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In this journal I share a lot of the recipes I find online or develop myself. Since people often ask me for pointers to those, here's an index, dated to stay at the top of the page:

Click for Links to Recipe Entries )
lillibet: (Default)
In this journal I share a lot of the recipes I find online or develop myself. Since people often ask me for pointers to those, here's an index, dated to stay at the top of the page:

Click for Links to Recipe Entries )
lillibet: (Default)
Today was the twentieth anniversary of our first date and our seventeenth wedding anniversary, so Jason booked us an early dinner at O Ya. We've been there twice before. The first time we had the omakase (chef's whim) of seventeen courses, just to see what they were about. The second time we sort of wanted to order a la carte, but their menu is extensive and the portions are small and trying to figure out a dozen or more courses on the fly seemed overwhelming. So this time I sat down with their online menu several days in advance and made notes on what we wanted, not really a solid plan, but enough so that we were able to come up with an order on the fly. Here's what we ended up with:

KUMAMOTO OYSTER watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette

ORA KING SALMON Vietnamese dashi caramel, spicy rau ram salsa

BLUEFIN MAGURO Republic of Georgia herb sauce

SANTA BARBARA UNI TOAST "NIGIRI" smoked trout roe, truffle honey

HAMACHI TARTARE ginger verjus sauce, spiced chile oil

WARM EEL Thai basil, kabayaki, fresh kyoto sansh

BLUEFIN TORO TARTARE ginger kimchee jus

LOCAL SHRIMP TEMPURA bacon truffle emulsion, scallion ginger oil

MARTHA'S VINEYARD SMOKED BLUEFISH rainbow trout roe, wasabi vinaigrette, micro celery

AVOCADO TEMPURA kabayaki, truffle salt, yuzu zest

CHICKEN BROTH foie gras shumai, Tokyo leek, shitake

WAGYU TSUKUNE 2 oz., confit egg yolk, green onion, dried mushroom

CRISPY PORK BELLY Akashi glaze, celery root purée

We declined to order dessert, but they decided that our anniversary merited something sweet, so they gave us coconut tapioca with lime granita and yuzu sesame dice and moshi donuts with jasmine caramel dipping sauce.

We decided that the next time we go--in another few years--we will concentrate more on the nigiri portion of the menu, because those were our favorites, but everything was delicious and fascinating and special.

An Odyssey

Aug. 15th, 2017 01:00 pm
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When we first put together a schedule for the summer, it didn't look as though we'd be able to make our usual pilgrimage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but as the plans got rearranged and put back together it turned out there was a narrow window when Jason and I could get down to Ashland just to see Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of The Odyssey, which she was reviving herself for the festival.

For those of you keeping track at home, Mary Zimmerman is probably my favorite stage director. She created Metamorphoses, one of the most perfect theatrical experiences of my life, and I loved her White Snake, as well. I am really enamored by her talent for taking ancient, epic stories and making them personal for modern audiences. I have read her version of The Odyssey in the past and been completely mystified how it might be staged, so I was very excited to see this production.

We flew down from Seattle on Sunday afternoon and checked into the Ashland Springs Hotel, which is a lovely, classic hotel just a block from the festival theatres. After a pleasant walk through Lithia Park, complete with a wade in the stream there, we had dinner at Amuse, our favorite restaurant in town, where the standout this time was a dessert of cherries soaked in balsamic vinegar and served over vanilla ice cream and a brown sugar cracker for a marvelous combination of contrasting flavors and textures. Then we headed over to the Elizabethan Theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre built to echo Shakespeare's Globe.

Detailed reflections on The Odyssey )

Overall I liked this show, rather than loving it. I think that if I ever decided to take on this story myself I would investigate other adaptations, or simply begin with the source text and carve my own show from it, rather than working from this script. I am very glad to have seen it, but would rank it below the three other shows I've seen her direct.

We went back to the hotel and watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones before bed. In the morning we had breakfast there and then I was able to squeeze in a massage across the street at Waterstone Spa. I always enjoy my experiences there, but this was definitely the best massage I've gotten there, and especially helped my thighs, which were still painfully tight from all the gardening on Friday.

When that was done, we piled quickly into the car and after a much-anticipated lunch at Jack-in-the-Box, hopped on our flight back to Seattle. Reunited with Alice, Steve, and Eric, we met Jason's best friend, Todd, for excellent sushi at Chiso in Fremont, and then I got to read Alice bedtime stories for the last time in a week before Jason took me back to Sea-Tac for my redeye to Boston. The flight was easy and quick--we made it in under four and a half hours, one of the fastest transcontinental flights I've ever flown--and I hadn't checked a bag, so I was able to walk out to a cab and be home just about the time we'd been scheduled to land. Jason and Alice are staying for another week, planning to go camping north of Boise over the weekend and catch the total eclipse before heading home.

