06 December 2011

giving stuff away

The Really, Really Free Market is happening this Sunday in University Heights. We're piling stuff up on the front porch and renting a car for the weekend, so we can give stuff away! Well, we also have a holiday party or two and a couple of choir performances, but having a car will let us unload a lot more stuff on Sunday.

The market always motivates us. My husband put a dresser out on the driveway yesterday, listed it on Freecycle, and it was gone before lunchtime today. He loaded up 75 LPs and rode them over to M-Theory Music to sell what we could before adding them to the porch pile. I'm going downstairs now to bring up some linen clothes I used to love, but they haven't fit me in five years, so they're on their way to a new home. And the BOOKS... I love my books but honestly, I have so many! I'll take a stack to Bluestocking Books to see if they want any for their shelves, and what's left will be down at the free market. We might even sing to you while you browse.

Anything left at day's end will go to the Animal Protection and Rescue League thrift store. It just doesn't get any better than that!

The next RRFM is scheduled for March 11.

15 November 2011

folk song circle

The Mission Hills Artists created a beautiful holiday event this year! It's not even Thanksgiving yet I am so grateful for the opportunity to explore musical expression in this community of fine artists, craftspeople and musicians. The local song circle gathered in the afternoon for a sing-along and Tony's wife was kind enough to capture a tune on video. << Click on the link (in blue) to roll tape!

26 October 2011

studio site

Hello! If you've ended up here in an attempt to get over to the Sweet Orange Studio website to hear voice demo tracks, I hope you'll enjoy this temporary diversion. We had ethical differences with our website company and it was time to renew, so we've pointed you to this blog for now, while we whip up an interesting new business site. You can drop us a line at sweetorangestudio at gmail to have mp3's sent directly.

Update 6 May 2012: something new for Sweet Orange Studio is brewing over at http://sweetorangestudio.wordpress.com/

19 October 2011

like you wrote it

Playing and singing with Mara Cooper at Radiance Yoga last week was great fun. She has this powerful classically trained voice and can really rock a Joni Mitchell song! I may follow her lead and try singing "Carey" for my final song in voice class this term. It'll definitely expand my range.

"Know it like you wrote it" says Dr. Chagnon. Know it like you wrote it. Fabulous advice for any performer, and this applies to all of life, no? Live it like you wrote it, because you did, or you are writing it now, or the big consciousness that connects us all holds the truth, so connect to that eternal thread and be present. My second song "Sunshine Again" allowed me to hit the higher notes with more confidence. I wonder what song number three will reveal?

Now it's time to get back to being measured for costumes and running through the script for the performance Jeff and I will be participating in, to launch Laurel Corona's latest novel "Finding Emelie."

28 September 2011

moments of joy

1. flying down Presidio hill on my bike
2. practicing yoga that connects me deeply to Mother Earth
3. meaningful work for a new client
4. becoming a neighborhood CSA hub for Suzie's Farm
5. hearing about a childhood friend's aspiration to become a priest
6. seeing the return of Barn Owls to our canyon

26 September 2011

small beginning

In July, this groundbreaking performance with the Mission Hills Artists was the first time I played and sang for an audience. Making music is a really interesting process. Once I have the words down, plus whatever instrument I might be adding in for texture, it's all about telling a story. I have an enormous amount of freedom to explore because my husband is carrying the melody, and he's super-flexible and spontaneous on stage.

My voice teacher Dr. Chagnon is encouraging me to write out every song like a poem, so I can see the story in front of me. Then I create a fictional story about what series of events led to the moment in time expressed by the song, and a backstory for the character, bringing singing into the realm of acting where I have much more ease.

For my first solo in class last week, I sang the old Irish tune "Down by the Salley Gardens" with my lovely accompanist Woan Rong. Neither of these were tight performances, but they mark the beginning of a journey. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "There is no beginning too small."

13 September 2011

jardin de la vida

Venture over to the Sophia Circle for my guest post on the La Maestra garden today. My, how it has grown!

