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Thursday, August 30, 2007


Back in the saddle.

Arlene with folding bike unfoldedToday, after more than three months of waiting, I made my intermodal commute as a bike-train-bike ride.


It's only my third bike ride since... the Incident.


I've been dreaming about biking since shortly after I broke my arm in my spectacular fall back in mid-May. My biking dreams have had such an epic quality: vivid; super-saturated with golden, evening light; scenic; peaceful; happy... Over and over again I've biked in my dreams, in the rolling hills of the Amador Valley, or along the Embarcadero on a warm evening, only to wake up and find that biking wasn't possible because of my arm brace, my weak arm within it, or my new, profound phobia of falling.

As someone who used to ride regularly for basic transportation AND for fun, adjusting to life without biking was tough. I didn't drive - I don't own a car, and don't have a license (though I had a learner's permit once and practiced in several different vehicles) - but there was so much that I missed. In the months since the fall and the surgery, my dreams reminded me of all those things. All of the freedom I had to move around the city I love under my own power was suddenly so limited. I missed the smells of the restaurants I used to bike past, the cheerful banter on Valencia or on Market when I biked in packs, the warm fuzzies I'd get biking up to the door of the SFBC. I lost track of things that were happening in places where I only biked. There was a woman who would walk past a school I biked past each morning, and she'd smile when she saw me because she knew I'd say good morning again. There was an angel's trumpet on Hearst that always bloomed spectacularly, and I looked forward to seeing it... Buildings had changed, trees had been planted or cut down along my old routes, and I would pass as a passenger in a car and just stare. So many little things in my daily intimacy with my routes slipped away...

As the weeks passed, I started dreaming about riding my new folding bike (shown in images here, folded and unfolded), the bike I crashed on, and not just my beloved road bike. (Until I dreamt of riding it, I hadn't realized that my foldie hadn't appeared in ANY dreams while I was healing.) One night I dreamt that I rode my folding bike to the Presidio to meet friends from the Bike Coalition. We agreed to ride a tandem down into a dusty ravine and up the other side to get to our destination. I folded my bike, strapped it onto my back, hopped on to the third seat on a mountain bike tandem, and we flew over the lip - down into the ravine, bushes whipping past on either side, the edges of the trail only visible around the whipping hair of the girl ahead of me - and I was completely fearless.

Unlike in real life.


Arlene folded with folded folding bikeMy first bike ride was 3 months and 4 days or so after the fall. I decided to ride my foldie to get past my association with falling from it. Steven persuaded me to just take a few loops around the ex-horse race track in the neighborhood, which is now a street that makes a nearly perfect, nearly flat, oval loop through expensive homes. I thought he was being ridiculous - I wanted to go on a REAL ride - but he wouldn't take me anywhere else, and I wanted to avoid traffic, so I gave in.

It was terrifying. My first mistake was biking down my steep hill, which I somehow had failed to notice is remarkably steep and scary. (All these years!!) And the balance on my foldie, with its little wheels, is much trickier than I thought. I must have actually had TALENT to ride it with the ease that I did within moments of testing it out at the shop!! After surviving my own block and the gently sloped block below it, gripping the handlebars for dear life and riding the breaks all the way, I biked about 4.5 miles around the gentle neighborhood loop, but didn't feel much more confident than I had before I started. Biking was... hard?!?

I waited a week, and then had Steven drive me (!!!) to Lake Merced, where I did two loops on the street with the cars, trying to beat my fear of speed and concerns about traffic simultaneously. 10 miles of having my feel clipped confidently to the pedals, with the comfortable balance that comes with large wheels, I felt a lot better about the whole idea.

But I waited until today to bike to the train station via the same route that I crashed on. I biked through the same intersection I bit it in, though I took a different approach to crossing the 3.5 sets of tracks this time. And, unlike nearly every time I have passed the site of my fall since May, I did not utter the profane word I have uttered every other morning upon viewing the spot where I skidded across about five yards of crossing streetcar tracks and broken, pitted pavement on my left side.

It felt pretty good. I enjoyed it. It felt... Normal.


