One of the few perks of being a child of divorce is the acquisition of additional grandparents. I was extremely lucky in this regard; my step-grandparents lovingly embraced me as one of their own from the very beginning. Following the death of my step-grandfather, my step-grandmother (whom we all called Nani – her spelling) moved to our sleepy coastal California town from her home in Rhode Island. I was thirteen. My brother and I would spend long afternoons at her house watching Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, playing chopsticks on the piano, learning to needlepoint (that was just me) and snatching up warm cookies right out of the oven, or snooping around the kitchen when we could smell her chili bubbling on the stove. Nani’s meals – served on sick days taken off from school, Saturday evenings when our parents were out being adults (every once in a while) and most every holiday – tasted like home. She clipped recipes of interest every month from her Bon Appetit and Gourmet subscriptions and sorted them into the collection of small, well-worn three-ring binders above. Once she tried them, she would rate her success with gold star stickers (one for ‘good’; two stars for ‘great’), and include notes of what to do or not to do, the next time around. Interspersed with those clipped magazine pages are her own recipes – tried and true family classics like her mother’s Danish Twist pastries that we all looked forward to on Christmas Morning, or the melty, gooey marshmallow rolls from her mother-in-law that Thanksgiving was never without. When Nani passed away in 2002, I had already transplanted myself to Boston for graduate school. One of the few things I asked be set aside for me were her ‘cookbooks’. Despite the 11 years it has taken me to return to California, my step-father continued to hold onto these precious collections for when I was ready and, once I settled into my home here, happily passed them along. His only request? Twists on Christmas.
Tag Archives: postaday
When I saw that Ailsa posted “Flow” as this week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack, my stomach sank a bit. As far as I could recall, I has used my favorite photos of rivers and beaches for last week’s “Peaceful” challenge. It took some time for memories of a day spent exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, to rise to the surface of my mind.
I spent eleven long days training at the Faculty of Medicine in Reijka, Croatia as part of an international workshop in viral immunology; on the twelfth day, our hard work was rewarded when we were treated to a hiking tour of the most stunning lake country I have ever seen. The color of the many linked pools seemed almost an opaque turquoise from afar, in the sunlight. But once near the shore or on the water itself, I realized it was crystal clear (filled with fish) and that the hue seen from a distance was a trick of the limestone and chalk basins.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes are comprised of >16 lakes, separated by natural dams but connected by waterfalls of all sizes. Our small group had the privilege of a guided tour from one end of the valley, winding around (and through!) the lakes and making our way through the surrounding forests to an overlook at the other end.
Each corner of the path brought with it new surprises – towering waterfalls, quiet, still pools, fallen trees reclaimed by the waters, and dark caves leading into the surrounding mountains. Although our group was only a small fraction of the total people in the park that day, the valley was mostly silent, minus the roar of the surrounding falls. There was a visible sense of awe and wonder in each face and very little was said,out of respect for the grandiose, sacred beauty that surrounded us. When we did speak, the words almost always emerged as a whisper.
I learned later that the precipitation and deposition of calcium carbonate via the flow of the falls and rivers moving through the valley resulted in the eventual natural damming of the lakes and establishment of this extremely unique geological formation. The power of flow to both build and erode was abundantly clear throughout our exploration of the park.
Yet, as with last week, I found these waters to also be peaceful – not only the calm aquamarine pools of the upper valley, but also the thundering cascades. Something about that power, pounding (virtually) throughout eternity reminded me how insignificant my current worries were, how little impact the flow of my life has on the bigger picture – that nature has been carving out these hidden jewels long before I entered the world, and will continue long after I leave. What a wonderful thought.
This past weekend I joined friends (and Walker, of knit hat fame) to participate in the San Diego Farm Bureau’s Farm Tour Day 2013. We were guided through the grounds and operations of three local agricultural giants, specializing in flowers and succulents, avocados and seasonal, organic produce. I had checked the Weekly Photo Challenge before leaving the house early that morning, and spent the day looking out for images that evoked this week’s theme of “Curves”. I thought this photo of almost-ripe avocados did the trick. The fruit hung heavy on the thin branches, while the leaves provided a dappled shadow to protect them from the intense heat of the direct, summer sunlight. The dark, rough, pebbled curve of their outer shell belied the creamy, rich sweetness of the fragile flesh within. They were dipping low enough that I was tempted to grab and pull – but I resisted the urge and was rewarded with a ripe avocado souvenir at the end of the tour. It was a perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday.
Although it has been more than six months since I returned from Paris to San Diego, on lazy Sunday afternoons my mind turns to long, winding, warm Parisian evenings with friends – enjoying aperitifs on terraces and picnics in parks. For much of my time there, my camera was my constant companion – to ensure that I would capturing everything that I could miss from the other side of the world. In an odd twist of fate, so much of my time was spent behind that lens that, often, I don’t have actual memories – only a series of mental snapshots that recall particular occasions. Bastille Day 2011 was one of those. I vividly recall laughing with friends while sprawled on the Champs de Mars, dancing the can-can at sunset and the “superheroes” that joined us. The fireworks, however? Luckily I have the photos, which captured each fleeting, vibrant burst of color as the explosion lit up the Eiffel Tower and the night sky in front of me.