It was strange to be doing all this travel and engaging in rituals of personal grief and delightful sensory experiences while violence in Charlottesville and its aftermath were taking over the news. I'm very glad to be home and able to engage more fully in the resistance to those awful events. Thanks to all those who kept me informed and in touch over the weekend.
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As I believe I've mentioned, Jason's mother died in early June. A lovely obituary for her is available here. We went out to Idaho in July for the family reunion she'd helped to plan, which became a chance for her family to mourn her together.

Jason's dad, Steve, decided that the memorial event in Seattle would be a gathering in their garden this past Saturday, so we flew out on Wednesday night. We spent Thursday puttering around and Friday mostly working in the garden--one of Trish's gardening friends came over to get us started and point out what needed doing. I was rather amazed at myself for doing that much yard work, but it was oddly satisfying and felt like a real way of honoring Trish's memory.

On Saturday people packed into their beautiful garden. There were co-workers of Steve, people from the neighborhood, friends from the book club she founded more than thirty years ago and members of the chamber choir she had joined more than forty years ago, and about twenty members of her extended family--all her siblings, a couple of their kids, three of her first cousins, plus their assorted partners. Everyone expressed their shock at her sudden passing and told stories of her generosity in their lives. One of her friends brought the sheet music for Wild Mountain Thyme and Jason's brother, Eric, accompanied us on his violin as we sang "Will ye go, lassie, go" in the lovely Seattle afternoon in the shade of the trees Trish had planted.

It was a beautiful farewell to a life full of friends and family, music, literature, and love.
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While I was in Northern Ireland last summer, I started making a list of all the stories I tell that I'd like to write down. This is one of them.

A few months after I moved to Berkeley I threw myself a birthday party. One of my friends brought along another guy from MIT, who hadn't realized it was my birthday and apologized for not bringing a present. I said he was plenty of present for me and he promptly put a bow around his neck. As the party wound down we ended up in my bed. Before anything much had happened, he paused to explain that he was in the midst of founding a start-up and didn't have time for a relationship and didn't want to engage with me under false pretenses. I appreciated his forthrightness and we went merrily on with the evening's activities.

So there we are, amorously involved and chatting playfully, when he suddenly looks down at me and asks "Do you know a guy named Dave Policar?" I laughed--this is not what I expect to hear from my lovers--and asked why. He said that we tell stories the same way, and I laughed some more and explained that we often even tell the same stories, and that we were former housemates and very good friends. Dave, by the way, was very amused when I told him this, and gave permission for his name to be used in this story.

On Sunday morning he thanked me for a lovely evening, I thanked him for a marvelous birthday present, and he asked for my number. I gave it to him, but didn't actually expect to hear from him, so I was surprised and pleased when he called me on Tuesday afternoon. He said that he was stuck in traffic after a very good meeting and had thought of me as someone he'd like to share that good news with. We chatted for twenty minutes or so and then he asked if I was free on Friday night. I said "What about the start-up?" and he explained that he didn't have meetings or need to be out of town that night and thought we might see a movie.

That sounded good to me, so we met up on Friday night, saw a movie and spent the night in my bed again. He once again explained that while he really enjoyed spending time with me, with the start-up at a crucial phase he really didn't have time for a relationship and hoped our date wouldn't raise expectations on my part. I said that was fine, I was glad to see him, all was well, and when we said goodbye the next morning I didn't really expect to hear from him again.

On Tuesday afternoon, he called me to say that he was thinking of me. We chatted a bit and he asked if I were free on Friday evening. We went out to dinner, spent the night together, had the same conversation and a lovely time and he left in the morning with no plans to see each other again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For six weeks running.

On the seventh Tuesday he called and said that he had just bought a JEEP, so rather than getting together on Friday night, he'd like to take it off-roading on Saturday and invited me to join him. I drove down to his place in Palo Alto--he was paying a couple of thousand a month to rent a garage with no bathroom behind a house on University Ave--and we went from there up into the mountains and then down along the coast. We walked hand in hand along the beach at sunset and he told me how much he wanted to someday be married and have children. It was horribly romantic.

As night drew on we went back to his place, ate some take-out and settled in to watch the version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth that his mom had just sent him. At midnight I asked if I should go. He said no and drew me closer to him on the couch. By 2am I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and suggested that we should go to bed. He explained that he was happy to make up the couch for me, but that he had decided that we shouldn't have sex anymore, because he was afraid I was getting too attached. That woke me right up and after a few tense words I got in my car and drove forty-five minutes back to my home and figured that was the end of that.

On Tuesday afternoon he called me and asked if I were free on Friday. I explained that I was going to a party with my housemate and when he enthusiastically offered to come along I explained that would not be appropriate, as I didn't know my hosts and was, in fact, hoping to meet new people. He said "But Friday is my only free night this week! What am I supposed to do alone? You know we always spend time together on Fridays!" I pointed out that he was sounding very much like a man in a relationship with expectations and that while I would be happy to entertain future offers to spend time together on a case by case basis, he should not expect me to keep my time free for him.

