present joys

Joys found in threes and (mostly) food.


Words by:

Joyce Chai + Michelle Jolliffe-Saper

Irene Vallejo, Kübra Gümüşay and R F Kuang at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Irene Vallejo, Kübra Gümüşay and R F Kuang at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Three Women on Language

The Edinburgh Book Festival just ended and I was lucky enough to catch the final event: a panel of three female writers, Kübra Gümüşay, R F Kuang & Irene Vallejo all speaking about the power and importance of language and translation. One of my favorite themes of the event was the reverence for space that language and translation can provide in broadening our humility, compassion, and perspective. Kübra Gümüşay, lovingly cited the Potawatomi word “Puhpowee” which is used to describe the force that propels a mushroom out of the ground. Using language as descriptive as this, that directly places you in the position of a mushroom, or of any and all other beings, encourages us to expand our vision in ways not immediately obvious to those of us raised without this type of language. Perhaps we need to open ourselves up to the possibility that language, including the language of another, can be the one to provide us with greater understanding and growth.

“The Creative Pragmatist” by Amy Smilovic

“The Creative Pragmatist” by Amy Smilovic

Three Adjectives for Style

Joyce shared this podcast with me in which Amy Smilovic, founder of Tibi, guides listeners through her best advice on “How to Dress” based on her book “The Creative Pragmatist.” In addition to offering some very helpful tips on constructing a closet and working with color, the most fun bit for me has been coming up with my three style adjectives. For now, I’ve arrived at composed, relaxed, and unexpected. Listen in to learn more about the utility of finding your three words.

Three Words for a Location

The other day while out camping a friend of ours showed us this app and website called what3words. Essentially, it’s an easy way to describe an exact location; the app divides the world into 3m squares and assigns each square a unique identifier made up of three different words. Pretty handy if you’re somewhere without many landmarks and also very fun to search the globe, or just your neighborhood, to see what word combinations have been assigned!

Three Leveled and Beveled Frame

Just loved that this wee little painting got this mammoth-sized and layered frame. It pulled me in and I took a closer look.

Three Storied Seder Stand

On a recent trip to Prague, I marveled at the diversity and beauty of the synagogues in the city. The Klausen Synagogue, now a museum, houses an incredible permanent exhibition of Jewish Customs and Traditions which takes you through the Jewish year and holidays as well as the customs of daily Jewish life. One of my favorite items in the collection was a wooden Seder stand used for Passover. I had never seen one like this before and I found beauty in it’s thoughtfulness—it simultaneously defines a place for the six food items that aid in retelling the story of Passover as well as stores the three matzos important to the same story. Here’s another example of one I found online with a story of its own.

Armen Market

I love grocery shopping. To the annoyance of my partner, I take my time through every aisle, diverge from set shopping lists, and repeat both those things at multiple markets. Last weekend, we were picking up some ingredients for a brunch and stumbled into Armen Market in Altadena. I’ve driven past this market multiple times and its unassuming exterior has never drawn me in, but man, I love to be proven wrong. This market is it. They carry such a fun selection of goods that span cuisines and cultures. Yes, they have your standard supermarket fare, but also: young dates on a vine, gigantic tubs of yogurt, rug sized flatbreads, and so much more. (Let’s all not remind Van how much time was spent there, heh.)

Little Saigon Night Market

Van and I made the trek to Westminster a couple weekends ago to check out the Little Saigon Night Market, which takes place inside the parking lot of Asian Garden Mall. What a lovely evening! The scene was spectacularly set with bustling food stalls, a small stage/dance floor filled with middle-aged Vietnamese women grooving to Abba, and a mingling of aromas of all the incredible food we were about to partake. Highlights for me were the bánh khọt (savory mini pancakes with shrimp) and bánh ống lá dứa (pandan coconut rice roll dessert), but, really, there were no misses. The market is a summer only affair and this upcoming weekend (9/1-9/3) will be the final one for the year. Check it out if you can!

Topped our fruit tart with fresh figs, grapes, strawberries, gooseberries, plums, and mango nectarines from the farmer’s market.

Farmer’s Market Fruit Tart

Lately I’ve been sitting on ideas for baking projects that I simply can’t get past until I finally make them. One example being a “Still Life Fruit Tart” from Natasha Pickowicz’s More Than Cake, assembled and eaten on-site at the farmer’s market. Last Thursday, I packed up my homemade puff pastry and did just that. It felt both joyful and indulgent to pick out a bounty of produce to pile atop the tart, and even more so to be able to share it with others.

Giant Challah

Michelle surprised me on my birthday with the most epic 12 pound(!) challah made by Max Simon (aka @challahdad). The scale of the thing somehow can’t be captured within a photo. This bread was MASSIVE. And delicious. And shared! I sliced up huge sections of it, tied them with bows, and shared this generous gift with friends and family throughout my birthday. :)

Docent Day

Erm, as the only non-food related joy this week, I had the pleasure of volunteering at MAK Center’s summer architecture tour last weekend. Guests were allowed to walk through historic homes by Richard Neutra, Gregory Ain, and Harwell Hamilton Harris. I was stationed at the Kambara Residence, one of several Neutras which sits right along the Silver Lake Reservoir. I used to docent at the Schindler House and it felt nice to step into those (protected bootie-covered) shoes again. My shift flew by from taking in all the details of the house, swapping tidbits with enthusiastic guests, and imagining the lives lived within the space. It was a much needed reminder of just how much one’s environment can encourage desired ways of living.

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