After my work trip up in the San Francisco Bay Area ended a few weeks ago, The Bat and I decided to make a road trip out of the return. Rather than hop on a commuter flight and zoom back to San Diego, he and his brother journeyed north, picked me up, and we spent the next four days working our way down the state, seeing the sites, friends and family along the way.(Leopard shark – a common sight in several tanks – and aptly named)
Our first stop was Monterey – only a few hours out of SF – and home to one of the best aquariums in the world (not to mention some amazing food and a great Comfort Inn). Photos from the Monterey Bay Aquarium seemed a fitting submission to this Week’s Photo Challenge from The Daily Post.
This week the theme is “Pattern” and nowhere is the effect and functionality of patterns more apparent then when seeing animals in their (semi-) natural habitat. Patterns can act as camouflage, to attract mates or distract predators. Only in the extraordinarily unique environment of an aquarium can we see those patterns that set apart the creatures of the sea.
Sea Dragons: There was an extensive seahorse/sea dragon exhibit. The sea dragons in particular captured my attention and imagination. Covered in fins and protrusions that looked more like kelp than animal, they were mesmerizing to watch.
Jellies: My favorite exhibit, without a doubt, was “The Jellies Experience”, which was one of the most complete jelly collections I have seen, all set to some pretty rad disco funk. I could honestly watch jellyfish for hours – moving at different speeds, in haphazard directions. Several species were heavily dotted or striped, I would guess to mimic the reflection of the sun. Seeing all these creatures close up really drives home how nature finds a way to fend for herself, often in beautiful and unpredictable ways.
This week’s Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is “From Above”. The moderators suggest taking photos looking straight down to as a way to change perspective for common sights, objects or situations. Rather than look at something familiar from a different angle, in considering my entry I recalled an occasion in which I had to get above in order to actually see the view in its entirety. In May 2011 (almost exactly 2 years ago), I had the great fortune to travel to Kathmandu for a friend’s wedding. The week that I spent there is truly beyond description, but on one of the few mornings without a scheduled event, our small group of American friends took the opportunity to get above the city and into the mountains.Our evental goal was Mount Everest, but along the way we would be taken past 14 of the highest peaks of the Nepalese Himilayas. Here are just a few of the photos I took that day, glued against my tiny, fogged up porthole in the 19-seat Buddha Air flight.One of the most stunning vistas were those seen when the clouds parted just enough to see the mountains rise all the way from the surface. Usually a river or lush valley ran between green, rugged peaks that rose, continuously, through the sparse clouds and emerged in the blue sky, jagged and snow-capped. One by one, we were all invited to unbuckle our seat belts and join the pilots in the cockpit of our small plane. The view afforded through their windshield was stunning, clear and almost panoramic in scope. My timing was impeccable. As I stepped in between the two pilots, craning my neck forward, Everest came into clear view (that’s it there, the tallest peak on the left). At first, I was somewhat surprised – it didn’t seem so impressive, surrounded by its mountainous brothers and sisters. We flew closer, could see vague outlines at base camp and then it struck me, how far above the Earth and how far away from my everyday reality we were. I felt so small, but my mind and perceptions were open incredibly wide. The whole world was laid out below me, the view was heart-achingly beautiful and none of this could have ever been seen any other way than flying above.
A week (or two) ago, the theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post was “Change”. I read about it late on that Sunday night and was excited about the possibilities of my submission, which I began crafting as I drifted off to sleep that night. The next day, Boston happened. I allowed myself be catapulted into a 24-hour-news-hungry, astonished, angry, obsessive place for the entirety of the week. Then another work trip, followed by a brief, rejuvinating drive down the California coast and now here we are.
Putting together a post on the theme of change has continued to dominate my blog-oriented thoughts. Everything about my life has changed in the past six months and I am only now starting to feel settled, comfortable and truly happy with it all. Summing this up seemed like a fitting way to (yet again) re-establish my normal routine (blogging and otherwise).
So, what does change look like for me? The pictures speak for themselves; much more than 5700 miles separates my life(s) in Paris (then) and San Diego (now).
The intersection of Rue Chappe and Rue des Trois Freres, just down from my apartment in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, France
My own personal palm tree in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, CA.
Basilica Sacre Coeur, in the summer, around sunset (featuring a spectacular view over the city)
Spring lamb and fava beans at Cheri Bibi.
Playboy Roll at RK Sushi.
The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Bir-Hakeim bridge.
Big Sur coastline, as seen from the southbound lanes of CA Highway 1
Late February 2012 in Paris: Russet potatoes, celery root, green leaf lettuce, brown lentils and apples.
Late February 2013, in San Diego: Blood oranges, lemons, mandarins, green leaf lettuce, chard, kale, spring mix, carrots, caulflower, romanesco, bok choy and strawberries.
I am lucky enough to have found a family of friends wherever I have landed thus far – and my ‘family’ in Paris was comprised of the best kinds of people. Yet, when I learned that my siblings were going to make me an aunt (multiple times over) in the last year, I knew it was time to come home, for good. The change I can see, on a weekly basis, as my niece and nephew grow brings an unspeakable joy to my heart. I can tell that they now recognize my voice, they always laugh at my silly faces and are just starting to learn how to put their pudgy arms around me for baby’s first hugs. There are so many reasons I am happy to be home, but being an active participant in my family, watching these children grown and change are the best reasons of all.
P.S. At the top of the list of “things that never change” is my predilection to let this blog be the first thing to drop when times get tough. I am very thankful for my new ‘interfriend’ Mere – whom I had the great pleasure of meeting in person last week – for her kind and inspiring words to jumpstart my posting again. It seems I am slowly creating a California family of friends, and I am so excited to discover what unfolds next.