Thursday, December 31, 2009

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

Ella Fitz, "Blue Moon." Rodgers and Hart. (Did you know it was theirs? Me neither.)

Blue moon tonight, amidst the revelry. Last day of the aughts. Most people are keeping it mellow. Where were you ten years ago? And what?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Raw, idiom: b. Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw


This week's New Yorker is really rich. Not only does it feature a revealing piece on controversial Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, but there's also an intriguing write-up of the latest Grace Kelly bio.

Donald Spoto's "High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly" explores those untold grey spaces wherein this coolly beautiful film icon trod the complicated pathways between stardom and enigma. The result is a picture of an arguably "conniving," masterfully deliberate woman who used her beauty to secure a stable, if bland, future with Prince Rainier.

I kind of love that this purported Ice Queen was really a sexpot whore. Right on, sister.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Oh wow. Is it wrong that I'm kind of turned on by this?

Mark Slouka offers a killer defense of the humanities in the September '09 Harper's. I sat and read it this morning and nodded like a bobblehead doll. Slouka writes about the marginalization of the humanities in the wake of what he calls the increasing "relentless vocational bent in American education," and he's dead-on in his naming of the commodification of reason and sentiment, the overwhelming product-oriented shift toward the easy-to-quantify capital benefits of math and science-based educations.

Slouka - himself a Ph.D. in Literature - writes that
It’s a play I’ve been following for some time now. It’s about the increasing dominance—scratch that, the unqualified triumph—of a certain way of seeing, of reckoning value. It’s about the victory of whatever can be quantified over everything that can’t. It’s about the quiet retooling of American education into an adjunct of business, an instrument of production.
Be still my beating heart. So true. Read the piece for an impassioned defense of the steady push toward mindfulness buried deep in the humanities. Anyone whose heart and soul grew out of the fertile soil that we call "the arts" has to relate to the ongoing relegation of all things creative to the margins, the edges, the "free time," the "on the side," the "so, how are you going to USE a sociology degree?" kind of bullshit.

It's a zeitgeist increasingly evident in a world that values MBAs over, well, pretty much anything else. And yet, Slouka argues that encouraging the humanities is an inherently political move,
Because they complicate our vision, pull our most cherished notions out by the roots, flay our pieties. Because they grow uncertainty. Because they expand the reach of our understanding (and therefore our compassion), even as they force us to draw and redraw the borders of tolerance. Because out of all this work of self-building might emerge an individual capable of humility in the face of complexity; an individual formed through questioning and therefore unlikely to cede that right; an individual resistant to coercion, to manipulation and demagoguery in all their forms.
Um, yes, and again, yes. Read the article. Then read a book. Or twelve. And buy a few for the small children in your life, too, who are more likely than not being taught that Scantrons and algebra equations are where it's at. Because, oh god, is there so much more.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


You know you're in Nebraska when...

* A take-no-prisoners prairie blizzard wallops you, trapping your pansy NorCal ass in your childhood home. For three days. With your mother. And no hard liquor. 'Nuff said.

* The airport shuttle driver boasts that "the heater's up so high we could hatch chickens in here!" Not ironically.

* You eat more starch in three days than you have in the last year.

* 90% of the bodies at the snowed-in Omaha airport are sporting red and white football paraphernalia

* The local news headlines are dominated by a college bowl game that is FIVE. DAYS. AWAY.

* There are conservative letters to the editor in the Op-Ed section (what?!)

* Letterman comes on at 10:30 (weird!)

* You don't walk anywhere (other than up and down the stairs) for days on end

* People speak... soooo... slooooooowlyyyyy.... but, then, they're all so goddamned nice...

Never been so glad to get my feet on hallowed SF ground as I was on landing circa 2 am today. (Almost as glad as I was when that bartender at O'Hare brought over my hard-earned dirty martini between flights.) Blessed Bay Area bubble. Sushi? Sunshine? Sweet.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.


Don and I send our love for the merriest of holiday seasons. (By now, Mr. Draper and I should've appeared in many of your mailboxes. Kisses.) We're snowed-in for Christmas here in the frozen Corn Belt, blustered by winter winds and buffered by lots of coffee.

Sibs in town from St. Paul, Madison and Montreal mean little wireless time and much reminiscing. It's strange to be here, bundled in sweaters from dusty drawers untouched since approximately 1997. Ergh. My fashion sense has changed a bit since then.

(God/dess bless the travel yoga mat. And the free wifi in the OMA airport.)

See you in a few. Stay warm.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


Solstice today. Shortest day of the year. It all lengthens from here.

The faces across the bar are harried and tired. They carry Macy's shopping bags and sport overeager red sweaters. I feel secretly tender every time I see a 30-something ex-frat-boy roll up in his Christmas sweater, earnest, committed to the season, in spite of his hair-gelled, dry-martini'd attempts at bravado.

Holidays near, there seems so little need for "stress," and yet, this psychological state of our own creation tightens lips and furrows brows when the short days lend themselves to what we often call "not enough time." One of my favorite writers, David Loy, touches on this chosen timelessness in his sharp essay, "Consuming Time." Loy and co-author Linda Goodhew describe time commodified and time objectified, writing that
Because our life and death, like spring and summer, are not in time, they are timeless. .... Instead, there is "just this!" - tada in Japanese. Shakyamuni Buddha is sometimes called the tathagata, literally "the one who just comes/just goes." Or we may say that there is birth-and-death in every moment, with the arising and passing away of each thought and act. Then there is nothing lacking in the present that needs to be fulfilled in the future, and spring is not an anticipation of summer. Each moment, each event, is whole and compete in itself.
Remember that when you're sitting on the tarmac for three hours waiting for the plane to de-ice. Remember that when you're antsy at having to sit through another long Christmas Eve service featuring 4-year-old shepherds acting out the nativity. Remember that when you're wishing your blowhard Uncle Frank would shut the hell up about health care.

