You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2007.

one other thing that makes me irrationally happy… making food that just works…  i’m not sure i could duplicate the recipe if i needed to, but last night, this was delicious…

 based, very loosely, on a panzanella (italian bread salad), i added a whole garden full of fall veggies in lieu of the purist tomato/cucumber/basil combo.  i cubed and pan-fried some butternut squash and eggplant, then briefly roasted some onion half-moons… broiled some bell pepper strips and diced tomato, and tossed everything together in a bowl with a torn-up loaf of sourdough from my local artisan bakery – then drizzled with a wee bit of balsamic vinegar.  and then topped with toasted, slivered almonds.  somehow, the bright tanginess of the peppers and tomatoes, the sweet heft of the onions, and the mellow nuttiness of the squash and eggplant (accented by the smoky crunch of the almonds) worked perfectly against the  sour softness of the bread.  and the vinegar just sort of took all the flavors to eleven, so to speak! 

 i can brag about this without shame because it was a nearly accidental combination.  these were simply all the vegetables that were still in my produce drawer after a happy visit to the farmer’s market last week.   i took the resultant salad to my church small group potluck, where the hostess had, coincidentally, fixed a roast pork tenderloin for the main dish – which was absoulutely the perfect flavor and texture for the salad to support!  oh, we feasted.  three cheers for food-serendipity. (c:


Open studio day, walking around under sunshine and burnt-gold leaves with friends

looking at creative, interesting, innovative art

 eating eggplant with tomatoes and garlic

finally figuring out how to cook lentils

baking cookies without burning them (i hate setting a timer)

coming home from the farmer’s market with armfuls of produce, locally grown.

cooking said produce and eating it.

mixing spices as one mixes paints, extemporaneously, and achieving a perfect, though previously unknown, balance of flavors.

moving the pen just so across the paper to form letters that are lovely to look at just for their lines, completely apart from what they mean as pieces of language.

dancing the night away, figuring out how to improvise steps to a song that just won’t let you stay still.

espresso.  strong.  rich.

kneading bread dough with my hands.

tucking in my sofa’s slipcovers until they finally look neat and tidy. 

scrubbing my kitchen sink until it shines.

perfect electric guitar tone.

the new album by Feist.

the website for Over the Rhine (


i’ve been getting into swing dancing lately – have any of you ever tried it? 

 [ha! i say “any of you” as though speaking to some mass of people.  unless “mass” is defined by “one – sometimes,” i am, perhaps, delusional.  (c:  but on with the delusion!]

i love it.  i have had so very much fun, and i think i’m learning a good bit.  the great part about the social dances i’ve been to is that they start out with a lesson where all the “leads” (usually guys) stay put and all the “follows” (usually girls) rotate around to different partners for the duration of the lesson.  this is a great way to learn from folks who know a little more and/or to learn by helping others figure out something new.  i’ve learned all sorts of new twists and turns and sharpened my basic skills by dancing with guys who have been doing this for years. 

 though, undoubtedly, a great burden is placed on the men who lead, i’m learning that there is, in fact, an art to the follow….

you have to actually. follow.

 with apologies for the split infinitive, it’s true.  you can’t just get complacent in the rhythm of the dance and execute expected moves.   a couple might go through a whole song without varying from the basic “side, side, rock-step” pattern – but the lead might also change it up randomly, leaving the follow to rock-step out of turn when he’s trying to get her ready to do some cool new spin.   or, worse – she might start to lead him into moves that she wants, mixing him up and throwing him off his role in the dance.

 i usually go dancing with two guy friends, and they’re great dancers.  They’re really nice guys off the dance floor, and they are equally gracious (as well as talented) on.  They’re also very helpful in pointing out how I can improve my form. 