There have been a couple of bike crashes among my colleagues in the office recently, and I've heard comments about how dangerous biking is, or at least is seen as. Is it as dangerous as driving in a little metal box at 75 mph on a freeway? Is it as dangerous as eating the standard American diet? Is it as dangerous as not exercising and dying of preventable diseases caused by a sedentary lifestyle? My wonderful physical therapist, while helping me straighten out my arm completely for the first time since the surgery, pointed out that to live a healthy life you HAVE TO BE active, and that living in general entails risk. Crossing the street can risk your life! She advised me to walk defensively, and to bike defensively, but not to let fear stand between me and the activities that create good health.


When I first bought my folding bike, I wrote in one of my journals that having a foldie would change my life - and I joked that I wasn't allowed to get hurt on it, because that wasn't what I meant. I did get hurt, and it changed the way I think about all kinds of things. But I am extremely, extremely happy to be biking again.

The City is mine again.

[Post Script: I cannot possibly be as pale as I am in that photo. I am friggin' Casper the Friendly Ghost. Geez. Can I say it's just the lighting? Hopefully biking around will put a bit of healthy color on me.]


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:32 PM

Ah, back posting. Somehow, I've made lots of little notes or drafts, but am not getting around to publishing them promptly... I think this has something to do with Steven starting work at 6 a.m., and me being semi-awake beginning at 4:30 a.m. every day - it's not conducive to staying up late and blogging. Or, at least, not coherently.


I've been to the farmer's market TWICE without writing about it! Both were "small" trips, narrowly focused for one reason or another.

Fall (though "autumn" is a prettier name) is definitely here: the apples and pears are more and more abundant, and the farmer's are announcing the end of various crops. They broke my heart these last two visits: the season is over for cling peaches. [sound of me sobbing.] It's not like I can complain to the California Cling Peach Board (, it's just the short season of the fruit.

I'll miss them, those strange, ultra-firm, orange-fleshed, sweet peaches. *sigh*

In my recent trips to the farmer's markets, I've picked up:

-mile long beans (both green and burgundy), to eat with black bean sauce over rice
-yellow pear cherry tomatoes (cooked immediately with basil and garlic to make a pasta sauce)
-red cherry tomatoes (for salsa, soups, and chili)
-cling peaches (duh)
-small red chilies (for salsa with the red cherry tomatoes)
-heirloom tomatoes, a lightly ruffled kind that is both deep red and deep green, leaning toward black (used sliced on tostadas and atop veggie burgers)
-melons, vaguely like cantaloupe, but not quite.


-onions (for nearly everything I make)
-edamame (soybeans! Boiled briefly, lightly salted, eaten warm for breakfast)
-watermelon (mostly for the skin for photos, since I prefer cantaloupe)
-basil (likely for a pesto to mix into polenta)
-mint (for fresh tea)
-pomegranates (to make a complete mess of myself over long periods of time - eating these is half ritual, half pleasure)
-a patterned butternut squash (I'm not sure what it was crossed with)
-crinkly green peppers (to photograph, and for chili).

I would usually buy much more fruit, but each of these trips was just a spontaneous side trip on the way back from something else, and I wasn't fully prepared. Also, friends supplied us with a huge bag of ripe pears, and our tree has been steadily providing us with medium-sized, crunchy, sweet-tart apples. I eat the apples as soon as we find them, but the pears are waiting patiently for me to make them into pie. It's a shame this little fall heat wave started, because there is no way I'm turning on the oven...


Last night I went to the communal bath at the Kabuki Springs Spa ( at Japan Center, which was heavenly. I swear, if I owned a steam room, I'm not sure I could function in the outside world at all... Anyway, they have something that I always love during those moments in between the steam room, the cold pool, and the hot pool: cool water with sliced cucumber in it, or a mix of sliced cucumber and lemon. It is sooooo refreshing. It's amazing there aren't a lot of beverages with cucumber in them, for its pleasant, cooling taste. I think we're in the habit of thinking of it as a salad vegetable, but it can make a very refreshing drink.

I know cucumber is used in "raw" soups, and may have to do some experimentation...

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:07 PM

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Marinade for vegetables

Somewhere, I have a copy of a fabulous book called The Vegetarian Grill, but either I've loaned it to someone, or it's hiding under a pile of magazines, because I couldn't find it to look up their fabulous recipe for marinating veggies for grilling. So, I made up a vague approximation of what I think should be in a good marinade, and it turned out really well.

