Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cat Power

Latest hot indie band on the cover of Paste?

International Males 2006 catalog?

X-Files re-make?

No. Stinky Boy & Buddy Boy. Cats extraordinaire and mascots of La Gringa.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Portland, Oregon

Team Mia took their first out of state trip to the wonderful city of Portland, Oregon.

One cool thing about Seattle is its promixity to other cool cities - Vancouver BC and Portland are both less than 3 hours away driving. Taking the opportunity of a business meeting Team Mia packed our diaper bags and headed down to the City of Roses.

The drive itself was plesant & easy bordering on the boring. Listening to the audiobook for Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince and munching on potato chips & drinking our favorite Korean aloe vera beverage we were in Oregon in no time. After the character-building cross-country trip with two cats driving with Mia is really a breeze - she basically sleeps through the trip and somehow missed every exotic scenery we pointed out to her (look at that nuclear reactor!)

We stayed at a fabulous hotel called The Kennedy School. It is converted from an old school and the place imparts a beautiful yet somewhat subversive feeling. Guest rooms are old class rooms and you can still draw on a chalk board. Bars bear names such as Detention Room and the old girl's locker room is now a brewery. They also host regular music events and has a theater that screens second-run movies while serving pizza & beer. The Kennedy School is a part of a group of hotels, brewery & wineries dotted through out the pacific northwest under silimiar presentation. Highly recommended to the sterile corporate hotels.

The first night we had dinner with our friends Michael Martens & his wife Cindy + Thea & her husband Mike at my favorite Portland restaurant La Calaca Comelona.
The first thing you noticed are the decorations - metal skeletons & sculptures dedicated to Day of the Dead. Everything is hand made by the owner (from Oaxaca). There is also a wall featuring Frido Kahlo as well as hauntingly beautiful b/w photographs of old Mexican carnivals.

The second thing you notice is the menu. It opens with the declaration ''What! No burritos?). They went on to explain how they only serve authentic Mexican fare (with a twist) but no border inventions such as the burrito. BTW - not everything is good here but some dishes are truly inventive - such as chicken with mole and blackberries. They also have a very creative drinks list such as the spicy concoction Vampiro and a cinnamon tea spiked with Tequilla. What really makes the place work is the overall atmosphere - which is jovial, artistic and fun. Highly recommended.

Just a few blocks down is a terrific breakfast joint affectionately, Gravy. You walk into an open-space with cathedral ceiling and wallks lined with, er, gravy bowls. They serve basic & delicious food such as biscuits & gravy and pancakes with nutella & bananas. Too bad their blender was broken so I couldn't try their peanut butter + mango + honey smoothie. The crowd was eclectic a la Seattle's Capital Hills and New York's East Village - tattooed rockers sat next to butch lesbians next to corproate moms - are enjoying a fine cup 'o joe and hearty breakfast.

Wait, did we just eat in Portland? Well, yeah, kind of. I was in meetings most of the time. Big A & Mia did some shopping and walked around Portland's trendy Pearl District. Since I didn't go with them I don't really know what they did, but the food in Portland was really good.

Monday, March 20, 2006

St Patrick's Day

Here is Baby Crumpet enjoying a Guiness.

Years ago when I lived in East Village I started a St Paddy's party tradition. Many memorable nights were had (Hector breaking 2 glasses; Rifkin building a Guiness can skyscraper; Cory biting - yes, biting open Guiness cans to study the mechanism)

Anyway we were very excited to be continuing the festivities in Seattle. We do the same thing every year - build an Irish playlist on iTunes, buy Guiness, wear my Guiness Oyster Festival tshirt and cook my famous sheppard's pie and corn beef & cabbage strudel.

First obstacle - finding good corn beef. You see, back in New York you'd just stride into Second Ave Deli or Stags or Katz or any number of Jewish delis and walk away with a heaping amount of hot, tender, butterly & intensley flavorful corn beef.

