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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Juniper and Ivy, San Diego

 We ate at this great restaurant in San Diego on a recent trip.  This is my birthday dinner for this year, and it was all kinds of wonderful.  The first thing, which is less important to me, is that it is a beautifully designed and laid out restaurant. We had a cozy corner table that was just perfect, and there were all sorts of other options for special seating.  The wait staff was also very pleasant.  Also not high on my priorities, but a nice addition to a memorable evening.
 Then there is the food.  Which was just flat out wow.  They had a couple dozen dishes on the menu and the majority of them were tiny or small plates, ranging in price from a few dollars up to fifteen and twenty dollars.  That may sound like a lot, but think of it this way--the quality of the preparation and the inspiration of the dishes is like a high end fixed price meal, but you get to choose each of the courses, and in the end we spent about $100 for two.  Not an everyday meal by any means, but we felt like we got a deal.  We cook, and we would never accomplished this at home.
The best dish was a huge portion of a beef crudo on toast cut into four portions, each topped with a perfectly poached quail egg.  I am not a beef eater, and I do not care for it raw, but I have to admit, this was delicious.  The pictured dishes are cod and shrimp poached in a richly flavored broth, with cherry tomatoes.  It was perfectly cooked and had such balanced flavors.  Next down is abalone with an avocado gazpacho and an olive, pine nut, and herb side salad.  Abalone is always kind of a crap shoot and this was delicious.  The surprise dish was a sous vide chicken with a mole made with carrots and topped with Mexican pickled carrots and fresh thinly mandalined carrot, so basically carrots three ways and super moist chicken.  Really delicious, and the one dish that we might actually be able to replicate at home.

Friday, May 25, 2018

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

This is not my favorite book by this author (who I am very fond of), but if you are a fan, it is a solid follow up to her book, Case Histories.
One Good Turn returns to the now ex-private eye Jackson Brodie two years after the events of Case Histories. Wealthy, retired and bored, he is mooching around the Edinburgh festival while his girlfriend Julia, another of Case Histories' damaged souls, has a part in a dreadful fringe production and ducks his emotional demands. Julia is as absent to us as she is to Jackson, who finds his purpose in the shape of a dead body washed up on Cramond Island and then snatched back by the tide - another lost girl, doubly lost this time. Her death is somehow connected to the road rage incident that begins the book and links the disparate cast of characters while a crowd spectates.
The book is a reasonable murder mystery, would that it fit squarely in that genre, but as literary fiction it is just not her best work.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Navajo Rugs, Mingei International Museum, San Diego

 I have always been very partial to Navajo rugs.  My parents had a Two Grey Hills and a Ganado rug that they acquired in the early 1970's that I have always loved.  Then as a young adult, I would wander through Navajo country every couple years, and even bought two for myself at the Hubbell Trading Post in the early 1980's, once I had some cash of my own. 
The recent exhibit of Navajo weavings that I saw in San Diego was spectacular.  The rug above is a Crystal District rug from 1940 and the Ganado Eye Dazzler below is an 1890 rug.  Wowza.
The Mingei has an incredible collection of turn of the century Navajo rugs of a quality that is rarely seen in rugs this age.
What do they symbolize? 
Two of the earliest known design elements to be utilized by Navajo weavers are the diamond and the triangle. These elements were incorporated into old wearing blankets and continue in the modern day Navajo rugs.  Navajo grandmothers say that the diamond is a symbol of the Din├ętah or Navajo homeland with its four sacred corners that are marked by the four sacred mountains.
Triangles are basic building blocks of Navajo design. Placed on top of each other, triangles can become a series of prayer feathers or songs or become the backbone of a mountain Yei figure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tamarind Salmon

This is the best salmon recipe we have had in a long while.  Just delicious, and also pretty straight forward.

1 side of salmon
olive oil

1 tomato chopped (or tomato puree)
1/2 c. tamarind paste
1/3 c. brown sugar
3 chipotles in adobo
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1-2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper


  1. puree all sauce ingredients in a blender.
  2. preheat broiler.
  3. line a broiler pan with aluminum foil.
  4. brush fillets with olive oil, them brush with tamarind sauce.
  5. season with salt& pepper.
  6. broil salmon for 6-8 minutes, adding more sauce halfway through.
  7. serve!  We had a nice tossed salad for a low carb and delicious meal

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

This is the third book in this series which began with Me Before You.  It is not a tear jerker, which is refreshing, but it is pretty much entirely modern romance.  Even though my spouse reads much of what I do, I returned this one to the library without putting it on his side of the bed. 
Louisa is back, and she is following in the foot steps of her hero and going to New York.  She is a paid companion for the much younger wife of a wealthy man.  She is trying to maintain a long distance love, which doesn't work out all that well.  She loves New York, but she runs into trouble both on the job and in her relationships.  However, as the feel good conclusion to this trilogy would have it, she finds a job where she is appreciated and also gives her a path to the next phase in her life.   I enjoyed this, and read it all in one day while traveling.  It is light and frothy but well written in an Emily Griffin kind of way, and not quite Curtis Sittenfeld material, but good.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Last Year of the Sixth Decade

