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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Happy Halloween!

Halloween Costume PhotographI'm actually posting this on November 5th, because I've been preoccupied with other projects and STILL haven't gotten around to creating the web gallery of Halloween costume photos for my group. I'm not being a slacker: I've been working on fun things like submitting images to my photo agency and hanging art gallery shows at work. So it's been all good. But it's still slowing me down.

Anyway, here is a photo of me at work. I am a starfish, with a white nubby underbelly (if you've ever looked at all of the tiny beige feet on our local starfish, this makes sense) and a red patterned back that matches my little teddy-star that I'm carrying with me. The costume has a radial design: each of my five sections comes to a point just over my heart on both front and back. People generally figured out what I was if they saw me with my arms outstretched (or from looking at my little Starry), but not so much when I was carrying things.

Yes, I wore this on public transit to and from work.

Yes, our group won at work for best group with costumes and best decorations in our area, which was decorated with an Under The Sea theme.

Yes, I earned serious creative-freak cred for designing and sewing this myself.

This was probably the most work and the most fun I've gotten out of Halloween. I was part of a conspiracy to increase participation in the holiday at work, and it really paid off. (I am now being teased about fabulous plans for Thanksgiving. :-))
It was a little bit early to wear myself working at odd hours on my costume, however, because the holiday was followed by an art show at work, for which I needed to mount and frame 8 prints, and for which I volunteered by staying late to hang the art; an opening party; deadlines associated with my photography projects; a time-consuming project associated with my photo agency; and now the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, October 30, 2006


Perhaps it is autumn.

jack o lantern group portrait by Steven PitsenbargerJack 'o lantern group portrait by Steven P.

After an amazingly warm week, during which I suffered my first head cold in quite a while, the weather turned cold. It was still hot at our annual pumpkin carving event, which made me regret my plans to serve roasted butternut squash and tomato soup and hot spiced cider, but a day later those foods made sense. And right now, I'm running the heater.

How did that happen? I'd really wanted more of a fall than we're having.


I'm still working on my costume. Sewing machines have it in for me, apparently, so my previous attempts have been foiled to various degrees. I borrowed another sewing machine Sunday afternoon, and discovered it had a few problems (a tendency to violently eject its bobbin being one of them). I got some great sewing in between its fits, but have little confidence that tonight will go well.

I might take a little nap, and then try to finish it off.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, folks.
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:57 PM

Sunday, October 22, 2006

close up of the cut stem of a bright orange pumpkin'How many special projects does this woman have?' I don't know if I should admit how many things I've been working on lately. But a short summary would include: working full time, getting to and from work, making dinner every evening, trying out contact printing on silver chloride "printing out paper" with enlarged digital negatives, trying to figure out how to have better digital negatives made for me, staring off into space, entering photography contests, researching new photo contests to enter, falling asleep on the couch after dinner, proofreading and editing a friend's 200+ page book, getting excited about Halloween, buying costume components to sew into a six and a half foot tall sea star costume, napping, planning Halloween decorations for the office, going to Half Moon Bay and gathering pumpkins and other squash by the wheelbarrowful, more napping, house cleaning, photo-trip planning, taking anti-acid/ulcer medication that creates unpleasant side effects, and daydreaming (which sometimes turns into actual project planning, if not napping).

My recent weeks have made November, in which I'll be working and doing the usual chores, plus attempting to write my third novel for National Novel Writing Month, seem nearly relaxing. Though I figure I'll find a way to complicate it.

I'm also unsure that my strategy of waiting until November 1st to settle on a novel idea is wise. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a terrible idea. But my schedule looks kind of busy up through Halloween itself.


You can tell from the length of that list that I'm not really spending as much time as I would like on photography, even though I'm full of a backlog of photo plans. I fear that NaNoWriMo may take away from my photo time (between naps). I'm weighing this.


A rainstorm moved through the SF Bay Area this week, bringing a very close approximation of winter with it. Just as we were resigned to having winter start in what was supposed to be our summer, and to turning the heater on in the morning so it would be warm enough to bathe, summer abruptly arrived at the end of the week. Just as I switched into a "hot, thick soup every night" style of cooking (potato, lentil, minestrone, etc.) and made some fall pies, it turned hot.

Suddenly, baking squash regularly doesn't seem like such a great idea.

