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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Large Apple

  Shadow of the Empire State Building, New York, November 2009 by A.E. GravesLast autumn, my still life work on metal plates, which I had made with my homemade large format camera, won a spot in a juried group show in New York City. It was my third juried group show in New York, and I was becoming frustrated that I'd been unable to SEE the shows my work was in. (My first juried NY show, out in Rochester, had been documented in a lovely, hand-bound catalog, but that is rare.)

I hadn't taken vacation all year, primarily due to being broke. But I had a small emergency fund with a few 8+ year old shares of Apple stock in it, shares that had just reached an all-time high.

So I bought a ticket, booked a hotel room for three nights with the help of my officemate, and went.


In my remote childhood, I had set foot in NYC many times. Those were the years of visiting grandparents at least once a year in either the heat of summer or the depths of winter. My father worked for an airline, and we had some flight benefits. I have recollections, quite vividly, of JFK International airport: of endless red carpeting, coin operated bathrooms, the vending machine where my mother would let me buy a packaged coffee cake, dirty snow - piles and piles of dirty snow - and the long ride in a Connecticut Limousine back when it was still a limo, lined with row after row of businessmen in suits, driving us at odd hours of night or morning to Connecticut.

This was my first trip to New York FOR New York.

Rockefeller Center detail, November 2009, by A.E. GravesThere were many highlights to the trip, both visual and social:

-The approach to Manhattan from JFK, during which I realized how the Empire State Building really does look grand.
-Dinner with my officemate and his partner; drinks at improbably fashionable Buddakan ( - launch the site and take the tour; the lighting is actually much lower in real life), which I'd like to visit again.

-Visiting THE Museum of Modern Art ( in its spectacular "new" building.
-Dinner at Safran (, because nothing says home like 'black rice' with dinner, and I had gone too long without it. Aaaah.
-A pleasant, first in-person meeting someone I had only known on-line.

-Coming to the realization that my SF City walk translated PERFECTLY over to NY: I could walk down the street unmolested by hawkers of tour tickets and other sightseeing miscellany. They parted before me, only to set upon the nice Midwesterners behind me. I was also encouraged to vote in the local elections. I took this as a high compliment.
-A visit to the Empire State Building. I wanted to do at least ONE classic tourist thing, and I'd heard it was pleasantly 'deco.
-Lunch at HanGawi, an incredible Korean vegetarian restaurant near the Empire State. The meal was completely amazing.
-The Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim (, a building with bathrooms so tiny that my knees touched the opposite wall when I used the facilities. (You knew that Wright was short, didn't you? He was short. And indifferent to the needs of taller people.)
-A walk through Central Park.
-The opening night party for my group show at Soho Photo Gallery!! My officemate, plus a good friend who had come all the way up from Washington DC on a bus, plus her friends joined me. I gave a roving lecture on the different processes used to make the images. It was a blast!
-Dinner in the East Village with my DC friend's entourage at a little Italian bistro that made unsealed squash ravioli with the most incredibly tender pasta...

NYC metro mosaic, New York, by A.E. GravesWednesday
-An ultra-fresh bagel from a street corner cart. Mmmmm: poppy seeds.
-Lunch in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, at a charming little restaurant with potent lattes and Victorian-era metal pressed ceiling tiles. I chatted with the owner and barista for a while before my date arrived. New Yorkers are friendly!
-A tour of Brooklyn, followed by hours of relaxed socializing over classical music (Mozart, mostly) and tea.

This was just a reconnaissance trip: my officemate and I have a long, running list of things to do when we are there again at the same time later this year. I could have easily spent a week just working through my list of museums, but my hotel budget means those items will wait until another visit.

Despite dark and cloudy weather for most of the trip, I have two albums up on FB: New York City in 600 x 800 pixels is my phone photo collection, and New York City - a few buildings covers the few times I brought out my Digilux to handle low-light situations.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:40 AM

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

  Best wishes to you and yours! I hope you have many things to appreciate this year.

I hosted the feast at my place for my parents. The menu:

-Red lentil soup
-Mushroom and feta tart with oregano
-Butternut squash baked with leeks and garlic
-Green beans*
-Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and basil-infused olive oil
-Green salad (romaine lettuce, avocado, cucumber, tomato)*
-Greek olives*
-Pumpkin pie
-Cranberry nut bread* (one of my Mom's specialties: * indicates Mom brought these).

