29 December 2009

Holiday Reading: My Life in France

Books are some of the best gifts in my opinion, and I got three this Christmas.  It made gift time stupendously gratifying.  When I saw the crisp pages and book bindings, I squealed, jumped, and danced around.

My good friend L. generously gifted me with one of those books--a paperback volume of My Life in France by Julia Child.   I devoured it in 2 days.  Child and Prud'homme made me feel as if I was in France, not in my parents' home lounging around in my well-worn pjs.  Everytime I opened the book, I was transported to Paris, to that indescribable insane happy feeling of joie de vivre, living life with gutsy aplomb. 

I immediately wanted to read sentences or paragraphs off to whoever was sitting by.  Julia had such a fun, carefree approach to life--I found her immensely appealing, and the similarities between her and Paul and J. and I were encouraging.

I learned more about Julia and Paul and fell in love with their relationship.  They supported each other and you could tell that individually, they felt free to fully discover and pursue who they were truly meant to be.  Marriage didn't stifle or oppress them but provided the support and inspiration they needed.  They actually achieved the paradoxical yoking of individual journey and marital devotion.  With each page, I dove deeper and deeper into a love story that exuded warmth and hope.  Julia was an independent, confident, strong and passionate woman who could honestly say that she couldn't have become who she was without Paul.  Her story was so feminist...yet so domestic.  It defies categorization.  Their love story was a soothing balm to my sometimes cynical marital heart.

Julia lived in a different time and place--post World War II when American culture was a prized export and countries devastated by the war were only starting to think of becoming industrialized.  Child's France is a cheaper, more "primitive" France, viewed by Americans as dirty and not with the times.  Yet the expat communities are thriving, artists are getting by just fine, and jobs seem plentiful.  The dollar goes further and even though Julia says she became "extremely depressed" at their "meager government allowance," you can't help but think they are still living really really well.  Julia doesn't have to work, and Paul's salary still allows her to buy all the cooking gadgets she wants, trips into the country, and gourmet full course dining experiences every week.

Even so, Julia's accounts never left me feeling envious or regretful.  Julia was not one for wishful thinking or even sentimentality (she writes towards the end that her father's death made her relieved rather than sad and it would make trips to California easier), and I detected a consistent sense of gratitude, an acceptance of her limitations and the limitations of the world in which she lived, and an admirable resolve to always push ahead and truly live.

Another gift of the book was how it illustrated without a doubt the importance of place in the development and formation of a person.  Julia could never have been who she was without those years living and exploring in France.  In a smaller excerpt, Julia describes how three years living in Paris shaped her longtime editor, Judith Jones, as well.

Julia exudes an expat sensibility to the tee, a preference for living outside of America, and a recognition of how much place influences one's values and life choices.  Her words that Americans tend to choose comfort and business over deeper values struck a chord. Julia loved France because she felt free and could value people and a different way of life apart from the pursuit of monetary success and security.

In the last few years, after living in the inner city and scraping by on low rent apartments, I've come to value comfort over many other things which is one of the reasons why I'm living in a housing tract in Irvine surrounded by parking lots and not much else.  After reading the book, I made a commitment right there and then to live in a place that would influence and shape me in the ways that I wanted and needed--to be a more free person, engaged with my surroundings, experiencing new art and culture, and challenged to dig deeper and give from my true self.

Where is this place?  I'm not sure what's next.  I have some ideas.  One of them is France.

24 December 2009

london J.

can't help it.  saw this picture that i took of j. in london outside of st. paul's and had to post it.  so gorgeous.  and all mine. merry christmas again!

Merry Christmas!

Here in  H & J land, we've been busy cooking, eating, dancing, wrapping, and decorating.

Mostly eating oh you know homemade spiced glazed nuts, rugelach, shortbread cookies, potato pizza, onion pizza, vegetable barley soup, fruitcake bars.  Really healthy stuff.  We both have big tummies and double chins to prove it.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday time.  See you in the new year.