Yesterday, it was 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade by late morning, and so I dropped my ambitious outdoor plans and lounged around. 78 degrees is the usual top of my "high productivity" comfort zone: above that I slow things down. I finally took the time to read the photo & commentary book Remarkable Trees of the World, which gave me a strong desire to travel, but somehow didn't motivate me to get up off the couch. :-)


Despite the strange turn of the weather, heirloom tomatoes are still available!! Really! Nearly everywhere! I suppose this is because the season started so late for them, but they are abundant. Even TJs has them in plastic boxes. I have been buying them every chance I get, certain that any week will be the last week they are available. This means I have quite a few on hand, but they never last long - there really is no such thing as too many tomatoes.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:26 AM

Saturday, October 21, 2006


"We do not have a smoking cow at this point now."

That quote comes from this Scientific American article ( about the contamination of spinach that has resulted in three human deaths, hundreds of illnesses, and a nationwide recall on spinach. Oh, and a silly panic.

A few weekends ago, when I was preparing my potluck dish for the tree planting party in my neighborhood, Steven suggested that I add spinach to my multi-cheese-stuffed pasta shells, because I add spinach to many such dishes, and spinach always makes each dish taste and look even better. He suggested this while we were looking for large pasta shells, and our search took us to a chain supermarket (my usual health food places don't carry shell shapes). There we were, in the enormous supermarket produce section (which is at least twice the size of our San Francisco home), yet there was no spinach to be found. There were lots of other foods there, or at least a vast abundance of a few foods (how many thousands of the two types of apples they carry should be on display at any moment??), but no spinach. Not in the section with the greens, not with the lettuces, and not even in the alarmingly enormous bagged salad section.

We laughed at the store's blatant spinach-inadequacy, and left. On the way home, Steven remembered hearing something about a bagged spinach recall, but obviously that shouldn't impact fresh spinach, which they weren't bothering to carry.

They weren't bothering to carry it because of the silly panic. Apparently, the spinach-eating public can't be trusted to differentiate between spinach in a bag from some particular companies, and fresh spinach grown anywhere else, so the supermarkets decided not to carry it at all.

I wouldn't care - spinach can still be had at my usual markets - but it turns out that many little restaurants and even chain restaurants have been impacted by this event, because they ONLY use bagged spinach. The little cafe where I sometimes get breakfasts stopped using spinach in their dishes. The biggest bagel chain in town stopped carrying their pizza-like bagels that were topped with spinach. The crepe place where I go for hearty breakfasts stopped using spinach. While fresh spinach may be cheap and plentiful, restaurants don't want to have their employees spend time washing the wrinkled leaves repeatedly to get the sand out of the nooks and crannies, and so they buy it bagged - and only bagged. So, at least outside of my home, I've been getting a lot less spinach in my diet, which is a shame.

On a related note, there have since been lettuce and carrot recalls, which have caused similar panics against all lettuces and carrots, which is terrible. The way it is presented, people will think the problem is the vegetables themselves, and not the beef industry practices that appear to be the source of all of these incidents (thanks to the flow of contaminated cattle wastes into nearby fields).

The FDA has news, most recently this FDA Statement on Foodborne E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak in Spinach--Update October 12, 2006, and also has a page where all such updates are posted FDA spinach news. Several of this pages list all of the brand names that the spinach was released under, and even other processed foods that had to be recalled because they contained the bagged spinach. These lists of damaged brands and secondary damaged brands shows the far reaching nature of the industrial agriculture system, in which one small farm in one state can cause a nationwide, multi-product recall.

It's also a reminder that folks who don't eat beef are still being impacted by the beef industry.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, October 20, 2006

Beautiful, beautiful summer night. After work, I got on my bike and pedaled around the City along the water's edge, from the industrial eastern shore, through South Beach, past the Ferry Building, past Fisherman's Wharf, and into the Presidio before heading south through the park and home. It was a 22 mile day, but it felt nearly effortless, because it was SO BEAUTIFUL outside. Warm and clear, with the city lights shining brightly, the bay sparkling with the lights of our neighboring cities, a festive sunset, nearly still air... It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Perhaps summer really is here!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, October 05, 2006


More and more special projects

four-eyed camera image of Palace of Fine Arts, San FranciscoIt is terribly peculiar that I'm not blogging about food, isn't it? It is, I admit it. Sadly, part of the reason is because I'm currently under treatment for what appears to be stress-induced heartburn and possible bacterially-induced ulcers, and the medication I am on takes much of the pleasure out of eating. It's not that I don't get hungry (outrageously so, actually), it's just that it is now more difficult for me to digest my food. So I get hungry, I eat, and then I feel sick for several hours, only to repeat the process a few hours later.

