Carve out some time and take a listen to this presentation by Carnegie Mellon Professor, Dr. Randy Pausch.
Living your best life?
Randy's got it nailed.
Just when I thought life couldn't get any better....
An evening with with a true culinary icon?
With desserts prepared by three of the city's finest pastry chefs?
If you'd like to jump in on the fun, reserve your space with Kim Ricketts Cooks & Books.
Here's a peak at the invitation:
We are celebrating the joys of the holiday season with a dessert party in honor of dessert maven Alice Medrich and her latest book, PURE DESSERT, and you’re invited!
This is a private party in a cozy home in Seattle ’s Hillman City neighborhood. Three of our favorite pastry chefs are going to create decadent desserts inspired by recipes in Alice ’s book. We will have delicious wines and coffee for you to enjoy. Alice will be there with us, making friends, eating sweets, and signing copies of her book.
The party is Tuesday, December 11th - from 7pm to 9:30pm. The cost to attend is $50/person, and that includes a copy of PURE DESSERT. You must call the Book Events office at (206) 632-2419 to reserve a spot, as space is very limited. When you call, you will be asked to give your name, phone number, email address, the number of people in your party and a charge card with expiration date (we will run your card the day of the event for $50/person; if you are coming with friends and not all paying on the same card, each person needs to call the office to give their charge card information).
You will be emailed the address of the party with driving directions after you RSVP – kind of like our version of a rave!
We will also have a few of Alice ’s other cookbooks available for purchase and signing. They make great gifts for the dessert diva or dude in your life.
Here’s is a little more information about our three pastry chefs creating the nibbles of the evening:
LORNA YEE is co-host of the popular Cache Dinner Club. She is a superb self-taught pastry chef and often indulges in several desserts a day. Lorna is part of the food writing team at Seattle Magazine.
DANA CREE studied at The Art Institute in Seattle where she attended both the culinary program and the baking and pastry programs. She spent a few years working under Scott Carsberg at Lampreia, as well as completing internships at The Fat Duck and WD-50. More recently, she was the pastry chef of Eva Restaurant where she received a number of accolades for her talents. Dana is currently the pastry chef at Veil Restaurant.
NEIL ROBERTSON is a graduate of the French Pastry School in Chicago . He spent a numbers of years in Las Vegas where he worked in the Bellagio pastry kitchen, Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, and Restaurant Guy Savoy. Neil recently returned home to Seattle where he is now pastry chef at Canlis Restaurant.
And of course, a little bit about the dessert diva herself - Alice Medrich is inspired and inspiring. In Berkeley , California , in the 1970s, her dessert shop, Cocolat, set new standards of excellence. She has been learning, teaching, and sharing what she loves about dessert making for 30 years. She brings to us an obsessive approach to recipes (meticulously written and tested), a commitment to quality ingredients, and a profound understanding of technique. Her contributions have resulted in the country’s highest cookbook honors, including three Cookbooks of the Year, most recently from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for BITTERSWEET: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. Alice lives in Berkeley with her daughter Lucy.
We hope you can join us for this fabulous evening!
Kim and all at Book Events
For those who know me well...it's no secret...I'm a consumate networker. Perhaps somewhere deep in my roots is a bit of mafia (I know a guy who knows a guy...) You get the idea.
I'm on a mission to unite the good people of this world!
So, when my friend Rachel booked a last minute trip to Buenos Aires, naturally I thought of Marcela, who writes Pip in the City.
Ah...the beauty of virtual introductions...
Rachel and Marcela spent several days together...eating, shopping and seeing the sites in Buenos Aires. And Marcela even managed to send a care package my way. (Kudos to Rachel for carrying it on the plane!) See photo above and...
Then there are these delicious Alfajors. Cookies wedged together with ducle de leche...and covered in chocolate. They remind me of s’mores...with caramel instead of marshmallows. Yum!
As luck would have it, Marcela's planning a little trip here to the states this spring. I'm looking forward to hosting her here in Seattle, but if any of you are in NYC and are willing to roll out the welcome mat...I'm sure she'd love to hear from you!
And yet, when you finally muster enough...gumption, defiance, frustration (insert your descriptor here), it turns out...the thing that stood in your way for so long? Was like the Wizard of Oz...looming in the distance, feared and untouchable. Only to be discovered as...smoke and mirrors.
Throughout my life, I've taken steps...and overcome some obstacles that would take the best out of anyone. For years, that was me. Defeated. The hurdles in my mind were so strong, I could barely be present in my own life.
