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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Everybody Loves a Love Story

Everybody loves a love story, and I'd like to think that William and Kate (oops, Catherine) are indeed a love story.

To paraphrase Diana's remark about towels, Kate can't back out -- her face is on the shortbread tins!

My friend Carol and I, like so many people, got up long before dawn. I'd made scones the night before -- two wonderful versions: Blueberry...

And Ginger. (Two new recipes for my challenge and both from the America's Test Kitchen book I mentioned in an earlier post. Excellent in every way.)

I dipped strawberries and candied ginger...

And pulled out the jams, chocolate, lemon bread, silver and girly plates.

Of course I had to bring out the pretty sugars my friend Cathy gave me from Crown and Crumpet.

After all, what can be more fun than taking the day off to watch a British occasion with your friend and cook like crazy. (All right... not everyone's cup of tea...but definitely mine!)

The house was suitably decorated.

Yes, those are Charles and Diana slippers.

We enjoyed our favorite moments.

They looked good and most of all they looked happy.

We were happy, too.

Dressed to the nines -- in hats, just happy to be having fun.

How very jolly!

Friday, April 29, 2011

On Longevity and Lives Too Short

As I've said before here and on my recent "passions" post for Relyn, I generally try to put a bright spin on most things, even when they're rather challenging. Cup half full. Chin up. Always look on the bright side of life. (And note that you'll have to read through the gloomy top of this to get to the rest...)

But there are times when it's tough to do that. This month has been one of them.

Over the past few weeks, I've come to see all too clearly that life sometimes offers its own timetable and it's not always to our liking. I wrote about several deaths earlier this month. Add to that another and some significant illnesses and it offers food for thought, among other things.

A friend younger than I, who has encountered enormous challenges in her life and met them with more grace and good humor than I think nearly anyone could muster, has surgery in one of the most delicate parts of her body, the head. (The results successful, the prognosis excellent, the recovery long but joyful because of the positive endgame.) Food for thought.

A neighbor dies on Good Friday, having battled ovarian cancer for eleven years -- a medical miracle, almost unheard of, but at the age of 62, a life cut short. Food for thought.

A friend I mentioned in an earlier post dies at 64 during what is the happiest time of her life, of a disease that in part, I share. Food for thought.

A visit to a former colleague who in her late sixties also fights cancer with great humor and good grace, yet unable to do any of the things she hoped for in her retirement. My visit with her on Easter was lovely, yet thought provoking.

I am older now than my mother was when she died 34 years ago last week. Food for thought? It's a banquet!

This week I had my 30th anniversary at the university. Thirty bloody years. They held a lovely reception for us and all who had worked 25, 30, 35 or more years, tromped across the stage, shook hands with the university president who gave us a "thank you very much" letter signed with an electronic signature. Then as we shook hands we turned to the camera, straightened our posture, tilted the head and smiled. Shake hands with another old guy -- he might be the one who signs our paychecks, but since mine is direct deposited, who knows? Exit the stage and watch a bunch of others, all older that the group before.

After, a nice appetizer buffet, lots of smiles and congratulations to people you never met, and then you picked up the present you selected (I picked a digital TV with a DVD player and the lapel pin, which will make a nice thumbtack for my inspiration board), and left. Free parking. Always a plus.

It was a lovely evening. Then I went home and cried till I went to bed, and then cried some more.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Rick says, "Maybe this is the time to see the glass as half full where you are STILL there because you do something better than others and make a contribution that others cannot. They hang onto you with little trinkets like televisions and cameras. If others were so easy..... I think you have a lot more to be proud about than to be sad about."

And he's right. He also added, "But having said all that, I, too, can see the view you saw. Just look away."

It's not that I haven't loved what I do for work. A lot of people think it's exciting and sometimes I do, too. I even like most of the people I work with -- certainly all of the ones I see every day on my floor -- and even the few I don't, well, I don't have to play with them after school. Happy team, Happy Jeanie, Everybody get together and love one another, at least act like it. I wasn't a theatre major for nothing and it has served me well.

No, it' s not what I've done that brings me to tears. I've done a lot of good stuff I'm proud of for an organization that matters to me and I've met some fun "folk" over time. Stuffed and breathing, both.

And I've had a wonderful life, blessed with a wonderful partner who has shared his children with me.

A place to go in the summer and fall that moves my soul and inspires my art and my heart.

My personal Marmelade Gypsy whom I love with all my heart.

No, it's not what I have or have done. It's what I haven't done.

And some of those things -- well, I'm not going to be able to do them. I missed those opportunities, took the other fork in the road. The safe one. And that's life -- because I get to do a lot of other lovely things. And they aren't all in the office. And the wonderful folk I know make my life so very worthwhile. (You may count yourself among them.)

