Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Streets

My husband and I rode from the Bayview to the Ferry Building and back at Sunday Streets--a stretch of the waterfront just over four miles that was closed to cars today--along with hundreds (thousands?) of other people. In the photo above there are three different kinds of bikes, a tricycle and a roller skater, just a few of the many kinds of locomotion we passed. I loved riding through a part of San Francisco I've never been to (Mission Bay, and some of the waterfront nearby) and parts I've driven many times before but never dared ride my bike. We rode over two drawbridges: Islais Creek and the Lefty O'Doul Bridge near the ballpark. We rode past people learning how to salsa dance, a yoga class, USF soccer players juggling balls, and people hoola-hooping. We saw someone fall on the train tracks and lots of crying kids. We saw the mayor--who initiated the idea and fought a few grumpy merchants to make it happen--and his wife, and yelled "Thanks Mr. Mayor" along with others as we rode past him. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Even the police officers guarding the intersections were smiling. This is the San Francisco I love.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Garden Success and Failure

The biggest sunflower I have ever grown, over ten feet high! This was not a volunteer (as were most of my past garden successes) but it grew in a patch without a lot of direct sun, between our home and our neighbor's. Reason for success theory: sheltered from the wind.

The summer lettuce and carrot "crop." Reason for failure theory: not enough water or fertilizer. I did hire a neighbor boy to water twice while we were away for two weeks, but I think this was not enough for the 3-inch high plants. When we got back, things looked okay, but a couple of weeks later I came to the conclusion that going away in the middle of the summer is not compatible with being a gardener. By early August, the small lettuces that I had planted in mid June remained stunted, as did the carrots. I started over a couple of weeks ago by planting dill, new chervil, arugula, and buttercrunch and mesclun lettuces in the front of the raised bed. I guess my garden failures don't hurt so much since it's so easy to start over. Here's how the new crop looks today:

This isn't the giant sunflower, but it makes me happy.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Slow Food Marketplace

The Slow Food Marketplace just opened at Civic Center today, along with all the other events of the Slow Food Nation event. My friend June and I went down to check it out. There is a garden with vegetables and flowers right in front of City Hall. It's a great juxtaposition; I wish I had my camera with me to take a photo. (Pam Peirce at her blog, Golden Gate Gardener, has some great photos.) There is a lot of great food for sale, to eat on the spot and for later. I had a nostalgic moment talking to Pablo, an olive oil producer from Apollo Olive Oil, about the varieties they grow and Spanish olive oil. They make divine organic extra virgin olive oil in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Here's what I bought:
1 bottle Sierra blend Apollo Olive Oil
Half a flat of organic strawberries from Salinas
Basket of organic cherry tomatoes
Half a Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese
Organic Canary melon from Fully Belly Farm in Yolo County
1 pound of Tongue of Fire shelling beans
2 lbs. of heirloom apples from Windrose Farm in Sonoma, mixed varieties
June also bought a lot. The only reason we had a hope of getting it all back on BART was because we had brought my deluxe Spanish Rolser grocery cart.
I bought this at the Sant Antoni covered market in Barcelona for 15 euros. It is the best grocery cart I have ever seen. It swerves like a Ferrari, maneuvers bumps like a Land Rover, and has so far transported at least the weight of a Volkswagen in its 8 years of life. And it shows no signs of slowing down. I used it for all my shopping in Barcelona (where we did not have a car) except for the semi-monthly beverage deliveries from the supermarket. Back here in SF, where we live around the corner from a Safeway, I pack it as full as it goes and toddle back home with my purchases, and bring it to the farmers' market. I have received many many comments on it: people want to know where I bought it so they can get one, and even the grocery clerks who help me pack it wake up from their automaton stupor and say, "That's cool!"
You can buy it at a Canadian Rolser website, where you can see some MUCH more groovy designs than mine, but the least expensive one I saw was $69 Canadian dollars, not including shipping. At one time my husband and I had the idea that we should start a business importing them from Spain to sell here. But the rest of life took over. Anybody want to start an import business? I think the time is ripe.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Poem from the Bar Mitzvah

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

--Mary Oliver, first four lines of "
Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?", in Why I Wake Early.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My New Favorite Apron

