One of My Favorite Books

 

 

It happened in an olive grove.

 

I was reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi when Mister and I went to Italy. Enthralled though I was, I did manage to put the book down and enjoy the traveling. Then we settled into an apartment in a Tuscan olive grove for a few days. There wasn’t so much go, go, going. It was chill. It was quiet. It was lovely.

 

One day, Mister went for a walk through the olive trees. I stayed at the apartment and read. He was gone for a while and I was able to finish the book. As it happened, I finished the final lines of Life of Pi just as Mister was returning to the apartment. That’s why he came in to find me hyperventilating, tears streaming down my face. Because I was so deeply affected by it, he read Life of Pi once we returned home. I don’t like to speak for him, but I feel confident in saying we both love this book.

 

Mr. Ang Lee has now made a film version of this amazing book and the film will open November 21st. As I understand it, “Life of Pi” just premiered at the New York Film Festival – to rave reviews. I won’t be reading those reviews for fear of learning too much about the film. And believe me, I will be seeing that film come opening weekend.

 

If you’ve read Life of Pi, I’m guessing you’ll be seeing the film, too. If you’ve not read it, here’s your chance. Please, please, please read this book! It’s one of my favorites. Ever. Ever! You don’t have to buy it. The library is your friend! Honestly, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of reading Life of Pi. It changed me. If you’re lucky, after reading it, you’ll be able to say the same.

 

And If you find yourself hyperventilating and crying at the book’s end, don’t worry. Really. That’s what a great book can do. We all should be such lucky readers.

 

Roasted Figs With Honey-Ricotta

 

 

There was a recipe. I was so excited to try it. I emailed that recipe to myself (or thought I did) and when the evening came to make a little dessert, I couldn’t find any trace of it. There was no emailed recipe. There was no dog-eared page in a magazine. Nothing. I remembered the gist of it, and the rest was improvised. I am so danged grateful I didn’t simply give up.

 

Roasted Figs with Honey-Ricotta is one of the simplest desserts ever. And the pay-off is big-time. I can throw this together jiffy-quick and I’ve yet to grow tired of it. Mister loves it, too. And believe me, he’d let me know if the dish wasn’t working.

 

Here’s what you’ll need…

 

 

Fresh Figs, Ricotta Cheese, Honey, Sugar, Cinnamon, Salt and Balsamic Crema (or Reduction) – optional. No – I did not photograph the sugar, cinnamon or salt. You do see the wine glass in the background, don’t you? I blame the vino.

 

Preheat broiler.

 

Wash the figs and remove any tough stems. Cut the figs in half, length-wise.

 

 

Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt in a shallow pan or plate.

 

Press the fig halves in the sugar mixture, being sure to really coat those little guys.

 

 

Place the prepared figs in a broiler-proof pan, sugar side up. Set aside. Thank goodness for disposable, metal pie tins. I never dispose of them and I use them all the danged time.

 

 

Combine ricotta and honey, mixing well. Set aside.

 

 

Broil prepared figs until the sugar starts to bubble. This will take only a minute or two, so watch it!

 

Plate your dessert. Place a mound of the honey-ricotta in the middle of a dessert plate, and spread the fig halves around the cheese.

 

 

Now, you could stop right here and this dessert would be fan-tab-u-lous. But why stop here?  This is where I choose to drizzle with balsamic crema (or balsamic reduction, which is explained in this recipe). But if you’re not down with that, just don’t do it, yo!

 

That was easy, right? And it’s just lovely, to boot.

 

 

Here’s the printable…

 

Roasted Figs With Honey-Ricotta
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 2 to Infinity
 

Roasted Figs with Honey-Ricotta is one of the simplest desserts ever. And the pay-off is big-time. I can throw this together jiffy-quick and I’ve yet to grow tired of it. Mister loves it, too. And believe me, he’d let me know if the dish wasn’t working.
Ingredients
  • Fresh Figs – 2 per person
  • Ricotta Cheese – ¼ c. per person
  • Honey – 1 scant T. per person
  • 1 T. Sugar
  • ⅛ t. Kosher Salt
  • Pinch of Ground Cinnamon
  • Balsamic Crema (or Balsamic Reduction) – Optional

Instructions
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Wash the figs and remove any tough stems. Cut the figs in half, length-wise.
  3. Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt in a shallow pan or plate.
  4. Press the fig halves in the sugar mixture, being sure to really coat those little guys.
  5. Place the prepared figs in a broiler-proof pan, sugar side up. Set aside.
  6. Combine ricotta and honey, mixing well. Set aside.
  7. Broil prepared figs until the sugar starts to bubble. This will take only a minute or two, so watch it!
  8. Plate your dessert: place a mound of the honey-ricotta in the middle of a dessert plate, and spread the fig halves around the cheese.
  9. Now, you could stop right here and this dessert would be fan-tab-u-lous. But why stop here? This is where I choose to drizzle with balsamic crema (or balsamic reduction). But if you’re not down with that, just don’t do it, yo!
  10. Eat! With joy! And smile!