Big A took first crack and visited a neighborhood ''kosher'' deli called Leah's. Well, not only did they not have corn beef, most of their menu was vegetarian. Strike one. Next we asked her boss - Sheila Kamuda, who is Jewish and originally from New York, figure she'd know. Well, she didn't. Then I asked my butcher at Larry's Market and was met with a blank stare when I asked for ''New York style corn beef''.

Finally Google came to the rescue and revealed Roxy's Deli in Fremont, the reporter (who claim to be from upstate NY) gushes how it is BETTER THAN KATZ. The deli's website is a very promising Filled with hope I head to the deli, dodging a hail along the way, walked in & asked for corn beef. The man behind the counter doesn't blink and calmly asks ''how many pounds?''. Yes! The world is good again and I return home with heaps of corn beef........only to discover it is....well, not bad. It's hard to describe but it's just, well, hm, you know, how do I put it, just not as good :-(

The show must go on. The McQuinns came early to help us tend to the gardens. Then friends started showing up: Leah, who has been in Chicago for a 3 months project; Cathy & John from Bellevue (and recently returned from Australia & Thailand); Gary, Megan & her assist dog, Kip; Jim, Jenni & Nathan; Ben, Suzanne & Henry; Troy & Megan; Kathi & Chris; Gracie (who made soda breads); D'arcy, Nancy & Ruby. Lots of sheppards pie, corn beef & cabbage strudel & Guiness were consumed. It was super fun to see everyone. Baby Crumpet celebrated in grand style by throwing up milk all over herself & mom, forcing an emergency shower for baby & mom and eliciting much comments such as ''I'm glad it wasn't me this year to throw up''. Hmmmmm........

Da Mao's recipe for corn beef & cabbage strudel:

Layers of filo dough
Lay strips of corn beef
Spread cabbage mix (sauteed with bacon, shallots & spices)
Roll the filo dough into burrito-likeness, brush olive oil every surface
Baker at 350 for 2 0 - 30 minutes or until golden & crispy at the edges
Serve hot with mustard

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Crumpet does Hot Pot

Crumpet, Big A, Gracie & Da Mao does Hot Pot at the Szechuan Bistro (212 N 85th St, Seattle, WA 98103. 206-781-1818)

One of three hot pot places we've found and the first one we tried. Very authentic Szechuan style hot pot with excellent broth. Decent meat selection (lamb, beef, pork & tripe) but veggies could have been better and no seafood choices. NOTE - the food here is very spicy!

Brief observtions of current events:

- World Baseball Classic. Just fantastic to watch. US millionaires losing to Canadian journeyman is probably a fluke, but a good wake up we're only as good as how hard we play

- Guantanomo Bay Prisons. What's going on here? By setting up an off-shore concentration camp where we hold prisoners without representation, charges or evidence is a serious issue. Attorney General Gonzalez defended US' decision to offer the prisioners legal counsel by pointing out German POWs during WW II didn't get legal counsel. Yes, however those Germany soldiers were also protected by the Geneva Convention which US has clearly said we do not follow. By all accounts most of the people held prioner at Guantanomo are nothing more than dirt farmers and in fact most of them have been proven by the Defense Department as having no connections to Al Qaeda or the Taliban what so ever. So why are they not released? I think the fear on our side is ''what if'' one of these guys released turned out to be a suicide bomber in the future? Who will take that responsibility? It's an argument straight from the sci-fi pages of Philip K Dick (whose short story was adopted into the movie Minorty Report where pyschics prevent ''future crimes''.

At least that's an debateable idea. Torture is just plain wrong and not effective. US officials has admitted to evidence (most caught on video) of US military torturing prisioners with urinating, covering them with menstrual blood, electrocution, leaving them overnight in freezers with only shorts on, beating until vomiting blood and holding crucifixes and telling them we christians are here to kill them muslims.

Just how do you think I will explain these actions to my daughter when she grows up?

