Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nature's Jewels

While visiting my family in California, my mother and father and I took a tour around the Academy of Sciences, where my brother works. For the first time in a long while, I felt curious and wide-eyed. Despite the post-Christmas crowds, everything seemed beautiful and wonderous. I found jewels throughout the museum, like...






I also met Missa from Thrift Candy in person! I swallowed my thudding heart and approached her (I always get nervous approaching people, even those I know personally), and she was very sweet! While I as living in London, I saw Susie Bubble at my Tube stop, and I didn't say anything. I vowed to never let another opportunity like that pass me again. And I'm glad I didn't!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Molasses In My Veins

During my visit to my parent's house, my brother introduced me to the band mewithoutyou. I love the playfulness music is taking these days, and mewithoutyou indulges like none other. Baroque pop bands are great at making beauty out of simple tales, weaving stories of darkness and the macabre. I feel with bands such as these (The Decemberists, Neutral Milk Hotel), that you could find them playing on a street corner for change, and not losing an ounce of their appeal.

The video below is especially enchanting and charming (the literal "string" of expletives is hilarious). Please enjoy!

mewithoutYou - The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie from David Bell on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Tradition

My family and I have never been big on traditions around the holidays. Scavenger hunts, Chinese food, and doing away with Christmas all together and celebrating the Solstice have all appeared as acceptable holiday activities on multiple occasions, but certainly not repeatedly, every year.

Lacking on the tradition front, my friend Richard and I started our own tradition. Every year, we make a holiday card, posing as a couple from a play or movie. The first year, we were George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

The next year, we took another serious turn with Harper and Prior from Angels in America.

We went a little bit more lighthearted the next year and featured Holly and Fred from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

This year we decided to spin the tradition and be ourselves, kind of.

Happy holidays! Any ideas on what we should do next year?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Outfit of the Week: Uma Umbrella

Umbrella: Red Light Vintage

Photos: Lady Leila

Uma Umbrella goes nowhere without her trusty parasol, Prescilla. In the summery, sunny months, the umbrella's red plaid casts a rosy glow on her skin, making her look wildly in love with the world. Her umbrella protects her from the rain, and she loves the sound of droplets hitting the taut cloth, creating a tilted rhythm. Uma loves to use Prescilla in her tap routines, twirling and posing with her as she spins on the stage. While Uma adores dressing in cabaret garb, feather headdresses and discarded bridesmaid dresses, Prescilla is always the center of attention, the piece that pulls the outfit together, and functional accessory, protector, and stage prop.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'd Have Him Teach Me Any Day

I had a friend visiting from out of town, and one night we went to the picture show at the Egyptian, a grand old movie house complete with a balcony, ornate gold walls, and a red curtain that pulls back when the picture is about to start. We saw An Education, which I've been anticipating for months. Despite the predictable story line, I was enchanted. Peter Sarsgaard's seamless transition from charismatic to creepy and Cary Mulligan's amazing performance were enough to keep my toes all curled and biting my lip, but I couldn't help but sigh whistfully at the clothes.

Should you have the chance, see this movie. The opening credits are worth the price of admission!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Twistin' The Night Away

Every second Saturday of every month, there is a very special night at the Lo-Fi Performance Gallery in Seattle. Soul Night, hosted by Emerald City Soul Club, is my absolute favorite night of dancing. It's hard to describe the exhilaration that is Northern Soul dancing. The music moves you the way it wants. Shrugging shoulders, stomping heels, half-closed fists and twisting hips. It's the sweetest to see couples wrapped in each other, hands clasping waists, guys twirling gals. My common law camrade once got flipped upside down by a guy in a bow tie!

This past Soul Night was Rare Soul Weekender. That afternoon, Lady Leila and I went to a Northern Soul record swap. We met one of the founders of Soul Night, who gave us a deal on the 45s we were clutching. Some of our favorites: Aretha Franklin "Soulville", The Vibrations "And I Love Her" cover, Jennell Hawkins "Money", and Etta James "Lay Back Daddy".