08 September 2011

BBQ tempeh

Vida Vegan Con in Portland was in a word, fantastic! I came home a more committed vegan, a better writer, and a slightly better photographer. I'm still a work in progress.

The Vegan Vagrant created a great photo gallery
of the abundant buffet tables, with meal-after-meal of vibrant dishes, coordinated by the dynamic organizing team: Jess, Janessa and Michele.

Tempeh has been a bit of a digestive challenge for me in the past, so based on a tip from a fellow vegan, I gave it a long steam (30+ minutes). Broiled with Annie's smoky BBQ sauce, and paired with pan fried potatoes and freshly snipped chives from the garden, my tempeh and I had a satisfying VVC moment.

03 September 2011

cactus blooming this morning...

There's a whole miniature world inside.

23 August 2011

eating with your hands

In Portland I was a regular at Queen of Sheba, a perennial favorite for authentic Ethiopian ginger juice and shared plates of goodness. Here in the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego, Muzita Abyssinian Bistro has mastered a tangy, spongy injera and irresistible Eritrean-style seasoned ground chickpeas. The Kantisha Kilwa veggies can be made vegan on request.

Owner Abel's smile (thanks for the pic, Haunani) and his mom's guidance in the kitchen, bring the ambiance up a notch, making this one of our local favorites. Traveling friends feel warmly wrapped in the care and creativity of every dish. Wash your hands and dig in!

18 August 2011

little dogs everywhere

Yesterday I was working in the studio and I heard birdsong outside. In that moment, without a doubt, it was the voice of my beloved Cocker Spaniel, Byron, who came into my life 25 years ago in cardboard box, with a quart of fresh goat's milk and a red ribbon around his neck! He was the sweetest and most loyal friend ever, and he liked playing in the snow.

So I'm thinking that either he's been reincarnated as a bird, or that this lovely birdsong reminded me of my own connection to the animal world.

Fast forward to this morning, when I watched a lizard stalking a cabbage moth in one of the vegetable beds. He jumped up (like a tiny dog) and tried to take a fluttering white moth right out of the air!

I'm filled with gratitude for the 16 years we had together. Thanks for finding me again, Byron. I love you.

07 July 2011

summer afternoon

Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon... the two most beautiful words in the English language.

- Henry James

26 June 2011

handmade tortillas

I made my first flour tortilla at the Tecate Community Museum opening event in Baja a couple of weeks ago. Thank goodness a friend captured this shot, because my pictures of the cast iron stove and the kind woman who taught me how to stretch the dough, are locked up in our camera and may never be recovered. (I was taking pictures of the family of black phoebes doing test flights in our garden, got all excited when a peregrine falcon showed up in the viewfinder, hurried to show Mr. Smith, then there was a bobble and a crash and now the lens refuses to retract. Might be time for a new camera.)

Fortified by my experience in Mexico, and with Terry Hope Romero as my guide, I made a dozen corn tortillas on the outdoor grill tonight. I flattened each one with a rolling pin and some waxed paper. A tortilla press is definitely in my future! I made a chipotle-asada marinade for the tempeh and grilled some onions from the garden. These tacos are contenders for the best of all time!

I'll be able to thank Terry in person at Vida Vegan Con. It makes me so happy to say those words... can't wait for the conference!

19 May 2011

ozark foothills

We started our week in Arkansas by sitting with the Dalai Lama in Fayetteville, and ended with an amazing weekend of creativity and music-making at Wattle Hollow in West Fork, where this stunning poppy opened on our last day of retreat. Along with my talented husband, Donna from Still on the Hill is my new music muse, so creative and connected to the Earth and all her beings! She reminded me how to make a few notes on the violin and I came home inspired.

I think I'm going to need a new bow. When I opened up the case (for the first time in over a year) the hairs were shredded. Maybe a carpet beetle got in?

In the meantime, I'm practicing D C and G chords on the Russian mandolin, eating fresh peaches from our garden, and we found a folk song circle right here in San Diego. Many thanks to Jack, Kelly, Joy, Chef Tuesday and everyone from that fantastic Ozark music circle. Love y'all.

