I cooked only once this week. So sad. And then I forgot to take a picture.
A few friends from yesteryear came over for a reunion, midweek dinner of sorts. After throwing the inedible Pumpkin Prosciutto Soup down the drain from the week before, I was nervous about trying out a new recipe on guests.
Nothing to worry about. It was such a hit, there was nothing leftover for lunch.
Some ingredients:Boneless chicken, onion, garlic, cumin seeds ground, cinnamon, chili powder, dark semisweet chocolate, can of northern beans, cilantro.
>> A Q&A with Julie Powell By Jackie Burrell Contra Costa Times
Posted: 12/09/2009 12:00:00 AM PST
One thing seems fairly clear: Amy Adams, who played the food blogger in last summer's breakout hit, "Julie & Julia," probably won't be donning a butcher's apron for Julie Powell's newest memoir.
Nor will anyone who devoured every last morsel of naive, witty adorability in Powell's first book that recounts the year she spent cooking all 524 recipes from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," willi find the new book to be the polar opposite.
"Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession" is a tale of tortured wedlock, jaw-dropping adultery, unbelievable wine consumption, and more meat than you could ever imagine. Yes, there are recipes, but after reading about the metallic fragrance of freshly butchered, "custardy-smooth," burgundy-tinged livers, you may find yourself in the mood for a nice bowl of soy products.
But flying cartilage and sinew aside, the most brutal parts of the book outline Powell's two-year affair with D — an old flame from her college days with whom she cheated once before on her then-boyfriend Eric Powell. Fast forward to 2004 and "Julie & Julia" is soaring up the bestseller lists when D comes around again. What ensues is an affair that verges on obsession, even cruelty, including sexting and wee hours makeout sessions in her apartment, while Powell's husband, Eric, sleeps in the next room. That Eric quickly discovers the infidelity and has an affair of his own does not make any of it
Yet we're helpless to resist. We keep turning the pages and when Powell, who has made a career of baring her soul, offers to chat, we grab the phone.
Q: So what happened? You worried that people thought you were too adorable last time around?
A: People are reacting in all kinds of ways, very strongly. People who were invested in Eric's and my relationship in "Julie & Julia" — and then the movie was a sweetened version of that — it's unnerving. A lot of people saw the relationship as this paragon. It's not that it was a lie, but I wrote it at this period where I was very naive and I thought marriage was a pretty little box with a bow. Marriage is incredibly difficult and the people in it change. I wanted to honor that. Both of us — primarily me — have made some really terrible choices.
Q: Eric and Damian know they're in the book, right? With... everything?
A: Eric and I are together now. He's not tripping through the roses (about the book), but we talked a long time about this, did counseling. I could never have published it without his blessing. I've exposed our life in a way that's not comfortable for both of us, but he's been extraordinarily supportive. D had to sign off on it. He read the manuscript. I don't know that I'd say he's on board. I haven't spoken to him in a great while.
Q: So in the midst of this crisis, you decided to do ... a butchering apprenticeship?
A: I've been fascinated by butchers for a really long time. I grew up in Texas, where all the meat I bought was from a supermarket, wrapped in cellophane. I discovered these old world New York butcher shops and these guys who had been doing this work for decades. They'd learned from their fathers. I was envious of that innate skill. One facet of my personality is, when I'm in crisis, I seek a project. I needed a haven of sorts, and this idea of spending all this time in a shop with guys who didn't know me or anything about me, it felt like an escape.
Q: But big macho butchers? Flying meat?
A: There's this stereotype of butchers. They're big macho guys, no question, but what I found was how delicate the work is, how meditative — 85 percent of butchery you can do with the tip end of a boning knife. There's a sort of road map with everything, how muscles are supposed to come apart, that tiny crevice between the cup and ball of the joint. There's this rote aspect and yet you still have to concentrate your mind and body on what you're doing. It became this way to work through this crisis.
Q: OK, so you leave your butcher apprenticeship and instead of going home to Eric, you head off on a Grand Meat Tour of Argentina, Tanzania ... and the Ukraine??
A: It was a little random, I'll grant you. Argentina makes sense — it's a great meat culture, also a good first country to visit alone. I'd always wanted to visit the Carpathian Mountains. Tanzania? The people who live there, the Masai, their entire identity as a culture revolves around the animals they raise. And the bleeding of the cow —
(A pause, while we reread the description of Masai tribesmen piercing a cow's jugular vein so everyone can drink.)
