Tuesday, July 27, 2010

culinary therapy

My thoughts have been all over the place lately. When this happens, the kitchen is the place I come back to. It's both a playground and a sanctuary.

What is it about cooking? Cooking is both my creativity and my stress relief. It's my way of being productive (but also my way of procrastinating!). When nothing else is going well, I can at least make a great dish. When I want to shut out other thoughts, I can clear my head while going through the rhythmic motions associated with cooking - chop, slice, dice, repeat. When I don't feel a sense of order in my life, I can have control and order while cooking, when ingredients, flavors and spices come together in harmony. When I feel unbalanced, I can feel centered while I hover over a pot, watching, stirring, smelling, tasting... and taking deep breaths along the way. When I feel the need to create something, to work with my hands, I cook to bring ingredients together and make a dish come to life. It's what I do to nurture myself and others. Cooking can be a solitary enjoyment, or it can bring people together. It's what I do to celebrate, whether dining solo, or in the company of family and friends.

I came across this ad in a magazine, cut it out, and stuck it on my refrigerator door:

In my kitchen
I preheat a memory
I fold old friends with new
I bake a good laugh.

What a perfect way to describe how I feel about food, the kitchen, and all things culinary.

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Friday, July 23, 2010


Recently I've started feeling this pressing need to go through my email inbox. I tend to be very sentimental, and I keep emails the way I used to keep handwritten letters. Going through my inbox, re-reading emails from all the way back in 2004/2005 (YES I know I'm very behind in cleaning my inbox) has been quite an experience. It's interesting to re-visit where I've come from. It was like re-reading a journal of sorts. Looking back is also important to see how much I've grown. How my thinking has changed, how my horizons and worldview have widened, and how my resulting self-awareness has increased over the years. What a journey it's been!

I came across an old email that I wrote to a friend in September 2006 when I had come to terms with loss, after a difficult year. In that email, I quoted Martin Buber, whose writing we studied years ago in my philosophy courses at the university I attended back home. Buber wrote a book, "I and Thou", and in a nutshell, his philosophy of human existence is about engaging with each other on a spiritual level, in a way that affirms the other person's whole being. (Of course, he articulated it way better than that). He wrote:

Every I-Thou encounter is destined to come to an end; every person who was present in full self-creation and freedom is destined to slip back into the world of It—the world where we recognize one another as bodies and personalities, where we experience and interpret one another through concepts of mind.
     But the rich experiences of being present with other persons of spirit are not canceled by their termination. And we can always be open to new encounters on the level of spirit.
     It is a gift to recognize spirit in other persons. When an I-Thou encounter happens, we may wish to 'freeze' the moment, to make that being present with each other last forever.
     Such flashes of encounter might be like noticing a butterfly: If we grasp the butterfly, we destroy it. We can only rejoice that we are present to appreciate the butterfly for as long as it wants to stay. In memory we can treasure moments of I-Thou encounter. And if we remember where we saw the butterfly before, we can attempt to return to that 'place', hoping for another moment of spiritual encounter.
- Martin Buber
The things that keep us growing....

Oh, and at the end of that email, I wrote: "I'M BACK!"

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

love-filled day

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being one of 2 photographers at a wedding. My first wedding to photograph! It was made even more enjoyable due to the fact that 1) the bride and groom were two of my good friends, and 2) my photography partner was also this very good friend! (as a side note, hop over to her blog for stunning food and travel photography)

I was anxious about this project the week leading up to the wedding. Partly because the bride and groom are my good friends and I didn't want to disappoint them, and partly because I felt unprepared for event photography. I'm the type of person who can sit in front of a plant, food on a plate, or some other inanimate object and take a dozen shots of it in a very relaxed manner. I haven't mastered portraits or action shots. And usually, when I embark on a project, I do lots of research and even organize everything into a 3-ring binder (which always amuses my friends).

But this summer has been crazy -- in a good way -- and I was not able to go into that level of preparation (i.e., I did NOT have a 3-ring binder filled with ideas and printouts and such). So I just kept telling myself to relax, be fully present and fully aware of what's around me, and just enjoy taking photos as I usually do. Not that I'm going into this direction professionally (yet?), but I had a blast! It was something I was happy to do for good friends. And the wedding was absolutely special, as you'll see below. I can't say I captured all the beauty of that day, but here are my attempts as a non-professional photographer...

bride's veil

veil detail

bride's shoes

I love that she wore Born sandals! It is so her.
No-fuss shoes for a garden wedding.