-1 and 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
-1/4 cup of fresh oregano leaves
-2 tablespoons or so of fresh rosemary leaves
-8 cloves of fresh garlic (or to taste)
-1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Blend all ingredients together. Toss in a large bowl with veggies such as thinly sliced eggplant, bell pepper halves, or thinly sliced zucchini. Marinate, stirring occasionally, for at least an hour. Use any extra marinade to baste the veggies while grilling.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fall. The leaves are turning brown and yellow and falling from the trees in E-ville (Emeryville, pronounced /EE-vil/). I live with a botanist, so I need to tell you that the trees in question are platinus acerifolia, known commonly here as sycamores.

I actually listen to my botanist, so I had to ask him what the common name was. Scary.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:14 PM

Lomohome update. I added a few collections of "shots" to my Lomohome, mostly of plants or buildings containing plants.

There are a lot more images where those came from, but I'm going to update that site gradually.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:12 PM

Sunday, August 12, 2007


There's something new at PostSecret: a short movie!

See it here on YouTube.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:08 PM


In the garden as fall approaches.

photo of a small, red and green appleIt has been an especially wet, dark, foggy summer here the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco. Most mornings when I leave the house for work, the front steps and the street are as wet as if it had rained at night. The constant dampness has been hard on some of the plants. In our sheltered garden, fuzzy plants like lamb's ear and its friend, big ears (both stachys byzantina), are growing mildew on their soft leaves. This is the sort of dampness that prevents us from growing zucchini and basil, whose stems just rot before the plant can thrive.

Our apple tree, which blossomed more heavily this year than it has since we moved in, hasn't minded the constant moisture, and its branches are now heavy with red and green apples, which remind me of gravensteins with a slightly tart edge. The first apple that Steven collected, which is smaller than most of the others on our kitchen counter, is pictured here.

photo of a ripe lemonOur small lemon tree, which worked up the energy on its tiny stems to give us a wonderful lemon last year, is feeling more confident in its fuller shrubbiness, and just provided us with another tasty lemon, also pictured here. I'm suffering from asthmatic bronchitis right now, something that occurs periodically after a fit of sinus allergies, and Steven made me a delicious honey-and-lemon hot drink with the lemon to make me feel better. (Mmmmm, hot honey-lemon!) It helped quite a bit, and was very tasty. It will be wonderful to have fresh lemons regularly, as we did when we lived in a rented house in San Bruno, where a mature lemon tree scented the air with its blossoms and fruit for most of the year.


With so much fog, many of the hints of the approaching change in seasons are hidden. I can't really tell where the sun is rising. Through our rear window, the views of our neighbor's homes work as a sort of sundial: in winter, the sun rises behind the strange blue addition atop the roof of a house a few doors up, and in summer it rises just left/north of the giant fir tree that the birds and raccoons love so much. In recent weeks, the sunrise has been to vaguely defined to be certain, but the feeling in the air is fall.

Fall is San Francisco's most beautiful time of year. Not so much because of fall foliage colors, which come a bit late to us and are limited to our Japanese maples, plums, and sycamores, which don't turn colors are precisely the same time. (Most of our trees here are evergreen.) September and October are when we get some of our warmest, most beautiful weather. Especially at night, when the sky is clear, the air is nearly still, and the city lights are sparkling, the City becomes completely irresistible.

That time is nearly here...

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:46 AM

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Steven has an article up at! : Working with anthotypes explains how Steven made the oh-so-gorgeous, flower-juice prints that are in his gallery here.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:12 PM


Recipes with purchased sauces: Tofu with Spinach and Onions in Thai Peanut Sauce.

photo of stir-fry with peanut sauce
I've never been a huge fan of peanuts, but every so often I crave kung pao tofu or param pak with peanut sauce. So finally, I bought a jar of a vegan & Thai version of peanut sauce that contains coconut milk, galangal, and other tasty ingredients. They recommend it more as a dipping sauce than for sautés, but it works well. I like the thick paste versions better than the versions that are more liquid and vinegar-y. (I know how to make peanut sauce from scratch, or I used to. If I can find one of the old recipes, I'll test it out again, refine it, and post it.)

