Archive for November, 2010

Viva La RAvolution 2011

“What you are is what you have been, and what you will be is what you do now.”
– Buddha

As we move to the end of one year and the start of a new year this quote feels somehow more fitting than at any other time in my life. What I am at this end of one year is standing at the edge or precipice of what I have been and what I have known as my life up until now, and what I am planning for 2011 is a small quest/adventure for a new Ramona in the new year.

I have lived a life based on responsibility since I think I was born, I have to face that it may just be who I am. When I was three or four years old my mom wanted to pack me up and drive around the United States in a VW van, prefepreferably purple of course. She bought two Encyclopedias that she hoped just by reading would suffice as my education. At this young age I was the odd little voice of reason and responsibility and I told her very gravely – “we just can’t do that mommy I need to be in one place with people I know and friends my own age.” That is how responsible I am, and I realize now probably always will be.

But the time that responsible Ra just stopped making sense was before my mom died. I have felt a pull in my life to do more, to try more, to go further, to ask more questions for some years now. But the responsible Ra that talked my mom into staying in San Francisco all those years ago (and I am grateful that I did) has too often stood in the way of allowing myself to really let go and give myself a chance to do and truly be the person I hope and think I can be.

So that is where the RAvolution comes in, after much time struggling with just what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it, and a whole lot of other “responsible”  little nonsense questions that I just couldn’t find an answer to. I said, “what if responsible Ra took a short break and a back seat?” What if I let go of any question and gave myself a few months to do all of the things Responsible Ra has talked me out of for all of these years?

Just what does that mean you might ask and where will that take me? Those are good questions because I can only let go so much so there is a structure and a plan to the RAvolution. The RAvolution is a revolution, a revolution of RA. I am doing things I have always wanted to do and a few I never wanted to do but have to do to make the RAvolution work. That is all part of it; it’s about allowing myself space and time to grow.

I am going to do a whole lot I have never done in my life starting with giving up my AMAZING apartment in New York City and putting all of my stuff in storage (I brake out in a cold sweat of anxiety just at the thought of this).

In March I am going to go on a month long trip through South East Asia, the plan is to spend time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos hopefully. This is a trip I have wanted to take for years now but have found reasons – no one to travel with, taking all that time off work, spending all that money, and do I really have to get shots and take Malaria medicine (yes!)  – to not make the long worthwhile trip a reality.

In April and May I am going to stay with my friends Anne and Beth in the Salinas Valley near Pacific Grove and Monterey. The plan for these months is for me to learn how to drive (yes a way over due experience and skill that my self doubt and procrastination has put off for the better half of my life). I may even learn to ride a bike! Watch out world Ramona will be mobile!

In June I am going to go to Kenya for a month to volunteer with children. I have dreamt of doing this for the better part of my twenties and early thirties and again that Responsible Ra gave me a laundry list of how I just couldn’t take the time off work, what would I do with my apartment, and again do I really have to get shots and take Malaria medicine (yes!).

With all of these silly, responsible roadblocks out of my way – scared of taking a month off work – I’ll take four. What will I do with my apartment for a month – I’ll give it up and put my life in a 10 by 10 storage room. Did I mention shots – well its part of life and I am taking 2011 to start living it a little more fully, if not fully on the edge. Currently I am planning to be living on the edge (of reason, sanity, and maybe big ideas and thoughts) from March through July.

I am taking the Buddha’s words to heart – I am seeing that who and what I am is based on my history, a history at times I am proud of and at times I wish had been different, but it is the moments of my life up to this point. Who I will BE is based on so much more – it is part dream, part determination, part risk, and part desire to see a new way of life unfold. The RAvolution is my attempt to find this new me and the only way to do that is to stop giving myself excuses and do a whole lot I have dreamed of not later but NOW.

The RAvolution is upon us. I will blog and share stories and photos the entire way. I will cry, I will laugh, and I will even drive! I am scared beyond words, but I am excited, thrilled, overwhelmed and did I say excited and a wee bit impassioned again.

I so appreciate all of you being in my life, and at this threshold I appreciate it even more than before. You are all the best parts of me and I am able to do this endeavor because I know you are all with me and will be with me whatever the outcome. I will bring you with me each step of each day.


Ra la RAvolutionary

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: By Jessica, in Ubud Bali February 2007
Photo 2: By Gina Gornik above Lake Tekapo New Zealand January 2009


11 2010

A Day Among Many for Thanksgiving

With so many reasons to give thanks and be grateful Thanksgiving is a lovely way to celebrate what too often gets lots in the shuffle of our busy lives through most of the rest of the year.