He didn't contact me again. For five years. And then I got an email from him saying that he understood that I was back in Boston and married, and so was he, and inviting the two of us to get together with him and his wife for a movie followed by dinner at their apartment in Cambridge. I accepted and we met them and had a very fun conversation with him and his wife on the way to the movie. We all enjoyed the movie and on the way back I was chatting with his wife while he and Jason talked tech, when she asked exactly when he and I had met.

"Well," I said, "We started dating on my 27th birthday and that was in..."

"Dating who?" she asked, sharply. I explained that I was referring to her husband and she said "Wait, you two dated?!"

"Yeah," I said. "We dated casually for about six weeks. It didn't stick," I added, a bit obviously.

We continued to their lovely apartment, had a very nice dinner while she continued to watch me carefully and the conversation got more and more stilted until we took our leave without lingering over coffee.

And I have never heard from him again.
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While I was in Northern Ireland last summer, I started making a list of all the stories I tell that I'd like to write down. This is one of them.

Like most families, I assume, we have running jokes and catch phrases within the family that persist over decades.

One day in the early 80s, I was sitting around the living room of my sisters' apartment on Prospect Hill, reading. Anne was reading TV Guide when she suddenly said "What?!" and thrust her magazine at Beckie to read. B. read the article, looked at Anne and said "There's no way to tell?!" and Anne said "Exactly!" and B. handed it to me.

It was an article about the record companies being annoyed with MTV, because the contracts under which they provided music videos to the channel stipulated that certain of their videos would be played at various frequencies--once an hour, once every three hours, once a day, etc. They suspected that MTV was not actually honoring their contracts, but since there was no way for them to tell, they were just having to take MTV's word for it.

This became one of our long-lasting catch-phrases. Wonder if Royal East is open on Monday's? There's no way to tell. Wonder what's playing at the Somerville Theatre this weekend? There's no way to tell. Wonder what George wants to do for dinner? There's no way to tell.

There's just no way to tell.

So weird

Aug. 4th, 2017 10:17 pm
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While I was in Northern Ireland last summer, I started making a list of all the stories I tell that I'd like to write down. This is one of them.

My dad was a United Church of Christ minister. For twenty-seven years (from before I was born until after I went to college) he served a church in a small town in Upstate New York--population right around 3000. While he had a good ministry there, I never really felt at home there. We had no family within hours of us, and we valued education and travel and culture much more than the local average. I was a precocious kid with the vocabulary of an early reader and a tendency to talk about things that few kids cared about.

One day I was playing in the shrubbery outside my dad's office. I didn't know that the window was open, but my dad was working at his desk and half listening to my conversation with Evelyn Ottaviano as we played.

"Elizabeth," said Evie at one point, "You are SO WEIRD!" My dad paused, wondering how I would respond and was very proud to hear me reply, with a sigh, "I know. But I'm perfectly normal for a Hunter."


Aug. 4th, 2017 10:07 pm
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While I was in Northern Ireland last summer, I started making a list of all the stories I tell that I'd like to write down. This is one of them.

As anyone who drives Rte. 16 through the western suburbs knows, there is no safe lane. You are always either in the right-turn only lane, or the left-turn only lane, but unless you are very familiar with the road, you will not know which until you arrive at the intersection and see which arrow is painted in your current position, assuming that the street-painters have been out recently enough for them to be readable.

One night I was performing No Exit at Wellesley and my whole family and my best friend, steve, came out to see the show. I wanted to go back to Boston afterward, so we piled into my folks' car. Beckie was driving, with my father in the front seat and my mother, steve, and I crammed into the back.

At one intersection, Beckie suddenly realized that the lane she was in had become left-turn only. She was facing oncoming traffic with another vehicle to our right, so she gunned her way through the intersection and swerved into the right-hand lane ahead of the other car.

As she completed this maneuver, we all swore, loudly. Beckie said "Jesus!" and Dad said "Damn!" and I said "Shit!" and steve said "Fuck!" and Mom said "Jeepers!" And she really meant it, because she was distracted enough not to scold any of the rest of us for our language.
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Before I forget, here are the highlights of our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. All the photos are viewable on Flickr.

We flew into Sun Valley, ID and spent the first couple of days in Stanley for a gathering of the Furey family. We stayed at Stanley Town Square, which was lovely and right at the end of the dirt road leading up to the family's ranch at Goat Falls. While there we visited Redfish Lake and hiked up to Lily Pond and the falls above it and also went whitewater rafting on the Salmon River. Then we drove up to Salmon, ID, where Jason's mom grew up, and visited the house that her father built, where Jason celebrated Christmas throughout his childhood. From there we headed over to the parks.