Notes
-Balsamic Crema is available at some specialty stores (Williams-Sonoma, for example). I get mine at a local Italian deli. -Balsamic Reduction works great, too! Add ¼ c. Balsamic Vinegar, 1 T. Honey & 1 T. Water to a small sauce-pan and heat until bubbling. Turn down to a simmer and reduce. Once the process begins, it happens quickly. Watch the pan! It will thicken upon sitting. -This is a very forgiving recipe and the amounts can be adjusted as needed/preferred. I usually make this for 2 people, but making it for a crowd would be a cinch!

 

Painting Update

 

 

This is where I left my painting this week. It may be hard to tell, but it’s moving along…

Raffi’s Place

 

 

When I wrote about the shuttering of yet another book store, I referenced my search for a restaurant. That restaurant is Raffi’s Place.

 

Many years ago, a friend introduced Mister and me to Raffi’s Place, located in Glendale, CA. They serve Middle Eastern food. I say they serve Armenian food. I say this because one of the largest populations of Armenian people – outside Armenia – is in Glendale, CA.

 

Forgive me if my information is faulty, but it is my understanding that Armenians began settling in Glendale, CA in the 1920′s. This would have been just after the Armenian genocide began (1915). There was a mass exodus of citizens from Armenia and for some reason or another many Armenians settled in Glendale. I’m simplifying history, I know. I apologize.

 

But whatever the facts, we have some spectacular food in Glendale. And Raffi’s Place is my very most favoritest Middle Eastern restaurant around. If you’re ever visiting, do yourself a favor and go there.

 

You’re welcome.

 

Karma

 

 

“It matters not how strait the gate,

how charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”

William Ernest Henley

(1849 – 1903)

 

 

Now that the hoopla surrounding moving has died down, I want to share a gift I experienced during the darkest parts of that time.

 

The move wasn’t planned and it wasn’t pretty. There was some ugliness involved, but I won’t go into details out of decency. While trying to process said ugliness, I spoke to more than a few people about it. Over and over again, I heard the same response, “Doesn’t [that person] know about karma?” After a while of hearing that, it occurred to me that perhaps my own karma was somehow at play. If someone would show me such disrespect, what must I have done to deserve that?

 

I am truly a flawed human being. I know this. I also know that I endeavor to be as good a human being as I’m able. That means I do a lot of apologizing. I’m okay with that. But as I looked back and tried to remember choosing to mistreat and hurt someone to the extent I experienced recently, I was at a loss.

 

Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My karma. And as I drove a final carload of belongings to the hotel, it occurred to me that not caring for or knowingly mistreating oneself is just as bad as – if not worse than – mistreating another. That thought was immediately followed by thoughts of how I’ve limited myself and kept myself from growth in life. How I’ve sometimes not allowed myself to fully be.

 

I’m not talking about getting manicures here. I’m not talking about shopping. I’m talking about taking that chance when it’s placed before you. I’m talking about improving oneself, no matter how frightening it may be to take a class/walk/vacation/whatever. I’m talking about leaping, because friends, that net has never failed to appear. I’m talking about moving forward in life. I’m talking about jumping off cliffs.

 

And that’s when I felt it: that knowing I’d just had a revelation. Honestly, it felt like the sun was shining from within. The warmth trickled through my veins, outward from my heart. That new knowledge absolutely glowed. In me. From me.

 

Yes, the karma of others can be a factor. For them. This life of mine isn’t about anyone else’s karma. It is only about mine. And I am solely in charge of that. I am the keeper of my own light. And you know what? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this little light of mine – I’m gonna let it shine.

Another One Bites the Dust

 

 

The other day I was out with Mister, trying to find a restaurant we love. I’ve always remembered the place’s locale as being adjacent to a huge book store. Only the book store isn’t there anymore. (I eventually sniffed out the restaurant, don’t you worry.)

 

Book stores are becoming dinosaurs. Even their bones are harder and harder to find. And that breaks my heart, for I love to read. I love the way books smell. The way they feel in my hands. Their weight. Though I wasn’t much of a reader when I was a kid, I am now a reading fiend.

