Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Foiled Again

I have been thinking about gifts this week. And with good reason. Ayyam'i'Ha has just begun! Ayyam'i'Ha is a special time for Baha'i families--it is a holiday meant for joyful celebration, being of service to others, and giving gifts.

Since Ash and I have been married I have been a sad failure in the gift giving department. For some reason, gift giving occasions roll around I can never think what to give him. Then months later, when his birthday or Ayyam'i'Ha are still months away, something good will occur to me. I will buy it, intending to save it for the special occasion, but my excitement will get the best of me and I can't resist giving it to him right away. I have never managed to hold out for more than a day. But then I'm giftless once again when the gifting occasion rolls around!

Not this year, I decided. The perfect gift occurred to me with the perfect timing. While in Vancouver I decided I would get him a bicycle. He has been wanting one for ages and I have maintained there is no space in our apartment for it, but with a little shuffling I believe we can make it work. I spent last week researching bicycles, learning about frames, brakes, gears, and sizes. I spoke to bicycle shops. I spoke to mechanics. I only told a few people about my plan--people who I knew would keep my secret.

But a dilemma arose. I could not decide if Ash would prefer a city bike or a road bike. Would he want to be a leisurely urban cyclist? Using the bike to get from place to place, zipping across the Brooklyn Bridge for appointments downtown? Or would he want to go for long rides on the weekends, crouched down Lance Armstrong-style while whizzing along purely for enjoyment of the sport? Would it be best if I surprised him by taking him to the bicycle shop and letting him choose for himself?

I floated the idea yesterday...

Me: I have a dilemma. I am getting you a gift for Ayyam'i'Ha and I can't decide between two options.
Ash: You don't have to get me anything!
Me: Yes I do. I have been secretly planning this and it is all set. It is going to be a huge surprise. But I am looking at two specific options. How do you feel about coming to the shop with me to make the final decision?
Ash: Would someone else know what I would like?
Me: I don't think so.
Ash: What about Shamim (business partner) or Maziar (brother)?
Me: No, I don't think they would know.
Ash: Okay then, I'll come. But you really don't have to get me anything.
About five seconds pass.
Ash: You know what we should get each other for Ayyam'i'Ha? Bicycles!
Me: Uh...mmmm...hum...uh...
Ash: Oh no, that's not what it is, is it? Did I guess it? Your face just turned really pale!
Me: (Sniff sniff) I can't believe this.

Foiled again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wonder of Wonders...

...miracle of miracles. I finally finished it. This little knitting project began with such good intentions. My good friend was pregnant and I thought, "wouldn't it be a happy surprise if I knitted her a baby blanket?" She was about 3 months along when I cast on.

Time passed. Seasons changed. Bianca was born. She smiled. She held her head up. She crawled. She grew a tooth or two. She tried solid foods. She said her first words. She started walking. And still, still I was knitting.

The blanket-in-progress traveled the world with me. It visited Houston, San Antonio, Chicago, Montreal, and Vancouver. It almost went to Morocco too, but was not allowed on the plane.

Last week I finally completed the blanket. Bianca is not quite off to university yet, but she is going on 15 months and is far too big for the little blanket I envisioned giving her as a newborn.

So the blanket has been blocked, pressed, and I'm hoping another baby will come along soon that I can give it to.

In the absence of a baby in the house, I had to borrow another little friend in order to give the blanket a test run.

I have already begun my next knitting project. I've given myself a 3 month deadline for this one. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 25, 2008

First Skating Lesson

Tyler, age 3. Her first time on the ice.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Lessons learned while snowshoeing in Vancouver:

1. Snowshoeing is not for the faint of heart.
2. Invest in a waterproof coat. And pants. And gloves.
3. A thermos of hot tea or cocoa in the snowy wilderness is an incredible thing.
4. If you slip while going downhill in the snow, you can slide a very very long way.

We went out on a Saturday with our friend Catherine and Ash's cousin Soroosh, both very outdoorsy winter-sport types. Ash and I, on the other hand, were utterly unprepared for what was to come. First, we had no appropriate gear. We rented snowshoes at Mount Seymour's ski rental area. Not big tennis rackets, as I had anticipated, but sleek metal platforms with some nasty looking claws on the bottom that you strap onto your boots.

So shoes were taken care of. Still, we had no waterproof jackets, no waterproof pants, and had left our gloves in New York (though I did manage to score this snazzy pair at Old Navy for 99 cents the day before, just for the occasion). We decided we could make do. I borrowed a coat from Ash's aunt, donned my snazzy Old Navy gloves, and off we went.

Turns out the other thing we were lacking was a proper understanding of what we were getting ourselves into. Snowshoeing is hard! We started off at an easy pace enjoying the beautiful scenery, passing other people from time to time. Soon we began to see fewer and fewer people on the trail. Then we passed the last trail posts and struck off into the back country, where the trees were so caked with ice they looked more like sculptures than living things, to try to climb the first peak of Mount Seymour.

That's where things began to get a little more intense than we had anticipated. As we got near the summit we had had to scale a virtually vertical icy slope of about 50 feet, kicking our claws in to find a toehold, moving up one slow step at a time, and sliding backwards a fair number of times too. Truly I felt like it was an experience right out of Into Thin Air.

We were rewarded on the summit with sandwiches and tea and cocoa that Soroosh had brought along in his backpack, and thankfully the way down was much easier going. Though perhaps the reason for the faster downhill trip was the fact that I kept losing my footing and tobogganing down the mountain on my backside. The first time I slipped I must have slid about 40 feet, and all I could hear the whole way down was Ash on the hill up above me laughing uproariously. Fortunately I foiled his plans to get video of my slips and falls by only falling when he did not have camera in hand.

