Adventures in Mexico – Part 1

Popol Vuh: The Creation Story of the Maya

This is an account of the beginning, when all was stillness, silence, and water. There was no light, no land, no plants, no people, and no animals. Six deities, covered, in green and blue feathers, lay in the primordial waters: the Framer and the Shaper, Tepew and Quetzal Serpent, along with Xpiyacóc and Xmucané. These deities, helped Heart of Sky, also known as Hurakán, create the Earth. Their spirit essence and their miraculous power gave the Earth its creative energy. Now the land had a heart, and they called it Heart of Earth. 

Valladolid

After arriving in Cancun, we drove to Valladolid to the place where we were staying for the night- a five story new ruin in the middle of the jungle. The place was amazing and bizarre, halfway finished and built by hand by an American named Al. He showed us the rooftop deck, where he told us stories about the Mayans and the stars.  The next morning we headed out to see the ruins at Chichen Itza. We were some of the first people to arrive, even before the street vendors, and it was amazing to see the place empty and then full of people.

Merida

We arrived in Merida as the sun was setting and drove to the town square to call Genoveva, who’s apartment we were renting. We meet her in front of the place, and to our surprise it wasn’t an apartment at all. It was a one story studio with an enormous and private backyard. The whole place was one big room, beautifully decorated. It was just ours and beside the main boulevard of the city! We walked around the city, enjoying the contrast of the historic, colonial buildings right next to abandoned homes.

Cenotes & Uxmal

One of our favorite parts of Mexico were the cenotes, giant sink holes filled with water.  They ranged from caves with a small opening of light to completely open with rope swings and lily pads. We also visited the ruins of Uxmal, near Merida. The gray sky and sprinkling rain made the stories of the Mayans even more dramatic, as we climbed the giant steps to the top of the temple.

If you would like to know more about any of the places we stayed in, they were all through AirBnB. Please send us a message and we’ll pass the info along! Part 2 of Mexico to come- filled with beaches, fish, and sunshine!  Check back soon. Salud!

Translation from: http://maya.nmai.si.edu/sites/default/files/transcripts/the_creation_story_of_the_maya.pdf

Anna - Wow guys! I love that you can really feel the pace of each place from this images. Background info is really interesting too…

Architecture for Qalqilya

Here is a story, one of many, of Qalqilya.

 

Sometimes you start a project with a really clear idea of were you want it to go and then you do everything possible to get there. Sometimes you start a project without any idea of where you want it to go and just ride along. And sometimes, you start a project with a really clear idea only to find out that the project refuses to let you dictate where it goes. In the latter case you must decide what to do, whether to fight the project or let it lead you.  But it’s hard to let go of what you had imagined.

So it was with this thesis. It seemed so clear what I needed to do when I got started, only to find out two thirds of the way that it wasn’t possible. And it was hard to accept that a new direction was necessary. Yet letting go could not have been more rewarding. It allowed the project to be what it needed to be and it took me down a path I could not have expected. But I’m glad that I let it take its own course.

For the final presentation, I just showed the movie and the props that were used to make it, but here you can find the entire book. It was an interesting and incredible review. Perhaps not the kind of discussion that I had hoped, but it was good to challenge the critics to find the role of architecture in the project. And to ask the bigger question, what can we do as designers or architects in a place like Qalqilya?

For Christmas, we received the Jerusalem Cookbook, a very fitting gift to capstone my year of thinking about the region. The recipes in it are delicious and they showcase the diversity and richness that is perhaps what is best about the place. So here is a recipe for fattoush, one of the traditional salads of both Israelis and Palestinians.

A Year in Photos – 2013

I read recently about the idea of asking someone what’s best instead of what’s new. I loved this idea of focusing on the good and the curated instead of rushing to whatever is next. I am as guilty of this impatience as the next person—always planning, anxious for change, restless for movement. I too often focus on what we have to do instead of celebrating what we have done.