I spent this year’s Thanksgiving with my friend Jenni in her home with her roommate from the Netherlands, and her other roommate from Australia, a dancer from Minneapolis, Jenni’s close high school friend visiting from Portland, a friend from Cuba, and another friend from Long Island. We were a cornucopia of backgrounds, accents, and life experiences. But on this Thanksgiving we all met in one blue house in a freshly painted green kitchen to share a day, a meal, and a whole lot of enjoyment and joy.

The walls adorned with art we were a colorful bunch and expressed our creativity freely from the table decorations to the menu to the conversation. We baked pies from scratch, brussel sprouts dressed up for the occasion with bacon and chestnuts, stuffing with rosemary, that was enough to be thankful for in itself, and the star of the day… our turkey. We were so taken with our lovely glistening golden and brown bird we just couldn’t pass up the chance to well have a bit of an impromptu picture taking moment (errh moments…)

There is so much in life to be thankful for starting with LIFE. But especially this year I am grateful each and every day for the relationships that allow my life to be the garden of beauty it is. For the feeling that I felt this year and I could sense in my sister’s tired but content voice, a feeling of relief that in one year we could feel such a difference and such a greater sense of missing but still now relief. To be able to enjoy the day without hesitation and see in the experience from the past year the deeper richer sense of purpose in the day elevated, as our smoldering turkey was elevated not just by the thick flavor of gravy and cranberries but by the people who helped share the kitchen and the table.

We finished our night in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Blue House’s back yard gathered around a fire pit roasting marshmallows to go with our pie and sipping coffee with the whisper of cardamom and whiskey.

Thank you Jenni and to my new friends who have made this day a perfect reflection of what it stands for.

Cheers everybody to a life filled with gratitude and the wonderful day in the year we all celebrate it together.

One grateful and still full,



11 2010

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

Autumn Is Calling – And A Savory Harvest Strudel Is Answering

Autumn has most assuredly arrived in New York with its brisk air just asking for hot cider, warm dishes from the oven, and anything pumpkin. This savory harvest strudel is most certainly how I am answering the call of the season

Astrid made this delicious ode to all things Autumn for a lunch one day in Chemnitz. I loved it so much I had to recreate it at home and share it with everyone here. She found the recipe in a German newspaper or magazine, but seeing as that I only speak/read German to the level of shall we say “der kinder” the recipe below was recreated from my taste bud memory.

It is perfect for this season with rosy cheeks and slight chill in the air. It is truly represents the best of the season of harvest and not just because of its perfectly seasonal and fresh ingredients (I was able to get all of the vegetables at my farmers market), but also for its beautiful fall colors. The buttery flaky puff pastry bakes up to a glistening golden yellow, and the folded together deep green of spinach warmed with a slight bit of curry powder, and the orange of roasted pumpkin, studded with the bits of cheese; it almost looks like an abstract fall landscape and the taste is one that is buttery and soft, warm, sweet from the pumpkin, and cut with the sharp lip smack salty tang of feta cheese.


3 Cups pumpkin cut into 1-inch cubes (any variety will do I used a Kabocha)

3 Tbs Olive Oil (divided)

Salt & Pepper

1 Cup Onion diced

2 Cloves Garlic minced

3 Cups Spinach

½ tsp Curry Powder (not sure if Astrid’s used this but it adds wonderful warmth of spice to the dish)

1 Cup Mild Feta Cheese cut into ½ to 1-inch cubes

1 Sheet Puff Pastery

1 Egg for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin into 1-inch chunks. Toss pumpkin in a bowel with1 ½ Tbs Olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast pumpkin for 25 minutes or until tender. You will have to shake the pumpkin half way through the roasting process.

While pumpkin is roasting sauté onion in the remaining olive oil until translucent and fragrant. When onion turns translucent and the room smells nice add the garlic and sauté for one min and then start to add the spinach one handful at a time. Once most of the spinach is incorporated season with salt and pepper to taste and curry powder. If spinach finishes before pumpkin is ready turn it off, and let it rest.

Once pumpkin is finished roasting mix it into the spinach mixture.

On a floured work surface roll out the puff pastry to approx 1/8 of an inch thick. It should also be approx 13 inches by 8 inches (ish). Cut off aprox 3 inches of the dough so it is now approx 10 inches by 8 inches (ish). Cut the 3 inches into three 1 inch strips and set aside (this is used to top the strudel).

Place the puff pastry base on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and assemble on the baking sheet. Place Spinach/Pumpkin mixture along the center of the puff pastry leaving approx 2 inches on either side to fold up the edges.

Once the mixture is completely laid down stud the entire filling with the full amount of feta cheese.

Fold up edges of the puff pastry up around the strudel. Take the three 1-inch strips and lay them across the strudel and pinch the sides to join with the entire puff pastry shell.

Egg Wash entire puff pastry.