Be there, live and die in that moment, realize the impermanence of it all, and look up to see the sun hanging longer in the sky as we cycle once more toward lengthening days. Again, it begins.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste


A study in contrasts:

Herein, one product with which I very much like sharing a name: Mrs. Meyer's badass Clean Day home supplies. Earth-friendly, charmingly retro, minimalist in a Berkeley kind of way, and smelling suspiciously of gardenias on my kitchen countertop.

Herein, one with which I'd very much like to disassociate forever: filmmaker Nancy Meyers, she of the sexless bourgeois middle-aged lady architectural porn films wherein bland Aryan archetypes "meet cute," wear beige turtlenecks, fall in generically-scripted love, and shack up in expensively boring mansions in the Hamptons. I believe I fondly referred to her as a "schlockmeister" the last time I so lovingly touched on her latest piece of cinema shit.

(Breathe, Rach; breathe.)

So without getting into all that again - it's such a nice morning, you know? - let me direct you to Daphne Merkin's recent NYT Magazine profile of Meyers. I suspect that Merkin shares my distaste for Meyers' generally artificial and contrived productions, but she manages to retain a faux-balanced reporter's stance while still touching on all the reasons that Meyers' work is so frustrating to anyone outside her aspirational-white-upper-class-divorced-bitter-sexless-middle-aged-lady demographic.

Read the article, promise you'll never waste another ten bucks on any Meyers production (including this latest variation featuring Streep, Baldwin and my lovey Steve Martin), and go rent something good and dirty and edgy (LaBute?) and grimy (Soderbergh?) and maybe the slightest bit criminal from your local mom-and-pop video store. You'll feel cleaner than you ever would after rolling around in 90 minutes of anesthetized Pottery Barn suburban porn.

Can Anybody Make a Movie for Women? (NYT Mag)

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.



Bundt Cake Saturday! (Late.)

Morning: fresh
Mood: absurd
Music: Leonard Cohen

Ok, folks! Friday morning back at the ranch, and we are in business. After a week of doldrums, the sun finally made an appearance again yesterday, and I'll be damned if it didn't make all the difference. Two vinyasa classes and some seriously sore quads later, your highly-caffeinated hostess has dialed up some new tunes, finished addressing the last of this year's bizarro photo-shopped Christmas cards, wrapped the East Coast presents to be shipped off in a few, and started in on the second pot.

I love coffee. And mornings.

SO let's get in on some of this belated bundt action. Last year I kind of hit the seasonal recipes hard, all egg nog and streusel and whatnot, so this year it's felt a little "been there, done that," which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to run across this delicious

HONEY-SPICED CHAI BUNDT CAKE

Um, hello, yes. One of my recent favorites, and easy to manipulate if you want to make it more/less interesting, too. I found the recipe here and modified it a bit to suit my liking:

INGREDIENTS

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
1 small pkg instant vanilla pudding
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups brewed chai tea, cooled
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup honey
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. Combine flour, brown sugar, pudding, baking soda, salt, tea, buttermilk, honey, butter, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Using a mixer at low speed, beat 1 minute or until just blended. (Add raisins or nuts at this point if you'd like.) Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in a pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then invert and cool completely.

Not hard, right? Feel free to fold in raisins, nuts, or even crystallized ginger (new favorite ingredient) if you'd like. I kept it fairly simple and the cake still turned out so nicely. Don't hesitate to make your tea strong; I brewed three bags of chai and added a dash of nutmeg and ginger and the spice balance was just right.

Also: throw a few pecans in the oven on a baking sheet for just 5 minutes or so to toast them while the cake cools. You can use them later as a garnish.

Frosting is easy: either make your own cream cheese frosting (adding a little honey this time around and heating it on the stovetop to make it spreadable), or if you're feeling less "overachiever" and more "let's get this shit done," pick up a container at the grocery, heat it a bit to soften it, add some honey, and pretend you made it. Drizzle the warm-ish frosting over the cake and add a few chopped toasted pecans to finish if you'd like. I added some chopped crystallized ginger along with the pecans and clipped the last few surviving orchids from my table to decorate.

Really quite good. And now I've got a helluva lot of honey sitting in my cabinet waiting to be loved. So you might see more where this came from.

Recipe courtesy American Profile (!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.


Hannah had the most delicious homemade Wassail last night at her holiday shindig, and it's got me thinking about alcoholic variations on the Christmas theme. (Well, that and the fact that the atmospheric gloom doesn't seem to want to lift, and the cold has set in, and the cable cars are decorated with fake white partridges, and the white lights on Polk St. last night were so goddamned cute.)

So I found this recipe for a Spiced Pumpkin cocktail the other day, and not only is it tequila-based, but it relies on agave nectar for sweetening. Given that I'm a huge agave fan lately, I'll forgive it for lacking the requisite seasonal bourbon and roll with it. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon on top, I think this libation could get me through the middle-American adventures around the corner and land me safely back in my lefty disneyland without too much permanent damage.


Spiced Pumpkin Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Corzo Reposado (mmm)
3/4 oz pumpkin spice liqueur
3/4 oz orange juice
1/2 oz agave nectar
1 orange and 1 lemon wedge
1 tsp egg whites (if you dig the froth)

Muddle the orange and the lemon. Add ingredients; shake well and strain (or serve on the rocks if you'd rather). Sprinkle with cinnamon or garnish with a cinnamon stick. Drink several in quick succession, pull your cloche low over your eyes, and you'll never know you've left PST.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


art is resistance.