05 May 2011

vegan bloggers confab

I discovered an awesome vegan foodie conference in my beloved Portland, at my alma mater PSU, in August (the best month to be in Portland) just as it sold out! This is wonderful news for the Northwest and for the vegan food world, not such great news for me. Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz will be there!

There seem to be two creative ways to slide into this weekend of cool classes. One is to submit a recipe to Coconut Bliss, the other is to write a song about Vida Vegan Con.

Larry and Luna are every bit as beautiful as when I first met them in Eugene in 2003, and I haven't met a Coconut Bliss flavor I haven't loved. You might want to watch this video to get a taste of their lovely energy.

We're having a heat wave in San Diego right now, and since one of my favorite hot weather treats is a good old-fashioned root beer float, here is a reprise of my recipe:


9 cups filtered water
1/2 ounce Zatarains Rootbeer extract
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup organic white sugar
1/2 teaspoon champagne yeast
Coconut Bliss - Vanilla Island

Mix yeast into a little cup of warm water (I add some sugar too) to dissolve and get it started. In a large glass container (preferably one you can pour from) mix the extract and remaining sugars with lukewarm water. Sterilize six brown glass bottles with boiling water. I also put the bottle caps in a small dish of the boiled water to soften the seals.

Mix all ingredients together including 9 cups of water in all. Using a good funnel, pour into bottles, cap them, and lay them in the sun for two hours. Bring the bottles in and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Serve with generous scoops of "Vanilla Island" Coconut Bliss, and I'm transported back to the A&W drive-in in Anderson with David, on our way home from high school, only better because there's no dairy.

My husband is making music in the next room and we're headed to the Ozarks for a songwriting workshop soon. Maybe we can write a song too. Wish me luck!

28 February 2011

"fish" and chips

At our house, when my husband slathers red miso on the tofu and begins the process of making tofu cheese, it's the beginning of a string of favorite meals! The tofu cheese itself is a fermented wonder, tasting a lot like feta, and it's great crumbled over salad or as a veggie sandwich spread.

Here's where I come in. I slice the tofu cheese into sticks, dress them up with a spicy breading and bake with french-fry-sliced potatoes, for fish-n-chips. The tartar sauce brings it all together. I go for ketchup on my potatoes, but the Mister goes for straight tartar sauce all the way around. Recipes follow.

A couple of days later, it's fish taco time! Find yourself some simple corn tortillas made with just cornmeal, lime and water. Toast over an open flame. Add a fish stick or two, tartar sauce, green tomatillo salsa, shredded cabbage and a squeeze of lime. Tonight we had cilantro on hand, and if avocado is in season, these tacos are even more perfect with guacamole.

In November, Torrey and I stopped in at Native Foods for "Baja Surf Tacos" when we were studying Permaculture together up in Laguna. They're made with battered tempeh, and I love them too! Even better when your friend brings limes to share!

TOFU-CHEESE FISH STICKS (adapted from Shmooed Food)

1/3 cup fine organic cornmeal
1/3 cup ground raw almonds
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (more or less to taste)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cut tofu cheese into sticks/fingers. Dip them into a shallow dish of plain almond milk, and coat with thoroughly mixed dry ingredients.

Place sticks on baking sheet. Bake for total of 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes. You can sprinkle with olive oil to make them more crispy.


1/2 cup Vegenaise
1 tablespoon dill pickles, finely chopped
1 tablespoon stuffed green olives, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, grated
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Mix it all up and refrigerate for a bit before serving.

26 February 2011

blueberry muffins

Like every recipe I've tried from the Babycakes NYC cookbook, I am completely pleased with these muffins!

Along with pumpkin spice muffins and spelt biscuits, this is one of my new go-to recipes. I made a couple of minor substitutions, like homemade almond milk in place of rice milk, and the zest and a teaspoon of juice from a Meyer lemon in place of lemon extract, and I used less salt. Here's my version:


2 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup agave nectar
2/3 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of juice, plus the zest from one Meyer lemon
2/3 cup fresh organic blueberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix in all wet ingredients, except blueberries. When well-combined, gently fold in blueberries.

