The Otium

[remodeling soon!]

Phkali Georgian Spinach-Walnut Dumplings


In the three quick weeks since my last post, I went to Poland, came down with a cold, came back from Poland, sent the S.O. off for a week of comedy festivals in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, got over my cold, hosted my parents for a weekend, and finally got the S.O. back.  This weekend, I host a colleague (and very good friend).  So those are my excuses for neglecting my kitchen.

But I was inspired — a lot — in Poland.  On my last night in Warsaw, I finally felt well enough to venture beyond my hotel lobby for a bite to eat.  Having not had a proper meal in about a day and a half, I wanted nothing more than to stuff my face with kielbasa and pierogi, preferably cooked in lots of butter.  But I knew my immune system would mutiny if I fed it that crap.  So I passed up several Polish restaurants before finding an adorable Georgian restaurant — highly recommended to anyone heading to Warsaw — and it turned out to be the best thing for my cold.

I fell in love with phkali, vegan spinach-walnut dumplings.  Now, I’m an unapologetic carnivore.  I also think food ought to be piping hot and contain cheese in order to be considered “comfort food”.  But these little dumplings, served cold, were surprisingly comforting and felt like a bear hug to my tummy.  I couldn’t wait to come home to replicate them.  Adapting a few recipes I found, I made this lovely version in which the walnuts and fenugreek really punch through, and the spinach keeps the recipe bright and clean.  I serve phkali on butter lettuce leaves, to be eaten like a taco, but leftover phkali also makes a wonderful dip for carrot sticks or crackers.

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Remembering Our Heroes in Normandy

Finally, the last post about the Summer ’14 France trip!

We had a fitting end to our French nuclear facilities tour with a day paying tribute to our American heroes who fought alongside the Allied forces in WWII in Normandy.  We started out in Sainte-Mère-Église, then made our way to Pointe du Hoc.  The Pointe du Hoc is a cliff atop a promontory separating Utah Beach (to the west) and Omaha Beach (to the east).


On D-Day, American paratroopers landed on both Utah and Omaha Beaches.  A group of Army Rangers also scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and captured the Pointe from the Germans.

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Noticing Details at D-Day Sites


My favorite photos capture small details of a place that would be forgotten if not for the picture.  On a family trip to Japan several years ago, my mother made endless fun of me for zooming in and snapping photos of nubs cast into a decorative post at some temple.  But after seeing my photos, she admitted that the nubs were her favorite picture.

Details matter.  Especially at an excessively overphotographed tourist site — everyone shoots the landscape, so their capture looks no different than that taken by their neighbor three years ago.  So I prefer shooting the overlooked details that make a photo stand out and a place more memorable.

Our French nuclear facilities tour concluded in the Normandy region on a Friday night, so we spent our Saturday visiting the historic WWII sites and beaches en route back to Paris.  Our first stop was Sainte-Mère-Église, a small town best known for American paratrooper John Steele becoming suspended from the church tower during the D-Day landings.  The little Gothic church now keeps a mannequin of an American solider, with a parachute flapping in the wind, tangled on the spires. (more…)

Overnighting in a Castle in Bricquebec


I wanted to be an engineer since I was nine years old.  But prior to that, I dreamed of being a princess.  In Bricquebec, I got to be both.

On the last evening of my French nuclear facilities tour, our group was treated to a lovely dinner and overnight at l’Hostellerie du Château in Bricquebec, a village in the Normandy Region of France.  This twelfth-century manor home — complete with moat, ramparts, and circular tower — has origins with knights from the Crusades.

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Finding Street Art in Paris


Americans in Europe for the first time often remark about the graffiti.  Its prevalence, for one, is surprising to our culture that conventionally frowns upon street art.  Plus, our guidebooks only give us pictures of the unspoilt monuments and museums and palaces.  But the graffiti makes you realize that people actually live here, and it gives you a peek into their everyday struggles.  Here are a few shots of urban art from the Marais District in Paris.

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