— It's so primal and so central to their tribe. It's the sole reason I went.
Q: Does Amy Adams have any idea what's in store for her?
A: I have this little fantasy. In this alternative reality, Amy Adams is going to be forced to play Julie Powell in all her guises. I don't think we're going to see a Nora Ephron movie of this one. I haven't even sent (the book) to Nora Ephron. I'm terrified she'll explode. >>
Last week the happiest moment of my work day was a visit to the most beautiful doctor's office I've ever seen. Art everywhere. Fun art. The art of Sheldon Greenberg.
Not only was the art gorgeous, but wow, the doctor I was interviewing for my job, the fabulous Dr. Raquel Burgos , had style, energy, and warmth to outdo even the fab interior. Dr. Burgos told me that Sheldon's son got hit with a baseball and he did this painting of him. It's a big ole gorgeous piece (maybe 9ft x 5 ft).
More Sheldon art at this concierge doctor practice:
Pass me the paint brushes, please. And some bubble wrap too.
Life is all but slow these days. You know, that darn job. The one I wanted so much. The one taking over my life.
I read a couple blog posts last night, looked at Jen's little books and wondered "how do people do it? how am I going to get creative time to survive?"
Standing under a hot shower last night, an answer came.
Chop, chop. Brown, brown. Roast, roast.
Earlier that day between sips of my morning coffee, I chopped and roasted veggies for a vegetable soup. After deciphering the instructions on my lamp timer, I set the slow cooker for four hours. Even though I had to resist lying down for a cap nap by the time I was ready to get out the door, it was worth it. I had energy at work, I made it to QiGong class, and the soup was delicious.
One of the highlights of my weekend in Napa Valley with the cousins was a meal at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. The menu looks simple enough, but Cindy Pawlcyn, best known for her Napa restaurant, Mustards Grill, breaks all the rules with nearly every dish she makes.
"Forget everything you've known about tamales," our waitress told us when we asked about this dish on the menu. She was right. [Big sigh] The meal was as refreshing and soul satifying as our day at Indian Springs spa.
And what is a good meal without fabulous art. Here's one artist work I fell in love with at Cindy's. I can't find anything about her on the web, but the staff told me he name is Elizabeth McKinney.
I walked in the room late, and the nude woman moving on the platform made eye contact with me and flashed a warm, welcoming smile. I sat down and started to watch her as my teacher talked. We didn't draw for a long time. We just listened and watched.
It took a long time before I could see her. At first I could only see the image of her and process my own feelings about seeing her--my first experience with a nude model in an art class. She was no regular looking person; her body was startling perfect in every way, and she had a Brazilian wax. For a long time I tortured myself repeating, "Is this how people are supposed to look?"
She carried herself with the ease of biting into an apple as she bent over unclothed in a room of strangers. Yet she was shy about stomping her foot the right way in a pair of her sister's slightly too big boots for the first drawing/stomping exercise. She giggled and teetered and looked at us for support and approval like a self-conscious beginning art student making her first drawing or mark on the page.
Watching my instructor with her was a lot like my first experience at a nude beach in France with my college French teacher and his group of friends. Zero sexuality. Total comfort with the body. Ease with all kinds of body types. Of course, that's the French I'm speaking of, not me.
By the end of the night I knew her body better than my own and the only other body I get to look at in the nude on a regular basis--my husband's. I fear it's taken all these years and an art class to understand what I'm missing in front of my eyes everyday.
Last night we started our fourth drawing class watching a Robert Motherwell video (yes, a video, not DVD) called Storming the Citadel (no YouTube clip to be found). Wonderful!
Only slightly familiar with Motherwell, this is is what I know of his work. Black as a color.
Last night I learned about the range of his work. He didn't get stuck in a style.
Back in the day when I sat in art history classes soaking up the lectures, I never imagined making my own art. Now I'm studying with a Motherwell-esque teacher who uses art history lessons of abstract expressionists as a jumping off point to make make our own work.
A recurring theme: "The subject of all art is feeling."
Last night's lesson: We started out with a pine cone, the backside of blueprints, and big charcoal. After drawing the feeling of the pine cone for 5-10 minutes (with music), we rotated to another person's "drawing" and drew on it to add to it and make it our own. We made two passes to each person's drawing. In the second round we added white charcoal; in the third, pastels. As we worked, he told us he was teaching us how to build a drawing/painting and how to layer. Ahh, I got it.