Because we've going for over a year now, we've garnered a small group of regulars we see once a month. We wanted to let people know how much we love their company, how rad their dancing is, and just how cool they are! So we made little gifts to pass out.

Here's a better view of the dress I chose to wear last time, and below is one of my favorite Sam Cooke songs. Should you be in the Seattle area, check out Soul Night at the Lo-Fi, hosted by Emeral City Soul Club!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You Are What You Love

I have been absent from blogging too long. I've been bottling up what I need to say. While my blog and other blogs out there, which I look to for inspiration and have come to adore, offered me respite, I feel now that this may offer relief.

During the last month, I saw glimmers of what was my former life returning to me. I had two high-profile job interviews, had gotten on a semi-regular schedule and starting cooking and exercising again, and the trees were blushing and the air tasted of woodsmoke. When the two jobs fell through and the clouds literally began rolling in, I took it all to heart and my toes were clutching the edge. I felt something was fundamentally wrong. This was not what I had worked four hard years for. My honors degree was a waste of time. When further blows were delivered, I felt myself sink to the bottom of an icy chasm. My breath was frozen and ragged, and when I closed my eyes I saw everything distilled by watery blue depths.

But then I woke up. I took a breath. I realized that a lot of what I had, what I coveted, was based on some fabrication of whether I was greater than, less than, or equal to others. Did I work harder than so and so? Did I dress better than her? Was I more articulate that he? While this rhythm had become a central part of my person, I saw for the toxic habit that it was. So I swallowed myself whole, and started to piece together who I wanted to be. A person I could love.

And so I'm working. The people I pushed away have welcomed me back with open arms. New people have swung into my life and shed light on the important things, like living in the moment and the perfect pair of zebra-printed shoes. I found out earlier in the week that the vintage store where I was working as a seasonal employee has hired me on permanently. My manager is even letting me take time off for interviews and will understand if I get another job (with the freedom I have now, I can apply for jobs I actually want, instead of everything that crosses my desk). I am wrapping myself in my own arms, taking pleasure in early morning running and stretching, and surrounding myself with images of love.

Thank you, everyone and everything. Thank you thank you thank you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Outfit of the Week: Sally Sailor

Sally Sailor learned how to swim without water wings. She sails around on her little boat named the Anastasia, going from port to port along the coast, selling trinkets from her boat. Thin, ghost lace dresses; delicate pearl necklaces that look like they will melt in your hand; old doo-wop records with snappy-finger rhythms; spices said to conjure love and curse enemies. She trades stories of her pirate father for wine and bread. She laughs and smiles and waves frantically as her boat pulls from the harbor, and she promises she will return soon!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Table for One: The Rose Garden and Miranda July

I suppose this edition of Table for One is a bit out of step. There is no eating involved, but rather an absorption of surroundings and an exercise in using other senses.

I visited Portland with some friends this weekend. Being the collective of Humanities majors that we were, we spent three hours in Powell's Books, each scoping our own little corner of the world to thumb through McLuhan, Stein, Card, and Huxley, as well as collections of Henry Darger's unreal realms and step-by-step instructions on the art of striptease.

I picked up a copy of No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I have been inspired by July before, and this book turned out to be the perfect companion for a Sunday afternoon in Portland's Rose Garden.

I wandered through the rows of wine reds and blushing peaches, past petals that looked like velvet. I expected the groove of my thumb to stay imprinted on the petal as I swept it across. The smell of roses stuck to the back of my throat, a heavy, waxy perfume. I crept up to certain blooms, inhaling their scent. Some smelled like bright, citrusy market lemons, while others radiated high-fructose corn syrup. One, a friend said, smelled like Pez candies.

I sat on the steps of the ampitheatre and opened July's volume of short stories. I chose "It Was Romance", a story of a woman at a romance workshop. It was fitting for my surroundings. I grew up next to a rose garden in Sacramento, and drove past countless weddings taking place among the drooping heads of both heavy blossoms and heat-exhausted guests. Given the statistics, I can only assume that half of the couples I drove past are still together.

