auld lange syne

"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
- Dylan Thomas

A winter sunset as seen from the mountain behind my house - captured during a snowshoeing trek with Kasey, Tom and my dad.

Farewell 2009... x

you're not perfect, and it's okay

"You'll be bothered from time to time by storms, fog, snow. When you are, think of those who went through it before you, and say to yourself, 'What they could do, I can do.'"

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars

Image is "crows" by the wonderful Italian illustrator, Nicoletta Ceccoli.

a christmas miracle

Hey! Look what Santa brought....

...a three-legged Bear who is able to walk! (Much quicker than anticipated!)

christmas eve recovery

We picked Bear up after his rather distressing surgery today. He seems to be holding up okay...

... provided my dad is by his side.

Clearly, my dad has a rather abiding bedside manner. Oh... you've just got to love the both of them! x


See that sun-drenched mountain peak poking out over the smog-choked clouds threatening with imminent snow? I think the image encapsulates so much of what the Christmas season has been for many people I know this year. It's been a time of extreme yin and yang - more distinctly, I think, than it has been in the past. I see the juxtaposition reflected everywhere...

Twinkling lights and penetrating dark.

Mountains rising over valleys.

And yet, there's beauty in all of it - no? Since for the most part, I think the cold times have elicited even warmer greetings and more heart-felt gestures of love than usual.

So on that note, I offer you two lovely off-the-beaten-track Christmas tunes that each reflect a sentiment felt during this season. The first is a sing-song happy tune from Lenka and the second is a more melancholy Joni Mitchell-like ballad by Brandi Carlile - both equally gorgeous in their respectively light and dark ways.

Merry Christmas All!


deck the halls

We're getting into the Christmas spirit at our house... maybe a little late this year, but with no less enthusiasm. We were without a tree when I landed, so one of the first things we did when I arrived was set off on a hunt for the all-important Tannenbaum.

The lots were a little picked over, but I think we managed to find quite a good one - perhaps this particular fir was meant just for us!

Thar she lies, waiting for her coach home...

Part of Kasey's marvelous holiday table centerpiece.

Glittering foil-wrapped candy all they way from Slovakia!

The nostalgic silos of the still-functioning Lehi Roller Mills - a *must* stop for unique Utah-made gifts.

Not only do they grind their "Turkey" flour right on the premises, our Grandma has come to expect their exceptional blueberry pancake mix in her Christmas package.

At historic Wheeler Farm - telling Santa that "yes, I have been a *very* good girl."

And what's Christmas without a sleigh/hay/tractor ride through a forest of fairy lights?

Here's my fam waiting (freezing) patiently as we await our turn - hot cocoa in hand.

Yay! After an hour... at last we board!

Giddy-up let's go!

Singing carols with brisk air against your face and a backdrop of laughing little lights in the trees...


poor little bear pup

I'm back in Utah... and came home to an ailing/injured Bear!

He does *not* understand why we're taking such measures to prevent him from chewing on his leg.

Or *why* he has to wear this stupid bonnet.

Poor babe. Wish him well! x

heed thy black swans...

... it's only a mirage that they come in a row.

Happened to read the below excerpt from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book on improbability The Black Swan *right* before I had the chance to do this today. (Full taped version coming

"Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like an opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think. Remember that positive Black Swans have a necessary first step: you need to be exposed to them. Many people do not realize that they are getting a lucky break in life when they get it. If a big publisher (or a big art dealer or a movie executive or a hotshot banker or a big thinker) suggests an appointment, cancel anything you have planned: you may never see such a window open up again. I am sometimes shocked at how little people realize that these opportunities do not grow on trees. Collect as many free nonlottery tickets (those with open-ended payoffs) as you can, and, once they start paying off, do not discard them. Work hard, not in grunt work, but in chasing such opportunities and maximizing exposure to them."

And now you understand why I changed the flight I had scheduled for today to tomorrow; I think I've snubbed enough lottery tickets...

Photography is by the indefatigable Rodney Smith.

Only 525,600 minutes in a year?

“Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart.”

– Holly Golightly in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Too many people have told me I'm like the infamous Holly... and guess what? I am. But I'm not.

Picture is Love's Exquisite Happiness by Cassandra Barney.


It's been a while since I've posted much about cooking. Not that I haven't been.... I think I've officially mastered the art of both veggie lasagna and tarts, have created some divine chocolate chocolate cookies, and discovered that split pea soup takes an awful long time (think days) if you're starting with dried break-your-teeth peas (and therefore is *not* recommended for a dinner party....). But not only have I been too preoccupied to relay much of my cooking feats, there are also only about 4 hours of natural light in London these days, and since artificial light and food photography really don't pair well - dishes inevitably come out looking like unappetizing brown slop - I simply refuse.