"art changes hearts without breaking bodies."

(sometimes we so desperately need to be reminded.)

especially on a monday in advent, in the wake of rain, in the echo of the cable car, in the honey-colored silence that is a step away from the clutter and clatter and clank of christmas crap and impending travel and prepackaged excess and manufactured wonder and certain uncertainty. especially then.

that the world's not all soft vanilla unthinking auto-pilot drones. that there are creators, co-creators, thinkers do-ers be-ers, too; breathers; people who live in their bodies and put one foot in front of the other, questioning, striving for some measure of awakeness in spite of the ongoing downward spiral toward mindlessness that somehow feels so amplified in this season of commodified hope sold as plasma TVs and iPhones and tinsel.

resistance is fertile.
lotuses bloom, in the thick and the mire and the mud.
that's the whole point.

(we've got plenty of mud.)

grow some.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.





Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.

~ Zen proverb





(And that's Rothko, of course; 1956)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Director Katie Mitchell has another spare, bleak literary/musical adaptation onstage this weekend at Lincoln Center, and ohhh, am I cursing that cross-continental commute.

You'll remember Mitchell as the technologically-savvy artistic mind behind last autumn's similarly literary adaptation of Virginia Woolf's The Waves. She's done it again, albeit sans video, this time in "One Evening," which the NYT calls a "Schubert-Beckett mash-up." Those of you in Manhattan, you've got one more chance to catch the austere soundscape poetry-slash-music production wrapping up tonight.

It's a piece of theater described in so many of my favorite words: "melancholy, bleak, haunting, naturalistic, wrenchingly beautiful." Read the Arts preview from earlier this week, which fleshes out the production vision a bit; Mitchell describes her lyrical motivations there:
The idea in ‘One Evening’ is for the audience to imagine a young man walking through the snow across a changing landscape. That’s the basic aural experience. You literally hear footsteps, breathing. The songs and the poems are the thoughts in his head.” (This scenario is precisely that of Schubert’s song cycle.)
You'll find details there about the performers (solo tenor, solo upright piano, and actor Stephan Dillane reciting Beckett's poetry), as well as several audio clips of the haunting tenor and piano duets. Then click on over to Anthony Tommasini's mostly-positive review, which emphasizes the realistic immediacy of the natural sound effects and the poetic English translations.

It's not exactly the Nutcracker, but who wants tumbling bon-bons and Clara and the Rat King hopping around all the time, anyway? This austere, melancholy production seems much more suited to the feel of the world these days. See it.

Schubert and Beckett: Footsteps in Snow (NYT)
Music Review: A Duet of Schubert and Beckett (NYT)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


Did you happen to catch the latest issue of Outside magazine? Pick it up the next time you're cruising by the newsstand; as you can see from the cover shot, the December issue features another great profile of David de Rothschild and his Plastiki (recycled-bottle-boat) project, which is quickly nearing completion down at Pier 31.

I've had the unexpected pleasure of getting to know the crew over the last year or so, and it's been fascinating to watch the highs and lows of this awesomely creative eco-adventure project unfold. Late last night, we watched as they rolled the catamaran out to test it in the water for the very first time, a complicated wee-hours undertaking involving one very large crane and a lot of crossed fingers. So exciting to see all these guys' time and labor coming together in what should be a globally-watched adventure on the high seas.

By this point, you've probably seen coverage of the voyage anywhere from CNN to Saturday Night Live to the New Yorker; the media roll-out has been impressive. Take a few minutes to leaf through this latest article. DDR really knows his stuff, in a humbly irreverent kind of way, and the team is across-the-board lovely; they work harder than anyone I've met in some time. Most importantly, the ethical spirit driving the whole project is really grounded in genuine passion and activism. So head on over to the official site, read up, and look forward to some exciting updates as the ship sets sail in the weeks to come.

Plastics Jesus: David de Rothschild (Outside)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


And somehow, unbeknownst to me, it turned into winter, because here we are on a Wednesday with faraway talk of snowblowers and shovels and snow days and my oh my, am I glad to have moved westward from that frozen heart of the country that many of you still call home.

The low here last night was a brisk 32 degrees, practically unheard of in these parts, and as I walked through the quiet Financial District coming on to dinnertime, the air was new and cold and different. December is my favorite time for late-night walks through the deserted downtown streets; everything's white lights and sparkling sidewalks and unexpected red-wrapped pillars around unpatrolled corners, and I wrapped myself more tightly in my fluffy winter white and pulled up my Audrey gloves and felt awake and alive on tucking in to a secret side street en route to another more secret speakeasy. Vodka tastes better when wrapped in shearling and sporting rosy cheeks, accompanied by an old man tapping out "Sleigh Ride" on a baby grand behind you.

In the midst of all the glitter and defrosting, though, it's easy to feel some guilty kind of obligatory cheer here in this more obligatorily-cheery time of the year. And for those of us in search of some measure of holiday authenticity, well, eh, let's be honest: we're not always feeling it. Garrison Keillor speaks to that sense in his classic only-Garrison-Keillor kind of way in this morning's Salon column. His paean to New York at Christmastime celebrates the fact that "Christmas is a joyful time, or so we're told, but a person gets tired of enforced joyfulness, especially when it's WalMart and Amazon doing the prompting, and you sort of appreciate a little anger to season the season." Amen.

I love it. Read the piece. And then stick around for Mary Elizabeth Williams's equally adroit takedown of the ubiquitous emoticon. Her essay on "Why Emoticons Need to Die" made me laugh, and nod, and growl. She asks: "Why...do I feel all stabby when I get a message that ends with three short marks: a colon, a hyphen and a parenthesis?"

