advent

December 10, 2011

[Advent] the time before Christmas: a time to prepare, reflect.

Look at the beautiful humans around you. Be thankful.

Cozy up.

Bake these cookies.

And drink a warm beverage.

Read The Polar Express with a child.

Listen to this music.

Savor the beauty of the season. Be quiet.

And give with a generous heart.

Be well in these advent days.

Love, AJL

 

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November 21, 2011

“… But enough is enough. One turns at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief. From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home.”

-Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, page 28

November 18, 2011

Travel: San Francisco

October 24, 2011

My program afforded me the opportunity to go to San Francisco for a week of in-class observation. I spent my mornings at Pacific Rim Montessori School in a bilingual Chinese/English classroom, and spent my afternoons exploring the bay area. The people, public transit, food, and landscape were inviting and inspiring, to say the least. I utilized friends’ suggestions as well as 101Cookbooks’ post on her hometown favorites.

Spent an afternoon biking around and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Muir Woods in the morning was a sanctuary of light and redwood trees – so quiet it was unnerving.

A dear friend of mine from college works at the de Young Art Museum – where I got to expereince their Chamber Music Day, and roam their vast galleries. It is always so gratifying to see work that I studied in school, as well as be inspired by new work. He also took me to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where we saw Richard Serra’s Drawing Retrospective. It was incredible – simple in its black and white color palate, large in size, and borderline installation art. The immediacy of the hand and the intimacy of the work contained it as drawing.

The Modern had on its rooftop gallery one of Blue Bottle coffee’s shops. Super clean design and excellent espresso.

Other foodie haunts: NOPA for cocktails and dinner (got to sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen!), the DeYoung’s locally sourced café, the Bi-Rite grocery, Molly Stone grocery.

The infamous, yet unassuming Tartine Bakery. Famous for its fine pasteries, I joined the line that wrapped around the building to hold in my hand one of their buttery croissants. So good!

Also loved Four Barrel Coffee. A sweeping warehouse shop and roaster, with warm wood bars, bike racks, and solid espresso.

I also had to touch the door of Chez Pannise in Berkely. Unfortunantly, I was not able to savor a meal here this trip… someday.

There is so much about this city to fall in love with. But as with every trip I take, I find that regardless of the innovative food, excellent art, established architecture, natural beauty, colorful farmer’s markets, etc, etc, etc… it is the interactions with people that make the places so dynamic: the strangers who helped me find my bus route, the friends of friends who hosted me, the people that I met in restaurants, at cash registers, standing in line, the old friends that I got to reconnect with, and the beauty of newly cultivated friendships. It is the people that make this beautiful backdrop of a city come alive. Many thanks.

story through image.

October 13, 2011

In order for all of my classmates to come to know one another better, my professor requested that we each make a collage answering the questions “Who am I? Who do I want to be?” Because storytelling is how we make sense of life, and how we come to know each other, we each took a turn one Friday, sharing our images. We took the five hours of class time to listen, to piece together, to laugh. Because there is such a great diversity among the 32 of us, the stories had great depth, hurt, beauty, and humor. I came to know of people’s odd hobbies, travels, family traditions, and spiritual journeys. Everyone’s collage looked so different – some were hand-drawn, some just words, some on canvas, some on poster-board, some were digital, literal, abstract – all reflecting the intricacy of the human condition.

A friend and I gathered wine, cheese, music, and lots of magazines, paint, and glue – spreading out on the floor as the pacific rain came pouring down. We shared our own stories, quotes, and paths, as we pieced together our collages. Mine is pictured above, and I would like to share.

On the background of the piece is a map of San Diego. It is not only where I have physically come to, but the place where so much of my life has led me to – this place, with these experiences is both a place of arrival, and a place of departure.  There are a few literal representations of important aspects of my life – art, biking, baking, working with children.

I chose the ampersand to signify my journey to understand that life is much more about the “both/and” than the “either/or.” (I recall Waterdeep’s song And.) There is much more grey in life than black/white – most specifically when it comes to people. There is complexity and complication which create layers to every story. Giving people of the benefit of the doubt is a great gift. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. (Attributed to Philo of Alexandria.)

The human heart in the center reminds me of my own mortality. I am mind, body, and spirit – and the continued beating heart, pumping blood, breathing, thinking, feeling is a gift.

The hand holding the seeds says Food as Sacrament. A passion I have been given, and a talent I am cultivating, is the art of food. It is a way to be sustained, to love one another, share goodness, and connect with the earth. It is a daily, tangible experience of gratitude and abundance. I hope to serve thousands more beautiful meals.

The car load full of people speaks quietly to my hope for travel and a family of my own.