Day 1
Activities: We drove a total of six hours from Stanley, through Salmon, to reach West Yellowstone, where we checked in, got dinner, and enjoyed a relaxing swim before bed.
Lodging: WorldMark by Wyndham, West Yellowstone, MT.
We booked this through AirBNB--it's a timeshare place and we had a very comfortable two-bedroom unit with a balcony where ravens landed on the railing at sunset, and use of their pool and hot tub.
Food: Lunch at Junkyard Bistro in Salmon, ID--a real find. Dinner was tapas at Cafe Madriz in West Yellowstone.

Day 2
Activities: Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Artists' Paint Pots.
This was a big day of hiking around hot springs and geysers, admiring their variation and colors. Favorites included Canary Spring on the Upper Terrace at Mammoth and the Mud Pot at Artits' Paint Pots.
Wildlife: We saw several elk in Mammoth Hot Springs, including one that crossed the road to the lawn we were standing beside, right as we were leaving lunch.
Lodging: WorldMark
Food: Lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs' Terrace Grill. Dinner at Madison Crossing Lounge.

Day 3
Activities: We visited Artist's Point in Canyon and the brink of the Upper Falls, both of which were gorgeous. Then we drove through Hayden Valley, one of the prime wildlife viewing areas. Traffic was backed up for a mile or more from where people were looking at bison near the road, so the others got out and climbed a hill and walked along the road to catch up to me at the bottom. We stopped at Old Faithful, just to use the bathrooms, but decided to go ahead and see when the next eruption was predicted, which was less than half-an-hour from then, so we sat on the benches around the geyser to wait and got to see Beehive Geyser erupt and then Old Faithful join it, a very unusual coincidence.
Wildlife: Bison. Lots of bison. A bunch of baby bison in the bison basin.
Lodging: WorldMark
Food: Lunch at the Canyon Village. Dinner was pizza from Wapiti Pizza--I went to get it, which was a bit of an adventure, since it's actually located inside the Zipline Adventure Park, but it was quite tasty.

Day 4
Activities: We got up early to drive down to Headwaters and claim a same-day campsite reservation. By then it was clear to me that I had a UTI, so we went down to the Urgent Care Clinic at Jackson Lake, where I got antibiotics and we had a lovely lunch in the hotel, looking out at the mountains. Then we drove up Signal Mountain, arriving just as a thunderstorm was moving over the peak--very exciting and lovely views of the valley with fog and rain moving across it. In the evening Jason and I drove down to Jackson Hole for dinner, while Steve and Alice tried out the restaurant at Sheffields in the Headwaters lodge.
Wildlife: Deer.
Lodging: Headwaters at Flagg Ranch on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Alice and Steve camped out, while Jason and I shared one of their luxury cabins (basically a hotel room with a bathroom in a freestanding cabin).
Food: Lunch at the Jackson Lake Hotel. Dinner at The Kitchen in Jackson Hole, the highlight of which was wagyu beef wrapped around fresh, crisp scallions and topped with an amazing miso brown butter.

Day 5
Activities: We took a trailride through the area around Flagg Ranch, mostly through forest that burned last year, but is quickly coming back with gorgeous wildflowers. After that we went down to Colter Bay where we had lunch and went kayaking on Jackson Lake for an hour. In the evening we drove down to Jackson Hole again for dinner and back up along the other side of the lake at sunset.
Lodging: Headwaters
Food: Lunch at Colter Bay Village. Dinner at Glorietta in Jackson Hole, WY that included grilled rabbit, duck, mussels, and green beans, fried squash blossoms, and Italian stir-fried rice.

Day 6
Activities: Midway Geyser Basin. Grand Prismatic Spring. Old Faithful Geyser Basin where we saw another eruption from the veranda of the Old Faithful Inn. Then we hiked up to Solitary Geyser, helping Alice to complete her Young Scientist packet. From there it was only another .3 miles up to Observation Point, which didn't seem far until we realized how steep it was. But we made it, hot and huffing, and flopped down on the logs there and looked out just as Old Faithful erupted again, which was a marvelous surprise. We headed back to Headwaters for dinner, then Jason and I went back down to Colter Bay, where we could sit in the bar and use their wifi.
Lodging: Headwaters.
Food: Lunch at Old Faithful Inn--quite a destination on its own. Dinner at Sheffields, followed by roasted marshmallows for dessert at Alice and Steve's campsite. Kudos to Jason for building a very nice fire.

Day 7
Activities: West Thumb Geyser Basin. Tower Fall. Lamar Valley. Petrified Tree. Chico Hot Springs.
Wildlife: Bison, right in the road next to our car! Plus bighorn sheep.
Lodging: Chico Hot Springs
Food: Lunch at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Dinner at Chico Hot Springs--a delicious meal, slightly marred by slow and inaccurate service, but they took one of our entrees off the bill in recompense, so we left feeling ok about it. The best thing was an appetizer of mushroom risotto with rabbit.

