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A Seat at the Table

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The light filled the room.

The speaker, a slight woman with dark hair and the faintest trace of an accent, was talking about beauty.    I gazed behind her through wide glass doors at a stunning vista of hilltops and trees, clouds chasing the sunlight through the sky.  There was the faintest scent of lavender in the air, and vases full of perfect roses, alliums and hydrangeas dotted the room and the picturesque patio beyond the windows.  It was the most beautiful of settings, and beauty seemed a fitting topic.
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This weekend, I attended the second Big Traveling Potluck, in Murrieta, California.  The word “Conference” seems too sterile to describe this event – I see mental images of gray business suits and fluorescent lights.  “Workshop” is better, but is too taxing.  There were workshops – writing and photography and packaging darling gifts of food and love – but the weekend as a whole didn’t feel like work.  “Retreat” implies withdrawal and quiet.  We were not quiet.  

 

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Perhaps I’ll just return to “Potluck”, which is, after all, the name given to this weekend by its creators.  At a Potluck, you bring something to share, and you partake of others’ offerings.  It can create great anxiety  -  Will my dish be enough?  Will it be popular?  Will it pale in comparison to the dishes of others?  But in the end the act of sitting down and sharing tends to eclipse any fears.  After all, what is more communal than sharing a table?

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I dislike those recaps of blogging conferences that show fabulous pictures of fabulous things and fabulous people that leave you wildly envious that you weren’t there yourself.  There were lovely people and lovely things and lovely food, but I can’t share that with you directly.  I can’t bring you to the Potluck with me, but I can share some of what I brought away with me.  I can give you a seat at the table.

Beauty needs ugliness to make itself known.  The real beauty of blogging isn’t in perfection – in the light and the shoulds and the immaculate food and the gorgeous writing, and the SEO and the sponsorships – the real beauty of blogging is sharing the reality.  You may wake up one day and realize that your blog (or your life) don’t really reflect the whole you, but you can change course.  Success is defined however you want, and you should celebrate your successes.  Give yourself.  Share yourself.  Be yourself.  

I attended the Big Traveling Potluck last year, and I found inspiration and motivation.  But this year I feel like I found bits of myself that I didn’t know I had lost.  I try, here at Savour Fare, to reflect the reality.  I know you know my life isn’t perfect, my food isn’t perfect (and we ALL know my photography isn’t perfect.  But I don’t always share.  In that light-filled room, in that most beautiful of beautiful locations, I realized anew that the beauty is most apparent in the imperfections, and the flaws. That this place should be a window into my life, my whole life, with its messiness and its grace.  This is my place, my space, my story to tell.

I’d like to tell it to you.

Won’t you sit at my table?

imageNote:  my potluck contribution was these bourbon balls, only I gave them a little extra kick by adding 1 tsp each of ground Saigon cinnamon and ginger, and 1/2 tsp. of ground chipotle.  Keeping it real?  They were awesome.

 

Friday Five: Links to Love (Cinco de Mayo Edition)

 

LA Times Carne Asada

I should really call this Friday Cinco, since Sunday is Cinco de Mayo.   Which is really an excuse to eat guacamole and drink margaritas.  As if we need an excuse, right? 

1. From the Archives:
Cinco of my favorite Mexican-themed recipes for your own Cince de Mayo celebration. Or you know, Tuesday.

Super Autentico Carne Asada
Not at all authentic but super delicious Pineapple Avocado Salsa
My mom’s amazing Easy Chicken Chilaquiles (like a casserole made with tortilla chips and cheese)
Shredded Chicken Tacos with Tomatillo Sauce
Super Spicy (don’t say I didn’t warn you!) Aztec Chocolate Cookies

So get in the kitchen, pop open a cerveza, and start the party.

2. Sustainable Scarves:

I am totally jonesing for one of these scarves from FashionaABLE. I heard Barrett Oliver, the founder, speak at Big Traveling Potluck, and it was so inspiring. Each scarf is made by hand in Ethiopia by a woman who is a former sex worker and has been given the opportunity to make scarves instead. And each one comes with the story of one of the women who made it, and how she can educate her children, or support her family because of your purchase. Isn’t that amazing? I think they would make a fantastic mother’s day gift, since they’re so supportive of women. I am eyeing the Frehiwot in Marigold. (Hint Hint husband who may read this)

3.   La Dolce Vita

I was lucky enough to have lunch this week with the ladies of Vamoos Travel;.  If I had some spare dough and some spare time, I would be waiting in line to sign up for one of their amazing luxury culinary tours of Italy.  These ladies don’t just plop you in a tour bus and send you to eat pasta in some tourist establishment — they provide all sorts of fantastic experiences, like visiting a artisan who makes Parmigiano Reggiano, or learning to make gnocchi in the kitchen of an Italian grandma.  Their next tour is in November, and they only take about 10 people, so they book up fast.