The smiley challenges my own attempts at holiday cheer, stifling any urges toward magnanimity. Seeing one in correspondence, I wince, I cringe, I inhale with that most silent of judgmental inhales. Williams puts it best:
Whether they're humble punctuation marks or shape-shifting, animated gifs matters not -- I loathe them in all their forms. I see a face at the end of a sentence, I start lopping off IQ and attractiveness points for the person who wrote it.
Hilarious. Pointedly observant. Check it out. (And stay warm, all yous Midwestern types.)

Tis the Season to Be Grumpy (Salon)
Death to Smiley: Why Emoticons Need to Die (Salon)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


Excellent article on the class politics of Slow Food in this week's SF Bay Guardian. Always reliable for a populist barn-burner of a story now and then, the alterna-weekly tackles the ongoing labor rights, social justice and elitism concerns wrapped up with the artisan cheeses, free-range chickens and locally-grown veggies that characterize the movement. Get this:

"The average salary of the estimated 900,000 farm workers in California — the birthplace of the organic and farm labor movements in the U.S. — is around $8,500, more than $2,000 below the federal poverty line."

Ergh. $8,500. How's that for some serious perspective?

Give it a read. The piece is a good reminder that it's not enough to engage the politics of food on a superficial "I shop at Whole Foods and buy taquitos at the Farmer's Market" level. We've gotta delve deeper into the labor and class issues behind this whole thing. And that means drawing the connections between poverty, obesity, and the lack of access to fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables. Calling ourselves "progressive" seems presumptuously self-congratulatory when stories like these come to light.

Out of Reach: How the Sustainable Local Food Movement Neglects Poor Workers and Eaters (SFBG)

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.




"On any given day, something claims our attention [literally 'grabs our hearts': kokoro o toraeru]. Anything at all, inconsequential things. A rosebud, a misplaced hat, that sweater we liked as a child, an old Gene Pitney record. A parade of trivia with no place to go. Things that bump around in our consciousness for two or three days then go back to wherever they came from... to darkness. We've got all these wells dug in our hearts. While above the wells, birds flit back and forth."

~ Haruki Mirakami, Pinball, 1973

Monday, November 30, 2009

Raw, adjective: 4. painfully open, as a sore or wound


Silence on the blog front means that Rach has been tied up - quite literally bound in Baddha Parsvakonasana, et al - at a teacher training for the last week or so, and will remain so for the week to come.

Big and little things cracking open. All in the presence of one very beautiful man (that would be him at left), and 45 googly-eyed teachers. Reports to come.

In the meantime, a thought to ponder: what the hell is up with the whole yogi-tribe-extended-gratuitous-hug thing? You know what I'm talking about, dancers and body workers and hippie granola types, because you see it there, too. They're the kind of hugs where people you just met yesterday are grabbing you with big smooshy faces and cow eyes and not letting go for, like, a minute, while your arms flail about you like rag doll limbs trying desperately to pry your torso away. Dude. What is that about? How is that authentic? Holy affectation, right? As if the longer you squeeze, the more lurve will come out, just like toothpaste at the end of an empty tube?

I may be kind of soft and squishy on the insides when it comes to certain things like skies and songs and sweet peas, but there's a hard little ironclad bullet at the base of my heart that really hates this gratuitous hug crap. Or maybe it's just the stoic German Protestant farmers' blood in me. Either way, it rankles my aspiringly-peaceful mind.

Just sayin'. Erm. Namaste.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


Bundt Cake Saturday! (on Wednesday)

Morning: crisp
Mood: squashed
Music: Bright Eyes

Aaaand here we are for another [delayed onset] addition to the Bundt Cake Saturday canon. It's a cool morning here, bright, clear, crisp; hardly feels like Thanksgiving's around the corner, other than the telling lines at the grocery this morning. I'm happy to avoid the traveling masses and be quietly ensconced at home, where Chocolate Peppermint baby bundts bake in the oven and my newest vinyasa sequence downloads for a quick practice while they cool.

But we'll save that holiday recipe for another time. Here's a new fall cake that I discovered a few weeks back; after making two solid gingery variations, I've decided it's one for the Top 10 list. This one's a great way to bake with the seasons while venturing outside the usual apple/pumpkin/spice suspects found in autumn.

When my sisters and I were in elementary school 4-H pursuing the illustrious South Dakota State Fair Purple Ribbon (don't tease), we used to bake with zucchini fairly often, usually because my father's huge garden plot in the backyard produced obscene amounts of the green squash and we could never find enough ways to use it all up. It never failed to surprise me that such an ostensibly savory creature could produce such moist, sweet variations of breads and cakes. That in mind, I've been looking for a good squash recipe in the last few months, even though my zucchini won't come from the backyard this time around. I finally found it in this

BUTTERMILK SQUASH CAKE WITH SPICED VANILLA ICING

Insane, no? It is seriously as good as it sounds. If you've procrastinated on finding a recipe to take to your annual Thanksgiving gathering tomorrow, this just might be your guy.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk
2-1/4 cups peeled and grated butternut squash

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour your bundt pan. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well on low speed. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined. Add half of the flour and the baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, mixing on low speed until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk.

Grate the squash and fold it lightly into the batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes; then carefully invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely.

Ok, just a few things on this: the instructions above are taken from the original, which admonishes you to oh-so-carefully stir the ingredients together. Let's be real. I just dumped that shit in and beat it with an electric mixer until it was well-stirred. Feel free to do all that fancy mixing and folding and whatnot, but your cake will still rise if you don't. Just sayin'.