Here's the final result of my apron project. I like how the two different fabrics turned out. It was a bit fussy to make with all that bias tape, but I think it was worth it. I feel like some kind of domestic royalty in it.
Tonight's dinner was Chicken Proven├žal, adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. There's onion, chopped green pepper, garlic, anchovies, capers, tomatoes, white wine, saffron, and fresh marjoram and thyme. Basically just throw it all together, put in the chicken, and cook it till it's done.
My son who bakes made brownies with pecans, from scratch. He doesn't realize what a good cook he is.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Purple Zinfandel

Purple zinfandel
sweet-baked smell of August earth
Dry Creek Valley

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Case of the Mysterious Butterfly

How I discover the identity of a mysterious butterfly AND receive a message from a renowned butterfly expert

As I walked up the dusty trail to Lola Montez Lakes this summer behind my husband and boys, a bewitching black and chartreuse butterfly flew across my path. Its yellow spots left a dizzying streak in the air as it fluttered past me and alighted on a plant by the side of the trail. I had my camera out because I had been photographing fritillaries, so I knelt down and snapped a photo. It sat still for its portrait, wings obligingly open, so I snapped another photo before it flew off tipsily, dazzling me again with the vibrating dance of its wings. I looked forward to getting home and looking it up in my butterfly book at home.

Except, it wasn't in my book. And it wasn't on Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site, an in-depth study of butterfly population trends spanning more than 35 years of observations in the very region where I had been hiking. I was discouraged. I set aside my search as other matters pressed, but in the back of my head I wondered if somehow some strange butterfly from foreign lands had wandered over Donner Summit, a tourist in the mountains, like me. In my book, Professor Shapiro notes that butterfly population distribution is constantly changing, as human destroy habitat, climate changes, and butterflies adapt. In a brave moment, I wrote a short email to Professor Shapiro describing my butterfly and the location where I observed it, and asked him if he would like me to send him a photo of it.

Eventually I took up my search again, trolling through the massive Butterflies and Moths of North America site, but no luck. Using the butterfly ID quiz on Discover Life, I ended up with one butterfly that kinda sorta looked like mine. Or was it because it was past midnight and my eyes were getting bleary? I idly Googled this butterfly's latin name, hoping that perhaps my butterfly was a relative. A black and white drawing from a 1921 handbook on insects in Yosemite appeared on my screen. There, amidst some other familiar butterflies, was my mysterious butterfly. It was not a butterfly at all. It was a MOTH! Its common name, "wild forget-me-not moth" sounded romantic and Victorian to me, like something out of a gothic novel.

In the sober morning I learned that Gnophaela latipennis is a quite common Sierra day-flying moth. (Most moths fly at night, but this one flies in the day during the summer.) In the meantime, I had also received an answer from Professor Shapiro! He said he would like to see my photo. I had to humbly write back and explain that I believed I had identified the mystery insect as a Gnophaela latipennis and sent him the photo. He wrote back again, confirming my ID. He told me that Gnophaela is "poisonous to predators and warningly colored and rather gregarious. The toxicity is taken from its host plants, Hackelia and Cynoglossum, which contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. It has a sensationally warningly-colored caterpillar, too." He sent me a photo of the caterpillar, which you can see at the BugGuide site. It was as exciting to get my emails from the expert as it was to identify the mysterious, dancing "butterfly." Now if only I had photographed the clouds of periwinkle blue butterflies I saw on the same hike...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Baking

This galette we ate in one sitting, I'm ashamed to admit. It's white nectarine with figs. The peach pie I baked last week got eaten before I could take a photo of it. I feel a cake coming on...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What Boredom Brings One To

One of my sons (the trumpet playing one) took apart all three of his trumpets and gave them all a bath in the bathtub. He assures me that this is the proper way to clean one's trumpets.
The other son (the chicken tikka masala making son) wanted to cook chicken tikka masala, but since we didn't have the ingredients, he made homemade vanilla ice cream and homemade chocolate cookies, and put them together as homemade chocolate ice cream sandwich cookies.

Just another day in the midst of the Unstructured Summer Experiment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

San Bruno Mountain Hike

Splash of red
Across the trail bars my way
Poison oak