A few Saturdays ago, I took the metro to the National Mall and emerged to see the transportation option of my dreams: The Magic School Bus.
I couldn’t find my style icon, Ms. Frizzle, but now I know she teaches in Wisconsin.
Children were snaking in and out of the lines to meet their favorite characters (like Snook below) at the National Book Festival, and I remembered standing in lines to meet characters in other cities with my sister Katrina as a child.
The night before, a group of people from work celebrated a colleague’s last day in the office at a bizarre rotating bar in Crystal City. So I was thinking about new patterns and circling back (they say you never truly leave public broadcasting) at a party later that Saturday in Mount Pleasant, where Katrina used to live.
I took a picture of her roommates, the wonderful Rachell and Jenna, and they left a space for where Kat would have stood.
As though looking for her, I decided against cake and wandered outside, where Morgan removed her belt, picked up a hoop, challenged other potential hoopers to “bring it,” then insisted I take a turn.
Feeling a little like I was back on the elementary school playground, I took the hoop and discovered hooping is an excellent workout. Especially in heels.
When I picked up the hoop, I handed the camera to Cameron, so filming credit goes to him.
The next morning, Dana drove to Alexandria, and we were off for a day of markets.
The Dupont Farmers’ Market had tempting apples and unsettling aqua squash,
craggy lobster mushrooms,
kale sold at flower stands,
all manner of celosia,
a sea of cherry tomatoes (how I will miss them until next year),
Bonaparte Breads pastry,
and honeycomb honey, the bee-built collapsible cells, preservation reminders in amber.
From Dupont Circle, we walked to Adams Morgan for the Crafty Bastards fair.
Dana posed as Bob Ross,
wise, soft owls peered up at us,
painting was in progress,
hoodies were on every other table,
and we squarely faced cross-stitched iconography and recycled monsters.
One of my favorite vendors sold book purses, and I considered this Nancy Drew,
but decided I wanted the pages too. That might be my ideal—a book slot on a purse where the cover defines the bag shape, but the pages can still be read while one waits for others (with, perhaps, less functional accessories).
(I also liked the crazed pirate doll above and learned that zombies are the new bunnies.)
Walking back to Dupont, Dana and I ran into Morgan, who posed with a horsey shirt she bought for a friend, and Cameron, who was in possession of a new bag. They were on their way to the Fiesta Festival in Mount Pleasant (picture set in Cameron’s Flickr).
Dana and I continued to laugh about some of the fringier Crafty Bastard vendors as we walked, and, open to possibilities, we tripped down the stairs to a chocolate shop I spotted below street level.
Dana patiently waited while I deliberated and the person behind the counter very deliberately tied ribbons, searched for the perfect box, and painstakingly wrote out the names of the chocolates we chose.
Back in Alexandria, we conducted a tasting; Dana favors ancho, I caramel. All of them demanded respect, and in between pieces we sat, eyes closed, leaning back in the patio chairs, and puzzled out the nuances…
When Dana left for Charlottesville, I decided, with chocolatebuzz logic, to make a sandwich to celebrate crafty bastards everywhere—from chocolatiers to craftspeople to pastrymakers to farmers.
Besides chocolate, my other favorite buzz-inducing indulgence is garlic, which I tend to add, minced, unapologetically to all things savory. This sandwich, though, wages a sly three-prong attack: a (slightly) bastardized BLT, garlic-laced rosette du lyon replaces bacon, garlic chives accompany lettuce, and homemade aioli stands in for mayonnaise.
To make the Crafty Bastard sandwich, fry thick-sliced rosette du lyon for a minute on each side over medium-high. Set aside. Fry the bread slices on both sides with additional oil, spread with aioli, add the tomato, chives, lettuce, and charcuterie. For further variation, add a fried egg.
Two days later, I deplaned in Los Angeles and drove my rental PT Cruiser convertible (love these) to Palm Desert, pulling off in Cabazon to see Dinny and Mr. Rex. As my friend zZalgern0n had told me, inside Dinny the Dinosaur there is a creationist museum promoting intelligent design, so I hurried away to nearby Hadley’s for a date shake, the local foodie pride point.
Underwhelmed by my date shake, confused by the interior of desert dinos, I continued on Palm Desert, to a resort with boats to ferry guests to dinner at the twelve restaurants.