Also, in terms of your vegetables: the first time I made this, I used three kinds of squash, just to mix things up. The blend of zucchini, banana squash and yellow squash made for a colorful and interesting, texturally-varied cake. I definitely recommend giving that a whirl. The second time around, I picked up an organic butternut squash from Whole Foods and grated that in, raw. It turned out a cake with a particularly butternutty flavor, and was more monochromatic in color. So go with whatever you've got, and trust that it will be fine.

(And on that note: if you're short of time and don't mind keeping a dirty secret, switch out the flour/sugar/soda/etc. for a yellow cake mix. I won't judge. And they'll never know.)

Now, on to the icing and garnish. You'll need:

2-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbs. buttermilk; more as needed
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until the icing is pourable but still quite thick. Pour the icing back and forth in thick ribbons over the cooled cake.

I left out the table salt in my icing and it turned out just fine. Don't worry so much about the exact proportions; just add your buttermilk and sugar until the icing is your preferred consistency. Maybe add a little powdered ginger, too, if you're especially fond. It's intuitive, baby. You know.

The magic ingredient here really is the chopped crystallized ginger. I can't tell you how many people remarked on how much they loved that finishing touch. Sprinkle the ginger on top, before the icing cools. Let it set for a few minutes before serving or transporting the cake.

The second time I made this recipe, I chopped up some organic unsulfured dried cranberries and sprinkled them on top with the crystallized ginger. The vibrant red berries made for a pretty autumnal addition. Get on with your fall color palette already.

And that's it. Enjoy. And know that you're getting your daily veg serving along with plenty of ginger (digestif!) in this recipe, as well.

Recipe courtesy finecooking.com

Monday, November 23, 2009

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


It's that time of year again: Buy Nothing Day rolls around this [Black] Friday, which means that for you more rebellious spirits it's time to put those shopping bags in the closet and bask in the beauty of a quiet, simple, Wal-Mart-free post-Thanksgiving Day.

I've never been a fan of the institutionalized cultural binge that is the traditional American Thanksgiving feast. It always seemed absurd to me to fly across the country to gather with my family just to stuff our faces for a few hours before succumbing to the obligatory food coma and then passing out in front of the TV. (And that means we're consciously grateful, how?) It's always seemed more appropriate to really practice gratitude by observing a day of fasting, which can be a conscious reminder of how much we take our usual nourishment for granted (and not to mention a shout-out of solidarity to the damages done to Native Americans when their lands were co-opted by frontier-minded Puritans, but that's another story).

Adbusters and its ever-expanding Buy Nothing Day campaign have stepped in to provide that kind of cultural "fasting space" on the day after Thanksgiving, the time when the consuming hordes descend on the mega-malls to pillage the aisles for cheapie Christmas bargains. In the interest of subversion, not to mention aparigraha (non-grasping, living simply, etc.), I say: ditch the sales, skip the crowds and marinate in the long empty hours of a life made of your own wild volition, sans unnecessary consumption. Use your day off, in the words of Adbusters founder Kalle Lasn, to "live without dead time."

Now that's an idea to be thankful for.

Buy Nothing Day Headquarters (Adbusters)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


This morning's NYT takes on the oxymoron that is "competitive yoga." Read the quick article for an understanding of the elements at play in the Choudhurys' attempts to make yoga an Olympic sport.

Richard Rosen of Oakland's Piedmont Yoga Studio is quoted in opposition to the idea of competition; he, like many, finds the concept "silly" and antithetical to the tradition's emphasis on self-transformation and acceptance. Fellow detractors can breathe easily, though; it doesn't appear that Bikram and Rajashree will break into the Olympics anytime soon. The piece really highlights the ways in which this push for competition remains steadfastly stuck in the Bikram tradition.

I'm glad for that, in spite of my Bikram roots. I don't think competition has any place here. The article's headline says it all:

Is the Spirit of Competition in the Soul of Yoga? (NYT)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


Variations on a Theme
~

Bird of Paradise

They grow, unaided, in the front yards of dark-shingled Berkeley Craftsman homes. They turn the most generic bouquet into a wild tropical spread. They balance on one [shaky] leg while the other [shakily] extends to the sky, breathing, bound. They inhabit unassuming little spaces on Polk Street. One less-fortunate version will probably hold court on your dining room table a week from tomorrow. I wish the Broadway musical version would go swiftly, unceremoniously away, forever. And, back in the day, more Continental types used the term to describe a cute chick.

Hello, little birdie.

Meet my newest favorite asana: Bird of Paradise (more formally known as Svarga Dvidasana), which is kicking my ass on a regular basis these days. It's a balancing asana in which, arms bound, you essentially haul your heavy leg up and extend it (ideally) somewhere near your ear, while you're just chillin' on one foot, trying not to fall on your face. Check out this YouTube demonstration for a killer example of the crazy strength, balance and flexibility required here - and then grin when you see the flock of birds flying at the end:



Pretty great, huh?

In less bendy topics: I've strolled up and down Polk St. countless times over these six years now and have always been intrigued by the little music-slash-yoga studio perched on the slight incline between Jackson and Pacific, charmingly called Bird SF. It seems like a quiet little space, usually uninhabited, but they advertise yoga and music and jazz bands for teens and rock and gee-tar lessons for kids, and I can't help but smile and nod and send a gazillion hopeful vibes that it's still there every time I pass. You just want this kind of place to succeed.

Check out their excellent website for more; it's a periwinkle-colored, multi-use space that seems to have really found its own niche. What a great combo of the embodied arts, and all in one space. Makes me wish I had kids so I could take them to some badass rock guitar lessons, followed by a yoga class, followed by a recording session. Although I'd probably just want to leave them there when it came time to take them home again.

