Archive for the ‘Ra Loves Movies’Category

Kale And Quinoa Patties And The Spirit Of The Southern Wild

Before slipping into the vortex of the next two months of work trips galore, I wanted to stop by and share some things I have been crazy about lately. I had intended to share this kale and quinoa patty recipe before the recent retreat I went on, but the retreat was so great I wanted to leave the images fresh in my mind. And now here I am ready to share this delicious and fabulous recipe and there is something even more pressing to share!

If I have talked to you in the last week I have probably told you to get to a movie theater and get there quick. Not in my usual way but in the way that prompted me to send numerous texts to people saying YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE AND DON’T WAIT! It is rare that a movie moves me so deeply and when it does the feeling is so special I want to shout it from the tops of buildings and share it with everyone I know. The recent movie that left me so motivated to climb hills just so I could scream of its tremendous merits was BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

Before the title credit had played I had goose bumps and I was leaning over propelled by the music to whisper to my friend Eniel that this movie was already blowing me away. It is lyrical, mythical, fantastical, heartbreaking, and uplifting all at the same time. It is everything you want to experience in a dark theater and too often find escaping you; it is everything you want to tell people they have to experience for themselves and then watch them tell everyone they know to watch it. I went in with high expectations (it won big at Sundance and Cannes and has had great reviews) but it exceeded my every hope. Like the main character Hushpuppy, this small film packs a heart and soul larger than anything you could ever dream to find. So there it is, if I haven’t texted you to say GO GET TO A THEATER I am now saying it here, run and I promise you will be happy you did and sharing the news as enthusiastically as I am.

Now on to some Kale and Quinoa, don’t let the excitement about the movie detract your attention from these delicious little pieces of yum. These are inspired from SUPER NATURAL EVERY DAY, and they might be my favorite recipe from this cookbook. I have made these little quinoa cakes multiple times in the last few months in multiple ways (with kale, with chard, with no veg option at all). They are packed with protein, portable, and best of all they taste fantastic! I make a half recipe from what is called for in the cookbook only being able to eat so much kale and quinoa in a week.

KALE AND QUINOA PATTIES (adapted from Super Natural Every Day)


1 ¼ cups cooked quinoa

2 Large Eggs lightly beaten

¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

1 yellow onion finely diced and divided in half

¼ cup (or more sometimes) grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic diced and divided in half

½ cup breadcrumbs

Water if needed

1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil divided

½ a bunch of kale any variety (or spinach or chard)

Splash of red wine vinegar

To Cook Quinoa: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed uncooked quinoa with 1 ½ cups water and ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and you can see the little curlicues form the beads of quinoa. Set quinoa aside to cool. Sometimes I make extra quinoa the night before with dinner and make these patties the next day; conversely you could just put the quinoa in the fridge to get cool. You want the quinoa to be room temperature or colder as you combine raw egg to it.

Sauté kale or other greens of your choice with half of the onion and one clove of garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until kale is wilted and onion is translucent. Remove mixture from heat and add splash of red wine vinegar (this will help to brighten the flavor). Set aside and let this mixture cool to room temperature as well.

Combine the quinoa, eggs, salt, and kale in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, remaining half of onion, and garlic. Add breadcrumbs, stir until fully combined. Then let mixture sit for a few minutes to absorb moisture.

At this point you should have a mixture that you can form into 10 – 12 small patties. You can always add more breadcrumbs to a moist mixture or more beaten egg or water to a dry mixture.

Heat half of remaining oil in a heavy skillet or I use my Dutch oven, over medium-low heat (temperature is important; too hot and you get some crispy dark spots, I did it once). Add 5 – 6 patties very carefully to hot oil; you want them to have some room between each other. Cover and cook for 7 – 10 minutes until the bottoms are golden to brown. Turn up the heat if they are not browning or turn it down if they are browning too fast.

Carefully flip the patties with a spatula, cover with lid, and cook the second side for 7 minutes or until golden.

Remove from pan to wire rack or plate while you cook the remaining patties in remaining olive oil.

