Holiday Prayer

This holiday season,

I devote myself to
the Power, the Glory, and the Honor
of you, Almighty God,
who contains within you:

and sparkly lights,
and pineapple tarts and peppernuts,
the joy of homecoming, of belonging, of a family’s embrace,
the sunny splendor of Christmas in California,
the contentment of a belly full of brisket and curry and creamed corn,
the freedom we find in ritual.

And also and still:

Black Friday
and big box stores,
and loneliness, and bland turkey,
the pain of separation, the quicksand of nostalgia,
the squalor of greedy hearts,
food that’s the fruit of another’s suffering,
rigidity that causes cracks.

I give thanks for it all,
and say, Tis the season to attend.

Because Brother Thay says that true understanding is the essence of love.
Which requires us to look deeply and well.
And You may be The All,
but You are not always The Most High.

Our Father
(and Mother),
who Art in Heaven
(and in our daily struggles),
Hallowed be thy many names.


December 2, 2013   No Comments

Daily Logs: Nov 18, 2013


November 19, 2013   No Comments

Daily Logs: July 1, 2012

July 1, 2012   No Comments

Daily Logs: June 15, 2012

June 15, 2012   No Comments

Ah-Mah’s (Grandma’s) Spicy Achar Achar Pickles

My mum discovered this recipe on an old notebook while cleaning out some old belongings of my grandmother (aka Ah-Mah). Among the other recipes featured in the notebook was “dishwasher steamed fish” — perhaps not so energy efficient, but certainly intriguing.

Since we’ve had beautiful carrots for awhile and cabbages and cucumbers are starting to come on in abundance, it seemed like the perfect time to test out the recipe. The salty, sour, spicy pickles are just the thing to cool you down on the swelteringly hot days we’ve been having lately on the island.

My mum is coming to visit this weekend, and I’ll ask for her stamp of approval. Until then, there’s the fact that I ate more than a quarter of the pickles, picking out a cauliflower here and a sesame-strewn carrot there, while packing the jars and taking the photos.

Ah-Mah’s Spicy Achar Achar Pickles
with some small notes and modifications from the original

2 lbs. cucumber
½ lb. cauliflower
½ lb. cabbage
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into strips
¼ lb. (approx one cup) roasted peanuts, pounded
2 tbsp. roasted sesame seeds
½ cup oil

1 thumb sized piece ginger, grated

Ingredients A:
3 oz. (approx one large) shallot

1 oz. fresh turmeric or heaping 1/2 tbsp dried turmeric
7 dried arbol chillies (soak in water and drained) + 1 large dried New Mexican chili OR 1 ½ tbsp. chilli paste + 5 fresh red chillies.

Ingredients B, mix together: 3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. salt

Ingredients C, mixed together: 2 cups rice OR white vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt

Wash the cucumbers and cut off the ends. Julienne the cucumber into strips 2” long and 1/4” wide and 1/8” thick, removing and discarding seeds and soft insides as you go.

Place the cucumber strips in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, mix well and leave aside for 4-5 hours. Rinse, drain and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Set aside.

In the meantime, you can prepare the pickling juice. Process Ingredients A into a paste, either with a mortar and pestle and brute force, or with a food processor. Set your paste aside.

Heat oil in a wok and fry the ginger till light brown. Add paste A and stir-fry till the mixture turns deep red, becomes fragrant and the oil comes up to the surface.

Add B and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute and remove to a bowl to cool completely.

Boil C in a pot and blanch the cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots and cabbage separately. Spread out to cool on large trays. Heat a wok and stir-fry the vegetables for 1/2 minute with a little bit of the oil from the vinegar mixture, skimmed from the top. Spread on trays to cool. When vegetables are cool, place in a mixing bowl with the pounded nuts, sesame seeds and chilli-vinegar mixture. Mix well, store in bottles and refrigerate.

Prepping the ingredients

Frying the chili paste

The final chili oil and vinegar mixture

Cukes drying on a paper towel

Quick stir fry in the chili-oil mixture after the veggies have all been blanched

Spread for drying

Drying in the sun

Pounding out the peanuts with my makeshift mortar and pestle

Delicious pickles, packed and ready to eat… mmmmm

July 27, 2009   2 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day

It’s late, but here’s a post in honor of my beautiful mum who inspires and sustains me and puts up with my craziness and loves me in spite of my psychoses, neuroses, and all other manners of -ses.