Day 8
After a swim in the warm (98.5) and hot (105.3) pools at Chico, we headed for Bozeman where we returned our rental car, checked in for our flights, and had a good lunch in the airport restaurant before seeing Steve off to Seattle and boarding our flight to Denver. We were delayed in Denver for over an hour and then delayed again getting into Boston, so didn't arrive home until 2:30am--a very long day.

Overall, it was a very good trip. I really enjoyed rafting and kayaking for the first time and the chance to ride, though my knees are getting old for that. Alice had a marvelous time and took great pride in getting us into the parks for free, as part of the Every Kid in a Park program, and fulfilling the Junior Ranger requirements in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton and the Young Scientist program at Old Faithful. Her favorite part was camping out with her grandfather--as was his. We were delighted that he could join us for the trip and Jason is very pleased to have gotten to take Alice there at just the right age to make the most of it.
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I had a unique theatrical experience tonight.

What role does fear play in your life? )

I think this is the purpose of theatre, distilled: to enter a dark room not knowing what to expect and to find yourself there on the stage.

The Fear Project runs until May 13th.

*That story...content notes: drug abuse, violence, suicide. )
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This year Alice requested that we not undertake a major trip for her Spring Break. She's been very busy and feeling the lack of downtime, so despite my regretting not getting a real vacation, we agreed we would stay home. But then I suggested that perhaps we could pop down to New York for a couple of days, which we haven't done with Alice in a couple of years and she thought that might be ok.

Trip, trap, trot. )

On the way home I asked Alice how she thought Spring Break is going and she said "Mama, it's amazing," so I'm counting this trip as a win.

Easter Day

Apr. 17th, 2017 12:13 am
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Lately, Sundays have become especially busy. If I only have two or three events on my calendar for a Sunday, that's a pretty easy-going day--sometimes there are five. Perhaps because of that, today felt only moderately busy.

I was surprised to find, as Easter approached, that I was thinking of my mother more than usual. It felt so strange to be planning for the day without figuring out how to include her. Perhaps it's because for her it was still a very religious holiday, or just because I have so many memories, so many pictures of us all gathered in the sunshine in our Sunday best, with her tucked between her giant girls.

This year I actually wondered if we had to celebrate Easter as a family. And then I thought sure, keeping the tradition of getting the family together a few times a year is no bad thing. I wondered if I might turn to my sisters and ask what plan they might come up with that didn't involve my house, or me cooking. And I thought about hiring a chef, which I've done a few times, or going to a restaurant. But in the end I decided that I did want to cook and to gather family and friends around the table.

The day started early, getting to First Parish by 8am so we would have time to eat breakfast there and practice our skit before the choir gathered at 8:30. Jo and I were performing a piece based on The Yellow Tutu, with narration by our fabulous DRE and some mean-girl assistance from members of the choir. It was short and sweet and involved the indelible image of the two of us dancing in front of the congregation wearing tutus on our heads.

Our minister had asked us to wear silly hats and I'd decided to get this blue fascinator, which was an utter hoot to wear. The adult and children's choirs collaborated on "Easter Bonnet" and we sang lots of joyful hymns. We also did a responsive reading that I found really moving, adapted from a sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Some Modern Beatitudes )

During her invocation for communion, Marta also gave us a chance to speak the names of the dead who were in our thoughts today and I was so grateful for the chance to say my mother's name, to invoke the presence that has been hovering over me this week.

Alice had a grand time in the Easter Egg Hunt--her first year in the graveyard with the big kids. We stayed for the first part of the second service, in which Alice was one of the readers, while Jason and I reprised our performances, and then snuck out. The car said it was 82F as we pulled out and I was dreading turning on the oven for dinner. But while I took a nap, Jason turned on the AC and it was actually pleasant inside throughout the day. Alice found her Easter basket and seemed to enjoy the various treats and toys I'd included in it.

While Jason de-cluttered and got the dining room set for dinner, I roasted the lamb that had been marinating since yesterday, on top of potatoes, onions, mushrooms and garlic, which I seved with a very tasty demi-glace. I made way too many deviled eggs, with the help of Lisa, Paulo, and George at various points. Beckie & Neil brought the traditional too-much-nosh (shrimps and cheeses and summer sausage and pate and olives, oh my!). Anne & G. brought Greek-style braised green beans and I made a chopped Greek salad and heated up some Hawaiian rolls that miraculously survived several months in the freezer to be wonderfully soft and tasty. Dave and Jo collaborated to decorate the spiced carrot chiffon cake I had made yesterday with honey-cream cheese ice cream and pecans. By the time Hatem got out of work and could join us, we were just about ready to put it all on the table.

The food was reasonably good (not the best I've ever managed, but no one complained) and it seemed like an especially good group of people and conversations. Jo and Beckie helped enormously with the clean-up and by the time everyone had left around 5:30, another half hour got the kitchen to a state where I felt I could leave it. So I took another short nap, rising in time to be awake when the Mourning Becomes Electra arrived for a line-thru of the whole show.

