I got less winded walking back up the hill to the hostel, so I´m inclined to believe the hype.

First meal in Cochabamba, the local dish pique macho. A carnivore´s delight: Beef, chorizo, sausage, a chicken drumstick, thick slabs of grilled cheese and cow udder mixed with some peppers and sauces and such. Cow udder: unremarkable.

Cristo de la Concordia: Actually taller than the statue in Rio. Also, the jacaranda tree is my new favorite.

This is me peering out one of those holes. You can go all the way to Jesus´ shoulders, but you´re now allowd in his head.

More Jacaranda tree. It´s too misty to see, but the Cordillera Occidental is over there.

Later in the day, less misty, here´s the Cordillera Occidental as seen from the window in my room. ¿With a view like that who can complain?

Now off to eat my leftovers from lunch: a kebab of chicken, beef and bacon. I foresee eating a lot of meat the next two weeks. But Bolivia is too poor to afford hormones for livestock, so I´m pretty ok with it. Also, there´s the deliciousness to make it go down easy.

I plan to try guinea pig at some point. Probably tongue also.

Place of party



Someone outside the post office thought I would be interested in this party. I think because I am white? 10pm to 6am, baby–and Mario will be there?

Also there seemed to be a memorial service happening inside the post office, which threw me at first. I was like ‘my high school Spanish teacher would be ashamed I didn’t remember, but I looked up the word for post office in the Rough Guide, and I know correo is it.’

Have been shopping because I just can’t help myself: pens from a stall on the Prado, travel Kleenex from an old man standing on the sidewalk selling nothing else, and llama shaped bottle openers and a silver ring on “gringo alley.”

I fly to Cochabamba in just a few hours. The adventure continues.

The legend of coca

This is an exerpt from the legend of coca, first transcribed, purportedly, in 1921:

I shall give you a gift for your brothers.
Climb up that mountain
Where you shall find a small plant
One with much strength.Guard the leaves with much love
And when you feel the sting of painIn your heart, hunger in your body
And darkness in your mind
Take rhem to your mouth
And softly draw up its spirit
Which is a part of mine.
You will find love for your pain

Food for your body
And light for your mind

Furthermor, watch the leaves dance with the wind and you will find answers to your queries.

But if you torturer, who comes from the north
The white conqueror, the gold seeker
Should touch it, he will find in it only poison for his body
Madness for his mindfor his heart is so callous and his steel and iron garment.
And when the COCA which is how you will call it
Attempts to soften his feelings
It will only shatter him
As the icy crystals born in the clouds
Crack the rocks
Demolish mountains.


I wasn’t nervous until the travel agent who booked my ticket made a courtesy call to ask do I need anything, am I excited? Nervous?

Well, now that you mention it, I might throw up. Or maybe that is the lingering after effects of last night’s two martinis on an empty stomach. Hard to say.

Here’s one thing for me to obsess about: I never did by supplemental traveler’s health insurance, and the doctor at the travel medicine clinic told me it would cost a minimum $25,000 if I had to be airlifted home in a medical emergency.

Aaaaaahhhh. Also, I got one thing done on my to do list and this time tomorrow I’ll be in the airport. Breathe. I have to admit, I feel like I’m learning to ride a bike again and I’m getting cold feet.

Details, details.

Just received info on my placement in Bolivia. I’ll spend two weeks volunteering with Fundacion Niños con Valor in Cochabamba, a home for kids with special needs, including HIV. Activities include gardening with the kids who plant their own fruits and vegetables, painting furniture and helping in the house with babies and toddlers.


Just 5 more days until I go. Still working out a few details, like one question was can I count on being able to use an ATM in Cochabamba or do I need to bring all my money with me? But I think it’s safe to say there’ll be at least one here.

Another: Which weather website do I trust: Weather Underground or Weather Bug, whose daily highs for Cochabamba differ by more than 10 degrees?

Layers seems like a good plan.