My PT Cruiser and I had other ideas that evolved, you might say, from some Chowhound discussion board research, and I drove work colleagues Kristin and Kevin to Zin in Palm Springs, where the macaroni and cheese, tuna, and Zin burger were good, and the chevre cheesecake with balsamic vinegar excellent.
Driving back that night, we took a wrong turn and somehow ended up on a reservation. For the remainder of my stay, when not blogging the conference, I walked around the hotel or took a boat ride…
One of my favorite facts as a child was that flamingos maintained their pink color by a diet of shrimp and red algae (I think I imagined that feeding them blueberries would turn them blue), and this stand balances their time between eating, confronting each other, and cradling their heads in their feathers as guests first pull around the registration circle.
For the conference blog, I met and interviewed the similarly elegant Judy Woodruff, another childhood dream realized; she shared with me her conviction that NewsHour reporting is “more needed than ever.”
Leaving Palm Desert, I turned the car toward Los Angeles and sought out subtler water features at the Getty, expecting a museum complex and finding instead a meditative space with flower rows that expand as though walking through a mandala, green areas that gently slope, and door handles leading to beautifully curated exhibits that open with a slight pause, the sound of the latch a reminder of the thought in thoughtful design.
From the Getty, I drove to Laguna Beach to meet my friend Mike and the Roadtrip Nation family. I found Laguna Beach so beautiful and the people so sincere, I picked up a margarita glass and put to down my camera to be with them. I admire their work inspiring college students to “find their road in life,” the fact that the Mike, Nathan, and Brian have grown this production with unflagging perseverance, and I plan to return as soon as I can to meet the whole staff and explore the artist communities in Laguna (thank you so much, Mike and Katy, for letting me stay).
Roadtrip Nation dreams big, asking mentors how they found their way, and a large entourage flanking the President of Ethopia walked by me in LAX the next morning, making me think about people that inspire and are important to my road.
Back from her own peripatetic travels in Guatemala and Mexico, Katrina joined me in Alexandria on Wednesday, and together we arrived in Charlottesville around midnight on Friday, ready for the Charlottesville market on Saturday morning.
There were shiny orange peppers and osage oranges (place these by external doorways to keep bugs out),
streaky roses at Main Street Market’s Hedge,
and speckled cranberry beans that Katrina, Dana, and I shelled that afternoon.
With a quiet rhythm, pods opened, beans spilled into the pie plate in the center, their red-flecked skins soon to become a simple start to a meal with butternut-sage-pecorino pasta to usher in fall and celebrate Katrina’s return.
While the smell of simmering onion filled the kitchen and we drank Dolcetto d’Alba, Katrina spoofed food art out of the pods (clever girl), a whimsical bit of handcrafting more original than the fair goods that awaited us the next day in Crozet…
Since college, Katrina has loved strawberries and bananas on her pancakes, and each time I make them, I try to coax more flavor from the fruits. This time, I rounded out the compote with the flavor of orange, perfect for early morning and the stealthy work of a moment, reducing Cointreau in as the pancakes crisped.
Picking up Dana, we drove into the wind and a park of craft vendors, where these children seemed to share my love for shiny.
There were masks to try (note the unusual leather eyebrows),
and avian clay figurines seemingly formed around lightbulbs;
Katrina and Dana pondered this bright idea,
opted out of “potable” beverages while we walked,
and decided against funnel cake as we took the scenic route back to Charlottesville,
to slice circles into cresents and divide green tomato cake as we sipped Prosecco.
Bake green tomatoes and they surprise you, turning jammy—a good topping for a comforting Sunday afternoon cake; cut open a watermelon radish and it will surprise you too, its pink heart hidden within the pale.
My glass of Prosecco reflecting Ben, Dana, and Katrina as we watched the tight-knit quartet of Golden Girls on the screen, I thought back to when my white wine had mirrored palm trees in the desert as I sat outside and listened silently as the birds sang and the sun set in the mountains.
I thought about the “you come too” sign at this Saturday’s market, underscoring the importance of presence, support, and unexpected, direct invitations.
And so the calendar folds in and onto itself, suspending moments of lightness between layers of being, complex personality patterns unfolding, crafting situations and sustenance spirals where I wear Frizzlesque fabric prints that correspond to etymologies and, in a trice,
palm trees become crunchy palmiers…