I was able to do the whole thing without my script, though I did get confused and have to call "line" a couple of times. I felt pretty good about it and most other people are also in pretty good shape. This is going to be a really powerful show and there are a lot of dark moments, but we had fun together and it was really nice to be in a room with most of the cast, since that hasn't happened much yet. Jason got Alice to bed during one of the stretches when he's not on stage, but I was able to pop up and kiss her goodnight.

The cast and crew took off and after a break, it was time to finish up the kitchen and get the garbage, recycling, and compost to the curb. And now, I think I can say that I am well and truly done. I'm very excited that Alice doesn't have school in the morning.
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• Mike Doughty
• Robyn Hitchcock
• Tartuffe
• Precious Little
• Lines in the Sand
• Edward II
• The Witch of Edmonton
• Parable of the Sower
• Springtime for Haman (x2)
• Silent Sky

I am hoping to come back and write more about each of these, but decided it was better to make a list than forget them entirely.
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This morning, between snoozes, I had a strange dream that felt like several different dreams layered on top of one another.

Cut for those who find other people's dreams tedious )
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While I was in Northern Ireland this summer, I started making a list of all the stories I tell that I'd like to write down. This is one of them.

Last year, Alice had a bit of a crisis. She told me that she didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. This was news to me--the last time I'd checked in, granted a few years ago, she'd wanted to be a ballerina/astronaut/chef. But now she didn't know.

When I was six years old there was a special on TV called "Really Rosie". Based on various stories by Maurice Sendak, set to music by Carole King, it was the story of a girl named Rosie keeping the kids on her block entertained on a boring summer day by convincing them all to be in her movie. I loved that show. I convinced my parents to buy me the album, which included a bunch of songs not in the show. I knew every word, I acted them out in front of the mirror, I was Rosie. The following year my elementary school did "Really Rosie" as our annual pageant and I was the only first-grader recruited for a speaking role, as the Narrator.

The first time this came up, I told her that nine is a great time to not know, that there are many more things to do in the world than she can really fathom at this point, and it's hard to choose when you're a smart kid who's interested in a lot of different things, and it's completely ok not to be sure. "OK, Mama, thanks," she said.

When I was eight years old I decided that what the world needed was a modern adaptation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," so I wrote one. I reserved the hall at our church and recruited everyone in my third grade class to be in it and my mom to provide punch and cookies. We had a single performance, to a standing ovation of our parents. When it was over my mother asked what my next project would be and I said "Directing is too much work! I'm not going to do it again until I'm...nineteen!"

The second time this came up, a few weeks later, I tried to explain the timeline for making this decision: a sense of whether and what kind of college by junior year of high school, a major a couple of years later, whether or not to go to grad school in that field or something else a couple of years after that... "OK, Mama, thanks," she said.

When I was nineteen I somehow ended up directing "A Little Night Music" for the Tech Random Music Ensemble at MIT. That was the second of four fledgling theatre groups I was involved in, at four different schools, during my college years. When I graduated I had this idea about going out to Minneapolis and trying to become a stage manager, but never really figured out how I would do that. By the time I was 25 I was tired of theatre, tired of Boston, tired of a lot of things about my life, so I moved out to California and didn't do theatre for ten years.

The third time this came up, a few weeks later, I finally figured out that this was a real crisis, so it was a longer conversation and I asked more questions until I finally understood what was bothering her: not that she didn't know what she wants to be, but that she didn't know how to answer grown-ups when they ask her what she wants to be. OH! I explained that it's not a test--what they are really asking is what they might talk to her about. I suggested that she reframe the question in her own mind to "What are you really interested in at the moment?" Instantly she said "Interior design."

When it looked as though I might not be able to conceive, I felt a deep need to create something. Jason and I had talked for years about doing a show together and other opportunities emerged that led to the creation of Theatre@First. And then Alice was born. When she was four years old, we introduced her to "Really Rosie" and at dinner one evening she asked me if I knew who Really Rosie was. I told her yes, that when I was six years old I wanted to be Really Rosie. And as I said that I realized that's exactly who I am.

Six months later, Alice wants to be a fashion designer. We'll see.


Feb. 2nd, 2017 12:33 am
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Before I've totally forgotten, I want to reflect on the production of Othello that we saw over my birthday weekend in New York. Starring David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig, it is a phenomenally muscular production and one of the best directed pieces of theatre I have ever seen.

The surroundings are very spare: an unpainted plywood box makes up the performance space--walls, ceiling, floor, with tiers of benches for the audience built along three sides of the long, narrow stage. There is no other set, just mattresses strewn on the floor. The lighting is provided by worklights and practicals--at one point a cellphone--and one panel of LEDs to provide occasional washes of color, but several scenes are played in the dark. Rather than shutting us out, the darkness draws us in, forcing us to listen in a box that reflects every breath, every whisper. When we can see the cast, they can see us, and they can never be more than ten feet from some part of the audience. We are in the scene, we are helpless witnesses to Iago's perfidy, we are complicit in Desdemona's murder.