So as this year ends and our Instagram feed fills with slideshow reviews of everyone’s adventures, I feel stuck in the middle—the momentum of the everyday pushing forward with my strong tendency towards nostalgia pulling me back. Reflection? Resolution? Restart? But in our world of constant documentation, I think it’s important to reflect for other reasons.

This year was filled with highs and lows, celebrations and bumps. For good or for bad, these photos only show the highs—the saturated seconds of a moment. Sometimes carefully constructed other times caught at just the right time. These captures also remind us and the people that lived them with us about the in between moments—the one’s that weren’t right for capturing—the fireside chats, the quiet walks in the woods, the simple weeknight meal with our little family.  That is the reason I like putting these year collections together. It gives us a chance to remember the greats of the year and the times that surrounded that little square image.

We hope this year you were able to experience some of these in between moments and capture the good times when you wanted. And next time we see each other, we can sit by the fire and drink hot toddies and you can tell us about it. But until then, cheers to 2014! We wish you great adventures and many meals with friends new and old!

Brains & Beauts of Boston

In this holiday season of giving, I remember how much love, inspiration, and laughs our friends, and especially our girlfriends, give us everyday.  This fall, I hosted a dinner called “Brains & Beauts of Boston” to celebrate some of the incredible ladies that I have met in my short time in Boston. I wanted them to be in one room together, to meet each other and share their stories.

A few days before the guests arrived, they each filled in the blanks from the video invitation above.  At the meal, they found little books on the table with all of their answers and beautiful sketches of their faces by the incredibly talented Jen Ashman.  We switched seats half way through the meal so everyone would get to meet each other talk about their super powers.  I am so thankful to have them in my life, and now, they are out in the world bumping into each other and making new friends—making this crazy world smaller, one dinner at a time.   Much love to all, see you back here in the New Year!

Menu for Brains & Beauts of Boston

Blackberry Thyme Prosecco Cocktail

Bruschetta with Swiss Chard & Smoked Trout

Smoky Corn Chowder

Farro with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese, and Honey Reduction

Pear Cranberry Pie with Cinnamon Ice Cream

 


If you’d like to host your own Brains and Beauts dinner in your own city, tag the photos of your wonderful meal with #brainsandbeauts !  And please get in touch if you want help planning!

*Many thanks to Zhenya, for her recipe ideas and her amazing co-chef skills in the kitchen. And to Jen, for her incredible powers with the pen.  

Claire - Thank you Hilary! It would be great to do a dinner over there. Let me know if you want help coming up with ideas!

Hilary - So cool Claire!!! I would love to hear more, this would be a lot of fun to do here. Missing you, happy New Year!

New England Cranberry Bog

The white monotone sky and the grey trees without leaves provided a blank canvas that contrasted the bright red berries, floating in perfect circles.  The individual berries were so small, but together with the small green flecks of leaves dotting the surface they made an ever-changing composition in the water.

Recently, we had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Tidmarsh Farms in Plymouth, Massachusetts for a relaxing afternoon of picnicking and cranberry harvesting.  When we arrived, Glorianna showed us around the fields and explained the entire process of flooding the fields and processing the berries.  After exploring the grounds and filling our bellies, the truck arrived for the last collection of the day, and we got to work.

Juan stepped up and helped the entire time to get the cranberries from the pump into the truck, shifting and adjusting the machine to ensure their safe arrival. Meanwhile, the rest of us were able to pull on some waders and lend a hand to corral all the berries into the pump.  Their current crop is only a small portion of what their farm used to do, but it still takes the community to harvest it. Everyone came to learn, to help, and to enjoy the work of harvesting the cranberries.

Many thanks to Tidmarsh Farms and Nomeda and Gediminas and the rest of the MIT crew who made this trip possible!