This week I'm building a vacation week before the start of my new job on Tuesday. My plans for a getaway have not gone as planned. But this morning I realized that I'm having the perfect organic vacation. It's unfolding. I'm building it layer by layer. And now I'm off to rotate to the next drawing.
Where to start after not posting for so long? I'm shifting gears to start a new job at the end of the month and in power mode. I've started to get serious about limiting my online time to do more of the things I want to do, and it's working. But I miss blogging, and I haven't read Design Sponge in weeks. That's a sign.
Let me catch you up on art class, which continues to be wonderful. "Does it work?" was the big take away of the second class. He showed us parts of a Rauschenberg video. Watch the bit below to hear Rauschenberg on "Does it Work?" with his famous goat.
The in-class assignment: self portrait collage using only art magazines. In case you've forgotten, this is a beginning drawing class. The best thing about the class is this guy has the ability to transport me. He plays interesting music, he tells seemingly meandering but relevant stories, he reads aloud, he challenges our ways of being and thinking.
The end result of my piece was okay, but not great. My answer to "Does it Work?" was "No."
Later that night after class, I couldn't sleep, so I got up and started over. I spent a lot of time editing--a good move. But then it seemed like I was overworking it. Too controlled. Still not working. So I randomly messed up the pieces on page and watched where they would land. I did it a few times until I felt that inner sense of, "Yes, it works."
It was the first time I felt a piece was finished and knew when to stop.
My knitting group hasn't met for a long time. I miss it. We're all off doing different things these days and still knitting.
Sandy has been painting and showing her work for some time now. I have one of her paintings, but I'm really thrilled for her she has a show in a gallery in San Francisco for the first time. I love how her work has become more and more abstract. Yummy colors.
The house hunt continues. The summer flow of listings has dwindled, and we have a new strategy. Jeff does the online hunt. I do the drive by. I've learned to do less hemming and hawing. It feels like dating in my 30s. No. No. No. No. No.
This would be the kind of house, although a lot smaller, that I'd feel uncertain about. "Does it have potential?" "Should I go on a second date?"
New windows, siding, and a simple balcony and porch: a major transformation.
Last night's beginning drawing class started with the inspiration of Jim Dine's charcoal wall drawings from this movie.
This class is my third attempt to find the right teacher to learn drawing. Bingo! I'm so happy I followed my sense that the right approach would make all the difference for me. He'd call his approach expressionistic; I'd call it drawing from the body--something I understand deeply.
I was both amused and surprised when he'd stop the class and say, "Woman in the green. Keep drawing and everyone watch her." And then say, "See how she's moving from her hips." Later he did it again, "See how she's moving with her whole shoulder."
Working with big charcoal, by the end of evening, we had all drawn the person sitting across from us multiple times. He'd have us stop and then erase it with a paper towel and start over. As we drew, he read from Robert Cohen's Acting One and told a few stories. There was a lot about good decisions and bad decisions. Good decisions, scare you. Good decisions....I don't remember, but all the words were just right taking me deeper into my process, emboldening me to step out farther and farther on the limb, and giving me permission to put aside my tentativeness. I drew with abandon and joy and at the same time processed the challenges I traversed this week in my marriage and understood what I needed to go forward for my second round of interviews on Monday for a job I'd like.
I fell in love with the person sitting across from me. How wonderful it is to just look at someone and see! No judgment. Absolute presence. I fell in love with her wrinkles, the circles under her eyes, and the curls at the corners of her eyes and lips. I ended up with a de Kooning-eque drawing, which both looked like a person and pleased me. I made her eyes much too large, but somehow it felt just right for my level of skill and what her face said to me. And besides, I'm not interested in drawing representational art.
I'd show you, but I showed my husband last night and it was a mistake. It's that little problem of expectations.
Sometimes there are these moments in a marriage when something happens that is so funny/ironic that both people realize it can only be fully understood by the two people who have been living the day in day out of this third thing called marriage.
One of those moments happened yesterday.
I'm suffering from a bad case of age anxiety. I have it so bad that I had to rely on my husband to make every decision about what I wore yesterday to an interview.
This is the same husband who once fought the fight and now waits patiently before any significant social event for me to lay out everything he will wear. For routine social events, when I say, "you should wear X shoes instead," he changes his shoes without argument.