18 December 2009

David Lebovitz's winning recipes

Last night after running errands, I had a rocket-like burst of energy and stripped down to my undies and chopped yellow onions for no reason and made this holiday snack mix while screenprinting and mixing ink on my dining table.  Then I sat in a bathtub of scalding water and sweated for over an hour while watching Before Sunset on my laptop which was propped up on my toilet.  I went to bed at 3:30am.

J. wondered if something I had eaten had heated up my body core and given me this frenzied blast of energy but I did have an Americano at 5pm and a diet Coke at 8pm and I think that contributed.

You should try it sometime--stripping down to your undies and chopping onions for no other reason than to feel the satisfaction of dicing something with a really sharp knife.  Maybe it's just me but it was pretty fun.  I have a big tupperware box full of diced onions now.

17 December 2009

Listening to Your Body: Ignatian Spirituality Month 4

One of the things I am most grateful for in the last couple of weeks is how M. has taught me to listen to my body.  It seems to be a theme in my life right now and when practiced, it makes me feel stable and sane.

I know, stable and sane--Hanna?  It's been amazing.

All my life growing up, I've been exposed to a smorgasbord of good and bad theology.  The worst of the bunch was the one that told me to ignore my body and try to figure out what it was that God was trying to tell me by hearing a voice, getting an inner knowing, receiving a sign, etc.  Paired with a puritanical distrust of the body (flesh) and a doctrine that taught that inner struggles and difficult decisions were usually a sign that we need to make the harder choice (for God), I became a mess.  This usually meant that I spent hours days months agonizing over a decision and trying to figure it out in my head or talking to countless number of people for advice or try to find that elusive inner knowing in the midst of overwhelming anxiety.  This naturally led to being an indecisive person that had lots of angst and inner conflict.

15 December 2009

I saw Julie Powell

 she's the little standing speck in the back

A couple weeks ago, I watched Julie and Julia and so I was pleasantly surprised when I unwittingly ran into a reading Julie Powell held at Vroman's bookstore yesterday.

Of course I knew Amy Adams was not Julie but I was still surprised to see the physical embodiment of Julie Powell herself who did not look like a movie star but like a normal woman with longish hair and comfy wrap around clothes.

Let me just say, writers are eccentric. She was kind of quirky and funny and definitely the kind of person who works from home and gets a little isolated.  I liked it.

And then there were the audience members who thought she was their best friend or daughter or niece and asked her really really awkward questions that made me want to shriek and run out the door.

14 December 2009

Screenprinting, Bluefin Tuna, and Donuts

 Jan takes a pass with the squeegee.  Photo credits: moi

 I've been waiting for Jan to load up her high-res photos to her blog so I could share them with you here.  Last Wednesday was a blowout screenprinting bonanza that almost didn't happen and became this magical rolling sashimi eating screenprinting feast complete with donuts from the best mom & pop donut shop in the area.

 wearing a coat with a starbucks apron over it in the freezing  factory.  photo: Jan  

I arrived at the screenprinting factory at 4pm to find out that one of my frames looked like it had dissolved (too many passes with the screenprinting filler)  and wasn't worth inking up.  So I tried to clean it with three of Jan's father's most potent emulsion cleaners and I almost passed out from the fumes with absolutely little to no results.  Our inks and fillers were made by Speedball, not the ink this factory produces.  After about 40  minutes of trying to clean the frame without success in a freezing cold factory, I was ready to throw in the towel.  I googled how to clean frames and found that Greased Lightening is Speedball's recommended source other than their own overpriced option.

Jan and I drove to Lowe's and bought Greased Lightening for 3 bucks and came back to the factory only to find that Jan had locked us out.  She lived 15 minutes away and suggested driving over to her house to get spare keys and at that point, it was dark and windy and wet and I seriously wanted to go home.  But I decided to suck it up and said, ok, sure, let's go. 

We were rolling down the boulevard and Jan said, you know, I really think I should take you back.  I said, no no, let's just go. Soon after I resisted the urge to call it a night, the strange magical moving printing feast began.