The tiny world in front of your face is an illusion, and romance itself is an illusion!
We gasped. But it was a delayed gasp, we were a slow group.
Theresa had begun to cry. I stopped patting and hugged her, and she hugged me back. I had made everything just horrible enough to bring Theresa's sadness down to the next level, and I joined her there. It was a place of overflowing collaborative misery, and we cried together...The snaps on our jeans pressed into each other and our breasts exchanged their tired histories, tales of being over- and underutilized, floods and famines and never mind, just go. We wetted each other's blouses and pushed our crying ahead of us like a lantern, searching out new and forgotten sadnesses, ones that died politely years ago but in fact had not died, and came to life with a little water.

The rose garden seemed too much, too perfect, too cliche. It made sense that one would find/make/declare love in a rose garden. But July countered this cliche. She balances the mundane and the poetic with such ease, I feel as though she had written this on a Post-It note and left it on the jamb of my door. July reminds me that romance, love, hate, basic animal instincts don't have to be peppered with poetry. Things can be beautiful just as they are. And in the recognition of the everyday, the routine, there is the potential for moments of elevation, where it seems appropriate to carry a lantern and declare that lantern as a metaphor, your piece of poetry to help the cathartic crying make sense.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ode to the Bath

photos by me
Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle one does not dissolve in one's bath like a lump of sugar. -Pablo Picasso

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. -Sylvia Plath

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine. -St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the simple pleasures and leisures I am most grateful for is bath time. When I was nine years old, and the family was looking for a new house, what sold my mother on the 1920's bungalow we eventually would call home was the clawfoot bathtub. And, like mother like daughter, while looking for my first "real" apartment, what sold me was the beautiful, white, deep clawfoot bathtub.

Thus, it was at a young age that bath time for me was revered as a sacred space for the bather, not unlike meditation for prayer. I draw my bath, pouring the suds by the capful under the running water, and closes the door to allow for the scented steam to fill the room (for me, the chosen scent is EO's Rose and Chamomile). I light candles, slip in, and listen to the sounds of bubbles whisper pops. I like to gather the foam around me, like a sudsy shawl or watery wrap, and feel the bubbles kiss my skin. Silence seeps and thoughts vanish, dissolving like lumps of sugar, and everything seems a simple miracle.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Table for One: Ratatouille and Henry David Thoreau

My grandmother knows ratatouille. When I came back from Paris, she describing to me how the air in the city around seven o'clock in the evening is "like cotton...silent", and taking me through, step by step, how to make ratatouille. Her hands would fly from vegetable to spice to pot to pot holder, only to pause in the air to describe the lights of the discotheque. I forgot the ratatouille instructions, I was transported to her Paris.

So with white eggplant and squash sitting in the fridge, I decided to venture ratatouille. Having forgotten my grandmother's instructions, I nabbed the recipe from

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 zucchini (or squash), sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Mix in parsley and eggplant. Saute until eggplant is soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

3. Spread eggplant mixture evenly across bottom of prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Spread zucchini in an even layer over top. Lightly salt and sprinkle with a little more cheese. Continue layering in this fashion, with onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, and tomatoes, covering each layer with a sprinkling of salt and cheese.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

The best part of the recipe was the eggplant, cooked in garlic and left to swelter in spices and oil. This may be what my grandmother did, sautee the entire thing in spices and oil.

I decided to pair the ratatouille with Henry David Thoreau's A Year in Thoreaus's Journal: 1851. Thoreau's essayist tendencies, including his diatribe on the transcendent properties of walking in the aptly named, Walking, are more enjoyable that his novels. Again, his journals reflect him writing for the sake of writing, something I admire and enjoy.