Finally, pick up a stem or two of Bird of Paradise next time you're at the flower shop. They'll last for days and brighten a room with a decidedly exotic kind of vibe.

Bird of Paradise Asana
Bird SF
Bird of Paradise ~ The Flower Expert

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.


A warm welcome to any of you who've found your way here via my recent article in Yoga Journal on baking as meditation. I'm so glad you're here.

If you'd like to read more about my Bundt Cake Saturdays, just click on the "baking" tab below; there, you'll find a year's worth of photos, recipes and stories at your fingertips. I hope you'll enjoy perusing them as much as I did creating them.

A few personal favorites: maple pecan, sour cream walnut streusel, caramel apple, rhubarb pecan, and blueberry cream. (And, of course: don't forget the buckled-in bundts, and the baby bundts, too - and, for the strong of heart, the bundt Barbie.)

Recipes are always welcome! I've got a backlog of the last few months' cakes to blog, so keep checking in for new creations. Yesterday we shared Mocha Frangelico; the week before, it was Buttermilk Squash. So stay tuned for those new autumn recipes, and in the meantime: Bake. Breathe. Bundt.

(P.S. Did you know that today - November 15th - is National Bundt Cake Day?? No joke. Enjoy.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Raw, adjective: 4. painfully open, as a sore or wound


Let me introduce you to someone.

I'm lucky enough to be studying intensively with Rusty Wells for the course of these autumn months, and what a total pleasure it's been (perpetually sore muscles and all!). If you're not familiar with Rusty and his charismatic blend of vinyasa and open-hearted philosophy known as Bhakti Flow, you're really missing out.

Head on over to Yoga Tree Castro for a taste of Rusty's radiant, energizing teaching style. Not only is his work steeped in rich yoga philosophy, it's also buzzing with athleticism and bumping with great beats. Rusty is one of the best examples I've ever experienced of a yoga teacher who really lives his art. Talk about praxis.

You'll no doubt be hearing more from me about Bhakti Flow in the weeks to come, as I spend my waking hours studying the ins-and-outs of this particular vinyasa style. In the meantime, wander on over to Rusty's site and check out the wealth of information there. You can read up on Sanskrit terms courtesy of the Feuersteins, ogle the gallery of jaw-dropping asanas, and pick up a DVD or two while you're at it. Then, head over to Yelp for a few more testimonials from other devoted students. This guy is the real deal.

Bhakti Flow Official Site
Rusty Wells ~ Bhakti Urban Flow (Yelp)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


Interesting profile of professional surfer Darryl "Flea" Virostko in this morning's Sunday Chron. The story reads much like you'd expect in the case of a humble-kid-done-well; in the face of vast success and sudden wealth as a surfing prodigy, Virostko stumbled down the same dark path that so many professional athletes do, nearly losing his life to a dysfunctional drug addiction.

Following a last-ditch family intervention and a stint in rehab, Virostko has been sober over a year now, and he credits the time spent on his board for keeping him so:
[Flea] surfs twice a day. It helps him forget his troubles on land and tires him, helping him sleep. When he was asked to find a higher power during his rehab, he thought of big waves.

"I just referred back to every time I got worked over at Mavericks," he said. "I would look up at this whitewash and pray to the ocean, and it worked every time. The ocean is bigger than me."

In my studies of the yoga sutras, we've so often compared the quiet mind that's a product of yoga practice with the same stillness of being that's often the result of similar moving meditations: rock-climbing, marathon-running, and yes, even surfing. The one-pointed focus mandated by such extreme physical undertakings renders the monkey mind quiet for a few blessed moments. Whether your yoga mind comes from balancing on a surfboard or a mat doesn't matter so much; that you're there in that moment, away from the struggle for even a brief respite, does.

Darryl 'Flea' Virostko - Back to Mavericks (SFGate)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


How have I managed to be alive without knowing this book existed until today??

Anneli Rufus's Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto just fell into my lap, and geez, if it isn't a godsend of the greatest kind. Just when I was feeling hungry for another Jonathan Rauch-style introverts' manifesto, this book appears. And by god, I'm in love.

Here's a blurb:
Apart.

Such a simple concept. So concrete. So easy to represent on charts or diagrams with dots and pushpins either in or out. Yet real life is not dots. Some of us appear to be in, but we are out. And that is where we want to be. Not just want but need, the way tuna need the sea....

We do not require company. The opposite: in varying degrees, it bores us, drains us, makes our eyes glaze over. Overcomes us like a steamroller. Of course the rest of the world doesn't understand.

Someone says to you, "Let's have lunch." You clench. Your sinews leap within you, angling for escape. What others thrive on, what they take for granted, the contact and confraternity and sharing that gives them strength leaves us empty. After what others would call a fun day out together, we feel as if we have been at the Red Cross, donating blood....
Amen, sister. And that's just the introduction.

It never ceases to be a revelation when I come across writers who have the rare ability to describe this feeling. It's introversion, yes, but it's not just some psychobabble; it's that deep-seated need for silence and solitude that only the loner understands, the dread of the telephone, the pit of weariness in the stomach at the prospect of social plans already made. As Rufus writes, "
Maybe we're not holed up in caves all day, or in submarines like Captain Nemo in his Nautilus. But alone we feel most normal. Most ourselves. Most alive." So true. And the vast majority of the world seems so heavily extroverted that finding someone who can articulate those feelings is always this great relief.

I haven't had a single conversation today. I had a solo lunch, a blessedly quiet lunch, at a blessedly quiet off-hours cafe with my newspaper and my thoughts and my phone set to vibrate.
I go to the opera, the symphony, the theater, the movies, once a week, often more, 90% of the time by myself. Not because there aren't 16 people I could call up and invite along. But because the thought of someone else being there is so goddamned exhausting. And when you're by yourself, you can go to the pre-show lecture, and read the program notes, and people-watch, and listen closely to the chords and the diction and the swells of the orchestra, without having to worry about making trifling conversation once intermission hits. That, my friends, is called being a loner.