On the way to Jan's house, I had this donut craving (everytime I drive to Jan's factory, I get donut cravings because her parents used to own a donut shop before entering the screenprinting business).  We passed a Yum Yum donuts and I said, hey let's stop but it wasn't good enough for Jan.  She looked at me and said, Hanna, I'm taking you to B&B Donuts--that's the best mom and pop donut place in the area.  As she always does when she's getting donuts, she called her parents and asked them if they wanted any (which they always do) and that's when I found out about the sashimi.

"Do you like sashimi?" Jan asked.
"Um yes!" I said.  
"Because my parents have tuna sashimi at home and they told us to come home and eat.  Their chemical salesmen/avid fishing hobbyist friend caught a 200 pound tuna off the shores of Mexico and brought it back yesterday."

Come again???

We arrived at Jan's house and by the time we reached the door with our bag of donuts, Jan's dad, Bob, had confronted us and asked us both if I ate sashimi.  No hi, hello, welcome.  Just straight up, "Do you eat sashimi?"  He was practically buzzing--his excitement at sharing his friend's tuna was palpable.  He pointed me towards a chair and and brought me this:

 (Actually, that's a half eaten plate--I was too busy eating at first to document the momentous occasion)

Before I could put it in my mouth he gave me a knowing look and said, "This is going to be the best sashimi you have ever had in your life."

And by god, he was right.  It was bluefin tuna (the very same bluefin tuna that is going extinct and written about extensively in every food magazine I know--namely that we are going to be the last generation to ever taste this fish which makes me feel kind of guilty but only a little) and it melted in my mouth like butter.  I had eaten an early dinner at 4pm that day but once I saw that tuna, I realized I'd better stop telling Bob and Jan's mom that I was full and just eat.  We ate and ate and ate and ate.  Jan's family likes to eat it with a mixture of soysauce and wasabi so potent that it is almost green.  Jan had a hard time breathing a couple of times from the wasabi flare up her nose.  There was a heaping bowl of kimchi and just pan-fried thai noodles.  Her parents were delightful, entertaining me with the latest about Tiger Woods from the Thai community perspective (he's half-Thai and from the area), and sending me home with a ziplock bag full of ice and a red tuna fillet for the lucky J. OH I was in heaven.

Jan looked for her keys and couldn't find them in her room.  And then she looked inside her bag and found that they had been there all along.

Jan and I drove back to the factory and by golly, Greased Lightening worked.  If it hadn't worked, we would probably have just called it quits on the whole thing.  We started printing and the printing was so much fun that we lost track of time and we became delirious with the fact that we were actually screenprinting and not cleaning and high off fumes and forgot that we were cold and so happy that we had donuts and blue fin tuna sashimi in our bellies until the phone rang and broke the happy humming workshop energy and that's when we found out that it was 10:15pm and Jan's mom was wondering what the heck was going on. The factory is in an industrial warehouse zone next to cargo tracks and really not the safest late at night with noone around and no street lights.  By the time we cleaned and rolled out, it was 11pm and we felt insanely happy and well, kind of insane with how addicting screenprinting is.  I was spooked after the phone call and screamed a little bit when the wind blew against the door.
So here it is, the glorious results of last week's workshop.  Our first screenprinted posters!  For more in depth instructions and tips on screenprinting, go to Jan's blog.  She has a great post with informative tidbits.  I also lifted a majority of my pics on this post from her blog taken with her drool-worthy Nikon (The next best thing to Screenprinting Wednesdays is playing with Jan's new camera and taking hundreds of pictures in a low-lit grungy factory kitchen and having them come out 100 times better than you would think they would turn out).  All photos below of me are taken by Jan. 

 I decided to do a pink single color print of my text-heavy design.

 Then we both noticed a cool marbling effect with the white and red and Jan had the brilliant idea of doing a design behind the pink instead of just random splotches.  I drew a heart.

Then I drew a white tooth in the middle because I mention dentist in the text.