These little patties take some time and a number of steps but they are well worth it. They stay good in the fridge and are great hot, cold, or at room temperature. They were even great en route to the Catskills!

~ Ramona


07 2012

Spring Movie Fever

The tree outside of my bedroom and kitchen windows has finally grown leaves this past week. All winter its stark brown limbs have framed my views of the sky that shift from blue to yellow or indigo to gray depending on the time of day and weather. I see the tree as I chop, mix, slice or do anything in my kitchen. Yes, in the past few months I have spent way too much time observing this tree. Seemingly over night I noticed soft sprouts of green at its very tips, and how the next day there was fluttering of pale new leaves. There are also the Cherry Blossoms in the Botanic Garden, which transformed this week from not yet an idea to a profusion of pink blossoms, and now a cascade of confectionery snow. Yes, I have spent a lot of time here as well. I was going to begin by mentioning all of this lovely spring that is infusing my life, and how all I want to do is go and see a movie! The movie bug has bitten me. So I guess what I am saying really is nothing I wrote about above pertains to anything that comes below. But I hope spring is with you wherever you are…and I hope you make it to the movies, especially a few of these.



I went to see JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI this past weekend and loved it. It is so much more than its parts, like any exquisite meal but especially sushi; it is the simplest seeming movement that is at its foundation the most complex and finely tuned structure of art. It is about dedication, love, and passion. It made me want to jump on a plane and return to Japan and it made me relish the experiences I had there.

I added KINSHASA SYMPHONY to the top of my Netflix saved list. It is a film about the only classic orchestra in Sub Saharan Africa. If follows the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste in the capital city of Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is about music and art and the power it has in people’s lives. It shows how regardless of what culture, language, and history we come from in the presence of art and music we are all brought back to our core humanity. The Orchestra itself is inspiring to me and the film has caught hold of my mind.

Since the first time I saw a poster for THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
I have wanted to see this movie. All I can say is Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Directed by John Madden, set in India…Yes please and thank you ever so much!

This damsel has been excited to see DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, its how I am spending a special Friday.

And to round out my seasonal list of film excitement is MOONRISE KINGDOM, the new film from Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola.


04 2012


The Oscars is one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s not the celebrity watching, the fine clothes, or the long speeches that get me every time (although I do love all of this); it’s the movies and the love of them that all started with my mother but more aptly with her father. My grandfather was an actor; he was in over 100 movies and 1,000 TV shows and commercials. People are usually surprised when they hear this and they ask if they have seen him in anything. “Why yes”, I say, “if you have seen – BLAZING SADDLES, HELLO DOLLY, PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES, or LET’S MAKE LOVE. But if you blink in most of these you might miss him.” He was a character actor, in fact, a character in life, but he was proud to have made a living in the movies. He was more proud of his profession than anything, including his family; my mom and I used to joke that he didn’t understand what family was; he treated us like agents or managers – sending press clippings with silly notes that said “check out what this old man is still up to.” He was married about 7 times and I think the only steady thing he had in his life was the movies. At the end of his life most of his phone conversations with my mother centered on what movies they had both seen and if they were any good.

With this, it should be apparent that I love the movies for everything they are – entertaining, creative, enlightening; but I also feel a strange sense that it is just who I am and where I come from. After my grandfather died, my mom and I spent many a night together curled on the couch watching BLAZING SADDLES the way other families watch home videos. We would share stories he had once told about the filming of this movie or that show. He lives on in my life through his “work” and in my appreciation for the arts more than in the role of grandfather, which was a part he never took to heart.

With such a long personal history to the movies it is no wonder I have an equally long connection to the Academy Awards. For me the Oscars remain inseparable with my mother. For having grown up in such a busy house and with a mother who was the center of so many converging worlds and circles, the Oscars were the only night of the year I could be certain of her undivided attention. She would cancel all appointments. We would roll the TV out of the closet, only happening for this night and the World Series for my Dad and Zelda. The Oscars were sacred in our house. My mother would tell people they couldn’t come over, and the one year we had 13 college students living in our dining and living room, my mother made my father vacate his house so she and I could watch alone from his living room.