Today PMS, tomorrow the world

Why the female hormones are so unfair: At 8 this morning, I thought it was such a pity that in the digital age you can’t really set your work on fire, and by 5 I’m like “I love Stoneyfield brand strawberry probiotic super smoothe—so much!” And thinking about what shoes to wear tomorrow.

I go to Bolivia in 1 weeeeeek. I hadn’t even thought about how to take money with me before this afternoon. That seems like an oversight.

I’m buying a certain someone gelato tonight to make up for being a crab.

January 26 (and 27)

Straddling days. From The Assasin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists

January 26th, 1930

When we made up our six months accounts, we found I had made about £3,029 last year—the salary of a civil servant; a surprise to me, who was content to live with £200 for so many years. But I shall drop very heavily I think. The Waves won’t sell more than 2,000 copies.

Virginia Woolf

January 26, 1938

For no reason at all I hated this day as if it was a person—it’s wind, it’s insecurity, it’s flabbiness, it’s hints of an insane universe.

Dawn Powell

January 28, 1933

Death to you is not death, not obituary notices and quiet and mourning, sermons and elegies and prayers, coffins and graves and worldly platitudes. It is not the most common experience in life—the only certainty. It is not the oldest thing we know. It is not what happened to Caesar and Dante and Milton and Mary Queen of Scots, to the soldiers in all the wars, to the sick in the plagues, to public men yesterday. It never happened before—what happened today to you. It has only happened to your little boy.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Google books has all of February up online.

New tradition of Sunday home-cooking installment #1: Joel’s house, Cashew tofu and Szechuan string beans


my cookbook calls for 1 liter of vegetable oil, I used a little over half a quart of canola
1 block of tofu
3 cloves of garlic
3 red chilies
1/4 cup of bean sauce (the recipe is vague, but I used Lee Kum Kee’s Black Bean Garlic Sauce per my friend’s suggestion)
1/4 cup of sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. mirin
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 1/2 cups roasted cashews

In a pot or wok, heat the oil until very hot. Rinse the tofu under cold running water, pat dry, then cut into pieces. Add tofu to hot oil an dfry until golden-brown, about 3 minutes; remove from oil with a skimmer, and drain on paper towels. When oil is cool enough to handle, set aside 1/2 cup, and store remaining oil for another use.

Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wash the chilies, removing the stems, then finely chop. In a small bowl, combine the bean sauce, sugar and chilies; mix well, mashing the beans.

Heat the reserved 1/2 cup of oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden-brown. Stir in the bean sauce mixture, soy sauce, mirin, ketchup, and enough water to reach desired sauce consistency (a few Tbsp. water, I think). Add the tofu and cashews. Simmer for about 4 minutes. Serve immediately over rice.

Served with quinoa.


1 1/2 lbs. green beans, ends trimmed (although we used a fraction of that, along with 5 ozs. of fresh spinach)
3 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
3 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger (although we forgot)
3 Tbsp. minced scallions
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Lightly steam the green beans until just tender, about five minutes. Rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Drain and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the tamari/soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, and sugar and set aside. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beans, handful at a time, and stir fry for 30 seconds, transferring the cooked beans with a slotted spoon to a platter, until all of the beans are cooked. Let the oil reheat, then add the shallots, garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes and stir fry for 10 seconds. Return the beans to the wok and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the tamari mixture and stir fry until the beans are hot and coated with sauce, about 30 seconds. Serve immediately.

Art Of Cake

This turns out to be the enduring source of the pleasure I find in the kitchen. It’s the one that was there from the start: the connection to my mother who not only fed her children well but taught me how to feed my own just the way her mother had taught her. In his great work, James Beard somewhat radically positioned himself as the heir and celebrant of a long line of American woman cooks, from Miss Leslie to Fannie Farmer to his own mother, and there must have been something in this unexpected male affirmation of female inheritance that registered with me.

That tumultuous era, and the new conditions of family life it imposed, obliged me to try to be like [my mother] in some measure. I’m lucky that it also permitted me to feel it was all right to want to be, even though I was a boy.

Michael Chabon, Manhood For Amateurs