 

Many of my friends and family have gotten on-board with some form or another of e-reader. They extol the virtues of e-reader ease. They tell me how traveling with an e-reader is the way to go. They love their new, electronic books. And they miss nothing of the old models.

 

 

Or do they? Once in a while, a friend will confide in me to say she misses the way books feel. That she misses the physical act of turning pages. But then the moment passes and that friend will say that no matter how much she misses real books, she’ll never go back.

 

And so another book store has bitten the dust. Fortunately, I still have one or two remaining stores on my circuit. My real, physical circuit. Where I can pick up a book and thumb through it, maybe read a passage or two. I must admit, I’m a book junkie. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I visited a book store without buying something. And smiling about it, all the way home.

 

Found Art

 

 

Several years ago, I did some volunteer work for a Los Angeles suburb. One of my tasks was to help catalog art in public spaces. I would go around and confirm a piece of art’s presence and identification. As I understood it, everything would be listed in a guide so that anyone could go around and check out the art with a map and a little knowledge.

 

 

The project was brief, but I learned a lot about art in public spaces. And perhaps most importantly, I learned to look for said art. I’m grateful for that education, as I now find art just about everywhere I go. And I love it.

 

 

If you’ve never looked for art in public spaces, give it a try. You never know what you’ll find at the post office or on a subway platform. Maybe there’s some sculpture hidden near a traffic light. Maybe you’ve moved past these art pieces on a regular basis, never once noticing their presence. That’s certainly the way it was for me. But not anymore. Thankfully.

 

L.A. Moment

 

 

The other night Mister and I attended a film premiere. Not all such affairs are star-studded or paparazzi-heavy. Some are quiet, with modest attendance. This was one of those premieres, and the film was flippin’ awesome.

 

“Experience Montreux” is a 3D documentary and its world premiere was part of the “3D Film Festival” in downtown Los Angeles. Shot over 10 days at 2010′s Montreux Jazz Festival at Lake Geneva’s edge in Switzerland, the film features musical performances and interviews galore. The festival’s founder, Claude Nobs, was honored before the premiere and is featured prominently in the documentary. His stories alone could make up an entire documentary, and the scenes featuring Mr. Nobs were some of my favorites. For example, he told of an early ’70′s festival where Frank Zappa was playing onstage. Apparently, a kid in the audience set off a flare – inside the building – and the structure went up in flames. The band Deep Purple was supposed to record an album in that building, and after it burned, Mr. Nobs found an abandoned hotel for them to work in. Deep Purple did indeed record their album, and they even wrote a song for Claude Nobs. They recorded it as a joke, with no intention of ever releasing it. They gave Mr. Nobs a cassette of the song and, after giving it a listen, he suggested they include it on their record. That song, written about the destructive fire that took place during the festival, was “Smoke on the Water.” The rest, as they say, is history.

 

I don’t know if you’ll get a chance to see “Experience Montreux” or not. But if you do, give it a shot. The music is awesome and I can almost bet you’ll be wanting to attend next year’s Montreux Jazz Festival.

 

As for me, I’d love to go to Switzerland in July of 20 and 13. Hmm. I wonder how I can make that happen…

Montalcino

 

 

The first time I went to Italy, wait, that sounds like I’ve been a jillion times. I’ve only been twice, y’all. Anyhoo… The first time I went to Italy, I was fortunate enough to visit the Biondi-Santi Winery in Montalcino. This was a very big deal, as Biondi-Santi is the place where Brunello wine was invented. I don’t care who claims what or for how long – it all began with Biondi-Santi. And to this day, their Brunello is sublime. I mean spendy. No, I mean sublime.

 

As we were leaving the winery, I looked out across the fields and saw grapes being harvested. It was early afternoon and the countryside couldn’t have been more beautiful. I turned my gaze up the road and the view just spoke to me. As it was the time of film (and not digital), I worked with what I had loaded in the camera. I ended up snapping a black & white pic. I would show you the pic, but it’s packed away in a POD, somewhere in the desert. But I digress…

 

Years later, that photo continued to speak to me. And I wanted to paint it, but not in black & white. So I used my imagination and came up with my own colors. What I ended up with is the above painting. I call it “Montalcino.”

 

For now, it hangs at the end of my galley kitchen. It reminds me that there are always roads to travel, places to see and experience. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back to Montalcino, but the painting takes me there from time to time. Even now, I can smell the dust in the air and feel Autumn coming on.

 

A new season. What a blessing.

Painting Update

 

 

This is another detail from the painting I’m currently working on. I’ve only gotten the first layer of paint on the canvas, so it probably won’t look anything like this when I’m finished.

 

Any guesses?