Place the Strudel in the 400-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.

Enjoy! and as they say around German table before eating “Guten Appetit!”


11 2010

Run Gina Run – You Ran the ING Marathon!!

My good friend Gina who has traveled with me through the Bahamas, Bali, New Zealand, and Fiji just completed the ING New York City Marathon and I was lucky enough to meet her at the finish line to help celebrate!

Gina is an incredible creative force (all of the wonderful custom made bottle top magnets people ohh and ahh after are her creations) and she is also a real adventuress like myself. She has wanted to run the New York City Marathon for 2 years and on Sunday Nov 7 in under 4hours and 55 min she completed all 26 miles of it!

The ING New York City Marathon is an event that is as inspiring as each of its individual runners. It was thrilling to be at the finish with all of the people being reunited, all of the accomplishment in the air, the people who were over joyed and jubilant (Gina was in this crowd, dancing in fact after running the entire day), and the people who just sat down on the curb and cried with exhaustion and emotion. And then there were the on lookers and the strangers that just congratulated everyone they saw. The city comes together at times like this and under the fall leaves of Central Park West and a perfect blue and not too cold sky I was lucky enough to meet my friend and celebrate her enormous accomplishment.

Congratulations Gina!! You inspire all of us, maybe not to run the marathon, but you inspire us to do what we love to do!


Your travel Buddy and Fellow Adventuress,


PS – Last photo was from our trip to New Zealand in Feb of 2009


11 2010

An Autumn Return to Germany

Another fall and with it a return trip to visit  friends in Germany. It is hard to believe this was my third trip to Germany in equal number of years; when I first traveled to Germany I never would have anticipated or expected my multiple returns.

I flew into Berlin and planned to spend two days alone in the Thuringia district of Germany before taking the train to Chemnitz to spend five days with Astrid, Björn, and their 8-month-old baby Juilius. The last weekend of my trip would be with Dörte and Marita in Berlin a city I immediately fell in love with and continue to feel inspired by.

From Berlin I took the train through Southern Saxony-Anhalt, past the town of Wittenberg the very heart of the Reformation, past small hills covered in grape vines resting in the shadow of medieval town walls and remaining stone buildings. As the train sped through the countryside draped in colors from the deep ever green pine trees to the multitude of fall hues – red, orange, and golden as if the trees were drenched in liquid light and color, I feel myself being moved not just through space but through time.

For my time in Thuringia I spent one day in the town of Weimar and one afternoon in the town of Erfurt, and to my enjoyment I was able to stay for two nights at Villa Hentzel, a small hotel once the home to Rudolf Steiner. As a former student for nine years of a Waldorf school I can’t explain the feeling to stay in a house that was once the home to someone who has so greatly had an influence and impact in my life and the person I have become. Weimar has been home to more thinkers, philosophers, and artists than could ever be imagined within a compact, walk able, and very inspiring small town next to the Ilm River. I spent my day passing houses that were Goethe’s (both his house and his Garden House), past Schiller’s house, a music academy founded in 1872 by Liszet (complete with violin music wafting on the air), and past the Nietzsche Archive. I sank into life in this heady and intellectual town as if I sank into a novel or film that makes one feel smarter just for holding its cover.

I spent my second day in the town of Erfurt, a town that had captured my imagination since my first trip to Germany when I saw a picture in my Lonely Planet guidebook. The picture is of the Kramerbrucke (merchant bridge); Europe’s longest bridge with houses (120 meters long) and walking the street feels like being transported to when the bridge was first built in 1325. I walked the town seeing the Dom Saint Marien and sat in silent wonder beneath the statures and the stained glass. I saw the striking Barfusserkirche, partially destroyed and what is left a frame with an exposed aisle of Goth arches and a whisper of what it once was. I found the moving Kleine Synagogue and the history of the Jewish culture and people in Erfurt. On every trip to Germany I gather stories of individual Jewish people who once lived in these places, I hold their stories and names as private testaments to what is a moment in history too large and unimaginable for me to fully comprehend; but when in these streets and buildings I find their stories important and alive as they once were within these very places I now stand.

After a weekend alone the real joy of the trip began with my visit to Astrid. Exactly one year after the wedding I was so moved and taken with I returned to Astrid’s home in Chemnitz and an immediate embrace on the train platform where we have had such joyful reunions and sad departures. Returning to her kitchen painted the warm yellow of California sunshine where we spent so much time together felt like such a deep gift. We quickly fell into a comfortable pattern and way of life. We would wake and when Julius saw me each morning happy I was still there he would gleefully quick his legs in excitement and smile more brilliantly than anything I have ever seen. Astrid would make breakfast of bread, cheese, coffee, yogurt and muesli while I would play with Juilius. We would bundle up and go for walks each morning and afternoon and while Julius would nap we talked and talked. We would have tea and coffee in the late afternoon and then dinner after Julius was asleep with Björn. Life felt familiar and comfortable to be here once again.