I wasn't going to post about this -- sounds too much like whining! But Shoreacres suggested I go ahead. Sometimes a rant is good for the soul. So, thank you for attending my therapy session! And -- if you have the chance to do the things you think might take you out on a limb, remember -- you have to do that to get to the fruit. (Although when you pick strawberries, you can get the fruit without going on the limb -- your back might hurt when you're done, but it's pretty tasty too.

I am SO mixing my metaphors... all my writing friends who read this? I can do better. Really!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cooking by the Book for April

I wanted to follow up a little bit on Easter -- what better way to start Sunday than to see the real-life Easter bunny, my neighbor Frank, plant eggs for his grandchildren's hunt!

My "Cooking by the Books" challenge continued this month -- and what better time to try a new recipe than for Easter?! (I mean, you can only eat so much bunny chocolate!)

I did two new ones -- from Ina Garten, her frozen Key Lime pie from her cookbook "Barefoot Contessa: Family Style."

This is how it turned out! And it tasted even better!

I remember this episode on TV -- she made this pie for Jeffrey, her husband. I love watching Ina and Jeffrey. They're so wonderful together! You can find the recipe online here.

This was easy to make -- the most time consuming thing is juicing the limes. I confess, I cheated, though. My food processor is broken, so I just used a store-bought graham cracker crust. I didn't hear complaints.

This was a big hit -- if you like key lime pie, I suggest you give it a try. And perhaps the best thing about it is that you can make it a day or two in advance! Always a plus for a big cooking day.

The other was Julia Child's artichaux au naturel from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Sounds so much better than boiled artichokes, doesn't it?

Really, the only complicated thing about these complicated looking veggies is tearing off the bottom leaves and clipping the tips of the remaining leaves. Rick has made them before and not done that, and I think he though it was much ado about nothing. Truth be told, it probably doesn't affect the taste, but it does make the presentation nice!

I served it with Julia's Buerre au Citroen, or lemon butter sauce. I doubled the recipe (without a measuring cup) and may have had a tad too much lemon juice. It was pretty much a load of flavor -- maybe too much. But being a lemon lover, I adored it. (I will say the artichokes drew mixed reviews from the kids, with Kevin a tad dubious and Greg finishing Molly's!)

And it was just as good poured over steamed asparagus on Sunday! The recipe: Boil 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice down to 1 tablespoon or so. Add 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, cut in 8 pieces and whisked in one at a time). Right before serving add up to 3T hot water or fish sauce. (I used the water from the artichokes). This would be wonderful on any number of thingss.

We had two Easter dinners and Sunday's was pretty darned turn-key. Steamed salmon with dill sauce (put the salmon in the oven at 200 for an hour with just salt and pepper. Make sure it's on a tray over a cookie sheet filled with water. I bump up the heat the last five minutes of cooking just to warm it through. Gives you a whole hour to do your stovetop stuff and get the table set.

My flowers include pansies in duck egg shells (thank you, Anne!), sitting in cute little bunny egg cups!

I loved these cute bunnies -- silver toned, rather heavy, and looking like they were made from shortbread molds.

The rest of the menu included asparagus, deviled eggs and in honor of the famed Easter Bunny carrots.

For dessert, another new one. Pavlova with Mixed Berries from the "America's Test Kitchen Baking Book." I think the meringues might have been a bit moist due to forgetting to put them in an airtight container before starting to make the cranberry glaze for the Saturday pork roast, but the still worked for me!

The only little down bit with all this challenge-meeting was that I cooked from three books I like! But they were all new recipes!

Of course, when all is said and done, there is always room for chocolate!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

All About the Eggs?

Well, perhaps it's not all about the eggs, but at our house they play a big part in the Easter merriment.

And face it, they are the most color we've seen in April!

Dyeing eggs is an annual tradition with us. We gather with friends Mark and Jan for take-out, dyeing and "Life of Brian."

I can't begin to count the number of years we have done this.

What I love about the whole thing is that the guys get into it as much as the women.

This is one of Rick's eggs (above). I love the swirls. He also received acclaim for making the first "black" egg. The black egg usually comes at the end of the evening. Unphotographed, it remains a memory of the heart!

Jan's eggs took on a pastel flair...

While mine were bright, bright, bright. I don't seem to do pastel well.

We have our own techniques. I do mine hard boiled -- they'll be Easter's deviled eggs.

Rick, on the other hand, does his raw. We'll use his for omelettes.

We're having a packed Easter weekend. Friday's dyeing; a fun lunch Saturday with friends, followed by our first Easter dinner with the kids.

Then Sunday, just us. Hopefully a quiet, creative day.

I don't want to jinx anything but as I write this on Saturday, I think I am seeing some sun. Now that would be a gift!

So, I send to you Easter greetings, if you celebrate Easter, and if you don't, then greetings of spring. Perhaps. At long last.

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