The plant life is taken from various California botanical sources. Nature is wise. Its growth is dependent on many sources, and it takes care to regenerate with the seasons.

The Annie Dillard quote says:

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.

Drawing:: Olivia Jeffries Sublime

 
Three weeks ago I began my training as a Montessori teacher at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. I could not have anticipated the change that would begin to occur in my mind, body, and spirit. I have been engaged in an intense routine of lectures, presentations, reading, writing and practice. I am grateful for my wise professors, and for my fellow classmates, along for the journey. 

A sure cornerstone of the Montessori method is the well prepared adult. The preparation not only includes a deep knowledge of the child’s development, but also a paradigm shift of the role of the adult, requiring humility and an open heart. It involves both a practical preparation as well as a spiritual preparation.

Montessori writes, “The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit.” (The Absorbent Mind)

I am being challenged to identify my own failings and misgivings. Prejudices and judgements have no room in the classroom. In order to view each child with dignity, I must leave negativity at the door, not projecting any of my own expectations. When I enter the environment with open eyes, eager to observe what is true, I can evolve with the needs of the child, serving his developing spirit. True teaching requires copious amounts of daily observation – being plugged into the changes occurring within the child. Love requires knowledge, and knowledge comes through observation.

As I practice this paradigm shift in the environment of the classroom, I am challenged as I return to the world. How do I treat those around me? Do I bring unrealistic expecations to relationships, or project constant judgement on those I meet? Do I truly observe the world around me, taking note of details, emotions, and experiences? As I quiet my heart in this process, I continue to unearth a spirit of pride and judgement that is difficult to confront. This level of self-realization requires a work of the soul.

And I ask, did I sign up for a teacher training course, or a radical process of self-develpoment?

I am eager to continue in this work of preparation, with the hope that I will be an educator who is humble and a willing servant. And also that I would be a citizen of the world, who is eager to love and honor those around me.

I love being in the kitchen, finding fresh, interesting ingredients and trying new recipes. It is enjoyable to pour a glass of wine, saute some onions, chop vegetables, and let the meal begin to unfold. While the process is of great pleasure, the greatest joy happens once I am sitting down around the table with friends and family to share the abundance. On Thursday, I found this beautiful set of 1960’s dishes at a thrift store. The mustard yellow color and intricate pattern is so lovely.  I got to thinking about what the draw is, and why I would spend money on more dishes. While I have had a number of meaningful meals over paper plates, I think there is really something special about the plates and cups that we use to serve food.

The dishes become something which hold value and sentiment, as families use them again and again for celebration and holidays. They can represent a style or a period of time. They can be carefully crafted pieces of pottery made by someone you know (read: my brother) or an artist that you want to support. They can be a colorful set that inspires or an antique set inherited. Beautiful food deserves beautiful presentation. It helps us cultivate a more meaningful relationship with the food we eat and the time we take to eat it. It is a small thing that deepens the ritual. It creates a whole dinner experience.

It is important for us to develop a meaningful way of thinking about the things that fill our home. Things are not here to define us, but because there are so many items that are essential for living and functioning, why not buy things that mean something? If you spend time to research and use your money on the things that inspire, or are made well, they last longer and begin to contribute to the overall experiences of life. Being a good steward of what we are given involves taking care of what we fill our homes with, especially those used daily, such as plates, forks, and cups.

Curious about what other food lovers had said about the subject of dishes and dinner presentation, I turned to my role model, Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse in Berkley. At her resturanunt, all the tableware is from Heath Ceramics. Heath is made in California, and focuses on a blend of functionality and modern aesthetics. She chose them because they are made locally and each piece is crafted carefully with sustainability in mind.

She shares some insights in relation to her project Edible Schoolyard, which works to bring healthy, whole foods and gardens to schools.  Though this article is directed towards kids, the implications are great for all. The whole interview can be found here. A few highlights:

We’ve made a place that is comfortable, because that shows them that we care, too. We want them to see beautiful things, as well as to smell and to taste beautiful things. For example, I love to put down the tablecloth. That’s all a part of telling them that we care. We’re creating an atmosphere that naturally fosters goodwill and respect — an everyday experience that encourages civilized conduct.

We set the table with a tablecloth, and real plates, forks and knives. We think about the center of the table. Maybe it can use a little centerpiece. The kids choose what that might be, whether it’s flowers from the garden, something from the kitchen, some vegetables, or something that’s going to be part of what the kids are eating. The improvements to the food or the surroundings don’t need to be costly. They can be quite simple.

process: three

March 29, 2011

process: two

March 23, 2011

process: one

March 21, 2011

Working on a small scale with watercolor, wax, and thread. We take the sky, as if red is something we could own, something we might find in the stillest moments, as if the earth is humane and wouldn’t break our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one, allegedly.)