The Last of the Tomatoes

Here in New England, we are now reaping the benefits of a summer that took her sweet old time to warm up. We’ve got pounds and pounds of tomatoes! When the tomatoes finally showed up in stores and our CSA share, they surprised me! Some look so picture perfect—bright, saturated colors, with shiny, smooth skins. But then you bite into them, and they are mealy and flavorless. Others have some bruises and cracks—scarring the bright colored appearance—and they end up tasting like you just picked them out of your own garden. So for those of us who can’t resist that ten pound box of ugly, beat up tomatoes from the farm stand because it’s “just such a good deal!” this one’s for you.  This simple recipe doesn’t need anything special, just really good tomatoes. Come to think of it, we never really need much more than that.

Tomato Tart

Makes about 6-8 servings

If your tomatoes are damaged, just cut out the bad pieces and leave so whole slices for the top layer! Although this recipe uses plain, savory crust, you could also add spices or use an almond meal crust like this one for a stronger flavor.

Adapted from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food

Tart Dough:
½ ice cold water
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter cut into small ¼ inch cubes 
Tart:
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
Oregano, dried or fresh
 
*special equipment: tart pan, rolling pin (or mad skills with a wine bottle), cheese grater

Work the butter into the flour with your fingers for about 1 minute, leaving large irregular pieces. Take care to handle the dough as little as possible to keep the butter cold.  Slowly pour in ¾ of the water, stirring with a fork until in begins to form large clumps.  Keep adding water as needed and form into a ball. Smash the ball into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

While the dough is resting, slice the tomatoes and chop the onions. In a large skillet, sauté the onions in olive oil until they are golden brown, adding a sprinkle of salt & pepper.  When they are almost done, throw in the garlic and sauté until it is slightly browned.  Remove and set aside.

When you are ready to make the tart, take the dough out of the refrigerator to soften for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375°F. Sprinkle your surface with flour and roll out the dough to about a 1/8” thick.  Close up any cracks that appear in the dough.  Gently lift or scrape the dough off the surface and lay in a large tart dish.

To assemble the tart, grate a layer of cheese, sprinkle the oregano, and spoon on the about 1/3 of the sautéed onion. Fill the layer with tomatoes. Continue to layer the grated cheese, oregano, and onions followed by a layer of tomatoes until you fill up your tart dish! Finish the top layer of tomatoes with some more grated cheese, oregano, salt & pepper.  Carefully roll and twist the edges of the crust into a rope along the edge of the dish!

Bake the tart in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to set. Slice and serve warm! Enjoy!

Watermelon Tomato Salad

I think I am in denial.  I am in denial of the end of summer. I am not ready to accept it’s over, and I’m trying to figure out how to slow everything down. First, I am ignoring all the obvious signs—the fact I need a sweater at night, Juan starting school soon, and people buying pumpkin beer at the grocery.  Second, we are squeezing in another short trip to the Midwest just so we can have an asado, eat ice cream, and go on a picnic.  We have successfully stuffed this summer full of dinner parties with friends, traveling on many mini-weekend vacations, soul-moving concerts, and so much good food I’ve lost track.  Why stop now? And third, we’ve been eating this watermelon tomato salad as often as we can because it just shouts “Summer!”  Now that the beautiful tomatoes are popping out at farmer’s markets, this salad is a perfect way to bring your summer to a glorious end or hold on to every delicious bite—whichever way you want to think about it.

Watermelon Tomato Salad  

Although this isn’t much of a recipe and not to far off from a normal salad, it’s the idea that counts! This salad was inspired by a brunch trip for my birthday to Sportello.  As with most of our recipes, this is all about the ingredients so splurge on this and make sure you get the tomatoes with flavor! This salad couldn’t be simpler so there are now measurements—just add as much and as little of everything as you’d like.

Tomatoes cut in bite sized pieces (preferably a mix of colors)
Watermelon, cut into big cubes (we used yellow here but any kind will do!)
Feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Handful of basil leaves, chopped (you can also use mint)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt


Put the tomatoes, watermelon, feta, and basil in a large bowl. Pour over the olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt.  Gently mix together the ingredients, taking care to not crush everything! Taste and add more salt and olive oil if desired. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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