It is hard not to feel that 59 is cliche, but that is indeed where I am.  I would probably spend more time worrying about how old I am getting if I wasn't so grateful to be alive and aging.  A couple of years ago it was an uncertainly if I would even get a chance to be 60, and while it is still not a slam dunk, it is looking more hopeful now than it did then.
I have found it challenging to live from one oncology appointment to the next, although reassuring in the short run.  I hesitate to make plans that extend further than three months out from my last appointment, which is a strange way to live.  My plans go in spurts, where I have tremendous anxiety leading up to an appointment, and then a flurry of activity immediately afterwards, wanting to take full advantage of my new lease on life, only to go through it once again, and so on.
So today what I want to do is to focus on the good things that have happened in the last year.  I have been actively quilting and making things again--I have struggled some with cooking as much as I would like to, but my crafty side has been fully satisfied.  I have traveled extensively, knocking off a couple of life goals and hoping to get to a few more in the year to come.  I have had great medical care and without that I truly would not be here, so that is a huge plus.  I have been able to spend time with my family, both near and far, and may all of these things be true of the year to come.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Monroe's Restaurant, Albuquerque, New Mexico

We ate here our very first night on a recent trip to New Mexico, and it was a great way to start.  After a week, we all thought that we had had better components of the meal at other restaurants, but everything here was solid, and for sure if you are looking for chile rellenos with read and green chile sauce, this is an excellent choice.
We had just driven 12 hours from Kansas City that day and were all ready to get out of the car.  Our Airbnb hosts were over the top nice, and when we asked for a New Mexican restaurant that we could walk to they said, "Monroe's" in unison.  It was perfect, a half mile walk on a pleasant evening and had a delicious (and very affordable ) meal.  The one thing that many of us had not had was sopapillas, which are a bit like fry bread but smaller and puffier.  You drizzle them with honey and break off small bites at a time, and they are both ubiquitous in New Mexico and a real treat.  So if you are in the neighborhood, this is an excellent dining choice.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Great Beauty (2013)

This is a definitely Fellini-esque film, which means that I am pretty sure that i did not totally get it.  I was both confused and amused by it.
"The Great Beauty" is a character study that presents contemporary Rome through the eyes of Jep Gambardella (played by Toni Servillo).  He is a simultaneously overstimulated and underwhelmed taste-making intellectual who moves from small intimate roof top parties to clubs that throb with music and pulsating dancers. He was a writer who wrote one great work that is now floundering in obscurity and he doesn't really write. Or be gainfully employed.  He spends his time performing as a public figure, a fixture of the city. He wants to remain young and important for as long as he can (he's 65 and ironically looks older), so he uses botox. But he also mocks anyone who makes vague, pseudo-intellectual claims about ethics, art, and staying young. It is a movie of contradictions, and I think the message is that Rome is also full of contradictions.  At once old and flirting with modernity, it is a city that has great beauty, but also some grittiness.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico

I love National Parks and I love New Mexico. 
I am still reflecting on my spring trip to New Mexico, and if you are ever in Albuquerque, this park is not far from downtown.  It has a visitor's center, which also has a couple of short trails with petroglyphs, and then a couple of other locations that are an easy drive from there.  There are literally hundreds of pictures drawn on rocks that are easy to find and fascinating to look at and think about.  We chose the site with several hundred because I thought that in that case for sure we would see a couple dozen, but in reality it was pretty easy to find a hundred or so.  The trail for this is paved part of the way, very flat, and while you can definitely scramble on rocks to see more drawings, it is not necessary to do so, and a wheelchair or a stroller would be a reasonable mode of transportation.  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mourning the Dead

Edvard Munch had a thing about death, and when I saw an exhibit of his work last summer, there was a whole room full of paintings that were about death and dying.  This one in particular really captures how I feel, almost 50 years later, about the death of my brother.
He was born over half a century ago and came home on my second birthday.  I don't remember that part, or when he got polio five months later.  I always remember him in a wheelchair, and as such he was more often home than not.  We were unusually close for siblings, mostly as a result of his physical limitations, and when he dies when I was ten, I was a bereft child living in a house with parents who had lost their child and a remaining sibling who could barely walk and talk.  The loneliness and sadness that this painting captures is so much about how hard, almost impossible it was to move beyond that grief.  It wasn't until I was in college that I could even face that it was a problem and even today, I will sob through anything that I write that skirts on his death.  However, that is not the memory that he would have wanted to leave behind.  So I find joy in my sons, who carry a bit of him inside them, and on this one day each year, I cry.  It is a compromise.