While the two stars shine darkly, the whole ensemble of twelve is beautifully woven together. The men who play the minor roles are soldiers--hanging out in a room inspired by forward operating bases used in Afghanistan and Iraq, carrying modern weapons, playing Guitar Hero in their downtime. One of the actors has a prosthetic leg. We are constantly reminded that Othello is a story of wartime.

The characters are very specific. Desdemona, often treated more like a plot device, is a real character here, with her own motivation and arc. Jason found Roderigo oddly effeminate--on reflection I think that was intended as a contrast with the soliders. Emilia is a toned military wife, able to give as good as she gets. Her race is one of the most interesting choices of this show--if Iago is married to a black woman, what spin does that give his slurs of Othello's skin color, and his fears of being cuckolded by his commander. Bianca, who is very sketchily drawn in the script, is played as a Turkish woman--a local woman accepting flirtation and gifts from the soldiers occupying her home and with the simple detail of a headscarf becomes suddenly very real.

But this is Othello and Iago's show. They are like wrestlers, constantly vying with each other, the one always testing the strength of the better man, looking to turn his own virtues against him. Both completely at home within the language and able to make it feel spontaneous, immediate, vital. The one odd inconsistency was both actors' accents--while I could almost justify Craig's slippage as wily code-switching, Oyelowo's intermittent Nigerian accent was harder to rationalize, but the rolling tones of it were beautiful and underscored his story of an outsider and former slave. Both actors have enough charisma to fill a much larger space and the constant challenge of each other's presence kept the energy driving throughout the three hour show.

Sam Gold's cut of the script was phenomenal. He pared it down to the point that we could feel Iago's barbs stabbing one by one into Othello's mind, cut away the unnecessary, and kept the whole thing moving from start to inevitable finish. I do not love Othello as I do some of Shakespeare's work--it is too tragic, too evil for me to truly enjoy--but this production was glorious. The tension was powerful, rather than torturous, and I was riveted throughout. Every moment was thought out and directed with a singular vision, without ever feeling over-controlled. An amazing feat of directorial skill, this easily leapt into the top five shows I have ever seen, and vies for the best production of Shakespeare's work I have ever witnessed. What a privilege.
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On Sunday morning I attended services at First Parish, as usual. The sermon was given by Aisha Ansano, a young woman of color who is a member of our congregation, as well as a staff member working with our Youth Group, and also a candidate we're sponsoring for ordination as a minister. Her sermon was excellent: it shared some of her personal history, her excitement at discovering Unitarian Universalism, her deep call to the UU ministry...and how hard it is to be a UU of color. She was very honest, though she did pull some punches (talking about "sitting in UU congregations," rather than specifying ours, for example) but also encouraged us to think more deeply about how our race impacts our relationship with our religion. I hope we will hear her voice from our pulpit often.

On Sunday afternoon I attended the CAIR Massachusetts Rally to protest the new Muslim ban and immigration restrictions. I hadn't thought I could go, but then I was reminded that someone else was spending the afternoon with my daughter, so I could go, but having previously passed on joining various friends and groups, and still having fairly tight timing, I went alone. I ran into a couple of people I know coming out of the T and we marched up Boylston together before splitting up, at which point I immediately ran into my next door neighbor (not the one I saw at the Women's March, the one in the other direction) and we chatted for a few moments before I decided to wade deeper into the crowd, where I quickly found an old friend from MIT and stood with him and his daughter until they had to leave. I kept moving slowly, but steadily toward the center, where I could hear the speakers more clearly. I got to be part of the People's Microphone for the first time and was moved by the inspiring words passing through my voice. I especially loved the MC, Rana Abdelhamid, leading us in various chants, but always returning to "What do we do? STAND UP. FIGHT BACK." While friends on the outskirts reported a majority white crowd, there at the center I found myself surrounded by a sea of different shades of people. The sense of connection and community and common purpose was palpable. When the speeches ended I made a beeline for the street and walking toward the bus passed the Boston Marathon Finish Line, site of the bombing, and thought how beautiful it was that we could gather near that fateful marker without fear of each other, strangers though we are in so many ways.

On Sunday evening I attended an Active Bystander Training workshop hosted by Theatre@First and run by Cassie Luna, a young Asian-American representative from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. They and their partner, Nate, led eighteen of us in a discussion of ways to intervene in situations of harassment and attack, laying out a framework for thinking about responses, and putting us through some scenarios. It was great to hear so many people's perspectives and ideas and to get more training on appropriate and useful intervention tools. One of the response categories ("Dedicate") involved thinking of ways to make personal and systemic changes to address the culture of sexual violence around us and one of our participants shared that she has made a commitment this year to attend at least six events led by women of color and I suddenly realized that I had attended three that day.