Looking back, the obstacles weren't with the greater forces at large. The obstacles were in my mind. Plain and simple.
Fear of the unknown used to stop me cold.
Now, I make a point breaking down that barrier.
I used to have a fear of swimming in the open water. As a product of the Jaws era, who wouldn't? If I couldn't touch the bottom of the pool, I'd freak out...arms flailing and gasping for air.
Then I decided to take a more rational approach. Maybe...if I knew what was down there, I wouldn't be so afraid. So I took scuba diving classes. I studied aquatic life...and their behavior patterns. My best dive buddy was an Oceanography major at the University of Washington.
Maybe I over compensated?
A couple years ago, I dove the Blue Hole in Belize. It's known as a "log book dive"...if you're a serious diver, the prevailing thought is...this is one of the places you must go.
I was in Belize. The only dive trip leaving the next day...was going to the Blue Hole. So I went.
After hours of riding the chop out to our destination, within the rim of the collapsed underwater cave, it looked nothing like the photographs I'd seen. We jumped in the water and headed down. The goal was to poke around at 110 feet and check out the stalactite pinnacles.
Overall, it's a pretty boring dive...and I was feeling duped.
Suddenly I see a grey mass off in the distance. "Wow. A seal? What's that doing out here?" As it got closer to me and came into focus, it turned out....this mass was a 4' long barracuda! Now I've done my research, and I know there's nothing to fear, but they sure LOOK gnarly.
Right by my leg, I could feel the drift.
I looked down and saw a 9' long shark zoom past my leg.
Slight panic now.
I look over at the dive master, hoping he can see beyond all my gear and notice the fear beginning to take hold. He calmly points up towards the surface.
Rays of light cut through the water and I see dark masses, swirling.
Slow motion...my mind finally registered:
This was NOT in the travel brochure!
From 70 feet below, I could see a feeding frenzy overhead.
The dive boats were chumming for sharks!
Here, with divers in the water.
What the hell were they thinking?
Well, it turns out, this was a bit of marketing. Divers pay big money to visit the Blue Hole. But like I said, it's a pretty boring dive. No life. Nothing worth checking out...yet, it was one of the most expensive dives I've ever been on. But here I had taken up diving to overcome my fear of the unknown (sharks) and this dive operator actually rang the dinner bell!
Sure, it makes a great story now. And the dive master and I were practically inseparable until I left Belize (a redeeming event, for sure.)
If I'd known there would be sharks, would I have gone? Probably not. But they were there and in those conditions, you can die via the bends, or take your chances with the sharks.
So here I am, back in Seattle. With too much time between the last use of my passport.
Something about being in a comfortable environment makes those mental hurdles seem much worse. For months, I worry about stupid stuff, and then miraculously, it all comes together with a single day of focus.
How much time do we waste worrying about mundane things?
Some things are truly out of our control...and I'm learning...far fewer than you might imagine. But it's the others...the things that are in our control...that still seem onerous. Why?
Hello, my name is Traca and I have a fear of yeast.
I'm a consummate baker, and yet until today, I'd never made yeasted bread.
On the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal, right? Now that I'm past that hurdle, I can say it, yes, it's no big deal. But for years, I've taken baking classes...and turned a deaf ear when the subject came to yeast. In fact, my one true family recipe involves yeast...and I've never made it.
Today I was in the middle of a baking frenzy and finally conquered my fear. It's a small thing, I know. And the end result is nothing to brag about so there will be no recipe.
But the yeast thing...it's symbolic.
And it got me thinking.
What else am I afraid of?
The list is longer than I'd like to admit...and deeply personal. But let's just say this: From here on out...you'll be seeing some yeasted goodness around here!
Then a quick a mental note...
things to be thankful for:
No raging hangover--Check!
After a trek to the local Mr. Fix-it place, my friend John asked about my plans for the afternoon. Let's see...I just got back into town (my suitcase is still half-full). While I was gone, I had painters come do their thing...and they're still not done. In other words, my place is a complete wreck and I need to restore some order. Playing catch up, I still have a bit of work to polish off. And frankly, I could use a day of doing absolutely nothing.
"No plans..." Which was true. I hadn't decided which to tackle first...being lazy for a few hours...or finish up that nagging work project.
John tossed out the invite, "Want to come for brunch?"
If history has taught me anything, it's this: Never, EVER turn down an invitation from John. EVER!
And that, my friends, is how I wound up having brunch at a fabulous house...perched on a cliff, overlooking the water...with a view of sailboats and skyline. (I just missed a group of sailboats when I took this shot.)
Yeah. Sucks to be me, doesn't it?