- Dubai port deal. Fascinating. In a world where everything is scripted by Karl Rove here is something that unfurled at real time with unexpected consenquences. Whether US ports should be and can be handled by foreign nationals is, again, an interesting debate. However that rational debate never took place because passion and anti-terror fear torpedoed it. Bush blamed it on politics and exenophobia and for once he may be right. What I think Bush does not grasp is that he created that result by constantly reminding Americans over the last 4 1/2 years that we're at war with terrorist from the middle-east and our enemies are out here to destroy us. Is it any wonder why ordinary Americans are scared?

Crumpet update

World premiere photos of the crumpet with her eyes open!

She will be 8 weeks old this Thursday and 2 months old next Sunday (March 19th)

Daily routine continue to be the same yet with subtle changes. In addition to eating & sleeping she is definitely awake more often and engaging in some form of playing and making funny noises. The crumpet remain a fierce eater, often consuming more than twice the amount of food deemed ''average'' in baby books. For those of you who know her father, well, this is not surprising.

She is still not sleeping through the night but only wakes up exactly once (roughly 3 - 4 hour intervals). She can be fussy when we want her to go to sleep. Latest technique involves holding her in the bathroom with the fans on while standing underneath the heat lamp. She is also a restless sleeper with her arms & legs flaiing about constantly (my guess is she is growing; or she is dreaming of kung fu fighting)

Overall she is extremely healthy & very fun to be with at all times during the day.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Book suggestion

Picture was taken at Gracie's apartment

Since the Enron trial is reaching high drama in the news - for those interested in this tale or just simply a fascinating read I'd like to recommend CONSPIRACY OF FOOLS by Kurt Eichenwald

The book is a blow by blow account of the rise and fall of Enron. The style & pace reads like a thriller with a cast of personalities and byzantine plot twists. While in the media it's easy to cast blame on the three executives - Lay, Skilling & Fastow - when you have finished the book your opinion will be much murkier.

Long story short everyone involved played a part in the collapse - Enron management, employees, banks, lawyers, press, government officials, the white house, foreign government, accountants. The common thread was GREED. One of the best book I've read in years.

.... watched Hayao Miyazaki's CASTLE IN THE SKY last night - simply another fabulous tale - think of it as Atlantic re-told in fairy tale setting with Miyazaki's usual strong kids characters & a gun-toting grandma pirate (really)

... dinner was pan roasted chicken with sake sauce & steamed asparagus accompanied by Oolong tea

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

RIP Ali Farka Toure

Ali Farka Toure was the greatest bluesman to come out of Mali, heck, all of Africa. He died today

I first got introduced to Ali in the early 80s on one of those World Music compilations. His music has a powerful soulness to it and a rhythm that was inspired by John Lee Hooker and other Delta blues. IMHO Ali is one of the greatest musician ever lived. He wasn't more famous because he chose not to be. Trying several times to retire from music and going home to farm, finally doing it in 2000 at the age of 62. Ali retired to his own village, an island in the middle of Niger River, near Timbuktu and about a 3 days drive from civilization. There Ali planted rice & mangoes to feed the 50 people in his village. When asked why he quit from music Ali replied ''because honey needs to go to more than one mouth''.

Mali is a treasure grove for amazing, deep & rhythmic African music. In addition to Ali I'd suggest people check out Amadou & Miriam, Mamani Keita and her amazing album Eletric Bamako, Salif Keita and Omou Sangare. I dream of going to the famous Festival in the Desert in Mali someday. The world will miss Ali Farka Toure.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pirate Ducky

New mascot at the Wake 'n Bake in Glacier.

Tough week for Bush. Willl anyone believe what he says ever again?

He famously said after Katrina that he was not aware of the dangers that the levees could fail. Then AP obtained a video (which FEMA had earlier told ABC it didn't exist) that showed Bush was fully briefed the levee failuer potential was high the day before Katrina hit. Did he lie on purpose? I don't think so. I think this President often say things without thinking.