For example, friend A and I were trying to learn the Lindy Hop one evening – and for two die-hard East Coast Swing dancers, this is a bit of a trick at first.  We were trying to master the basic step – the swing-out – and were having a bit of trouble.  I was the main problem: I kept trying to travel where I thought the step was going, fighting friend A’s guidance for where I ought to be. this past weekend, though, i think we got it.  for me, that meant catching the rhythm so that i could properly follow – much more than just sort of hanging on the end of the guy’s arm, waiting to be spun, dipped, etc.   i’m catching on to the idea that you have to let the guy know you’re there – that you’re ready to follow him.  he’ll lead if he has an idea that you’ll come with him. 

 it’s easy to consider following a passive act, but it involves holding your body in gentle opposition to his – responding with slight pressure to his hand in yours, or leaning into his hand on your back.  definitely, you have to trust that he won’t just forget you’re there and move his hand.  to lead, he has to pay attention to his follow.  in fact, one of his main jobs is to make her look good – to create a sequence of steps that show off her movements.  one of my favorite moves to dance is the pretzel, for exactly this reason: at the beginning of the count, the lead lifts both the girls hands up overhead, letting her far hand go and letting her near arm slide against his for several counts as she does her own shimmy-thang at the other end.  sure, he gets to swivel around a bit, too, but it’s the girl, with her swirly skirt and hips, that really gets to show off.  it’s his job to make sure she gets to shimmy her heart out for that measure.

i’m not married yet, but this always makes me think of the interaction between a married couple.  there are clearly defined roles, and one person is the designated “lead,” but that doesn’t mean that the “follow” just rolls over and plays dead, to be dragged along through life.  it means that she keeps close to him, watching what he’s doing, trusting him, and responding to his cues.  and at certain points in the dance, she gets to shimmy her heart out.  (c:

the other night, i was staring absentmindedly out my bedroom window – it’s what a daydreamer does.  an absent gaze was interrupted, though, when i realized that a male silhouette had just crossed the backlit window of an apartment across the street.  i’m embarrassed to admit that my first thought was curiosity (and a desire to watch what story might unfold) – i think we all have a little voyeur inside, don’t we? and then my second thought: avert your eyes. 

he may be moving around, backlit, in front of windows without drapes, but his proximity to my view does, by no means, grant me privileged access to his actions.  i have an unwritten responsibility to supplement his thin curtains by veiling my view – as a matter of respect, and a matter of hope (that others will do the same for me).   it got me thinking about a lot of things in the city that fall in one’s field of vision – things one is not supposed to see.

i’m not supposed to see the anger in a high school student’s face- even though we’re pressed against one another in the crowded bus for blocks as i go to work and he goes to school.  in the bus, one is only supposed to see three things: the fare box, an empty seat, and the please-stop-here cord.  anyone looking anywhere else transgresses with his eyes. 

i’m not sure i’m supposed to see people on the sidewalk in my neighborhood, either.  i’ve taken to saying hello to people i meet.  i’ve tried to adopt the (west?) philly “how’y’doin” (with a nod) that doesn’t really intend to ask how someone is doing – it just says hello in a courteous, respectful way.  but it’s been a struggle – because though sometimes i get a friendly smile in return, it’s often a stone-cold stare right past me.  those people have averted their eyes – and they’d appreciate it if i did the same. 

there are circumstances that are supposed to be invisible: the guy sleeping in the doorway of the Center City apartment building; the kid panning for change at the train station; the broken-out car window that’s like the calling card of the neighborhood drug addict.  if you acknowledge the visibility of these things, you’ve entered into them – and you can’t get out without sharing the blame or finding a fix.  most times, it’s just easier not to look.

but if we stop looking, will we forget how to see? how long can we avert our eyes before we go blind? 

 (and how can i keep looking without going off a deep end?  if i look, how can i help but appropriate what i see?  i guess one needs to balance out the bad that will creep in to every field of vision by seeking, deliberately, the good that can be found if looked-for.  is this why we are exhorted, in Scripture, to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith?  is this why nothing makes sense to the Psalmists until they considered God’s deeds throughout history – until they reflected on His sovereignty, power, and goodness?  )

The city is a discourse,
and this discourse is truly a language:
the city speaks to its inhabitants;
we speak our city,
the city where we are,
simply by living in it,
by wandering through it,
by looking at it.

- R o l a n d B a r t h e s


The Decemberists - Picaresque Over the Rhine - Trumpet Child NPR - Morning Edition


Target tortilla chips (surprisingly, addictingly good) Espresso


Jane Austen - Mansfield Park Mark