It was very relaxing, and completely worth staying up until 1 a.m. baking, so I could sleep in this morning and start the other dishes late. :-) The tart and my mother's cranberry bread were the non-vegan items on the menu; I need to come up with additional vegan items that my parents will love for feasts like this.

I hope you get the rest of the weekend off, and can enjoy some quality time with the people you enjoy most!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:53 PM

Monday, September 28, 2009


  sunset sky from West Oakland by A.E. Graves, September 2009This is an image on my iPhone photo blog from my BART ride home this evening... (The reflections of the interior of the train overlay the clouds.) It conveys my mood, in its own way.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:38 PM

Saturday, December 06, 2008

December Farmer's Market

  Arlene with enormous daikon radishIt is what passes for winter here now, which was the subject of some discussion at our table at All Star Tamales at the Alemany Farmer's Market today. It was sunny, and warm in the sun, to the avowed surprise of nearly everyone. One diner finally concluded that local winter is just January through March at most, while acknowledging the novelty of sitting at an uncovered table outdoors to eat despite this.

It was LOVELY out.

[Photo: Arlene cuddling with a daikon radish longer than her shoulders are wide.]

We showed up at the market after 1 p.m. for the first time ever, and expected the place to be deserted, but found hordes of shoppers - just mellower, less dense hordes than we are used to. Some of the booths were empty, - not everyone farms for year round market sales - and a few farmers were packing up such December oddities as strawberries or guavas.

Its the time of year for hardy greens like the kales, chards, gai lon, the various Chinese broccoli and bok choy relatives, spinach, cabbages; many orange foods like pumpkins, persimmons, tangerines, and oranges; and a host of root vegetables. [Beyond the turnips, potatoes, and what I suspect were beets, there were the root veggies I have seen the most often while in Japan: daikon radishes. They were everywhere - growing in suburban lots, on farmer's market tables, and even in souvenir stores -- radishes are specialty of Kyoto (and a required condiment in nearly every Japanese meal), and huge displays of both freshly pickled and recently packaged pickles appeared in every major tourist area. The smell of daikon pickles followed us everywhere, even more than cigarette smoke!] There were a few stray sweet and hot peppers, a surprising number of pluots, some weathered looking cherry tomatoes, and (finally!) an abundance of kiwi fruit.

The items I could not resist:
-a single, enormous daikon radish (pictured above). I'm going to try to pickle much of it simply (hot vinegar, salt, a little sugar), though I know there are fancy ways to it from web sites like's tsukemono page, which I'll need to visit when I have some rice bran handy.
-ordinary radishes, in three colors (for salads)
-jicama. It is very crisp and fresh. (S will snack on this, and I might grate it for salads or sweetened oatmeal.)
-cilantro (for use in guacamole and east Asian soups)
-sweet, small, green bell peppers (for stir fries with tofu)
-broccoli (for stir fries over rice noodles or couscous)
-onions (I use these in nearly everything)
-red lettuce (so tender, I'm worried that it won't survive in the refrigerator over night)
-kiwi fruit (which, mysteriously, S won't eat unless I peel and slice them for him)
-cauliflower (for a curried soup in imitation of one I had in Berkeley this week)
-sweet potatoes (an impulse buy because they were so cheap as the farmer packed up; I'll either put them in a coconut milk curry or toss them in canola and sesame oil and bake them as garlic fries)
-a green patterned, ruffled pumpkin (to bake with tomatoes, garlic, onions and rosemary and puree into soup)
-two butternut squashes (for pie)
-persimmons (who can resist that color!).

We also ate tamales at All Star's stand, and despite myself I wound up with two (not my idea) containing cheese: the black bean and the spinach & cheese. All Star often uses mozzarella, which gives the tamales a novel flavor and dense center. Their salsas are also excellent.


I'm looking for good carrot, "potage," and cauliflower soup recipes if you've got them: I prefer my soups to be rather spicy, and pureed to near smoothness. Let me know if you've found one to share with me!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:32 PM

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

  jack o lanterns

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:30 PM

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Edible Autumn Goodness

  stall at the Alemany Farmers' Market, San FranciscoAutumn is really here. It wasn't just those few spectacular days and nights of warm weather: it's also the food.