Bush jumped to the defense to selling America's port to a state that sponsors terrorism and vows to destroy Israel, only to back later to say he was not aware of the deal. I think the problem here was he jumped to conclusions to support his oil money friends without thinking through how you can not be two faced about fighting terrorism (as opposed to: sure, we'll fight terrorist, but these terrorist are my friend)

Even the nuclear deal with India was handled poorly. Engaging the world's biggest democracy is a smart move. Ignoring 30 years of international law and barely diguised trade off for military profits (the US is set to sell India 125 fighter jets & lots of profits for GE on nuclear technology) to the public is just clumsy.

This country was already divided between people who agree and disagree with Bush idelogically. Curiously now both camps are being united to agree that Bush is also incompetent.

My friend Anne forwarded this very funny New York Times restaurant review of HOOTERS:

There are nights when even the most committed gourmand cannot wrestle with another Niman Ranch pork chop, ponder yet another panna cotta or hear another server murmur, “Pardon my reach.”

And on one of those nights, not so very long ago, I went to Hooters.

Yes, fellow New Yorkers, we have one here. It’s in midtown, really just a stone’s throw from Le Bernardin, and it has features and frills that Le Bernardin doesn’t, starting of course with the outfits its servers, all of them women, wear.

I walked in and noticed two kinds of outfits. Some servers wore tight white T-shirts and tighter white shorts. Others wore tight white T-shirts and what looked like orange panties.

A group of four servers stood inside the door.

“Can I ask a stupid question?” I said.

One of them responded, “There are no stupid questions at Hooters.”

So I inquired about the different uniforms.

A woman in white shorts pointed to herself and said what sounded like, “Dough hoe.” Then she pointed to a woman in orange and said, “Waitress.” She repeated the gestures and words. “Dough hoe.” (Herself.) “Waitress.” (One of her companions.)

Come again?

“I’m a door whore,” she said, decoding the abbreviation she had used. “A hostess. She’s a waitress.” Ah! Do’ who’!

Hooters had more television sets than any sports bar I’d ever visited. All of them were tuned to sports channels. Customers drank sports bar drinks, by which I mean beer.

They ate sports bar food: Buffalo shrimp, Buffalo chicken wings, Buffalo chicken Caesar salads, Buffalo chicken breast sandwiches, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, quesadillas. Plastic containers of ranch dressing and blue cheese kept popping up.

In the men’s restroom, on the walls, newspaper sports pages were posted. In the women’s restroom, according to one of my companions, there was a special table for changing diapers.

Infants in Hooters?

There were few women among the customers when we were there. Many of the men had overnight bags on wheels with them. Our waitress said that she serves a large number of foreign tourists, especially from Sweden.

“They fly all the way from Sweden and come straight to Hooters,” she said. “I don’t know why.”

Neither do I. “Persona,” “The Seventh Seal” and other Ingmar Bergman movies didn’t cover this phenomenon.

My friends and I roamed the menu. The Buffalo shrimp weren’t bad: tangy, messy, fried. Can’t quibble with those qualities. The chicken wings provided an excuse to dip and dip some more, and who doesn’t really long to dip?

The burger wasn’t so juicy, though, and the meat in the Philly cheese steak sandwich had been so assiduously minced that it looked as if someone else had beaten us to the task of digesting it.

But I have to give Hooters this: the service was terrific, and that had nothing to do with its visual component. The waitresses were chatty, smiley, helpful, self-deprecating, candid and funny.

They may wear skimpy attire, but they have big hearts.

Dreaming of Mexico

For all your people getting tired of winter - sunny days are just around the corner. This picture was taken at puerta de la muerta in Mexico last Thanksgiving (Crumpet was still in mommy's tummy, enjoying her first tortas)

La Gringa's mom wrote requesting pictures where Crumpet has her eyes open. Team Mia shall do our best. You see usually when her eyes are open she is ''active'', meaning my hands are usually busy playing, holding or feeding her. It's not an accident that all the pictures here involve the Crumpet in a comatose state.