-a pound of tofu, cubed
-three cups of fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
-one onion, halved and sliced into half-rings
-four tablespoons of the Thai peanut sauce of your choice
-cooked rice.

Heat a little canola or peanut oil in a wok, and add the sliced onion when it's hot. Sauté the onion over medium-high heat for two or three minutes before adding the tofu. Mix well, lower the heat, and cover for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach and peanut sauce, and mix well. When the dish smells too good to wait any longer (about 12 minutes of total cooking time), serve over hot rice.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:54 PM


Recipe: Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Feta

Polenta is an amazing dish: it's just boiled cornmeal that's been allowed to cool and firm up in whatever shape container you've put it in. It is remarkably versatile. You can deep fry polenta slices, bake polenta with any of your favorite pasta sauces, mix herbs and spices into it, top it like a pizza... It's simple, tasty, healthy, and filling.

The basic recipe I use is for "polenta squares" from Vegetarian Times, which I see is posted on the web at LookSmart as Vegetarian menus that work when you do, Vegetarian Times, April, 1997 by Mary C. Rogers ( It's one of the simplest and fastest polenta recipes around, destroying the myth about having to spend hours over a molten pot of cornmeal. You can also buy premade polenta very inexpensively at health food stores. There's a brand I like that is moist and comes with sun-dried tomatoes in it - it is quite nice.

Using either homemade or purchased polenta, you can easily make this delicious dish.

-1 small pan of prepared polenta, about one half inch thick, or sliced into half inch thick slices (from the recipe link above or from a package)
-1 cup of marinara sauce
-2 - 3 cups of ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced
-4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
-8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled finely
-1/2 cup or so of fresh basil leaves, shredded.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a glass casserole dish or pie pan, spread the marinara sauce so it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Arrange the polenta slices densely over the sauce. Cover the polenta evenly with the remaining ingredients.

Bake for about an hour, uncovered. The sauce below and above the polenta will be boiling hot and the cheese will melt. The polenta itself is quite dense, and so the time in the oven is necessary for it to be heated completely through. If you become overwhelmed by the good smells coming from the oven before the hour is up, so long as the tomatoes have made a lovely sauce and cooked down a bit, you can try microwaving the dish to complete cooking (though that won't give the garlic as much time to mellow.)

Variation: replace some or all of the fresh basil with fresh, shredded oregano. Oregano and feta work very well together.

This is great with a small green salad and a simple wine.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:15 PM

A meal fit for a princess meant something that specific??

From SoupTale: SOUP IN ITALY (
During the Middle Ages, specific foods became associated with social classes: onions, cabbages, and root vegetables for the peasants; fruits and delicate vegetables for the nobility. Giacomo Albini, physician to the house of Savoy, developed a theory that members of these classes would become ill if they strayed away from foods appropriate to themselves...
Class-specific veggies. If that doesn't take the cake.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)4:49 PM

Thursday, August 09, 2007

BBQ Rivalry. My officemate is planning a barbecue with a large circle of friends and acquaintances, and the potential for the sort of rivalries you hear about in Texas, where people take their secret sauces to the grave, is abundant.

I believe I actually heard her say, "You think your barbecue is great, because you haven't tasted mine, b*tch!"

THAT is being serious about barbecue.


I went to a barbecue-and-baby-shower on Saturday, and I can assure you that it was completely non-violent, and no remarkable rivalries broke out. It was a bring-your-own-grillables event, which was unusual, and we brought those veggie burgers available from Amy's (the same folks who make the best ever vegetarian refried beans). They were tasty on spelt buns with mustard.

Spelt? Spelt is a now-obscure wheat which was THE dominant wheat in Europe back in the Bronze Age. (God, I love Wikipedia.) It's tasty and nutritious, but isn't common now because it's harder to machine process it. That's how food decisions are made now: if the food is suitable to mass-production and machine handling, it's probably familiar to you; if it's not, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about unless you're also some kind of food nut.