As Rufus points out, it's hardly surprising that Newton and Einstein and Michelangelo and Dickinson and O'Keeffe were all loners. I'm astonished that anyone who's not a loner can ever get anything creative done, can ever read, write, compose, build, paint, anything. I wish I didn't feel the constant need to justify this loner-hood. And I'm grateful for authors like Rufus who put that reality into words.

Anneli Rufus: Party of One

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


November means brussels sprouts and bourbon season. I've been eating brussels daily since about mid-September. Sweet jesus, so good. Inspiration struck some weeks ago whilst standing in the deli aisle at Whole Foods (shocker, I know).

Try this little recipe next time you've got some on hand. So simple. Just lightly saute or steam your sprouts per usual in a little olive oil; but this time, include shallots, pecans, parsley, and a little salt and pepper.

Delish. Sans dairy, wheat and sugar, too - though you'd never notice.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Cancel your plans for Wednesday night and haul yourselves over to the Herbst Theater instead. Wendell Berry's going to be in conversation with Michael Pollan as part of the City Arts & Lectures series, and this kind of rockstar pairing doesn't happen very often.

Here's the blurb from the event site, which encapsulates Berry's radness better than I can:
Wendell Berry is a writer, a poet, an essayist and a novelist but first and foremost, he is a farmer. Berry is an original American prose voice and he writes with a calm and compelling vision about our sense of kinship with the land. He is the author of over 40 books of fiction, poetry and essays and for over 30 years he has farmed a hillside in his native Henry County, Kentucky. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the T.S. Elliot Award, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the John Hay Award of the Orion Society, a Lannan Foundation Award and grants from the Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts. In his latest work of poetry, The Mad Farmer Poems, Berry rages against the depravities of contemporary life wrought by mismanagement of natural resources and our willful ignorance of the lessons of the past. The poems, given voice by The Mad Famer (a character Berry has been employing in his poetry since 1967), are at turns politically committed and humorous, and always revelatory.
The dude's work reliably makes me swoon. It's a heady balance of populism and poetry, activism and anger. Seriously inspirational. What I'd give to be the chick version of him someday.

I can only imagine the foodie fireworks that will come into play at the meeting of these two minds. Be there.

Wendell Berry/Michael Pollan (City Arts)

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any defintion of "rawness"


I've been remiss in mentioning two big HUZZAHs for my favorite two younger brethren:

~ the little bro, who is glowingly profiled in this month's Classical Singer magazine, on his fabuloso singing career heretofore and his forthcoming success in the land of maple and moose (and, we hope, in the land of tea and biscuits, as well).

~ the little sis, who gave expert commentary in an interview in Wisconsin Woman magazine's September issue, as dance/movement therapist extraordinaire and general Very Smart Lady.

Clamoring readers can find Classical Singer at major media outlets now, and WW's online archives here.

This big sis is boasting of you both at every opportunity. XO.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.


I was on the bus the other day when some dumb chattery girl started yapping on her cell phone. This is a distressingly common occurrence and generally breaks the unspoken public transport rule that, when riding the train/bus/streetcar/trolley/cable car, one sits quietly and remains silent for the duration of the ride out of consideration for fellow passengers, even when friends or comrades are in tow. That's just how it works.

Said chick kept yapping, gratingly going on about her meaningless day-to-day bullshit. SO. RUDE. I was seething.

The dude next to me, a middle-aged professorial type wearing eyeglasses and tweed, pulled out his New York Times and started reading aloud. To himself. And the entire bus.

It was amazing. God bless the motherfucking culture jammers. Especially the ones wearing tweed and a bald spot. May the cell-phone-yammering twentysomething Marina girls someday figure it out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Tuesday night I snagged some killer last-minute tickets for the SF Opera's production of Salome. And - whew. Talk about scandalous.

The opera is Oscar Wilde by way of Richard Strauss by way of the Old Testament. It's a melange of lust and violence and incest and erotic torture and well, just plain ol' regular torture. As in: beheadings. Let's just say the show is perfect for Halloween week. In the course of an action-packed hour and 45 minutes, you get seduction, prophecy, sacrifice, nudity, and - wait for it - necrophilia.

Yeah. So girlfriend Salome - Herod's sexy and scandalous stepdaughter - ends up dragging (her unrequited lover) John the Baptist's severed [bleeding] head around stage, singing to it, spooning with it, and yes, eventually making out with it, until Papa Herod, dirty and leering as he might be, decides she's loony-tunes and needs to get taken out by the bloody scythe that just separated ol' Johnny-Poo from his noggin. And that's just the last ten minutes.

It's a wild ride, and yes, certainly a scandalous one, but also one not to be missed. This ain't yer grandma's opera. That John has quite the baritone, and that Salome, well, I've never seen another mezzo-soprano who a) looks so hot in scantily-clad white chiffon, and b) can dance her socks off like any good musical theater pro.

Get yourselves to the opera house. The show runs tomorrow night at 8 and Sunday at 2. Much better than throwing on your hastily-made duct-tape Balloon Boy costume and hitting up the neighborhood bars. Sexier, too.

San Francisco Opera: Salome

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


Somehow I managed to miss the NYT Magazine's Food Issue a few weeks back, and along with it, Jonathan Safran Foer's excellent article offering his case for vegetarianism.