As I take my first bites into the ratatouille, I am taken aback by the squash's sweetness. How appropriate that something so naturally bright and candy-colored tastes of mellow honey. The spices (I used oregano and basil) are blinded by the kick of garlic and the bleed of tomato.

Thoreau says,

How to make the getting of our life poetic! For if it is not poetic, it is not life but death we get.
And thus my meal is saved. The different ingredients are harmonies, the different textures, correspondent rhythms and for a moment my ratatouille is not a soup but a SONG. Or at least, this makes me feel better about not entirely achieving the full potential of ratatouille.

Thoreau is obsessed with the "wild." Often he waxes on about said "wild", making wishes and wants:

I wish my neighbors were wilder.

Wild as if we lived on the marrow of antelopes devoured raw.

Take away their names and you leave men a wild herd distinguished only by their individual qualities.
It is the earthiness, the potential for "wild", of the ratatouille that inspired me to reach for Thoreau. The vegetables came from our CSA box from Full Circle Farm, and still had the soil dusting them. I can imagine the farmers reaching for the vegetable, plucking it up or digging it out, hands calloused , the dirt gathering under fingernails. I wanted to connect to the earth with this meal, but ended up connected to the transparent, the illusive, the ephemeral: poetry. Perhaps ratatouille is some kind of muse potion, what inspired my grandmother to reach out her hands as if she were touching the lights of Paris. Or perhaps I should have written down her instructions.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Outfit Of The Week: Carrie Cocktail

Carrie Cocktail has perfected the art of the bar giggle. The slightly demure laugh that resonates against the glasses and can be heard ringing if one puts his ear to his drink. She'll request songs from the bartender and dance on her tippy toes. Hers is neon light, the twist of lime, feet like champagne.

I apologize for what looks like over-exposure of the photos. The sun made a brief appearance in town today, and said hello right through my window!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Toosdai and the Dream of Horses

I went to sleep last night in a fit. I dug half-moons into my palms and cried crocodile tears. I was frustrated with my current unemployment, and the seemingly endless stream of resumes that have been sent out into the ether, never to return. My ladylove Leila comforted me, my best friend Richard talked me down, and my mother diluted my worries. But what I needed was sleep.

This morning, I had a dream that I was riding a light brown horse with a red bridle. I jumped on, bareback, and took off. I gripped the reins and eventually the horse's sandy mane, for fear of being thrown off. We trotted past other horses and riders, and eventually past a cowboy-hatted woman who I assumed was the owner of the ranch. She stroked the horse's face, and fed him raspberries with powdered sugar from a glass goblet. I remember thinking, "What does it matter, how my life is at this moment? I can always ride a horse."

I woke to a boy wanting English muffins much to early in the morning. As he whispered in my ear, I wrapped my hand around his fingers and could feel his pulse. It felt like his heart was in my palm.

Leila's sister made graham cracker blueberry pancakes, and Leila made home-made whipped cream. Take a look at Leila's blog, Foodie Festivus, for her account of the mountain of whipped cream dream (coming soon!).

The Story of Bridge 58

There are moments in my life that have been deemed "serendipitous" in the retelling of said moments. I wrote an entry for my mother's blog about one such moment, involving random pairings, future roommates, and art. The vignette can be found at my mother's blog, Dianne Poinski Hand-Colored Photography Studio Journal.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Project: Table for One

While wiling away the hours, I have come up with a new project that combines my two loves: reading and cooking. The following is the start of a weekly project, in which I pair books with food. I am making an attempt in the direction of wine pairing, without the pretension (or perhaps with heaps more, dependent on your view).

Ocean 1212-W by Sylvia Plath, with Black and Blue Tea by Remedy Teas

Remedy Teas is a small tea shop boasting over 150 organic, fair trade teas in blends that echo magic potions (some even promising aphrodisiatic properties and hangover cures). I perused the selection for some time, and knowing that I would be reading an essay about the sea, chose a tea that reminded me of the waves, the swells, the sand, and the foam.