My officemate would just laugh.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, August 08, 2007



I love checking out cookbooks from the library and learning new ways to eat things I already like. One of the recipes I found was for pancotto, an Italian soup that uses stale bread as dumplings of sorts in a tomato and garlic broth. It's a nice vegan soup, and there are many variations on the web that involve up to half a dozen vegetables. I've made the simplest version several times. I was going to post a link to the closest version I could find, but none of them are as simple as the version I use, so I'll give you my approach from memory. The basic recipe for the soup is:

-4 cups of water or veggie broth
-a few cloves of garlic, minced
-an onion, diced
-crushed red pepper, to taste (maybe half a teaspoon?)
-2 pounds or so of ripe tomatoes, diced
-a small handful each of of basil and parsley, shredded
-four slices or so of good, stale bread.

All you need to do is sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes, add the broth, bring it to a boil, and simmer it with the tomatoes and bread for 15 - 20 minutes until the bread has absorbed most of the soup. Then you can mix in the fresh herbs, let them simmer for a moment or two, and serve. It's simple, warm, and is a great way to use up overripe tomatoes and bread that has gone hard.

I recall that the original version of the recipe required that the tomatoes be blanched, peeled, and deseeded, but tomatoes here in California are pretty thin-skinned, and the seeds aren't much of a problem. But if it would bother you, take those out.

There are many variations of this recipe on the web involving green beans, zucchini, potatoes, and other combinations of vegetables and herbs. There are two nice vegetarian variations of bread soup at the site of Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes (, along with one meat variation, and tips for customizing the recipes according to whatever is fresh and in season. Which is really more important than the specifics of any recipe, since the freshness of the ingredients is what makes simple foods so satisfying.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, August 06, 2007


The brace is off! The brace is off!

My arm is free again!

I had another x-ray and an exam today, and my doctor declared my range of motion excellent. I'm allowed to stop wearing the brace (though he joked I should put it on if I plan to spend time in mosh pits; I pointed out that it is so bulky, I'd likely to be injured by it slamming into me), and to lift light weights.

I have a physical therapy appointment next week.

Free! Free!


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Summer at the Farmer's Market

mysterious orange dappled sour melon
My officemate was telling me about how her parents always used to wake her up early on Saturday mornings, when she wanted to sleep in and then watch cartoons, to drag her along to the chaotic farmer's market on Alemany. Since she wasn't involved in the selections, and spent her time dodging the lumbering, fast-moving shoppers towering over her, she remembered dreading the event. But now that she's an adult, she appreciates being able to get such gorgeous produce in wider selections than what is carried in stores.


I appreciated the gorgeous produce today. There was something especially lovely about the piles of chilies, including the little, pointy chilies still on long, leafy, green stems. (I've been told those are used decoratively more than they are eaten.)

In no particular order, I picked up:
-pastry from one of the bakery booths. I had a mango-berry folded pastry with a bit of icing on it. It was rich enough that I couldn't eat it all in one sitting. Steven had an enormous cinnamon roll, which would have lasted me three days.
-Japanese eggplant (the long, thin kind). I bought these to marinate for a barbecue, before realizing that we had to leave almost as soon as we got home...
-crinkly, long green sweet peppers. These have thin walls, but are very crunchy. I'll use them in stir fries and perhaps a soup.
-sour melon. I've never had this before, but it's a lovely looking fruit: it's oblong, orange, and has a lovely pattern on it... I suppose I should just photograph it. I'll do that (look up at the top of this entry). I couldn't figure out what it was, and asked the farmer if it was sweet, and the farmer said it was sour like a lemon. I love lemons, and it's LOVELY, so here it is. I'll report on the flavor later.
-canteloupe. My favorite melon.
-CLING PEACHES. These are amazing. I have been craving them for weeks, and now they are available! They're enormous, firm, delicious, and very juicy.
-purple plums
-two kinds of pluots - what I think might be the "dapple dandy" spotted variety, and yellow. Wikipedia's entry for pluots says that they are 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot, but they're really a lot more like plums. They are delicious.
-golden pears
-Bartlett pears (with lots of brown spots on them, but very, very sweet)
-zucchini, for curries and bread
-cherry tomatoes
-blackberries!! These really are in season, because even the vines overgrowing the edge of a small green space on the side of the freeway are ripening.
-cucumbers, the small, bumpy, gherkin-style
-heirloom yellow tomatoes with red stripes
-sweet peppers in pale yellow-green, violet, and red-orange
-fresh basil
-leeks, for soup (perfect for drippy-wet foggy weather, as we've had all summer)

It's going to be a pleasant week. :-)


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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