This was many years ago when the Oscars used to be on Monday nights. This was the only night of the year I can remember my mother picking me up early from whatever project or school event I was involved in. It was the only night of the year we would stop and pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (it could still be called that back then). We would get a six-pack of Diet Pepsi and a pint of Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream. My mom would unplug the phone and we would settle in to the blue couch for the evening.

I remember those years not just on this one night, because it was more than the Oscars she shared with me, it was all of movies and her view of the world she imparted onto me. By her side she would tell me about Elia Kazan and the black list from the House Committee on Un-American Activities, she taught me about Lillian Hellman. She raged the year Barbara Streisand wasn’t nominated for Best Director of PRINCE OF TIDES. She challenged me to look at the art and not the artist. She would know each film and write down the movies I had to see to better my understanding – IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, CASABLANCA, ANNIE HALL, She would tell me the Directors she admired (John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Alejandro González Iñárritu,). She knew the names of all the actors and actresses. Some families pass on carefully constructed family trees, my grandfather passed on his love of the movies and my mother continued the branch onto me.

I like to think of my mother and grandfather when I go to movies now. I like to imagine what I would say to them and what I think they would have thought themselves. There were so many wonderful movies this year, and on more occasions than I can list, they made me fondly close my eyes and remember the family I come from. The delight and sheer uplift of watching THE ARTIST; the emotional punch of A SEPARATION; and the tangible grief and sense of continuing life in THE DESCENDANTS.

Happy Oscar watching!



02 2012

Roasted Squash And Apple Soup In Time For Thanksgiving

Happy day before Thanksgiving. This will be a bit of a hodge podge of a post, perhaps much like your Thanksgiving table tomorrow, many items that are all appreciated and enjoyed but not necessarily always going together.

To start I have wanted to share this soup recipe from Dr. Weil that I have loved for years. It seems every year about this time there is nothing I want to enjoy more than this warm, sweet, and comforting soup. It is super healthy, and vegan if you have to come up with any vegan food options. But beyond all of that it is like a warm and familiar blanket on a fall and winter day, you want to snuggle down and just slip into this brilliant orange bowl of yumminess. I had hoped to make 2 soups in 2 days and blog about them both, but work and my other commitments got in the way. So for now here is this soup, and to look forward to another soup next week.

Dr. Weil’s Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup

1 large winter squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as butternut,
buttercup or kabocha; peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tart, firm apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and red chile powder to taste
4 to 5 cups vegetable broth

I add some cayenne pepper for heat and a little cinnamon to play up the sweet notes, before I roast the vegetables.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, toss the squash, onions, garlic and apples with the oil to coat. Season well with the salt and chile. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are fork tender and lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

2. Put half of the vegetables and 2 cups of the broth in a food processor and purée until smooth. Repeat with the remaining vegetables and broth. Return puréed mixture to the pot. If the soup is too thick, add more broth. Correct the seasoning and heat to a simmer.


Beyond work and a little soup making on a rainy day, I have made it to some fantastic movies in the past week. There is nothing like catching a movie after the turkey comma and I don’t think you can miss with any of these.

Like Crazy

The Descendants

The Way

And because it is playing on my iTunes and in my head these days here are three songs for the Thanksgiving Day.

04 Christians and Pagans by Dar Williams

03 Thank U by Alanis Morissette

06 Lovely Day by Elizabeth Mitchell.

Happy Thanksgiving and may there be much food on your table, appreciation in your heart, and plenty to look forward to in your days.





11 2011

No Mother Teresa

The title should say most of it. I am no Mother Teresa, though I never thought or imagined I was or could be. My mom met Mother Teresa once, and she even wore pink roller skates the entire time. What I remember most of the stories my mother told me about meeting this incredible woman at the soup kitchen my mother ran was two things – that Mother Teresa carried a small purse the entire time—who would have guessed the woman in a white and blue habit originally from Eastern Europe and completely synonymous with the poverty of India would be so inseparable with her hand bag, but she was. The other thing I remember was how moved Mother Teresa was by the showers for the homeless at this soup kitchen. The showers are made completely of the same beautiful deep ocean blue tiles as are in our house, because my mother felt everyone was entitled to a moment of beauty in their day. But this post is not actually about Mother Teresa or the day she met my mom. I just wanted to clear the air that I am not Mother Teresa but nor is the woman who runs the orphanage where I am working in Kenya. I bring this up because it has been an unbelievably trying and hard week.