Black and Blue tea swirls black tea, hibiscus, elderberries, currants, and cornflowers. As I let the tea steep for three minutes, I opened Sylvia Plath's Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and began the essay, "Ocean 1212-W".

I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own. I pick it up, exile that I am,like the purple "lucky stones" I used to collect with a white ring all the way round, or the shell of a blue mussel with its rainbowy angel's fingernail interior, and in one wash of memory the colors deepen and gleam, the early world draws breath.
Plath reminds me to breath. The tea has finished steeping and I move the cup nearer to me. I inhale. The berries infuse the steam, and for a moment I think, "Where is the salt sting?" But the sweetness of the tea dissolves once it hits my tongue, and the bite of black takes over.

Like a deep woman, it hid a good deal; it had many faces, many delicate, terrible veils. It spoke of miracles and distances; if it could court, it could also kill.

Plath's sentiment about the power of the ocean may be the reason I chose the Black and Blue tea. The magnitude of the sea, the awesomeness, the crash of waves, lead to blossoming bruises. I wanted escape, calm, seaside with gulls and the pearlescence of shells. What I got was Plath's account of the beauty, the life-giving breath and the life-taking reach of the sea. She even spoke of treasure, in the form of abandoned tea sets, perfect for my choice of location.

I think the sea swallowed dozens of tea sets-tossed in abandon off liners, or consigned to the tide by jilted brides. I collected a shiver of china bits, with borders of larkspur and birds or braids of daisies. No two patterns ever matched.

I recommend Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams for the essays like "Ocean 1212-W", but also for Plath's diary entries. I find it illuminating that a writer wrote the way she did, in private and for herself, when she thought no one would read it. Its almost like peeking over Plath's shoulder for a glimpse into her world.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Things Around Me

Greek yogurt with boysenberry jam

Swimming fishy oven mitts.

A face on the house next door.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Voila Le Portrait Sans Retouche

Recently, an icon of mine passed away. She permeated my identity, unwittingly and unknowingly. I had an image of her in my head, and when I met her for the first and last time, it was as if she had known exactly how to act and speak to make everything I had imagined come true. My grandmother's cousin Claudine was Paris for me. She was my tie to that world, that part of my lineage and lifestyle that made me make a French flag placemat for a project in the 2nd grade.

Below is an account of my afternoon with her, written for London Loverly.

A Whim Deserving of a Longer Entry
I decided to visit my grandmother's cousin in Paris on a whim. This, I reasoned, was better than planning a visit. First, because had I arranged a meeting, I would probably have gotten too nervous and backed out. Second, I would have brought a translator, making the whole meeting entirely too formal. But while preparing to go the Louvre that morning, something told me to grab Claudine's address out of my bag, so I did.

In between Italian, Spanish and French 16th-18th Century Paintings and Greek and Roman Antiquities, I decided to look up her address on the map of Paris I had in my bag. I discovered that her apartment was in the same arrondissement that I was staying in. Not only that, but I had walked by her apartment while exploring the area two days before. I decided it was too coincidental, too serendipitous to pass up. So I took two Metro lines to her apartment building.

I had no plan whatsoever when I got there. The apartments in Paris don't have numbers, and I had no idea which apartment was hers, much less how to even get into the building. I thought maybe I would stand outside the building and wait for someone to go in or out and I would ask them, "Connaissez-vous Claudine?" But then I didn't know what I would do with the answer I got, or even if I would understand the answer. I stood outside for a good two minutes, staring up at the balconies with their perfect potted pansies and feeling a little like my on-a-whim adventure may have been a fruitless idea.

I then noticed her last name on the callbox. Now, this is lucky. I have yet to see another apartment building with last names written on the callbox. The people inside must be important enough and receive visitors on a regular basis in order to warrant a callbox, as not to continually run up and down the stairs to open the door.

I wrote myself a little script of what I wanted to say, and stood in front of the callbox thinking, "Okay, should I press the button? Would I regret it if I didn't? Is this the right button? I shouldn't press the button. I don't know who is behind this button. I should press this button. No, I shouldn't-oh, I guess I pressed the button!"

