Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Exquisite Corpse

The Surrealists enjoyed messy accidents. And collaborating. They enjoyed both so much, in fact, that they would often gather to cause messy collaborative accidents that we now call parlor games.

One of the most famous of these is the Exquisite Corpse, in which each player writes part of a sentence on a sheet of paper, folds it to conceal the writing, and then passes it to the next player for his or her contribution. The game was named for the subject of its first playing: 

"Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau" 
(The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine).

At the Harvest Moon Tea Party salon last week, we kicked off the evening with a couple of rounds of the classic version of the game:

 “Seven hiccoughing bushbabies are dancing bright rockstars.”

“The super alpaca spanked pleasingly the strumpets.”

“We slow robotic droids escaped radiantly into the banana.”

Then moved to a round of questions and answers (the question being hidden from its answerer):

Q: “Where does the sleepy traveler go when no one is watching?”
A: “With reckless abandon and honesty.”

Q: “How many years does a pig live?”
A: “Glad you asked that. I was anticipating this question. The answer is yes! Especially on Tuesdays.”

Q: “What does it all mean?”
A: “Because there isn’t any.”

Q: “If you came across a very friendly alien, what would you say?”
A: “Corn on the cob. Or possibly rhubarb.”

Q: “What is the meaning of bubbles?”
A: “15 miles and a small golden trout.”

And, finally, the favorite--the artists' version of the Exquisite Corpse (some of our drawings are seen here).

See some of the original Surrealists’ drawings at

The Surrealists in 1930: Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, André Breton, Hans Arp, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, René Crevel, Man Ray

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thunderbolt Sow

I recently received an e-mail from my worm-loving friend M (for "Mischief") suggesting that I might be the doppelgänger of the Thunderbolt Sow mentioned in this post from The Writer's Almanac (from October 24, 2010):

"It's the birthday of writer and explorer Alexandra David-Néel, born in Saint-Mandé, France, in 1868. She had an unhappy childhood, the only child of bitter parents who fought all the time. She tried running away over and over, starting when she was two years old. As a teenager, she traveled by herself through European countries, including a bike trip across Spain. When she was 21, she inherited money from her parents, and she used it all to go to Sri Lanka. She worked as an opera singer for a while to finance her travels. She was especially interested in Buddhism.

"She disguised herself as a Tibetan woman and managed to get into the city of Lhasa, which at that time was off-limits to foreigners. She became fluent in Tibetan, met the Dalai Lama, practiced meditation and yoga, and trekked through the Himalayas, where she survived by eating the leather off her boots and once saved herself in a snowstorm with a meditation that increases body temperature. The locals thought she might be the incarnation of Thunderbolt Sow, a female Buddhist deity. She became a Tantric lama in Tibet when she was 52 years old.

"And she wrote about it all. Her most famous book is Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929), in which she wrote: 'Then it was springtime in the cloudy Himalayas. Nine hundred feet below my cave rhododendrons blossomed. I climbed barren mountain-tops. Long tramps led me to desolate valleys studded with translucent lake.... Solitude, solitude!... Mind and senses develop their sensibility in this contemplative life made up of continual observations and reflections. Does one become a visionary or, rather, is it not that one has been blind until then?'

"She died in 1969, at the age of 101, a few months after renewing her passport. She was a big influence on the Beat writers, especially Allen Ginsberg, who converted to Buddhism after reading some of her teachings."

Friday, October 22, 2010

The World Was Made to Be Free In

Whenever I'm a little lost, I find it helpful to have a poet by my side. Right now it's David Whyte:

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you. 
              --David Whyte

I'm looking forward to see David Whyte in Vancouver next month, where he'll share his secrets in a workshop called What to Remember When Waking.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Forest Gold

I'm the richest girl in the Emerald City this week. Why? Look what I've got:

I returned home from my travels to a deck covered in red leaves, a week of crisp, sunny days, and woods bursting with mushrooms. I honed in on my favorites--chanterelles. Their flavor memory has been teasing me all year long.

This pile of fragrant treasure is now a creamy soup, made from a recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbooka gift from my dad years ago. Since I’ve never bought chanterelles, I don’t know how many make two pounds; I just pile mushrooms into the pot until it seems like there are way too many.

Wild Mushroom Soup

 Melt 8 T. of butter in a soup pot. Add 2 c. of finely chopped yellow onions and cook, covered, over low heat until they are tender and lightly colored, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Trim the stems from 2 lbs. of fresh wild mushrooms. Wipe the caps with a damp cloth and slice thin. Add caps to the soup pot, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.

Add 4 c. vegetable stock and ¾ c. Madeira wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, add a cup of the broth, and purée until smooth.

Return purée to the soup pot and set over medium heat. Taste, correct seasoning, and add a pint of heavy cream. Heat until steaming and serve with slices of toasted crusty bread.