We were the first to arrive and the rest of our party followed shortly thereafter. The kitchen quickly filled with laughter and a well-choreographed prep scene.
Enter the scene...noting the industrial-sized flat of eggs, homemade sausage and a wonderfully cured bacon. The brunch offerings were rounded out with fresh fruit, croissants, hash browns, homemade jams, and...stop the press...a lovely lime-basil sorbet.
What? Sorbet...for brunch?
The host looked at me with this dear, sympathetic look. "Oh, honey." Clearly I was in need of some schooling.
She grabbed my glass of champagne, and gently placed a dollop of sorbet inside. The contents fizzed and threatened to crest the gilded rim. My glass turned a pale shade of green and with only modest ceremony, she handed it back to me. We clinked our glasses and I had my first taste.
Is "revelation" too strong of a word?
I think not.
Whoa. It was utterly amazing!
And being the perfect host that she was, my glass was never empty for the rest of the day! (See above reference to hangover.) I found out later...our little party of 9 went through an entire case of champagne! Granted, we spent the whole day there, but still. If the word "lush" comes to mind, I say...guilty!
Oh, there was too much fun to be had! Our host was a local caterer & cooking instructor who is putting the finishing touches on her first book. The dentist and his boyfriend bought one of the new "green" houses here in Seattle...and they recently wrapped up a photo shoot with a big publishing house. Their home is being featured in a book on environment-friendly architecture, due out next year.
And we mulled over photos from last week's soiree.
Fashion show. After party. Swank downtown hotel. Reviewing the photos, they talked like schoolgirls, rehashing the night after prom!
Brunch turned into dinner...and the sun slipped beyond the horizon long before I went home.
That evening, I fell into bed with a delicious taste of basil on my lips....and reviewed my mantra...say "yes" to John...Say "yes"...
A quick update
Since I posted this, I've learned that the bubbly/sorbet idea is an Italian-inspired beverage called sgroppino. Giada has a variation of it over on the Food Network site.
I also found the sorbet recipe from our brunch:
FRESH LIME-BASIL SORBET
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (8 to 10 limes)
1 cup water
1 cup simple sugar syrup (1 cup sugar plus 1 cup water, boiled then cooled)
12 whole basil leaves
1 egg white (optional)
Combine all ingredients, except egg white, into a freezer friendly container and freeze 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
Remove from freezer and allow to soften a little. Put chunks of frozen mixture into a food processor and process until all crystals have disappeared and mixture is smooth. Re-pack into container and keep frozen until needed. This will keep for up to 2 months. If you prefer a lighter, less icy sorbet, add 1 egg white during processing. Yield: 4 Servings
Beats a moped
From the front end...
Notice the handicap permit?
Religion and Gay Pride, reconcilled
Out for a stroll
Glass meets metal.
(The image is of local resident and world-renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly)
A study in contrast:
Colonial Revival donning Tibetan Prayer Flags
Turnabout sticker art -
Burger, Brain & Babe
Gone to seed?
On my way back from Vegas, I met this amazing woman who told me about SeatGuru.com.
Here's the deal:
*Select your airline
*Select the plane you're flying on
Up pops a diagram of the plane. It's color-coded and you can see which seats are the best...and the worst on each plane. Green is good. Red is the worst. Yellow? Proceed with caution.
Thanks to SeatGuru...you can see which seats don't tilt back, have less leg room, or are designed a couple inches narrower.
Before you book your next flight...check with the Guru first!
View of the Excalibur Hotel from my room.
If you have to spend 5 nights in Vegas...even the basic rooms at the MGM are quite posh. (There's a chaise lounge behind me...and of course, that view.)
With a new perspective...everything fell into place perfectly.
And it started with the cab ride to the airport.
But first, a few background notes. I haven't talked about it much, but lately, I've been doing a ton of research for my round the world trip. Africa, in particular, has held a soft spot in my heart. I've been studying the historical conflicts in Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the famine in Ethiopia. These past few months, I've also been researching the devastating affects of not only HIV, but water-borne illnesses, diamond trafficking, big oil, and the end of European colonization.
En route to the airport....notice the laptop? He had a modem hook up for idle time between passengers.
I asked if life in the United States was what he expected.
"What would you like to be different?"
"I came for peace." And after he reflected for a moment, he said with great care, "I do have peace...but I'd like more money."
I shifted the conversation to Somalia. It turns out, he was not in the country when the conflict began. He was living in Russia as an exchange student...gaining what little news he could through the Soviet-censored media. The exchange program was filled with students from around the world and he gained his first exposure to other cultures there.