I feel really fortunate that I live where this is possible, pleased that the spaces where I am putting myself are bringing me these opportunities, and grateful to these people for stepping up and speaking out. At a time when so much feels terrifying, I am lifted by their voices, excited to learn from them and to follow where they lead.
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In case you've missed it, tonight is Opening Night. This is a fun and amazing show and I hope to see all you locals there!

Theatre@First is excited to present

written by William Shakespeare
directed by Hatem Adell

Ferdinand of Space Station Navarre and his friends vow to avoid all terrestrial pleasures to pursue a life of study for the next three years, but when the Princess of Aquitaine and her ladies arrive at Space Station Navarre the previously made oaths prove impossible to keep.

Come drown your sorrows in synthehol and let the Bard's delightful comedy carry you to another world!

Fri 11 Nov
Sat 12 Nov
Sun 13 Nov
Thu 17 Nov
Fri 18 Nov
AND Sat 19 Nov AT 4PM!

6 William Street at College Ave

Adults $15
Students/Seniors $12
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When I lived in California I fell in love with the roast chicken and bread salad at Zuni. I found the recipe and have tried to replicate it a few times over the years, but I don't love dealing with whole chickens and somehow it's just never quite right. Recently I was intrigued by Bon Appetit's recipe for Fennel-Rubbed Chicketta and when I asked Jason and Alice for input on what to serve it with, we agreed that bread salad sounded good. So I ended up making a Frankenstein's dinner by combining the two ideas, along with what I've learned from making my variation on Jamie Oliver's Proper Chicken Caesar Salad, one of Jason's favorite things in the world. This is what we ended up with:

2 tsp of fennel seeds*
4 full chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)**
8 oz. bacon, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil***
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest****
1 tsp. finely chopped thyme*****
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes******
1/2 loaf of day-old *******ciabatta
5 oz. of mixed greens
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
salt & pepper

- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Cut the bread into 1" cubes and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and place in oven for 10 minutes or until firm and golden brown.********
- While the bread is toasting, toast the fennel seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer from pan and let cool. Grind in a spice mill or with mortar and pestle. Don't forget the toast in the oven.
- Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp, 8-10 minutes.
- Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with half of fennel******** and season generously with salt & pepper*********.
- When bacon is crisp, transfer with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp. bacon fat.
- Increase heat to medium-high and place the chicken, skin side down, in skillet, pressing down so skin makes good contact with surface of pan. Cook until skin is golden brown and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes.**********
- While the chicken is browning, prepare garlic, parsley, lemon zest, and thyme.
- When the chicken is browned, place it on top of the toasted bread and pop the tray back in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The target temperature is 165F, if you're into that. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- While the chicken is roasting, fry the pine nuts in the remaining bacon fat until they are a rich brown. Seriously. Do it.
- While the chicken is resting, add garlic, parsley, oil, lemon zest, thyme, red pepper flakes, and remaining fennel to the bowl of bacon. Mix well and season with salt & pepper.
- Transfer the toasted bread to a large serving bowl. Add the mixed greens and the bacon mixture and toss together. Add more olive oil if it seems dry.
- When the chicken is ready, serve on top of piles of the bread salad and garnish with the fried pine nuts.

The whole thing took about 90 minutes, though I think I can cut that down with practice. It was really delicious--definitely will do it again, paying attention to the footnotes.

*I happened to have whole fennel seeds on hand, so I did the whole toasting and grinding bit, which always makes me feel like Baba Yaga. Next time I think I'll see if it's notably different with pre-ground, non-toasted fennel seed, which I also have thanks to a conveniently located Penzey's shop, and would save both time and effort.

**I think I'll try this with just thighs next time--less hassle on the plate.

***I was dubious that it would need this much, so I eyeballed it and I think it was at least this much. Will measure next time and find out.

****I would use more lemon zest next time.

*****Our market has been out of most fresh herbs lately, so I used dried, but would like to try fresh and see if that makes any difference. Either that, or just more.

******I forgot the red pepper flakes, but I think they would be nice.

*******Or older. I had about 1/3 loaf in the fridge from last week, so I started with that, then added another 1/3 loaf of fresh bread to fill up the pan.

********Next time I'm going to try rubbing them with a little olive oil. They got surprisingly little moisture from the chicken--that may change if I go to only-thighs.

********I goofed here and used all the fennel--and I'd been generous to start with, so it was probably more like a tablespoon of fennel and that wasn't too much, so the overall message is: go heavy on the fennel seed.

********I went ahead and rubbed under the skin and on the bottom, as well as on top of the skin. I think that gives the chicken more flavor.

**********I had to do the chicken in two batches and because I was putting it over bread, instead of roasting it in the skillet, I went ahead and browned both sides. That adds a not-insignificant amount of time to the process, which might be gained back by switching to more wieldy chicken pieces.


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