24 Meals.

August 20, 2013 § 2 Comments

birthday

Last Saturday I celebrated my 24th birthday.

There was a moment, as we waited for my sister to emerge from the kitchen with a cake ablaze, that I paused to gaze at the faces of the friends who crowded around our table, singing Happy Birthday to my sister and me. How blessed I am, I thought, to enter a new chapter in a chorus of love.

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I didn’t expect to be home for my birthday. This year had its surprises for me — some of them sobering enough that I’m amazed and humbled to have tumbled through them to find myself in summertime, in summery spirits, surrounded by the people and pursuits that fill me up with gratitude. Good food and dear friends. May the year continue in this way.

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I’m taking this milestone as an opportunity to begin a new project, to help me expand my repertoire of recipes and move me along in my dream of becoming an exceptional cook and savvy hostess.

The goal is very simple: to prepare 24 meals over the next 12 months. Each meal should include a drink, a salad, an entree, and a dessert. I will try to host a dinner party each month to put my culinary matchmaking skills to the test.

24 years, 24 meals. This is going to be a good year.

—–

birthdaycake

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

To begin, here’s the remarkable cake my sister made for me. The recipe comes courtesy of Regan Burns at CHOW.

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Manifesto

May 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

On the second day of senior year
she wrote her aims
in a list
on college-ruled paper.

To be good.
To be gracious.
To be kind.

To be brave.
To be brainy.
To be beautiful and bold.

To be all these things,
she was asked,
Is it possible?

I can try all my life,
she responded.

If you can’t?
Perhaps she asked it too.

She added a line.

To be love.

Grand Tour, Take Two: Potsdam

April 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

windmill1868

Three years ago I went with my mom and sisters to the annual library booksale in South Dartmouth. Each summer, we make the rounds at local antique malls, vintage stalls, and yard sales seeking treasures.

Well, that day, amidst the pillars of used paperbacks I found a small basket labeled “old postcards”. I peered inside, expecting to see the cartoonish fonts and garish colors of the 1960s- but instead I found a stack of antique photographs (cartes des visites!!, the 19th-century enthusiast inside me whispered in glee). I snatched up the whole set and tried to mute my delight as I bartered with the man behind the counter. They were supposed to be 3-for-a-dollar but he made me a Yankee deal and sold the lot of forty for $10.

Between the landmarks depicted on the fronts and the faded inscriptions on the backs, it became clear that the pictures were someone’s mementoes from a trip around Europe in 1867. Many of the locations were familiar, but some were less obvious, or from kingdoms long since dissolved and nationalized. I set to work identifying locations and mapping out the cards. How fun it would be, I thought, to retrace this Grand Tour and see what the passage of 150 years has done to each place.

I managed to place all but one card, which showed a windmill but offered no other place markers. The writing on the back was illegible. Google kept directing me to Holland. I resigned myself to not knowing. Then, two years later, I recognized the mill in a friend’s photo-set from an open-air museum of historical windmill replicas in Germany (who knew?). He helped me solve the mystery and complete the map.

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This is what the Historic Mill of Sanssouci looks like in 2013. So here begins a Grand Tour, Take Two.

Nasturtium

April 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

I woke up this morning feeling sick about the bombing in Boston. I guess you know where your heart calls home when you aren’t there in a crisis. I thought about little Martin Richard and I thought of the pavement in front of Copley Square painted in blood and I thought of how the John Hancock tower reflects the clouds and the blue sky and I just cried.

I went out to clear my head and walked by a store selling discounted flower boxes. I’ve wanted to plant a balcony-garden since I arrived here but never found the moment. On the rack beside the display I found a single pack of Nasturtium seeds.

Nasturtium have been symbolic of Boston to me since I first visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum ten years ago. There, in Spring, in the inner courtyard, strands of the bright orange flowers drape from the balconies like delicate beaded curtains. The courtyard adjoins the hall in which Sargent’s magnificent El Jaleo sounds out through time. (Sargent was a good friend to the city and painted a magnificent mural in the vaulted staircase of the Boston Public Library — where the first of the two bombs detonated yesterday.)

I bought two Blumenkästen and a bag of potting soil. At Wittenbergplatz, on the way home, shelves and tables full of flowers brightened the morning market. I learned after I bought a few starters that pansies stand for remembrance and dianthus for undying love. Nasturtium are for patriotism.

Flowers are for hope and a future that blooms beautifully.

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Precept Three: Legacy

April 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

She wants it to be said of her
when she goes,
that she lived a life
ruled by grace.

Chasing grace,
chasing light.

Precept Two: Merit

April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

The thing is, I suppose,
to live a life worthy
of the love you hope you fill it with.

Geburtstage

March 17, 2013 § 2 Comments

Today is the birthday of both my grandmother and my late grandfather. They met on unfriendly, if serendipitous, terms, but began to talk when they learned they were born on the same day, on opposite sides of the world. My grandmother is Patricia for Saint Patrick’s Day. In my family, there was always magic about the day, the name, the story.

I’ve always thought my own birthday unremarkable. I shared the day with no favorite authors or actresses, and there was no drama for me in being born on the anniversary of the launch of Magellan’s fleet.

But today when talking birthdays with a lovely new friend from Italy, she immediately noted mine as “the Feast of San Lorenzo!”.

Yes, my patron. St. Lawrence of the gridiron, who angered a Roman prefect and was sentenced to be burned alive. He was a cheerful martyr, telling the overseers of his execution to turn him over when he was done on one side. I don’t know many others who know of him or his day.

Well, in fact, said my friend, she had never heard such a story. But he is famous in her native Toscana for la Notte di San Lorenzo, la notte delle stelle cadenti, the night of falling stars. His feast coincides with the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower — every year on this night, she and her friends retreat into the country, to the hilltops, to watch for falling stars. The legend goes that the falling stars are San Lorenzo’s tears — or the sparks from the fire that martyred him. You can make a wish to him for every star you catch.

This tradition is perhaps the most beautiful birthday gift I’ve ever been given. I know how I aim to celebrate this year.

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