Silence. And then, "Oui?"

"Uh, bonjourjem'appelleNicholejesuislapetitefilledeMicheline."
"Je m'appelle Nichole? Poinski? Je suis la petite-fille de Micheline? Poinski?"
"Ah, oui! Nichole! Second floor!"

The woman I met at the top of the stairs looked stunningly like my grandmother. She welcomed me into her beautiful apartment, inviting me to sit on the couch. We spoke stilted Franglish, working together to convey what the other meant. She started telling me how she met me when I was six years old, and I started to cry. She looked worried, like she had offended me, but I said, "Non, je suis désolée, je suis..." But I couldn't find the word I was looking for in either English or French. It was a combination of fulfillment, missing my family, Stendahl syndrome, happiness, and possibly caffeine withdrawal. It was then the language barrier didn't matter anymore. She said, "Emotive?" I nodded. She handed me a tissue and smiled.

We talked about the family in the States. She showed me pictures of her time in Morocco. I spoke to her daughter on the phone. She gave me a tour of her apartment. We talked about her late husband the professor. I gazed longingly at the bookshelves. She showed me her map of Paris, pre-Revolution, that took up an entire wall.

When I took my leave, she said, "Thank you so much for visiting me. Je suis très contente." I said, "Non, merci beaucoup, je suis très contente". Several merci beaucoup's, au revoir's, and cheek-to-cheek kisses were exchanged.

When I left, I was reeling. Something had told me to look her up, and it was lucky I did, because she was leaving for Bretagne the next day.

Upon reflection, the whole exchange doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but I cannot properly describe what I was feeling before and after meeting Claudine. All my life, I have been told of my grandmother's life in Paris, my distant relatives in Paris, my father's adventures in that one club with the band in Paris. But to be in Paris, this pseudo-mythical city where all of this stuff happened before I was born but that defined who I am as a person, was wild. I don't mean to border on maudlin, but it was like a dream come true. I've been dreaming of Paris, creating it in my head for years, and to experience the city for itself, with Parisians and friends who knew the city, was amazing.

C'est tout.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Blackbird Must Have Kissed You Last Night

The above is a saying in the South, used when talking about insomnia and the resulting black circles under your eyes.

Today was the Low Impact Vehicle show down at Seward Park.

I went down to visit Lucas and his paper mache truck, which turns the "truck's impact on the environment" on its head and showcases the "environment's impact on the truck." Rain, pollution, and high-mile freeway gulleys have soiled the pristine of the paper mache, to where now there is visible wear and tear.

We had a picnic of barbeque chicken, grilled zucchini, apricot kolaches, and a peach, goat cheese, and basil salad, which I highly recommend and have copied the recipe below:

Peach Salad with Wild Arugula, Goat Cheese, Almonds, and Basil

(Serves 2)

1 large bunch wild arugula (or use the regular supermarket arugula), stemmed
1 perfectly (not excessively) ripe peach, cut into thin wedges
A handful of blanched whole almonds, lightly toasted
A few very thin slices of red onion
About a half a small log of fresh goat cheese
A dozen basil leaves, left whole
1 teaspoon Spanish sherry vinegar
A few drops of balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
A pinch of grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place the arugula in a medium-size salad bowl. Add the peach slices, the almonds, and the red onion. Crumble on the goat cheese, and add the basil leaves.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry and balsamic vinegar with the olive oil, and season it with salt, black pepper, and the nutmeg. Pour it over the salad, and toss gently. Serve right away.

Lucas won a beautiful trophy for his entry!

Next, Leila and Blaire joined us for a walk around Seward Park.

Blaire made a delicious salmon and creme fraiche dish for dinner, while Leila made a dangerous chocolate pudding cake for dessert. Lucas and Blaire taught us to play Hearts. The cake made for a giggly game.