Month: February 2014


Easy DIY Sushi Doll for a fun Doll’s Day celebration

We grow out of playing with dolls. We bury their plastic limbs in toy boxes – boxes that are now covered in dust or long-since donated. Some even say dolls are for babies. But this is simply not true — dolls are powerful symbols, and the Japanese festival called Doll’s Day (a.k.a. Hina Matsuri) is a great example of how they can be used to celebrate heritage and the art of letting go. A Display of Heritage Doll’s Day starts in February, when families display their dolls in a special spot, usually decorated with red fabric. Passed down from generation to generation, each doll has a special place – the emperor and empress on top, ministers, musicians, and court dignitaries lower down. The dolls are dressed in traditional garb from the Heian period (794 to 1185 A.D.), known for amazing art, including Tanka poetry and literature. We decided to mimic this setup with Ava’s own dolls. It was fun to see which dolls she chose to be the emperor and empress. March 3rd: Bye, bye dollies! So long bad stuff! …

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Instagram Sasha Martin

Time to Show Off: What’s on Your Global Table?

  This week, as I was heaving this behemoth fish into the oven, I thought of you all. Specifically, I wondered what you have been cooking. Surely I’m not the only one going through groceries like a madwoman?! I’ve been doing some more recipe testing for my memoir COOKING MY WAY HOME (National Geographic, Oct 2014). There will be 29 recipes in the book, including this Fire-Roasted Fish from the Maldives. With chili peppers, onion, and curry leaves, it’s a flavor explosion! Just curious (since I’m feeling chatty) — have you ever roasted a whole fish? Why or why not? And, just because I couldn’t believe the size of this thing — anyone want to guess how many pounds this grouper is?     Even without the recipe testing, I still think I’d be cooking like crazy. After all, it’s cold outside. And there’s no better pairing for cold air than something hot from the oven. I care about you and this community: if you’re cooking, too, I want to hear about it! Leave a comment …

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Julia Lipnitskaia, Russian figure skater. Photo by David W. Carmichael. Gold medal winner Stefan Groothuis during his race. Photo by M. Smelter.

7 Russian Dishes Worth Celebrating

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by the press’ coverage of the Olympics – it feels like the popular kids ganging up on the ‘outsiders’. While I don’t expect everything in the press to be all to be sunshine and rainbows, mean-spirited articles and blog posts whose primary goal has been to “poke fun” of the culture and people is a failure – a total disregard for the true purpose of the Olympics. We deserve more. They deserve better. The Olympics are a time to step up and celebrate each other – our athletes, our talents, that thing called dreams realized.  I recently read a fairly negative article about the food in Sochi, with interviewees calling their food experiences “bland” and “different” (citing the pervasiveness of cow tongue on the restaurant menus as a negative), with “McDonald’s as a best friend”. To be fair, the author did come around by the end of the article and cite a few decent meal reviews. Still, the time has come: someone needs to focus on the good. Let’s be real: it is all too …

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A older couple in love

Cook a “5 senses” Valentine’s Day Dinner with these world-wise tips

While I love my husband dearly, there are times that our love feels so comfortable I’m at risk for taking him for granted. But then I smell some garlic frying in oil, maybe some tomato sauce bubbling on the stovetop, and I know he’s making me pasta for dinner. It’s nothing complicated – a simple gesture, really – but I know in that moment he loves me. Food, prepared with care, is the meaningful gesture that can fix  just about everything, especially an in-the-rut relationship. To me, Valentine’s Day is about taking this simple attentiveness and amplifying it – by exposing our five senses to something new. After all, new experiences breathe life into the old.  They help us notice. And so this week, while I’m finishing up a few more last minute edits on my memoir, I assembled some awesome food traditions and ideas from around the world that will have your heart swooning in no time… in every sense, with every sense. Note: These tips, though most might assume are geared for couples, are completely …

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Oh my gosh, the things I’ve been doing…

For the last two months I’ve been writing (and rewriting) my memoir. I’ve been going into work early. Resuming work after Ava’s bedtime. And I loved it. I especilly loved the letters L,M, and N. I loved the solitude of deep thought that comes with getting so buried in how to describe something that I cannot hear anything around me. I loved going through the manuscript and marking things “BORING,” and then coming back to those passages and trying to think of better commentary, fresher description, or new perspective. I loved crying through the tough bits, and laughing through the happy bits. Because that is human nature. That is my story. It felt good to embrace it – recognize it. Finally. I loved drinking too many “1 shot, decaf lattes,” right up until bedtime – and I loved that the bartenders at The Pheonix not only knew my order, they’ve dubbed their coffee shop/bar/restaurant/library my “second and third place” (according the Cheers, everyone needs a home, a place to work, and a third place). I also loved recipe testing. …

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