If the general life of Kenya in a small town is not hard enough, in the past seven days life has tried me, at times it broke me, and at times it has given me more hope than I could imagine. As I have said before, our orphanage mama, who will forever remain nameless for reasons that will soon be clear, has become more domineering, aggressive, flat out mean, and perhaps just misunderstood in some very strange “cross cultural misunderstandings”. I have spoken of the plight of these children and I will not rehash their sad living conditions, because how many times can I explain kids sitting in their own waste, eating scraps of garbage in hopes of something sweet, and very clearly being denied basic human living rights not to mention LOVE. But it seems last week on an especially trying day for me after a previously trying day I sent a simple message to my roommate who was in Nairobi trying to extend her visa. On that day to make her point that I was showing one child too much affection by holding his hand, the orphan mama snatched this young boy’s hand from me and shook the boy and his arm to prove how he had become attached to me. I worked another hour and then chose to leave for a short respite to collect my thoughts. As I walked 25 min one way home only to find there was no power, and then sit for 20 min, before walking 25 min back down the same dusty red road to the orphanage, I sent my roommate an exasperated, angry, discouraged, heartbroken, and I will admit it, a mean but truthful text message about the woman who likes to be called mama. I called her a name I am not proud of, but that I staunchly stand behind. My roommate replied only once with some also unkind words.

And that should be the end of the story of how I am not Mother Teresa, I don’t think she ever called someone names. But the sad part of this story is that actually the person who is not Mother Teresa is the orphanage mama, and now begins her snarly tale. It seems somehow this orphanage mama intercepted these two text messages, and by that I mean she went into my purse, unlocked my cell phone, and forwarded the messages to her phone. We arrived on Thursday to a very angry and even harsher Kenyan mama than normal. She called us into her office and proceeded to yell at us for 45 min along with her two grown daughters. All of the kids were outside watching through concrete windows, the images of their scared and horrified faces are burned in my memory to this day. She threatened to call the police or take us to court (neither of which she can legally do, we have found out). She accused us of abuse. She told us we were evil and said she received the messages from “GOD because she was a good woman and we were cruel creatures here to hurt her”. She seriously went this far. She called us lazy. She called us stupid. But the worst was when she called us racist and said we did this because she was African. My heart shattered. Kids cried, my roommate cried, there were harsh words in Swahili. She brought in a traveling nurse to take her side but the woman was unfortunately not swayed and our mama proceeded with the insults that it was because she was like us mzungu (foreigner). After a 45 minute tirade in which we never could voice our side we were kicked out of the orphanage for four days until we returned with our volunteer organization representative.

While all of this happened, the young 5 month old baby who has asthma and pneumonia, and who I have seen with a lollipop in her mouth from the care takers at this orphanage, was removed from the premises by the nurse. The children’s department was called. And the tears of workers, children, and volunteers continued.

I spent the long four days feeling ashamed for saying something in private which I know is preposterous. I called my dad and it was the first time I cried and on the phone at dusk behind a fence I heard the familiarity of the San Francisco street traffic in the background and the yelling of children peering over that same fence to get a glimpse of me. At times I feel like I am the creature in the zoo here and on this sad night I felt like the scared creature who only wants to return to its natural habitat. We met with our organization in Nairobi on Friday. I spent the weekend not traveling for the first time but at home with my French roommate. We made our comforting eggs with garlic and tomato. We talked and talked. She is empowering me with the facts of how to possess the French woman’s confidence. I cried. It is surprising but the way I have reacted to the RAvolution is nothing of how I expected to act. I have impressed and shocked myself with my strength, determination, willingness to change, adaptability, and openness. But this weekend alone for a short bit in my room under my mosquito net, I listened to music and felt the crushing depth of the past months and I sobbed.