Pour about 1/3 cup batter into each cup. Bake for 22 minutes, turning 180 degrees at 15 minutes for more even baking.

22 February 2011

perfect spot

a hummingbird nests,
tucked safely under the eave --
spring is near

10 February 2011

circles of light

Head on over to the brightly shining Sophia Circle for news of our recent gift to Mother India.

07 February 2011

san diego getaway

Portland friends Holiday and Don came for a weekend visit. On a sunny Saturday, we did yoga with Bhava at Ginseng, picked up some Rooibos Chai (with lots of cardamom) and Moroccan Spice chocolate from Eclipse at Halcyon Tea in South Park, and later walked along Moonlight Beach in Encinitas after a terrific lunch at Lotus Cafe. One enormous vegan cupcake cut into quarters was just right for dessert.

Fresh off the plane, we walked them to Santana's for burritos and used hats and hands to carry home our bounty from the farmers market. That evening we enjoyed a Camarada performance at Saint Paul's Cathedral, right at the edge of Balboa Park.

Sunday it rained lightly and the whole garden was aglow.

Succulent in Bauer pot.

[All photos by D. Vanderlaag]

Donald has a knack for photography, don't you think?

26 January 2011

she likes to draw

I'm a student of graphic design, exploring the edges of creative freelancing.

["Freelance Dance" postcard from Carolyn Sewell's awesome collection Postcards to my Parents.]

It's the first week of a new college term and I'm always up for learning something new. When I landed in my first graphic design course on Tuesday, I had a super-grounded feeling. Like when this little girl said she wanted to be a cartoonist, she knew she'd come back around to drawing, one day. That day is today.

From my "School Years" book, it looks like I was keeping "secretary" as a back-up plan, no doubt influenced by the times. I mean how weird is it that there are "boy" choices and "girl" choices? And it's a pretty narrow list on either side of the aisle, right?

I'm starting with learning the Adobe Creative Suite of software, and getting right back to Amy Becraft's Typography course at City College, once I get my digital toolkit together!

22 January 2011

sweet oranges

From John McPhee, I learned that the word 'orange' evolved from Sanskrit. "The Chinese word for orange ... is jyu, but it did not migrate with the fruit ... The Hindus called an orange naranja, the first syllable of which, according to Tolkowsky, was a prefix meaning fragrance. This became the Persian naranj, a word the Muslims carried through the Mediterranean. In Byzantium, an orange was nerantzion. This in Neo-Latin, became variously styled as arangium, arantium, and aurantium -- eventually producing naranja in Spain, laranja in Portugal, arancia in Italy, and orange in France." Fascinating.

By any name, I will never tire of having sweet oranges right outside my door in January. We've harvested 90-something so far (I'm trying to keep count) and the tree still looks full.

On the other side of the garden, aloe flowers glow orange against the canyon this afternoon.

18 January 2011


The other day I dreamed that I made a flagstone infinity sign connecting our two small apple trees. Who am I to question important messages that come through the dream state? I went out and did it.

Maybe I should meditate right there in the center.

03 January 2011

saul david raye

Saul David Raye led an afternoon of yoga, and an evening of kirtan with Ram Dass and at Studio Maui in Haiku. He suggested kneeling to touch the Earth and to connect our hearts with the heart of Mother Earth. It reminded me of a gathering of friends where Laura suggested that because Amanda had hooked her light to Divine Light, she was eternal and invincible, and when Saul spoke these words about Gaia, EVERYTHING felt connected in Radiance.

That was late October, and this holiday season has been an ever expanding understanding of the Divinity of all creation. I had the beautiful opportunity to be in the presence of Saul once again from Hawaii via the Cosmic Webstream to celebrate the Winter Solstice, and now I'm between classes as I participate in his virtual New Year's weekend practice from Kauai.

As the holidays have unfolded, I have had family time, connection with our homeless brothers, labyrinth walking time, powerful live music, yoga, and a day of Buddhist practice at Deer Park Monastery. Consistently, the message is to keep opening up my idea of God, of Holiness, and to always dwell in Divine Light.