The Alemany Farmers' Market is full of edible autumn goodness. Pumpkins and patterned winter squash, apples in greens and reds, potatoes (red, blue, purple, cream...), corn, long chili peppers, pears in a wide range of colors, almonds, late summer melons, blackberries... All of those foods that make you think that it's pumpkin pie time.

(Of course, it's always pumpkin pie time.)

Have I mentioned that I love autumn? I LOVE autumn. Autumn always brings me good things.

The farmers' market brings me good things, too. If you haven't been lately, and you're in my region, here are things you should go out and acquire post haste:

-Sweet red peppers
-Green grapes (small, pale green; larger than champagne grapes; pleasantly sweet, softer than so-called "table" grapes)
-Tomatoes: mixed heirloom cherry (yellow, green, red, purple), ruffled yellow, and those deep red and green tomatoes that taste SO good
-Pattypan squash in pale green and yellow (the kind that look like flying saucers, to the extent you know what those look like and recognize them in ordinary garden veggies)
-Raspberries (never raspish)
-Thai basil
-White corn
-Ancho chilies
-Peaches (the size of softballs, but much better tasting).

With the peculiar weather we've had in this region, it seems like summer is running longer than usual, and stone fruit are unusually good and plentiful this year. Take advantage of the long season!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)3:26 PM

Monday, November 26, 2007


Buffeted by pirates

[The title represents what my eyes thought I saw while trying to read a blog, and read a pop-up e-mail preview, and listen to a conversation running in the background. It thus represents the absurdity of multi-tasking when it isn't necessary.

This post was drafted on November 21st, and then set aside in favor of novel writing.

Today's weather was relentlessly gorgeous, one of those autumn days that reminds you of how amazingly beautiful the world can be. It has been crisp in the shade and warm in the sun in a way that makes your skin continually aware of the touch of every edge of dappled light you walk through. The sunrise was accompanied by a small group of artfully arranged pink cloudlets. The rosy, late afternoon light begs to be noticed, photographed, and painted.

It was epically gorgeous. (Epically is a word: says so, so it must be true.) All of that epic gorgeousness raised a few questions in my mind about how I've been spending my time lately. Especially as I returned to the office after my lunchtime walk.

Epic weather like this reminds me the amazing weekend hikes that used to fill at least one day of nearly every weekend 8 autumns ago, when Steven and I first started dating. That year we had unseasonably warm weather nearly every time I found myself hiking in a redwood forest with Steven, or in the Marin Headlands, down near Big Basin, or up near Calistoga. It was unreal, improbable, and amazing.

It changed my life in a few ways, some of them unexpected. ASIDE from making my new found relationship feel epic. You see, my 1971 Nikon F (also known as "my beloved" and "my baby") is a very heavy, bulky camera, and I constantly found myself either unwilling to haul it everywhere, or unable to have it handy when a spontaneous hiking plan broke out while we were on our way to run some minor errand. (Steven was especially spontaneous in those days, as in I would think we were going to Radio Shack for a battery, and suddenly we were on a 15 mile hike four counties away. This is how events like our "Great Adventure" occurred, in which we went on a multi-hour hike on a moonless night in Big Basin without flashlights, and wound up having to make our way back to our car over several miles of trail by feel in darkness so complete, we literally could not see our hands in front of our faces. Ah, spontaneity.) Aside from constantly raising questions about which shoes to wear each day, never REALLY knowing what the day would entail, the epic beauty I witnessed so often called out to be recorded even when I was completely unprepared to witness it. This inspired me to buy a small, point-and-shoot camera, and constantly carry it in my purse. Once I had the camera, I saw photographs worth taking nearly every day, and suddenly had the wherewithal to do something about it. Thus, my casual photographic output soared upwards of 80 rolls of film annually, and a variety of substantive projects began to take shape, which led me back to an in-depth study of photography over its complete history... And all sorts of other fun fanaticism, with which you are likely familiar if you've been reading this blog or visiting my other website.


Aside: Steven's weekend runs with a local running club have sabotaged several of my hiking plans, but have now led to a new potential for adventure-comedy: I am taking up running. (You may laugh.) Don't be surprised if I never mention it again, and deny ever having posted this.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:02 PM

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween!