The piece is an excerpt from Foer's upcoming book, Eating Animals, and it's worth a few minutes of your time. In contrast with some of the irritatingly holier-than-thou veggie activists out there, Foer's writing translates as self-deprecating, funny, and refreshingly rational. He's self-aware in a defusing kind of way; even the committed meat-eater can read Foer's writing and relax, knowing that he doesn't have to feel attacked, that he's in sympathetic company. Foer writes from an admittedly ambivalent background; he acknowledges the reality of intangibles like taste, memory, and pleasure as challenges to the effort to go veg.

It's interesting to me that after years of wishy-washy flirtations with vegetarianism, it was the birth of Foer's first child that really brought him and his wife into a committed meat-free lifestyle. I'm not surprised. The swaggering faux-masculinity with which people usually boast of their meat obsessions strikes me as embarrassingly naive and unconsidered; the empty shell of a case for eating meat (taste! pleasure!) is quickly punctured when real-world considerations like the destruction of the environment and the consumption of feces and free drugs become realities in the lives of our own offspring.* Suddenly the idea that yer own kid might not have clean water or fresh air someday, or might be consuming cow shit or chicken brains, makes the reality hit home in a new way.

Read the article. It's as charming and non-combative a call to vegetarianism as you're going to find. I'm glad to call Foer a fellow comrade.

Against Meat (NYT Magazine)

*Matt Hearn, I still love you, in spite of - or perhaps because of - your unwavering commitment to bacon. And I don't think you're naive or unconsidered, though definitely a paragon of swaggering masculinity. (Duh.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.





prana ~ Vital air; life breath; vitality; the upward, expanding, blossoming movement characteristic of inhaling. From the verb root "an," meaning to breathe, plus "pra," meaning forth.


pranava ~ To be new, again and again. See also: Om.
See also: beginner's mind.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

Throwing up a few self-indulgent photos on this insanely sunny late autumn afternoon. An attempt to give a little sense of the lush GREEN here in my new private jungle. Talk about a muse! Prana oozing out of every corner.



A little garden sanctuary. So quiet. Birdsong outside. In the heart of the City. The cable car clanging out front. Strong perpetual light. I'm hooked.



Digging the great 1920s period details. My plants like them, too.



View from the yoga mat. Hardwood floors meant for early morning yoga practice. Kind of a modern-day yogic Rothko, eh? (Ok, it's a stretch. Har har.)



Dahlias. Blooming in season right now. Up there with peonies as some of my favorites.



First attempt at breaking in the new kitchen. It only took me 10 minutes to figure out how to light the damn oven. After that, smooth sailing. The coffee pot above left played a key role in making that happen.



Since it's autumn and this is an easy recipe - one of my never-fails, I whipped up a Maple Pecan cake yesterday morning for the clamoring masses. Thanks to TJ's killer tunes and a bright quiet morning and the late addition of a few pothos leaves and a broken-stemmed dahlia from the bunch, it turned out well. I couldn't help but notice how the dahlia looks not unlike a lotus flower. Just sayin'. Lotus = bloom, change, growth, life. I dig the symbolism.



Orange polyester, agave nectar hardwood, spray-painted burgundy flats. Hello, autumn.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.


I've been reading Steve Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up. The man is, of course, as interesting and shy and thoughtful and artistic in this particular piece of writing as he is in his other novels, plays and screenplays.

The photo at left is included in the book. Um. Amazing. (And unrecognizable.)

Any comedian who can at once throw down on the banjo, rock some badass turquoise jewelry and a long 1970s shag 'do, and unself-consciously toss around the words "existentialism" and "ontology" while discussing modern art and classical philosophy is fine by me. How can you not love the man??

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal


Saw this the other night, and to say the film left me sick to my stomach wouldn't be doing it justice. Ugh.

You can always count on Michael Moore to pull out a few tried-and-true tricks in his films: lots of charming archival footage, lots of good music, lots of in-yer-face confrontation attempts with powerful people, and plenty of populist sentiment. I've gotta respect the guy and his ever-expanding body of work. My little commie heart warms a little every time he rants about workers' rights and the peoples' revolution.

It's certainly not an uplift of a film, that's for sure; in spite of the fact that Moore ends on a "power-to-the-people" kind of note, you walk away feeling heavy with exhaustion at the overwhelmingly complex institutionalized framework that has allowed for people like Goldman Sachs's Hank Paulson to run the Treasury Dept. with an eye toward corporate profit.

Favorite part? When Moore ties in the progressive Christian element, arguing that the conflation of profit with spirituality (a la the conservative evangelical juggernaut that preaches good ol' capitalist values as somehow at all related to a Christic model) is fundamentally flawed. Good on you, Michael Moore. We need more people like you who aren't afraid to say this out loud.

Stay for the credits, more sobering statistics, and some excellent Woody Guthrie action. And then march yourself right around the corner for a stiff drink to counter the disenchantment.

Michael Moore's Capitalism Goes for Broke (Time)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture



Once again proud to be living in one of the most progressive cities in the world. (You should see our cute little individual composting buckets.)

Food Recycling Law a Hit in San Francisco (NPR)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


This foggy morning seems as good as any to tell you some exciting news: my first Yoga Journal article will be published in the next issue, December '09, due on (national!) newsstands any day now. Really!

The piece draws together themes from yogic philosophy and Ayurvedic theory, interwoven with bits and pieces of my own narrative experiences with baking over the last year and a half. Thanks to this humble little site for being a bit of a contributor, via its early Bundt Cake Saturdays, which encouraged my regular baking (read: meditation) practice.

We'll leave it there for now. But please do keep your eyes peeled for the December issue, which can be found at any major bookstores (but especially your local indies), and pick one up to read my little story. I'm pretty chuffed.