I suspect I will soon be on a new medication, with a new doctor (perhaps one who is willing to examine me). In the meantime, my relationship with food has been hindered somewhat. :-( Also, during this period, I have been unusually tired. I have optimistically decided I am tired from the wonderful work my body is doing to heal myself, but I'm not entirely convinced.


The Bicycle Film Festival came to San Francisco last weekend, and it was fabulous, as always. It's not just the films, but the entire scene: the space in front of the theater completely filled with bicycles, parked tightly together by the valets of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition; Critical Mass biking past just before the 9 p.m. show; lots of SFBC volunteers to chat with in line; the theater packed full of bicyclists; Brendt, the director and founder of the multi-city/country festival, speaking about how people will look back on the bicycle movement as one of the important movements of this era; and the actual films. There were also after parties three nights in a row, but we had other stuff to do, like sleeping in the style of old people, and so didn't attend.

I watched Program 2, the collection of "bike shorts." (Ha ha.) They were entertaining, though several had very downbeat themes: the difficulties of making it as an immigrant food delivery person; memorials to bicyclists killed in New York; discussions of serious injuries during otherwise festive night rides... But there was also a great deal of fun. My favorites were:

-"Bike Ride" by Tom Schroeder, an animated film about a guy taking a 50 mile bike ride to see a girl, who isn't especially happy to see him. It was great animation, with great music.
-"Training Wheels" by Ramsey Beyer, an all-sewn, stop-motion animation piece, which was about a child's very sad disappointment, but absolutely ADORABLE.
-"Gasoline vs. Yogurt" by the Neistat Brothers, in which two brothers race, one on a bike and the other on a motorcycle, to get across New York City. Funny and energetic.

There were other great films, but these are the ones that stick in my mind most.


The next day we participated in a tree planting in our neighborhood, organized by other tree-loving neighbors and Friends of the Urban Forest ( We got to meet our neighbors, get some exercise, make our neighborhood more lovely, and enjoy a fun potluck with the other planters. My contribution to the potluck was two trays of two-cheese-stuffed pasta shells, twice baked in a zesty tomato sauce, and several bottles of fruit juice. The pasta dish was very easy to make, and was very well received. I'll post a recipe as an earlier entry, so it will appear below.

And yes, we now have a tree in front of our house. It's a lovely, soft-looking Melaleuca.


four-eyed camera image creek with Palace of Fine Arts in the distance, in the Presidio, San FranciscoI went on a lovely bike ride around town Tuesday night. It was the perfect night to go: the breezes were gentle, there were gorgeous clouds in the sky, and I had a little extra energy after work.

The sky is just amazingly beautiful from Crissy Field, when you can see so far in each direction.

There was a cloud bank moving in, which brought us rain Wednesday, the first rain of the season. I was happy I was able to take such a lovely ride before the arrival of the storm. But really, it's lovely in different ways on most nights: I just don't always notice precisely how lovely it is on my way home.

The loveliness is there, waiting to be appreciated.


I'm also working on some photography projects, and you'll see more of those when I'm ready to show them.


Oh, and November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You are working on story ideas for that novel you've always wanted to write, right? Of course you are.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:15 PM


Pasta shells stuffed with two cheeses

This isn't one of my most healthy recipes, but it is easy to make, feeds a large crowd, and is satisfying in a comfort-food kind of way.

Ingredients to make one tray of stuffed shells:
-1 pound of pasta shells, cooked according to package directions, cooled in cold water, and drained. (These are about 2 inches across dry, and much larger when cooked.)
-1 pound of ricotta cheese
-1/2 to 1 pound of skim milk mozzarella, grated
-8 cloves of garlic
-2 teaspoons of dried basil
-1 teaspoon of dried oregano (or about a tablespoon of fresh oregano)
-1/2 teaspoon of crushed dried red pepper
-1/4 cup of olive oil
-1 large jar of pasta sauce.

Directions: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

While the oven is heating, puree the ricotta with the garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and olive oil. Mix with the mozzarella in a large bowl. Spoon about two heaping tablespoons of filling into each of the shells.

Pour about half of the pasta sauce into a wide, oven-safe casserole pan, and arrange the stuffed shells on top of the sauce. When the pan is full, dilute the pasta sauce that's still in the jar with about half a cup of water, mix it well, and then pour it over the stuffed shells. Cover the pan with foil, and bake for about 45 minutes.

This dish keeps well, and can be baked a second time if the pasta sauce is wet enough, which further melds the flavors together.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:12 PM

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