Jack-o-lantern group portrait by Steven PitsenbargerThe lovely image of carved, glowing Jack-o-lanterns is by Steven, and shows the results of our annual pumpkin carving party. Special thanks to all who came and carved: Ollie, Tim, Zoe, Larry (2 pumpkins!), Peter, Janet, Jill, Ian, Janae, Kathy and Jason.

Our dinner menu this year included:

-Pumpkin curry (really a combination of kabocha and delicata)(vegan)
-Pumpkin quesadillas (really a combination of butternut and delicata)(both lacto-vegetarian and vegan versions), on flour and corn tortillas, with a sauté of baked squash, sweet red and green peppers, garlic, and spices, served with guacamole and a choice of red or green salsa
-Pumpkin pie (butternut)(vegan)
-Blood orange tea (what a perfect name for a Halloween party!)
-olives (no eyeball labels required)
-cherry tomatoes
-Plus an array of treats that our guests brought: fresh mozzarella, crackers, sliced cheese, fresh papaya, chips, red pepper hummus, pumpkin ice cream AND lychee ice cream from Mitchell's (thank you Peter!), ginger snaps, several kinds of wine and beer, and other wonderful delicacies.

Arlene in costume as AutumnThis was the first year in recent memory that I had my Halloween costume ready PRIOR TO some ungodly hour of morning on Halloween. One of my enormously fun colleagues held a Halloween party on the Saturday night prior to this year's Wednesday Halloween, and so I had to actually PREPARE early.

I originally planned to be Totoro, the enormous, furry forest spirit star of Tonari no Totoro, the supremely delightful Japanese cartoon. A quick poll of the IT department at work demonstrated that current/modern IT people aren't in the same demographic they once were, and that I would have to spend a lot of time explaining my costume. Just the same, I went out and purchased enough fabric to transform myself into a large-headed, madly grinning woodland creature. With a ghost-bunny accessory made from organza and large googly eyes. I was *excited.*

Then the air conditioning system at work failed completely. It had been on the fritz for a long time, but the heat became even more unbearable than usual. And it occurred to me that I would spend all of Halloween lying on the floor and panting in my costume, moaning about death rather than being a bubbly, somewhat intimidating beastie.

So I decided to be Autumn. I planned out a dress (modeled after a favorite summer dress that no longer quite fits for some mysterious reason involving my chest circumference), purchased fabric leaves and fake fall leaf garlands from a craft store, and made my costume on the day of the party. The dress design failed almost immediately: I had failed to account for some darting on the dress, and my lack of formal sewing training quickly became evident around the collar... I tossed the failed dress mock up aside, and instead made a sort of leaf-covered bodice, which I could both tie onto myself and fasten to a bustier that contains me properly. I cut back some leaf arrangements and clipped them onto my head, sewed a leaf necklace onto some ribbon, draped the garland around myself, and I was ready to go.

Autumn is probably my least ambitious and most successful costume in years. The best satisfaction was that nearly everyone I encountered immediately knew I was autumn: women on BART, women on the Emery-go-round, my office colleagues, people on the street... I won praise from adults and small children.

As an added bonus, I won compliments on my current hair color from several people. :-) I don't know how many of you are old enough to remember this, but there was a color theory back in the 70s and 80s that there is a season (based on the four season system) that describes you, and you should wear the colors associated with that season. I had been evaluated as a "summer" at the time, and so was advised to wear a lot of lush, bright, fresh greens. I chafed under that designation, always insisting that I was a Fall, with periodic bouts of Winter. I think this is the costume (and hair color) that establishes me as a Fall/Autumn once and for all.

So, I think I learned a lot about costume concepts this year. In the future, I'll try to be more... direct.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Fall Nostalgia

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year, and the way the air feels brings back all sorts of feelings about past years and other places.

I went to Japan in autumn. I watched the trees turn red and gold; I hiked up mountains where I was nearly pummeled my falling leaves while walking with a red headed German engineer who happened to find me admiring a vista along the trail; I walked in icy rain, and melted away every ache in my (much younger) body by soaking in enormous hot-spring tubs. I would never have believed that hot, canned coffee dispensed by roadside vending machines made any sense until that trip. Now I know it can fill you with warmth and hope on cold, cold nights when you are searching for your hostel under a nearly black, cold sky...