Serves 6 to 8

Bon appétit!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Foodie's Guide to Barcelona, Part 2

Last week I posted pictures of the Mercat de la Boqueria as a teaser to get you daydreaming about a trip to Barcelona. If it worked, you may have already started comparing flights and checking out hotels. Well, good!

If you enjoyed that little appetizer, you may be interested in seeing a menu, a selection of Catalan taste experiences not to be missed.

Let's start with breakfast: xocolata at M. Viader. M. Viader is the oldest granja (chocolate café) in Barcelona--it dates back to 1870. And Xocolata is a thick, rich, chocolate soup served under a slab of sweet cream, with a side of melindros (ladyfingers).

Xocolata (photo by Su-Lin of Tamarind and Thyme)
Melindros (photo by Su-Lin of Tamarind and Thyme)

M. Viader (photo borrowed from this blog)
For lunch, head to the Café de l'Academia, a gem hidden in the heart of the Gothic district. Sit inside in the sophisticated-rustic dining room or outside in the small and relatively quiet plaza, order a glass of cava with your lunch, and then sit back and enjoy some of the best modern Catalan fare in Barcelona.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Invitation: Harvest Moon Tea Party

We get two Harvest Moons this year. Yes, two. The first coincided with the autumnal equinox on September 23, and was therefore christened the "Super Harvest Moon." I was far from my garden at the time. And far from the farm that keeps me in fresh produce in exchange for a few romantic chores a week (cutting flowers, digging potatoes, gathering eggs in a rustic basket). Alas! I was in France, and had to make do with the abundance of wines, cheeses, and pâtés that my fellow Musers and I had gathered that week. (What rotten luck!)

The second harvest moon is this Saturday. I am home from my travels. My tomatoes have finally ripened; my autumn greens are thriving; and the pig that I saw harvested before I left for France is now ready to be roasted. Being back among what I know and love, I'm in the mood to celebrate. A feast! An offering of favorite local foods and new French delicacies. A Harvest Moon Tea Party.

You're invited to join me as the last warm drops of summer evaporate into the crisp autumn air. The first bottle of blanquette will be popped at 5. Dinner will be served at 7. And heady conversation will be had throughout the evening. Bring your most scintillating self and join in the revelry.

The magic of L'Antic Teatre in Barcelona

Harvest Moon Tea Party 
Saturday, October 23
Vashon Island

E-mail me to RSVP or for more information. 

(As always, the overnight guest room goes to the first taker.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


At the risk of getting my blog all sticky with sweetness, I'd like to introduce my favorite new citizens of the planet, who live with my lucky friend Kenneth (aka "Puma"):

These bemittened muppets were born just over a month ago. They're wobbly and nearly microscopic, and thus hard to photograph, but I think you can get the gist.

Their mother, Kiwi (aka "Shoebacca"), is an Amazon of Cuteness herself, as proven by her high ranking in Kittenwar ("May the cutest kitten win!"). You can see her stats (and baby pic) here. The kittens' teenage siblings--Madeleine, Pillow, and Carrottop--have had equally impressive military careers.

Check out Kenneth's blog, Chess Tip of the Day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Valentine to La Muse

Dear La Muse,

It's been only a month since we met, and nearly a week since we parted, but already I've grown fond of you and look forward to my next visit.

Kerry and John, you're perfect hosts. And amazing people. You sparkle; you soothe; you inspire. Thank you for your kindness and generosity. And for the vision, courage, and hard work that you've put into creating such a welcoming and inspiring space for artists, writers, poets, musicians, and Creative Imaginatives of all persuasions. What Muse wouldn't willingly rush to one's side in such a setting?

I'm enclosing a scrapbook of my stay, for the edification and enticement of Future Musers (you know who you are).

With gratitude and affection,


Welcome to La Muse
The grape arbor
A room of one's own
My creative space
Playing with paint
An artist in her element
The happy-hour terrace
"French Lunch"
A walk through the village... the Source
A chestnut-strewn trail
Saint Michel mushrooms (Lepiota procera)
...and more "French Lunch"
The Prat Viel cows (thanks for the milk!)
La Montagne Noire
No hiking on "Hunting Wednesdays"
Fresh walnuts (see post here)
The vinyards of Lastours
My hidden sculpture
The window is wide open...

To learn more about La Muse or to apply for a 2011 residency, click here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Parc Güell

Okay, I was already planning to come back to Barcelona soon to do it properly, but wandering through Gaudí's magical, mystical Parc Güell today cinched it.
Where will you be next autumn? Anyplace more enchanting than this?
Or this?
Casa Batlló
Or this?
Casa Milà ("La Pedrera")
E-mail me to meet up for a week in the heart of Barcelona next October.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Foodie's Guide to Barcelona

If you're a foodie planning a trip Barcelona, my first piece of advice is to rent a place with a kitchen. True, there's a tapas and cava bar on every corner, offering incredible, inexpensive food at all hours, but you're still going to want a place to cook. Here's why: El Mercat de la Boqueria.

Enough said?