I guess mum and I have always been close — first daughter love with none of that crazy Joy Luck Club drama — but in recent years, we’ve found so many common joys: cooking, gardening, design, entertaining, organizing, that we can’t help but go crazy when we’re together. My mum grounds me. She reminds me to be happy. She understands how I think, and reminds me that my way isn’t the only way.

So here’s a 5-minute poem in honor of my lovely momma:

You know me,
love me,
because you’re part me
or technically, I guess,
I’m part you.

When I was small,
I slept like a princess in your high four-poster bed;
dad was away.

So I curled,
soundly, against you.
I dreamed
and woke up happy.

And now,
when I need something that I can’t find,


I put my head into your shoulder
and find

something I need

just there.

May 12, 2009   No Comments

Jacqueline and Jim come to visit

Jacqueline and Jim posing on the peak of Mt. Finlayson to “prove” they were here!

On Sunday, Jacqueline and Jim came to visit me at the farm. It was my first time giving a tour to visitors and it was fun! It made me want to coerce more friends and family to come out here to visit. It’s impossible not to feel pride when showing off the beds I’ve cultivated, the little plants I’ve planted, the seeds that are germinating. I think Jacqueline got some ideas for planting this summer — we did a little tasting of the tatsoi (relative of bok choy, which we use in salad mix) and she was impressed.

After fresh bagels and the farm tour, we set off to hike around and search out some of the local flora. Jacqueline’s botanist background helped the identification:

Fairy Slipper Orchid

Chocolate Lily

The cool looking red & green groundcover is broad-leaved sedum, a native succulent

Corn Lily

Maybe a Sitka Spruce?

Common Camass

From the summit of Mt. Finlayson

After summiting all 290 ft of the “mountain,” we headed back to the car and down to town to find food. Delicious crab enchiladas, and then time for the ferry. All-in-all, a glorious Sunday.

May 6, 2009   No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad!

In honor of my lovely dad, who just turned 50 today…

Cute chicks, playing in the sunshine

Thanks for being a great dad
… for being so cool: raising chickens, building your own woodshop, riding a scooter
… for taking care of yourself and taking care of us
… for always being so proud of me and supportive of things I want to try
… for helping me understand myself better
… for hugs, even when I’m being a bum

Happy happy birthday and I love you!

April 21, 2009   1 Comment

Home Alone

Cambodians with their hard-core family values are always shocked when they hear I’m here alone, and constantly asking whether I’m lonely (“op sop?”). At first, the answer was honestly no, there was too much to do and see and cook and think about, but after I came back from a brief jaunt with my family over in the USA, I got a little sad, and sometimes a lot sad — especially when I didn’t keep busy.

I think, though, that even worse than sadness or boredom, is the self-indulgence and egocentrism of living without the norming influence of other people (especially in a place where unannounced visitors are pretty improbable). That’s why I think there are certain stigmas associated with living alone that I think are entirely justified. The appearance of Raja the cat circa month 3 doesn’t necessarily make things any better — crazy cat lady is something that still scares any misanthropic tendencies straight out of most young women.

Hermits run around naked in the deep woods and eat snakes and tubers and maybe even psychedelic mushrooms they find lying around. I refrain from the drugs, but I’ve been known to lie around without a scrap on reading a new book (or, let’s be honest here — watching 4-5 episodes of Gilmore Girls in a row) and eating my refrigerator empty on a Sunday afternoon. No wonder Mr. Sambath noticed the 9 extra kilos. And the #1 problem with this type of behavior is that it’s addictive and the further you let yourself go into the antisocial, self-centered spiral, the more difficult it is to dig yourself out. When you become irritable when company’s coming because that means you have to put your clothes back on, that’s when you know it’s gone too far.

The physical seclusion aside, emotional and mental solitude are also tough. Even when I venture out with friends here, it’s very difficult to get critical input or opinions on what I’m thinking. I have recently been reflecting on my experience here and considering what I want to do next when I come back and all the ideas floating in my head seem exciting and possible, but also maybe trite and crazy (?) and what I really need is a sounding board.

Me and Raja, home alone.

November 22, 2008   No Comments