Hello, hello! We've missed you so much. I'm sorry I haven't written. What a time this is. Hard to believe really, yet here we are in the subtle glory that is the middle of the season. Despite current distressing news and events and the struggle it takes to remain hopeful in light of them, I am decidedly an optimist by nature. I happen to love summer, the longer days, the gardens (and the gardening!), the gorgeous light here in Southern California, and the slower overall pace of life. Of course nothing about this particular summer is remotely normal, nor is life at all for that matter. How are you faring out there? I hope everyone is staying safe and sound. It is becoming increasingly challenging to stay well, and by that I refer of course to the physical, emotional, and psychological components of that challenge. I have found tremendous solace in turning to nature, and to the practice of gardening. I'm becoming quite devoted! I am not sure if I am alone in treating my first rose bushes like a new baby, but I do know that growing such beautiful flowers gives me great joy. I rush outside in my nightgown to check on them first thing in the morning, noticing every little overnight development like a new parent.
Another source of great joy is simply being in the boutique on a more regular schedule. We have truly have missed seeing you, so please do make an appointment to come for a visit, if that appeals. We have been open by appointment (masked and distanced, of course) for a little while now, and it's been absolutely delightful to see people one by one. Here are the guidelines we are following, and updating as the situation warrants.
The store is remarkably easy to social distance in, with plenty of fresh air wafting in, and of course our 100% beeswax and essential oil candles burning to help purify the air. On the candle front, we are happy to announce the arrival of an edition of travel-friendly sizes of our most signature scent, Frankincense. They are 1.7 oz each, burn for 12 hours, and are available to purchase singly in the boutique for $12 each, or in sets of three or six online.
We wear masks, and have found a hand sanitizer that is both effective and doesn't make our hands feel like lizard skin. Speaking of masks...YES, we are making them, and YES, they are coming soon. YES, it has taken a long time, but we always take a long time making sure things are right. Since we will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, we know that having a mask that is both beautiful, comfortable to wear, and functions effectively will be increasingly important. We will be offering them in both cotton and silk crepe de chine Liberty prints, as well as Italian and Japanese men's shirting cottons in plaids and stripes. Let us know if you're interested, and we can put one aside for you. We will also have a stunning French lace and silk chiffon version, which of course I am most looking forward to.
We've done lots of research on the most safe and effective attributes, and have incorporated them into what we feel is not only a beautiful mask, but one that actually does what it is designed to do beautifully. We use a triple layer construction using 100% cotton, 100% silk, and a silk/cotton voile that all work together to filter out the particles we don't want to breathe. The cotton is both comfortable, and an efficient physical barrier, while the silk has an electromagnetic charge that traps particles. They also have a sleeve for inserting a 2.5ppm carbon filter, if you so desire. Together, and along with being socially distant, they are your best bet for being out in public in a safe manner.
Since being out in public is greatly curtailed at the moment, I'm enjoying what I can from home, as we all are. My dear friend Gregory Parkinson sent me a link to a marvelous film of Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring, performed on a beach at dusk in Senegal by 38 dancers from 14 African countries. The piece is a collaboration between The Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables. It's only available through Sadler's Wells digital stage until the end of the month, so I hope you find the time to watch it before it is gone. It was filmed as the world was descending into lockdown, and captures what is the performers' last time rehearsing the piece together. The urgency and intensity of the choreography is quite heightened by the reality of the global situation, and the beauty, strength, and love of the dancers for their craft is incredibly moving.
photo by Zabo Babilée
I also hope you'll find a moment to join the Mindful Awareness Meditation on Thursday July 30th, the weekly livestream hosted by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. In normal times, this event is held at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater. Seeing as how these are not normal times, they are now offered online. You can RSVP to participate here. The 30 minute sessions are free, held weekly, and no prior meditation experience is necessary.
My version of meditation lately has been in the kitchen. I know that for myself, and for many of you out there, cooking has been both a gift but also a bit of a grind during this intense period of lockdown. I've been relying on the gorgeous produce available from County Line Harvest that I pick up in the neighborhood on Friday afternoons, and inspiration wherever I can find it. Lately, inspiration has come from my lovely neighbor Ruth, who is gifted with a decidedly green thumb. She has generously shared her bounties of shiso leaves, tomatoes, and zucchini. Subsequently, I've made a delicious tomato risotto, and a shiso leaf chimichurri that was excellent on grilled yellowfin tuna steaks the other night. I know not everyone has a lovely neighbor growing shiso leaves, but if you're lucky enough to have a bunch, I'm happy to share the recipe if you ask.
The tomato Ruth grows is the Hungarian Heart variety, which couldn't be more perfect, as what could be more lovely than a homegrown tomato from a neighbor? I riffed on a David Tanis recipe for Tomato Risotto that I found in the NYTimes Cooking section, using crushed tomatoes in the risotto, with the sliced and roasted tomato on top with basil and lots of Pecorino Romano cheese.
1 large onion, diced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1.5 cups arborio or carnaroli (I like Acquerello)
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
750 g chopped tomatoes (approximately 3 cups)
4 cups hot broth (vegetable or chicken, I've made it with both)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1-2 large tomatoes, sliced thinly and roasted for garnish
Handful of basil leaves, dill, parsley, chives or any soft herbs you prefer
Extra virgin Olive Oil
Red chile pepper flakes
1 tablespoon butter
Sauté diced onion and leek in about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add minced garlic and rice and continue cooking until rice is coated with the oil, and begins to turn translucent, but not at all brown. Add the white wine, and allow it to bubble and become absorbed by the rice before adding the diced tomatoes, along with the red chile pepper flakes.
Once the liquid has evaporated, begin adding the hot broth. Start with 2 cups, and stir gently as the rice simmers and absorbs the liquid. Once the risotto begins to seem dry, add another cup of the broth, and gently simmer another 5-6 minutes. Once the risotto is cooked through but still al dente, I stir in another 1/2 cup broth, a tablespoon of butter, and 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Put the lid on the pot for 1'2 minutes to allow the butter and cheese to melt, and for the flavors to combine. Stir gently, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a shallow serving bowl, layering the roasted tomatoes, herbs, and a bit more cheese over the top.