Then Mosa began traveling. First to Europe...England, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and beyond. Next, he moved on to the Middle East--Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Returning home after the war, he traveled to the north eastern part of Somalia to visit his family.
"In the capitol...they are still fighting!"
"Yes, it's like Palestine. The conflict will never end. It's very dangerous there...bombings every day!"
I asked him what it was like traveling as an African. Did he experience prejudice and racial conflicts? "In the Middle East, no. Europe, yes. They suspected me of terrorism and people on the street were suspicious."
And that is where our journey ended. I arrived at the airport and we said our goodbyes with a promise to connect again.
Our conversation reminded me...even at home, you can live like a tourist. The most fascinating people are part of our every day encounter...if you take the time to listen.
Leaving Seattle. Notice the islands off in the distance...and the industrial port to the left.
Boarding the plane, I scooted in to my window seat and said a quick hello to my seatmates. The husband and wife duo were headed to Vegas for gambling. The wife offered me a mint, and from there, the friendship began.
Pause for another side note. Friends of mine joke that I know people everywhere. There's six-degrees of separation...and then there's two degrees of Traca! While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, the reality is...I'm a connector. I meet people literally everywhere I go. In the cab, standing in line at airport security, cooking classes, lectures...you name it. When friends of mine meet, the conversation immediately turns to, "How did you meet Traca?" It's a point of endless fascination. In fact, it's not unusual to hear a story like this: A couple years ago, I called Verizon to complain about my phone. The operator on the other end was so nice, I thanked her...and then told her supervisor how wonderful she was. Long story short, Arietta and I became friends and have actually met on several occasions. (She makes a mean jambalya!)
Bottom line? I love meeting people and am endlessly fascinated by those who come across my path.
Back to my seatmates. Karen taught me how to play Suduko...and then I started talking with her husband. He had the sports section of the newspaper marked with circles and asterisks. He and Karen had picked their favorites teams for this weekend's series of games. Then, Greg lowered his voice and counseled, "Bet on Seattle." He proceeded to explain the statistics and why Seattle was a good bet. Now I'm not a betting girl, but it was interesting to see what influenced his decisions.
Greg moved on to the list of soccer teams and as a side comment, mentioned that he was friends with the top-rated coaches. My curiosity was piqued.
"How do you know them?"
It turns out, for every team listed in the paper....he knew all the coaches.
Greg used to play pro soccer. When his career was over, he stared a company with his wife. They secure sponsors and facilitate soccer training camps throughout the country. His club is for elite players only. They work with scouts who keep tabs on the best high school players in the nation. When a sponsor (like Adidas) decides to grant money for a camp, Greg puts the whole thing together. They find the venue, select the coaches, run evening trainings on everything from taking the ACTs to nutrition. During the day, the players practice and compete.
Greg explained how they find the players. Say the camp will be open to 150 players. Greg sends the word out to scouts that they're looking for the top 5 players in their area. The names get submitted, and based on the statistics, they make a call about who gets selected to come. Now, once the players are at the facility, the sponsor typically pays for everything--the venue, food, lodging, equipment, salaries for the coaches...everything. However, they are not allowed to pay for transportation to the camp. Because the camps are an opportunity for college and pro scouts to come out and see the best players in the country, the rule states that transportation has to be paid for by other means. (Otherwise, it might be considered a type of bribe, which is illegal in sports.)
Then we talked about non-native American players and the impact they've had on soccer in the U.S. It was a fascinating discussion about how in some countries, people don't know their exact age. For example, there's no birth certificate process in many countries of Latin America and Africa. This can pose a conflict when a player is too good or his skills are developed beyond his peers. Is he really 13 years old? Or is he 16, playing in a younger age group? One of their players, Freddy Adu, faced that exact same scrutiny. Authorities asked him to take a bone density scan to determine his real age, but Freddy refused. He was declared a prodigy and signed a pro soccer contract at the age of 14.
During pauses in our conversation, I caught some interesting scenery:
Logging roads and clear-cut forrest in the Cascade Mountains, Washington
Mount St. Helens in Washington. The volcano blew it's top in 1980. (Was 9,677 feet, now 8,365 feet)
A popular ski destination...Mount Hood in Oregon (11,249 feet)
Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon--with that incredible blue water contrasted against the dry terrain. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that intense color of the lake is due agricultural nutrient runoff from the surrounding land, causing a high concentration of blue-green algae blooms. As a result, recreational activities are often not permitted.
That's all for now.
Next up? Snaps from Las Vegas.