Yesterday we went through a combo of five or more outfits. He narrowed it down. He made the final decisions. He postponed his ride until I was out the door. These pants or these? This shoe or this? These earrings or these?
I went without the suit, without the outfit that the lovely, early 30s sales lady talked me into yesterday, and without any jacket at all. Quelle horror! A first interview without a jacket? I called V. for final word and she concurred with the new fashion head of household.
Turns out he was dead on. I felt immediately at ease when I met my potential future boss, and I made the cut for the second interview.
After a week of heartbreak over the girls leaving, Jeff having the unfortunate timing of leaving the next day for a week to visit his daughter, and a wacky visit from my father, I'm happy to be back. Whew!
Wrap Up The girls returned home to mom and dad with a new bad word, lots of practice using it in a sentence, and more driving experience than any 9 and 11 year old should ever have.
Decoupage was popular. As in, "When are we going to do decoupage?" "Is it time for decoupage?" "Are we going to decoupage now?" I'm convinced saying the word "decoupage" as many times as possible is the best part of decoupage.
Sewing was less popular. Competing with driving, skinny dipping in the pool, watching Project Runway for the second time, and Jeff's constant offers to drive down the street for another trip to Yogurtland, certainly didn't help. But also my method--grandma's beloved method--of sewing was threatening project completion.
I kept telling them that sewing was like driving a car, but my precise guiding didn't feel at all like our spins around the block. So after their final run to Yogurtland, I gave it another whirl with the "let er rip" philosophy. Let it pucker. Zig and zag. Pedal to the metal, let's just have some fun. And voila! Mission accomplished.
Look who's arriving today! Our flower girlies, L & A ages circa 2005.
My girlfriend, K, tells me, Big "A.. wakes up and the first thing she says is, "Oh Mom, I can't describe how excited I am!"
Little L tells me confidently, "I'm just nervous about the plane."
Last year on their first flight alone, they confided to us that they cried "just a little" on the plane, and complained that the flight attendant never said a word to them.
The house is stocked with Quaker chocolate chip oat bars, Wheat Thins, and pizza makings, the sewing machine is repaired for projects, and the camping gear is packed.
I'm walking in my grandparents' shoes. Except then my brother and I flew on PSA with stewardesses who doted on us, pinned us with flying wings, and took us to the cockpit to chat with the pilot. We arrived to a big-kid swing rigged to the beamed ceiling of the living room, two cots at the end of our grandparents' bed, and an endless supply of Eggo waffles, Twinkies, and Ding Dongs.
Yosemite Creek was the low point. The car was sputtering and spit firing, and we had just reached the bottom of a long, steep, unpaved, potholed road. Our last hope for a place to stay had run out, it was pitch dark, and we weren’t sure the car would make it back up the hill. So we made dinner.
I chopped tomatoes. One of our headlamps started sputtering like the car and went out. I helped Jeff comb the ground for his misplaced sunglasses, which we eventually found, not on the ground, but on the bridge of his nose. We ate our Greek salad out of a big salad bowl between us in the front seat of the car. We sat for a few minutes just taking a breather. And then Jeff spit out a one of his zingers as he hoisted himself out of the car. My laughter started slowly, built, gained momentum as he joined me until we were both doubled over convulsing, stumbling, and crying like a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie.
Before I married Jeff at 40, I had at least a dozen substantial relationships. I wanted very badly to get married and have a family. But I couldn’t pull the trigger with any of these guys until Jeff came along. But this isn’t one of those happily ever after stories that happens when you finally meet your prince. The biggest blow came when it became clear I wasn’t going to get my dream of having a family. I’ve been finding my way out of that disappointment for awhile now. In surprising ways, this trip was one more stepping stone along the path.
John Muir wrote, “When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world,” When he wrote this, I’m sure he didn’t have in mind a 450-mile round trip to Yosemite for a 10-minute walk. But that’s what I got.
Jeff waited at the car while I went scouting for a site at the backpacker’s walk-in campground. Within minutes of my short walk, I was overcome with a sense of bodily ease and serenity that shocked me with its speed in arriving and profundity. I came back to the car shaking my head, “Nope. Full,” I said.