 dress detail 

The bride actually altered her own dress. 
Not surprising, as I once complimented her
on an LBD (little black dress) that she was wearing.
To that she replied,
"Oh you like it? I made it!"
Yup, that's the type of gal she is... 
I don't think there's anything she doesn't make.

 bride's jewelry 

The botanical motif of her necklace and earrings suited her so well, 
as she is an excellent gardener! 
(among the many other things in which she excels)


These were arranged by a friend of ours. 
Yellow, orange, and red were the theme colors, 
as they were the couple's auspicious colors in the Indian tradition.
(The groom is Indian)

bride's older sister/bridesmaid, 
tying on her sash

bridesmaid's dress detail

bridesmaids' bouquet...
with Indian bangles to match

 table centerpiece
with handwritten table cards

Almost everything was homemade and handmade.

ornamental, yet functional as paper fans for the summer heat!

handwritten food labels
to be clipped onto the dishes
It was an international vegetarian menu - 
Indian, Mediterranean, and American.
Food was lovingly prepared by the bride herself, family, and friends.
There was hummus, bread with homemade herb butter, dolmas, spanakopitas, Turkish lentil balls, fattoush (Lebanese salad), pav bhaji (Indian vegetable stew), an assortment of Indian chutneys, ratatouille, pasta with basil pesto, roasted potatoes, cabbage slaw.
Food supervision and plating was done by this friend.
I didn't get the chance to sample everything due to photography duties, but all the dishes I tried were delicious.

 lemon curd tarts with fresh blackberries

Yes, the bride made these too. Two large coolers full.
In addition to the 50 - yes, FIFTY - loaves of bread she made 
and stored in her basement freezer.
Friends helped by topping the tarts with blackberries before serving.

 basket for towels for the outdoor sink

bride's bouquet

  bride's bouquet

first dance

Congratulations, R & N!

 Everything about their wedding was so beautiful and one-of-a-kind. Due to its simplicity, the true meaning of marriage really shone through, and did not get lost in overwhelming details. I cried for the first time after a very long time at a wedding, when they said their vows.

Thank you to my friends, R and N, for the honor of capturing your special day in photographs. Much love and best wishes to you both!

*I deliberately did not post any photos with faces for privacy* 

**Feel free to view photos on my portfolio as well, in the "Celebrations" gallery.**

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

absentee blogger

So my blogging has been quite sporadic lately. I realize that there are times when I would rather just savor the moment, and then write about it later.

This summer has been quite a whirlwind. I can't believe we're nearing the end of July. Before we know it, we'll be covered in feet of snow again here in Northern Ohio. But let me erase that thought for now.

Between work, school, and my parents' visit, my yoga practice lately has been nothing more than 3-5 sun salutations, then restorative yin poses for my hips and lower back. My favorite, go-to yoga practice when I'm pressed for time.

My parents have been here the past few weeks. After not having seen my mother in 2 years (GASP!) and my father in 1 year, their visit has been very special. I am fortunate that my parents are healthy and able to travel, and stay with me for a while. It was a welcome change of pace to plan meals and cook for more than one person. It was time for long dinners and after-dinner conversations. It was wonderful.

But, I will be posting another blog entry very soon about something exciting that happened last weekend. Stay tuned!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

hot, hot summer

icy cold drinks
(This is actually a Belgian beer. The first beer I ever drank. Ever. 
I'm just not a fan of beer, but this one was fruity and really good.)

alfresco dining

pretty skies

and long evenings for strolling

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Monday, July 12, 2010


Col. Gualberto P. Miranda (July 12, 1915 - July 7, 2005)

Thank you for everything you've taught us.

Thank you for all the love you gave us, all the way till the very end, till your final breath.

Thank you for living your life the way you did.  You made sure everything you did was beautiful -- from the way you tended to your garden to the way you nurtured relationships. The way you quoted Shakespeare to grandma. For being an example of strength, integrity, and grace. You truly raised the bar. 

Thank you for picking me up after I fell in our garden, from showing off my newly-learned aerial cartwheel when I was 8. You cared for the garden so well, and the grass was so soft that it cushioned my fall -- my ego was probably more bruised than I was -- but you picked me up and made sure I was okay.

Thank you for being with me in spirit and giving me strength when I "fell" -- as an adult -- when I was in my dark moments. Even then, you picked me up. And you told me, in a dream, that things were going to be okay. And now they are. You were right.

We miss you, but your presence is in the flowers around me. In the scent of soft earth and fresh-cut grass -- the scent of warm afternoons spent in your garden. And in all the peaceful moments when I wonder at the beauty of nature. In every time I press the shutter to photograph a flower.

I know you are with us, always.

Happy birthday, Papa. Much love to you.

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