Tough week for Team Mia. First Big A come down with a cold, then Da Mao goes down. Not enough sleep and very hectic schedules were blamed while lots of ginger tea, airborne, nitequill and dubious chinese herbal syrup are consumed.

We recently bought a condo on Greenlake and it needs a lot of work, so we've been running around lining up painters, carpet folks and general handyman. When it's all done we'll have a beautiful 2BR 2BA with right on Greenlake for rental. I also attended my first ever homeowners' meeting at the condo we own in Queen Anne. Wow was it tedious and a microcosm of people's pettiness.

So much to plan so little time. Set up trips to Portland (visit publisher & do fun stuff), Boston (attend library convention & visit family), San Francisco (visit publisher & grandma), Cozumel (thanksgiving with mom & dad), Baltimore (work), Seoul (visit publisher & friend & to drink soju) and Hong Kong (visit brother and to bring mom back to Seattle to visit). We're also planning to start a book club and a food club (first event will be a home ravioli making party, details to come)

Made a bunch of mix CDs for John Allen - it's in the mail.

New iTunes favorite - Brazillian Girls. Actually a group from Germany but very good sound mixing bossa nova with something experimental. Can't wait for the new Neko Case.

Dinner at Gracie's. She made Hawai'ian meatballs, grilled asparagus & marinated strawberries while we tried a nice bottle of red from B.C.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

70s night at the skating rink

Check out those retro-skates!

For Jen's birthday the tribe gathered at the Lynnwood Rollaway Skating Rink. Inside it's like a scene straight from Pretty in Pink. Loads of gangly teenagers in their representing cliques: the punk wannabies, the paris hilton look alike, the korean jocks, the skinny nerds, the-girls-under-13-think-iam-very-hot-dorks. Music ranged from Ciara telling you to have sex to Snoop telling you to have sex. A support group of dazed mothers sat back in the cafe doing crossword puzzels. while their children would occasionally dive back for a shot of sugar soda.

Folks came dressed in full 70s extravaganza. We are talking from full on wigs to Olivia Newton John gym shorts. Since the joint is alcohol free we retreated to a bar at the bowling alley next door for cheap beer. Thus we were properly prepared emotionally and people took to the skating rink and high jinks ensue. I mean, some of our friends are really good. Troy glides with grace while Shirley dazzeled the crowd by winning ''shoot the duck'' contest. Others? Well, Megan came close to take out a group of six year olds at the entrance while birthday girl Jen perfected the art of skating while arms flail about and eventually crashed spectacularily. That Jen does like attention.

When we were leaving the rink we ran into a group of friends (all over 30) huddled in their car in the parking lot, smoking dope. Who needs High School?

Crumpet slept through all this, BTW

McQuinns & trees

'cause you can never have too many pictures of babies & cats

Had the McQuinns over for dinner. Always great fun to see them. Don is planning to have us make sausages together at his house. Sounds, er, ambitious, and, messy. Better have some beer on hand.

Been another good week in the life of Team Mia. Highlights were the many great dinners (sheppard's pie, roasted chicken with cranberry stuffing, tri-tip, homemade burgers with rosemary bread, linguini with creme fraiche & smoked salmon, braised lamb chop).

Played gardener by planting dogwood, witch hazel, rosemary bush, bay leaf tree, lemon thyme and a bunch of shallots. This mostly involved digging & shoveling in compost. Then it snowed the next day.

Latest Netflix:

* Monsoon Wedding. Great movie. Didn't know you can cram so much drama into 100 minutes (adultery! abuse! love triangle!). Can't wait to go to India.

* Life Aquatic. Even better movie from the director of Rushmore & Bottle Rocket. Very nuanced and not what you expected. Superb soundtrack. Don't miss the Bowie covers by Seu Jorge (he also performed on the City of God soundtrack). Murrary is even better here than Lost in Translation. Owen Wilson played against type, for once.