In spite of all our goofing around, however, there was an overwhelming sense of peace and solitude up in those snowy hills--a deep silence broken only by our huffing and puffing as we ascended and descended. By the afternoon as we were finally making our way, jelly-legged, back towards the lodge, the sun peeked through the clouds and we were treated to a beautiful view of row upon row of snow-tipped fir trees as far as the eye could see.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Typically when I see a recipe online that I like I will put it away somewhere for a day when I have proper time to try it out. Not so lastnight. When I saw Elise had posted a recipe for baklava on her blog (courtesy of guest blogger Garrett McCord), I knew my evening plans were set.

Ever since I conquered my fear of working with phyllo dough last year when my grandmother taught me to make apple pita, I have been thinking about making baklava. Baklava is a delightful dessert, full of depth and complexity, and absolutely perfect with a cup of tea. On our honeymoon in Turkey I think I must have eaten it every single day. Wonderful for the spirits, though perhaps not so much for the waistline.

As intimidating as baklava looks, it was remarkably easy to make. There were a few tense moments when separating the sheets of phyllo dough (you have to be speedy so it doesn't dry out), but all turned out well in the end, and any holes I may or may not have poked in the phyllo by mistake are now blended into a buttery, nutty, honey goodness and nobody is the wiser.

Since I followed the recipe exactly, I won't bother to rewrite it here. I used a combination of almonds and walnuts for filling (as that's what I had in the house).

Much as I would love to eat all this baklava by myself, I am trying to hold back. Anyone want to come over for tea and help me out?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Natural Beauty

In New York City one forgets what it is like to live close to nature. All you can eat sushi aside, the thing that made our Vancouver visit into a real vacation was the peace of mind I felt seeing the natural beauty that surrounded us. Doesn't it feel like you can just breathe better where there are forests, mountains, and ocean all around you? I have shared a few photos here.

Bright green moss growing on a forest rock. Tree trunks washed up on a stony shore. Ice shaped by the winds blowing over the mountains. A wooded path in Lighthouse Park. A drop of water clinging to a bush after the rain. Ash holding some pine cones I picked up on a walk. The cross- section of a tree trunk over 500 years old. Through the trees and across the water, a view of West Vancouver in the distance. Tall grasses growing along the sea wall.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

News Flash

We interrupt this recap of my trip to idyllic Vancouver to bring you Breaking News. The Village Voice has published an article on the much-watched Food Network show, Iron Chef America. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in how it really all goes down in kitchen stadium. I warn you, it kind of takes the shine off the penny.

I only wish Robert Sietsema had been able to get the inside scoop on the Chairman, whose quirks continue to mystify me. Like why does the Chairman backflip into kitchen stadium? And why, during the show's intro, does he stare intently at a sweet yellow pepper, only to pull a switcheroo and bite into an apple at the last second? We may never know.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I know it's belated, but as I mentioned I've been north of the border hanging with the canucks and fantasizing about moving to the Pacific Northwest. Valentine's day happened while we were in Vancouver and I think it pretty much passed without even a "Happy Valentine's Day" exchanged between the two of us. (After all, who keeps track of dates when they are on holiday? And who needs valentines when you have a husband who will stay up with you to watch just one more episode of Arrested Development at 1 a.m. when you have to get up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight. That's love right there.)

Even so, on the day in question we did have a lovely little excursion that coincidentally just happened to be Valentine perfect. We walked around beautiful West Vancouver, enjoying the fresh air and fleeting sunshine. I took pictures of vintage signs and pine cones. We popped into a used bookstore where Ash patiently waited while I browsed through cookbooks, craftbooks, novels, and more. And finally we ended up at Bean Around the World for tea and coffee and a blueberry oatmeal bar. Forget Valentine's Day, that's pretty much a perfect day, period.

Return to NYC

I know I haven't posted in a while. Thanks to those who checked in on me! All is well, I've simply been on holiday (with limited computer access). Late last night we got back from a week of vacationing and visiting family in Vancouver, and I have decided it is time to move. To Vancouver. Yes it's a beautiful city of friendly Canadians, right on the coast, surrounded by emerald hills and snow-capped peaks, and so on and so on, but the real reason for this abrupt replacement of New York as my favorite North American city can be summed up in five little words: all you can eat sushi.

Okay, maybe that's an overstatement. There are many reasons to fall in love with Vancouver, and I'll share a few in coming posts, but the sushi experience was so life-altering I'm starting with that.

Upon arriving in Vancouver we went straight from the airport to a little Japanese place for lunch. The restaurant looked like nothing special, but it was some of the tastiest sushi I have eaten. There were five of us and for one low (oh so low) price per person we gorged ourselves, ordering whatever struck our fancy, and we actually finished every bite. The fish was so fresh it literally almost melted in my mouth. Our final count ran something like this: 55 pieces of salmon sashimi, 40 pieces of tuna sashimi, 10 pieces of toro sashimi, 5 hand rolls, 70 pieces of maki, 8 miso soups, gyoza, sunomono, vegetable tempura, shrimp tempura, fried rice, and the list goes on...and on.... For days afterwards I kept saying "I cannot believe we had all you can eat sushi for so cheap and it was so amazing!" Finally everyone got the hint and we went there again. That time I was more prepared. I skipped breakfast.