4.  A Kick in the Booty

If there has been a little too much dolce in your vita lately, you have to check out the Virtual Bootcamp from my friend Karen at Balance Personal Fitness in Austin.  I signed up for the first round (totally paid for, this is not a sponsored post!) and it’s been great.  Karen sends me a workout 3 times a week, provides you tube videos to show me proper form, and answers questions and provides support in a special facebook group.  It’s a total bargain.  Now, if only I could stay healthy long enough to work out consistently (I live with the world’s cutest petri dishes).’

5. The Foodie Finish

One of the loveliest people I got to meet at the Potluck was Lillian of Chinese Grandma. She’s also a great cook – she brought this amazing Roasted Cauliflower to the potluck and I ate TWO helpings (and there was a lot of food). I’ve found during this year of living vegetally that cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables, but Lillian’s dish was a knockout.

On Creativity, Inspiration and a Big, Traveling Potluck

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I have heard that if you spend a lot of time researching in a book, or staring at a computer screen, or focusing on what your hands are doing, you need to stop, frequently, and rest your eyes by gazing off into the distance. Looking at the horizon. Thinking big. Going long. Then you can return to your task with renewed focus and less eyestrain.

I like the metaphor.

Blogging (or “digital publishing” as I will now be calling it) is like this. It’s so easy to focus on the little things – the aperture of your photographs, how to title your posts to maximize SEO, whether Facebook or Google plus provides a greater social media benefit, the best time of day to Tweet. Plus, you’re literally staring at a computer screen. But it’s so important to stop, step away from the computer, and focus on the horizon.

Big Traveling Potluck, held this weekend in Murrieta, California, allowed me to do just that. We were in a beautiful place where the sky was bigger than normal, and you could literally see for miles. And we talked about the big things — motivation, inspiration, creativity, community. The mind’s horizon and the heart’s horizon.

But because the organizers (Maggy and Pam of Three Many Cooks and Erika of Ivory Hut) are, in fact, bloggers digital publishers, they also knocked it out of the park when it came to  details.

Continue reading On Creativity, Inspiration and a Big, Traveling Potluck

Summer Vacation II: Great State of Maine and Crab Rolls

Maine Crab Roll

After we went to New York this summer, we decided to head up the coast to Maine. Ken and I both love New England — he spent part of his childhood there, and we met in college there. I’m a total California girl, but the other place I really feel at home is New England.

Neither of us had ever been to Maine, though I had been fascinated with it since I was a child. To a kid growing up in Los Angeles, nothing is quite so exotic as the Pine Tree State. We rented a darling little cottage with a water view, no cell service, and a lot of peace.

And here’s the thing about Maine — it’s exactly how you imagine it to be.
Continue reading Summer Vacation II: Great State of Maine and Crab Rolls

Summer Vacation I – New York and Street Chicken and Rice

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I know I am supposed to be charmed by New York. I know I am supposed to wax rhapsodic about the “energy” of the city, to tell you about the fabulous meals I experienced at Eataly and Eleven Madison Park and this tiny hole in the wall I “discovered” in the Village. I am supposed to be converted to the cult of the Shack Burger and say things like “No place is like New York”.

Well, I’m not charmed. The city is dirty and smelly and noisy and crowded. The weather is uncalled for. Everything is too expensive. And it’s hard to navigate. You literally cannot get a stroller out of the subway without setting off an alarm. In the seven years since I moved away from New York (to, may I add, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States) I have become old and sedate and suburbanized. I can’t hack it in New York any more. So no, I am not charmed.

But I have to visit, because there live my people. My girlfriends from my young married days, who think nothing of coming to a happy hour near my hotel when I’m in town despite the fact that there are an additional eight and a half children among us and most don’t even live in Manhattan (the half is Mrs. Limestone’s daughter to be). My husband’s family – his father and half sister and stepbrother whose kids are my kids’ only cousins. My baby cousin, who has worked in some of the most amazing restaurants in the city. My college roommate, who was living with me when I met my husband, and knew “us” from the earliest days of our courtship. And the godfathers of both of my children.

So I try to find things to love about New York. One thing to love is the laws on gay marriage. The impetus for our trip was the marriage of the Nuni’s godfather (who is one of my oldest and dearest friends) to his partner of eight years. I was Matron of Honor, Nuni was the flower girl. The wedding was beautiful, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Here’s a link to a video put together by one of the grooms featuring the song he wrote for his vows. Aren’t they handsome?

Mike and Dale

And our family, in Central Park (about 5 minutes before the Nuni stepped in a pile of poo apparently left by the world’s largest Great Dane. We had to throw away her shoes)

August 2012 East Coast Trip 001

Another thing to love about New York is street meat, aka halal chicken and rice, which is sold from carts on the Sidewalks of New York. When I was studying for the New York BarExam, my review course was right near one of these carts, and I would often get delicious spicy, savory chicken with crisp vegetables and fragrant rice for lunch. LA has a thriving street food scene but offers nothing quite like street meat, and my only chance to enjoy it was on my infrequent trips to New York.

Continue reading Summer Vacation I – New York and Street Chicken and Rice