Anyway, had not one but two success stories yesterday and managed to snap some pics before the sun set at 3: a gingerbread pumpkin pie and a butternut squash gratin. Pumpkin puree is rather difficult to find in the UK and I forked out too much for an imported can of Libby's at Partridge's for my Thanksgiving feast that never happened - and felt *compelled* to use it before I went home for Christmas and came back only to the glum post-holiday aftermath.

I devised a hybrid recipe, drawing inspiration from the Los Angeles Times and what I had on-hand. The dark brown sugar and extra dash of ginger is what makes it more gingerbread-like in taste. And, with absolutely no time to make a proper pastry crust, I made one out of digestive biscuits and oats with a dash of sugar and spice - the result was a struesel-like accompaniment to the pumpkin custard filling. Even Guillaume, Mr. I-don't-like-cinnamon-or-pumpkin-pie enjoyed this pumpkin pie. When you turn someone from espousing hatred for something to conceding that they like it, I always take it as a good sign.

The butternut squash and goats cheese gratin also turned out quite well. I pretty much verbatim used this recipe from Epicurious. Come to find out it is *exactly* the recipe Kasey used for our family's Thanksgiving at home - ha. Apparently, my parents thought it was a little dull, but both she and I (and my guests) thought it was amazing. To me, it seems like a decadent macaroni and cheese with squash instead of pasta. The only minor twist I put to the recipe was to add several dashes of nutmeg and I toasted pumpkin seeds instead of hazelnuts for the nutty flourish - seemed more seasonal, and hey, it was what I had!

Even though it's the holidays and time for baking extravaganzas, this squash-themed feast is likely the last bit of cooking I'll do here in the rainy dark of the UK before I head Stateside. Utah with its proper snowy winter/Christmas - here I come!

Recipes follow. Enjoy!

Anne Spice's Gingerbread Pumpkin Pie (adapted from the Los Angeles Times)

For Crust:
1 1/2 Cups crushed digestive biscuits (or graham crackers)
1/4 Cup Oats
5-6 T Butter
1/4 Sugar
1/4 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg

Mix together thoroughly and press into a 9-inch pie tin. Cook at 175 C (sorry! now all my knowledge of cooking temps are all over the board) for ten minutes - or until golden brown. Let cool before adding filling.

For Filling:
1 15 oz Can Libby's Pumpkin Puree
2 Eggs
2/3 Cup Whipping Cream
1/3 Cup Semi-Skimmed Milk (that = somewhere between 1% - 2%)
1 T Cornstarch
1 T brandy or vanilla extract
3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar (lightly packed)
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. all spice
1/8 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. cloves
3 grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, eggs, whipping cream, milk, cornstarch and brandy or vanilla. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and spices. Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour the filling into the cooled piecrust. Bake until the pie is set around the outside but still slightly wet and jiggly in the center, about 1 hour. The filling will continue to set as it cools.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts (from Bon Appetit)

3 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium), peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 5.5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place butternut squash cubes and olive oil in large bowl; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and ground pepper and toss to coat. Spread out squash cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until just tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Coat 11x7-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread half of leek mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of squash and half of cheese. Repeat layering with leeks, squash, and cheese. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour cream evenly over gratin. Sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).

like sparkling tears on the earth's tartine

"They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?"
- Jeanette Winterson

Took the photo in Sloane Square this evening - by far the best light display in London I think.

trays of ice cubes


That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying
I went closer,
and I did not die.

- Mary Oliver

I think grief is one of those things you have to melt through like a glacier - it's cold and terrible, but if you hover over it, rather than press it close to you, well... it simply won't evaporate.

The painting is one by Cassandra Barney called Spring. I swear, I felt some connection between the poem and the glacial colour palette/expression on the woman's face, but I didn't appreciate the appropriateness of the title till just now.

a cozy little nest with a couple of good eggs

ha. i think the familial dynamic between my french flatmate gui and me has reached a new level:

me: 'i'm going to the store.'

guillaume: 'do you need any money?' (in all seriousness)

winter vacation

"I must try to find something new, not necessarily in a place that is unfamiliar, rather in a person or a place that is right beside me."

- Rodney Smith

Ah, perhaps should have gone with a Rodney Smith photo to go with his words.... but how cool are those lamps??? I was torn, but in the end went with Rune Guneriussen.