Before I married Jeff, I found a guy who had never been married and wanted a family. He was 35, three years younger than I, and very sympathetic to starting a family on my time clock instead of his. The relationship worked best on visits to his parents’ where his mother would look into my eyes and gently finger my long hair resting on my shoulders. He knew all the words to Queen, would belt it out to the delight of my friends, and listened to NPR. All this was very, very good.
But no wedding bells rang. We took a trip once—a cross-country trip from Boston to Palo Alto, California--that ended with our being stranded in Tallahassee, Florida. For four days we drove up and down Tennessee Street, the car dealership row, to try and get the car fixed, to try and buy a car, and eventually, unload and junk the car. Elizabeth, who was nine at the time, plotted the adventure on a map that she updated with a pin every time she got an email. When the trip ended with only a few plotted pins, Elizabeth simply drew a picture of a plane and pasted it over the string that stretched across the United States to Palo Alto in one swoop. I found it all hysterical. Day after day as we passed one of dozens of those ridiculous inflatable stick figure air tube dancers demanding our attention at every car lot, I busted up as they began to symbolize the mockery of the trip. My potential, perfect future husband, however, grew as serious and humorless as a spokesperson for Palestinian rights.
Jeff and I got out of Yosemite creek, drove home in the middle of the night and were detoured and delayed nearly every 30 miles by an Obama-stimulus-plan road crew. We got lost. A hubcap flew off. And the laughter never stopped. Flopping in our bed that night, I lay looking at the once-divorced, ten-years-old-than-I, father to a 21-year-old, ESPN-loving man lying next to me and felt certain that I married the right guy and that sometimes 10 minutes is enough to get everything you need.
Last night, I returned from Yosemite. We were gone for about 12 hours.
Before I left on the trip, I wrote a letter to my great uncle. Getting a letter in his mailbox is the highlight of his day. He needs them.
This morning I started to write him a postscript letter about the Yosemite bust. The letter became an epic blog post, and then in the process the story changed. It got bigger.
It turns out it wasn't a bust, even though it was. Maybe I'll give it a shot sometime and tell the story. For now I'm sitting on it like Jen is sitting on her new painting.
One thing I enjoyed in our 11 1/2 hours in the car was telling Jeff all these details about my grandfather. I LOVE telling these stories over and over--a bit like a child who loves hearing the story of when he was a baby. Even though my grandfather left 27 years plus 1 month ago, it seems with every passing year his presence grows stronger and stronger.
We're off to our favorite place: The back country trails from Tuolomne Meadows. The awesome presence of Half Dome on the valley floor is stunning, but so are the crowds. In the high country we get lake after lake all to ourselves.
I haven't been able to persuade Larry to have his latest remodel photographed for Sunset. "Too much hassle," he says. So I've taken matters into my own hands. Welcome to Sara and Larry's, Part I sneak peek.
Larry's an architect whose house has been under constant remodel as long as I've known him. He uses color sparingly, but decided he could go SpicyTomato for the patio. "I tried it out on a client to see if it was really "hot, he says, "and it was. The client didn't like it, but I did."
Sara is entertainer/cook extraordinaire. I'm still aspiring to pull off dinner parties as well as she does.
Care for a mojito? Perch yourself on a wheel-y stool and take a ride. Weeeeee!
Featured design element: exposed steel girders in dining area (above back).
The drawing, a scene of palapas on a Mexican beach by Eve Page, hangs over the former fireplace. When I ask Larry about the decision to remove the fireplace, he says, "Sara came into the living room when the sheetrockers were working and said, 'Why do we keep that thing? Just sheetrock across the fireplace. It always smells and smokes and I hate it.'" "Of course," he says, "she was right."
The swooping gold lamp, he reveals, "is, again, the brilliance of Sara, who reminded me that she had this lamp in storage in her garage and thought it would look great in our new living room. It is about 40 years old and I had to take it apart and really clean it up and put it back together." It's also available at Design Within Reach for about $3K.
The architect speaketh on the yellow paint: "It's called 'Caterpillar Yellow' after the Caterpillar tractor. This has been one of my favorite colors for a long time. I had a 40-year-old color chip and went to Dunn Edwards and they STILL had the color formula, written in pencil on a 3-by-5 card. The other colors are all on computer, so I knew this was the right color."
Standing from the patio, here's a view of SpicyTomato and Caterpillar Yellow looking through the glass doors, through the dining room and outside again. Larry took the inside yellow paint and extended it to the outside wall. It's an unexpected splash of color viewed from either the patio or the dining room.