I squeegeed it all around.

And then pulled with all my strength until I was red in the face

And when we lifted the frame, walah!

Jan's print.  It's pretty awesome.  I have a copy.

For a copy of one of my original prints, leave a comment and I will pick with a random number generator. 

Happy Holidays!

Update on poster winners--since I only have 2 comments, both of you get prints!  Each will be slightly different because they are hand-printed.  I'll get them both to you either by mail or in person.  

Jonesing in Pasadena

I'm at Jones Coffee Roasters, my favorite coffee shop in Pasadena, and that in itself feels reason to blog and celebrate.  It's been raining all week so SoCal is at its best--crystal clear for miles, green and hilly, flecked with golden palm trees, blue skies, and fall leaves.

11 December 2009

Crazy French Lady

I've started an unofficial habit of watching French movies late at night on Netflix to immerse myself in the French language.  It's one of my goals to be fluent in French and moreso in Korean.  And apart from doing workbooks and taking the occasional glorious trip to Paris, it seems like the next best thing to improving my language skills is watching movies.

Last night I watched La Vie en Rose and immersed myself in crazy dramatic French prose via Edith Piaf's character.  As I drove to a coffee shop today, I started showing off the French I absorbed to J. the passenger---


Edit Piaf did a lot of that in the movie.  I tried to channel her garrulous hunchbacked voice and googly eyes.  J. pressed his body into his car door and looked at me in alarm.  "Hanna, I have to say--you're really convincing as a crazy French lady."  Aw, thanks J.  You're amazing too.

10 December 2009

Obsessed with...

Lately, I've been wanting to find things to get obsessed about.

Obsession can have such negative connotations but what if you loved something so much that you fell head over heels into it and never wanted to get out?

Last week, Jacob and I raced to the neighborhood cheap theatre to watch Julie and Julia, and I loved it.  The movie surpassed my expectations.  It was smart, funny, endearing, and as a foodie and blogger, I couldn't help sitting there thinking that the movie was made exactly for people like me.

Amy Adams is a commendable actress but Julie didn't do it for me.  Julia did.  Meryl Streep's performance soared and I trembled with giddiness each time she came on the screen. I loved watching Julia discover life in Paris, stumbling around trying to find something to do, and then find cooking with a resounding life-giving bang.  Julia found so much passion and zest in cooking that she became willingly and dotingly obsessed with it finding herself and helping so many others by sharing her joy.

I found her obsession charming and inviting.

Could I get obsessed with food?  I'd love to say yes but to be honest with you, I have physical limitations.  Julia lost herself in the delights of French cooking.  I would love to as well but I'm lactose intolerant and I can't eat too much meat or else I have to go to the doctor and become a vegan for at least a month for everything to get worked out.  Do I want to get obsessed with healthy vegan living....not really.

I told J. my thoughts and he agreed--to be obsessed with something, you can't have physical limitations.  It almost goes against the notion of obsession if you're limited.  My bloated stomach and cramps would surely be a limiting factor.

If you have any ideas around this one, let me know.  Because I'd love to get obsessed with making food (I kind of am already in terms of consuming it).

Could I get obsessed with religion?  I love exploring spirituality but hearing the word "obsession" and "religion" in the same room just sounds wrong, right?  Ditch that one.

What about writing?  Yeah...I could get obsessed with writing.

And what about art?  yes, I could definitely get obsessed with art and design and typography.

I could also get obsessed with yoga.  It sounds really hot to get obsessed with running but one step at a time.  Running and I--our relationship always sounds sexier than it actually is.

So what could you get obsessed with?  Free original screen printed poster by yours truly for one random commenter.  And if you're the only commenter, lucky you! 

09 December 2009


I've been thinking about the word freedom a lot lately, ever since M. introduced it into our Ignatian spiritual direction times.  This entire week in my meditations, I've asked for more freedom in my life, freedom to be my true self.  It has been exhilirating to ask for that and meditate on it, and I have felt a sense of freedom, a lightness of wings, a feel of flight.