We took a day trip to the town of Meissen with its still and quiet beauty, that is except for the gentle tinkle of the carillon from the Frauenkirche made of the same porcelain that the town is famous for. We had a picnic in the sun and Julius learned he loved apples. We had more laughter than tears a wonderful change of circumstances from last year. We took a long walk along a river next to cows and under such beautiful fall colors like a tapestry made just for us. I would walk Julius past the apple tree each day and looked at how it is growing and getting sturdy roots just as I am in life, not yet heavy with fruit but not the sapling it was a year ago. As we drove or walked through town I was so deeply reminded of last year and the heaviness and feelings I felt. I can see in such stark comparison the person I was a year ago and the change to this year. Astrid and I discuss the way my hair fell out in large frightening handfuls last year and she would say, “It is life telling you to let go of what is no longer alive in you”. This year I can see small puffs of that same hair growing back (more gray than before and it must be said from my standpoint still a bit thinner) but it is a sign of the life that is growing again in me and in this case on my head.

The one song that Astrid sings in English to calm and soothe Julius to sleep is “WE SHALL OVERCOME”; so on many occasions as we walked or drove through landscape of memories past and memories being made she and I would sing the multitude of choruses together. I could not help on more than one occasion to notice we were by circumstance as different as they might come but by temperament and heart as close as they could be made. Here we were a woman from Germany and one from America, one Lutheran and the other Jewish, one born and raised on the East side of the Berlin Wall a few kilometers from the Czech boarder and the other raised on the far West side of the United States in a city on the California Coast overlooking the Pacific. Here were two woman of such different backgrounds together singing one song about how “We shall over come, we shall live in peace, we shall hold hands” to comfort one baby to sleep and it made me think that the lyrics we were singing might be more than an old folk song one day.

I left Chemnitz to have a weekend in Berlin with Dörte, and a visit with Marita. I changed from dinking countless pots of tea to drinking countless pots of tea and countless cocktails including Absinthe. We went for dinners at W-Imbiss, one of my repeat favorites. We had drinks in Prenzlauer Berg with friends of Dörte’s from Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. We went to a place with a doorbell and chic drinks (hence my foray into the world of Absinthe). We had wine at one of the many bars where you pay 2.50 Euro for your glass and help yourself to wine and then pay what you think is a fair price for what you drank. It feels relaxed and effortless and endlessly cool without ever trying, as Berlin it must be said frankly is. I have loved Berlin from my first trip – its vibe and feel is of a New York from a period long ago. The city echoes to me of Brooklyn and San Francisco with a Paris edge and yet it is a city all of its own and wonderful as it is. It has a freedom and a creative vitality seen in everything from the people on the streets, to its graffiti, to its teenagers drinking on their own folding chairs in the street in front of a grocery store on a Friday night. Dörte and I would walk home late under what we noticed was a full moon which shone so bright we thought it was impending dawn a few times (it was 4AM, so not out of the question).

On every trip I take to Berlin I found a place that so reflects me – it is a place that somehow has the creative love and passion I hold in high regard, it has the cool and edgy expression I grew up with and so appreciate, but it also holds the reserve I myself keep at times, it has the sophistication I strive at times to accomplish, and it holds somehow a rebel and a traditionalist so close in one hand that I can see myself clearly in its streets and beneath the colored backdrop of Berlin’s Fernsehturm. Years ago my mother sent me a quote fittingly from Bertolt Brecht, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” This quote has always to my astonishment expressed how I feel about my experiences in Germany. Germany more than reflects back to me as a mirror it challenges me to examine my ideas, my notions both preconceived and evolving, and my actions in life.

I am so grateful for this time here and for my wonderful friends who so graciously all welcome me into their homes and share their lives with me. I can’t wait for another visit!




11 2010


A heartfelt and very excited CONGRATULATIONS to my home team of the San Francisco Giants and their win last night of the 2010 World Series!

I heard of their advancement all the way from Berlin and the cheering has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and the entire way from my home in New York City.

Yesterday to celebrate (ok and procrastinate) and feel a little closer to the SF excitement I made my own little oven baked tribute to the SF Giants in honor of what I hoped would be their first win of the pennant since moving to the city by the bay in 1958!

Frosted with flecks of Orange in a cream cheese frosting over organic chocolate.

And in the end…THEY WON!!!!! Way to go and Congratulations! Wish I could be there to celebrate with everyone.

Special congratulations to my cousin Becky!

~ Shoeless Cook Ramona

PS – Anyone want some delicious cake?


11 2010