I went to Nepal in autumn. I passed through several climate zones during a trek in the Himalayas, from tropical valleys to arid hills, but the brisk nights let me know what season it was. As we gained elevation and approached Everest, clouds would form over the peaks above us as I watched, and scattered snow would fall as we approached camp each night. It was literally freezing at night - my water bottle contained only a cylinder of ice one night, despite resting between me and my tentmate's sleeping bags...

I went to the Sierras many times in fall. The gold leaves in King's Canyon are so relentlessly beautiful on a warm fall day, and they make such beautiful sounds in the breeze. Tuolumne Meadows turns dry and brown, but the river still makes lovely, quiet sounds as it makes its way toward its gorgeous granite grand canyon, which is one of my favorite places on this earth.

Fall is always a wonderful time for me. Even in difficult years, there has always been something new in the fall to enjoy: new classes, new places to visit, new relationships, new jobs, the return of the winter squash I love so much, sunsets that I can enjoy on the way home from work... There is always something I feel or see that makes me feel lucky. And the littlest things - the smell of wood in a fireplace, or the crunch of leaves blowing down the street - brings back to a particular camp in Nepal, or a particular temple in Japan, or a hike in Point Reyes, and I really can't believe that all those tan-brown-gold memories are mine.

Without dwelling too much on the past, I'm going to organize some of my experiences from other falls, and write about them here on this site, so I can remember them again on beautiful fall days, and have those ideas seep slowly into you.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:58 PM

Saturday, September 08, 2007

  It feels like a fall day, because it is one, locally at least. The garden has that look that comes at this time of year, when the plants are going to seed, having spent their lovely flowers some time ago, each making their plans to completely take over the garden. (My money is on the borage, which has quite a head start on full garden domination, plus allies in the form of all those happy bees.)

I am relaxing with my tea, thinking up all sorts of categories of new web pages to write (an index of my record collection, with commentary; the revival of my Nepal travelogue from 1997; the revival of some of my content from my website which was hosted on netcom (which I cannot find on now!); a list of all the movies I've rented this year from my DVD-by-mail subscription service; photos of all my friends naked (actually photos of the faces of all of my friends pasted onto either of two nearly-naked bodies, depending on gender and how much caffeine I have had during editing); etc.), trying to decide whether or not to write a really smutty novel for NaNoWriMo, and trying not to think of all the work-related nightmares I've had over the last 10 days. Only some of them have been set at work; a couple of them were nightmares in that they were condensed, slightly intensified versions of actual events which I had not enjoyed at the time, in a way that filled me with dread. Others just covered themes of struggle which were reminiscent of work.

This morning's dream was about trying to save three delicate fish (two orange, one calico) whose water had been abruptly taken from them, and who were suffocating. I hadn't put them in their situation, but I was completely and solely responsible for saving them, and did not have the resources to do so. I scooped them up from the floor and tried to put them into various containers, which would not hold water, or could not hold enough water to cover them. I got assistance from friends, who rushed in with water that was too hot for them, and which contained chloramine which burns gills. The fish began to wither visibly while struggling, and their pain was almost audible... Finally, I improvised a container from a Plexiglas box, which only covered them with adequate water at a certain angle, and I managed to get a pitcher of cool, safe (chloramine-free) water which finally covered them, and I nearly cried with relief... but it was still not a permanent solution.

Yes, I know. I know. I do.


My neighbor's plum tree is losing its leaves, as are many other trees around the neighborhood. We don't have those glorious, gold-red forests that they have back east as the whether turns cold, because fall isn't the time of year when it turns cold: this is our summer. It has been stunningly warm at least half the days this week, perfect days for hiding out in the shade with a book, or going for a walk after sunset. These are the sorts of nights that I long to bike around the City, covered with blinky lights, but my biking isn't confident enough to ride smoothly over uncertain pavement the way I used to.

I am uncertain how to mark the seasonal change (which officially occurs on September 23, 2007, on the fall equinox) with food. Though I suspect it will involve the butternut squash I bought last week.

If any of you have a good, vegan, stuffed squash-blossom recipe, share it with me before it is too late to get those at the Heart of the City farmer's market!

I'm going to go outside and try to persuade our apple tree to give me some more apples.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)1:55 PM

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