Last night, I read a chapter called "Women and Spiritual Direction" in Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther and I was enthralled by the wisdom and insight of her words.  Another way of putting it could be--what my former spiritual director (I'll call her R.) did wrong and why.  But that would be limiting the scope of the chapter because it did much more than show what spiritual directors should not do or should do.  It showed me a particularly feminine/feminist way of understanding women's experience of spirituality and what to be aware of--about myself and about my relationship to spirituality and religion.

According to Guenther, women's greatest sin is not pride as Milton in Paradise Lost argues.  It's self-contempt--hatred of self, hatred of body--to the point of rejecting the idea that God could love them.  Self-contempt leads to a rejection of inner authority and a passivity that leads to hidden rage and triviality and an inability to mature and grow.  (Guenther talks about "sin" with sensitivity, how sin is a word to talk about what keeps us from receiving God's love not to bring judgment)

Within the sacred space of spiritual direction, rage and anger can be experienced and processeed--and indeed need to be for healing and growth to happen.

Another thing that I found fascinating was the idea that many women feel an innate sense of guilt and shame--even if they can't point out anything specific that they have done wrong.  It cripples them and in its most extreme form, makes them feel as if they shouldn't even be living.

Sobering topics but refreshing to read because I saw an articulation of my experiences along with other women I know.  I especially loved a quote from Madonna Kolbenschlag who wrote in Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye that women experience a "moment of atheism" when they outgrow their faith and realize their view of God was distorted.  It's a sharp, on the money way of describing the loss of God that occurs with confrontation of religion distortion and pain.

So what does this have to do with freedom?  I find feminist discourse liberating and reading Guenther's feminist interpretations of spiritual direction was just that.  It provided useful instructions on avoiding the pitfalls of guilt and shame from patriarchal religion and an alternative to finding spiritual freedom as a woman.

07 December 2009

Omelet with Caramelized Shallots

try doing this:

Make this Caramelized Shallot recipe.  Savor the aromas and eat it while it's hot.  Save a couple for later.  Put it in the fridge.

When you're ready, chop up one of your shallots and use the hardened butter to make a French omelet Julia Child style.

Sprinkle with some coarse Kosher salt and chopped parsley. 

It will make your day.

03 December 2009

Ignatian Retreat, Month 2-3: Making Spiritual Decisions

This story is a bit intense in that I share some negative experiences with spiritual direction. I don't often like to share negative stories (it has a good ending) but I think that it could provide helpful "what not to dos" for those interested in this kind of thing.

A couple months ago, I wrote about my first month in the 9 month Ignatian Spirituality program. I had my reservations about my director but I gave her a chance and she came through. There were ups and downs but the ups seemed to be winning out.

Until that is, a few weeks ago when I came home with so much anxiety that I could barely fathom the thought of prayer. I was so disturbed by my session with my director that I was yelling and bursting into tears while J. sat by bewildered.

screenprinting with jan

Every week, Jan and I meet for art time and this fall, we tackled screenprinting. We really didn't know how to start and spent a couple of sessions sitting around bookstores browsing how-to books. We took a deep breath, ordered supplies, and jumped in yesterday. It was deceptively simple and complicated but thoroughly enjoyable. The hours flew by.

Here's Jan working on her screen:
See all those little black lines? She needs to fill them in with drawing fluid...with a toothpick.

02 December 2009

The Groundbreaking

When I travel, I feel alive--and I know I'm not alone in feeling this. Traveling brings us squarely to the present and we don't want to leave it. The best travelers among us know that once you get to the destination, you have to put the maps and guidebooks aside and open yourself to the wonders of a place and the gift of universal language. We make new friends, end up getting lost, and everyday is an adventure--the unknown spills out before us and we welcome it wholeheartedly. We open our mouths and let the new experiences wash over us, melting on our tongues like a flaky buttery croissant or an afternoon rainfall. Our hearts burst with gratitude--for life, for ourselves, for the unexpected.