We had our meeting on Monday where we endured more irrational tirades about things that didn’t make sense. We were never apologized to. We reexamined how we hurt this woman, by her invading our privacy and reading a personal exchange I may remind you. She contradicted herself. She actually made such harsh racial slurs that our organization started yelling at her in her mother tongue and then in a tribal tongue. I stared at the wall and a sign about stopping FGM (female genital mutilation) just so I could avoid her gaze. She stands staunchly by the fact that GOD sent her this message and refuses to show her phone and the way she read the notes. But we were allowed back! After much pestering, and a very long meeting that confused the heck out of me, somehow in the kindness of her heart she has allowed us back in. Her and her daughters are icy and cold to us, I would use other language but I have learned my lesson. The staff is overjoyed to see us and the kids who had their heads freshly shaved this weekend are ecstatic. Their hugs have been the one thing that have brought me to my knees in relief and have given me the courage, determination, and desire, not to mention appreciation to be back within the otherwise unwelcoming walls.

Sadly the 5 month old baby is back and the child department was not able to move her, despite the continued valiant work of the nurse. I have to call the nurse tonight to give her an update. Also sadly another child was delivered to the orphanage.

My time here is filled with so much it is hard to keep up or believe how fast it goes, let alone allow much if any of it to sink in. I am off to safari next week. And soon I will be back in the US. I don’t say home because I don’t know what home is anymore. I have found a home in myself, in my ability to adapt to a new place. I have found home in what was once shocking and now becoming familiar. I have found home with friends in Southeast Asia, Salinas, San Francisco, Ashland, New York, Brooklyn, and now Kenya. Mostly I have found a deeper truth in what my mother always told me when I was young, “if I look into my heart, I carry everything I have ever wanted or needed with me wherever I go.”




06 2011

Good Morning Hong Kong And A Great Movie Recommendation

After a long flight in perpetual darkness I have landed. Still in the shadow of a 20 hour night, I am in Hong Kong. The sun is just starting to peer through the haze and over the mountains surrounding the airport.

Disembarking the plane this morning I was welcomed to the ubiquitous familiarity of an international airport with the slight tinge of the local flavor. In today’s case it is the magnificent smell of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, and it made me want to hunt down an early, early morning snack. The unfamiliar script changes to a recognizable alphabet. And then there are those distinctly unique moments you realize you are assuredly in a new country – this morning it was the prayer room next to the baby changing and rest rooms with the same universal sign for what I guess is a prayer room.

I am well on the way of my adventures and wanted to say a fast hello before I catch my flight to Thailand. Also between naps I saw a great movie that I wanted to share during this Oscar season.

It is the French animated film The Illusionist and it is well worth a run to see it before Oscar Sunday. It’s a simple, stunning, and charming film for anyone who believes in magic, or once did. It particularly made me think of Jason and anyone who loves The Triplets of Belleville. It will warm your heart, lift your spirits, and in my case made me completely forget about the unknown time or space I was in.

Love in passing as I run to my flight,


The Illusionist


02 2011

Escaping My Life To Slip Into Another World At The Movies

Life is full; we all know it too well these days. There is work and the things you have to do to get through the daily grind – groceries, cooking, laundry, bills – let’s not get started. We are busy and our calendars look like overstuffed sausages, so sometimes it’s nice to slip away and dive into another world, even if it is only for two hours.

In the past month here are two movies I have escaped away to and wanted to share with you. So find some time, get the popcorn, turn off the phone and give yourself over to these two marvelous films.

SOMEWHERE : This is the newest film by Sofia Coppola. I am a huge Sofia Coppola fan, no matter how sparse time is, I find the space to see her films as soon as I can in a theater. Support artists you love!

The film is a quiet contemplation on so many things – life, loneliness in an ever-growing world of “connection”, the relationships that we have and the way we relate. It is like a poem with less said in dialogue and on the surface than is sumptuously shown in each remarkable shot and image. Sofia Coppola has a way of melding both the insane and mundane and also the organic and natural in a world that it doesn’t always fit in. In her previous film LOST IN TRANSLATION one of my favorite moments is after the night they go out karaoking and on the drive back to the hotel through Tokyo there is a silent shot of the distant full moon juxtaposed to the neon and steel of the modern world. In a similar way in SOMEWHERE there are lingering shots of the a blue sky and remarkable scenes of driving in Southern California going from the city and freeways of LA out along the coast, through trees, and into the golden sun soaked vastness.


THE KINGS SPEECH: A remarkable film that somehow feels fittingly timed with all of the royal wedding craziness that clutters the news. With two phenomenal performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, the film is both a fantastic character piece and a fantastic story of friendship. It shows that no matter how much our voice is stunted or impeded we can overcome or compensate when we truly have something to say. It is a wonderful story not just of finding a voice but of becoming the person we are meant to be no matter how frightening that is or may seem. It is about the people who help us become who we are and the people who help us find our voice or how to use it.

The King's Speech

We all need to escape sometimes. It is the dark theaters of these two movies and the worlds they brought me to that were well worth the time I carved out to get there. I hope you all find some time in this hectic month and if you are contemplating running away, just run to your multiplex and check out one of these two fantastic films!

Happy Escaping,



01 2011

Two Great Movies That Transport Me Back to Japan

I love to travel but there are times when I have to be home, to take care of life, to see family and friends, and to make money so I can go on my next trip. From home I love to travel back to the places I have been (and occasionally some I have yet to visit) by way of books, food, music, but my favorite way to travel from home is in the movies.

Movies can convey so much of a place – the way the environment looks, the music, the sound of the speech and language, and the very culture at its heart. These two movies transport me back to Japan a place I loved visiting and wish I could have stayed longer in. They both encapsulate so well the experiences I felt while I was in Japan and sitting in my house or on a plane they transport me and leave me as affected as my time and experiences in the country itself.

DEPARTURES: I saw this movie after returning from Japan. I had heard about it for some time, it won the Oscar in 2009 for Best Foreign Language Film. My mother had raved about it when it was first out in the US (but at that time I rolled my eyes and thought it was not for me, how wrong could I be, and as usual how on point my mother was). This past summer my father and Suzanne both encouraged me to rent the movie waxing on about how much they thought I would like it. I finally caved in and I am so glad I did. The film is stunning! It has some of the most beautiful landscapes from Japan and cello music that is haunting and inspiring at once. The story seems simpler than the film and yet the film is one of those small odes to the much greater mystery of life and death. It is filled with the feeling and atmosphere of rural Japan – from scenes in the Onsan to views inside many families, town life, ceremonies, and rituals. But like any good piece of art it transcends distance and place and is relevant and moving and identifiable to everyone who experiences life and the eventual moment of departure.


RINCO’S RESTAURANT: I saw this movie on my flight to Japan, it felt like a nice way to slowly melt into the atmosphere of the destination but it became so much more than a simple welcome to Japan and my time there. The film is one part Amalie, one part Like Water for Chocolate, and one part its very own distinct and utterly Japanese film. At times it might seem bizarre and strange but that was part of the appeal to me. The film is filled with whimsy and fantasy and some really great imaginative and other quirky moments. It is about a young woman who loses her voice after her heart is broken. She moves back to her small town with her mother and begins to cook but her meals have strange powers over those who she serves them to. It is delightful and fun. I won’t say it isn’t without some really odd moments but that is part of the sheer enjoyment of the film, kind of like the moments when language and culture just don’t entirely cross over and you really get the true flavor and taste with all of its eccentricities for a place. It left me smiling and more than that it left me open to the wonderful, if at times unexpected world of Japan.

Rinco's Restaurant

Both of these films are available on Netflix and carry you away to Japan with out ever needing to brush off your passport or pack a bag. So I recommend ordering in some sushi and tempura, making a pot of crisp green tea, sipping some sake, and sinking into the marvelous world with these two movies that I loved!

Happy Viewing,



11 2010