Monday, April 30, 2018

Nice Bits from a Nice Week

It wasn't that it was super-exciting. It's just that it was a very good week. One reason? One of my favorite pix of Harry! (There's another coming at the end, too.)

For starters, there was this guy!

Nothing is better than a surprise visit from a Baby Grand -- especially on a nice day.

It wasn't long enough (are they ever?) but there was time for a story (OK, a paragraph or two because there is SO much to see at Grandpa's!)...

...and a walk in the yard.

There was time to bake (come back soon for a wonderful cookie recipe!)...

...and to set the table with another treasure from Rita's Purge, a wonderful tablecloth.

I can see why she chose this one for me!

It was a week with book club ("The Hare with Amber Eyes"). Those of us who read it, enjoyed it because we love art and art history.

The rest, not so much, but we ate well!

The coffee table was cleaned off and ready for them but even that filled up with more food!

This pretty table runner was part of the Rita Purge Collection as well!

The pansies and daffodils are out. The tulip heads are being munched by deer. Can't have it all!

A walk to the ditch brought a perfect day. The pussywillows are on the way out but those little specks aren't dust -- they are bees flying around!

Nothing is better than art time!

Especially when you are painting with a friend.

Monique of La Table du Nana told me about this wonderful watercolor book to help one better learn to paint flowers, so I did the tulip first (because it had instructions!)

Then I switched to an old friend to try out some new paper, also recommended by Monique called Yupo. I don't think it's great for watercolor -- hard to control (to the degree you can control watercolor!) but my old standby cat was OK. Not great. OK.

We had lunch before our ditch walk and painting. I thought the strawberries in my crocus bowl looked very springy!

Of course, there's always some humor to be had. Bumper photography!

And I leave you with a wave and a smile.

Gotta fly!

Till next time.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Found by a Friend

When my grandmother sold the family farm back in the late 1960s, there was the usual estate sale. At the time I was still in college. My parents kept a number of things in the basement of our family home but years later when Dad moved into an apartment, we had another sale.

Oh, don't you wish you could go back and pull a few things from the sale? My grandmother's enormous Hoosier cabinet on which I learned to bake; a beautiful dresser -- Eastlake style, but probably not original, nonetheless lovely; Grandpa's Mission rocker and coat rack and more.

Then there was the print "Found by a Friend," by August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck, a German painter (French and German by nationality) who lived 1828-1901.) You've seen it before -- a collie dog stands over a sheep laying in the snow and begins to howl, hopefully calling someone to rescue the sheep.  In my grandparents' home it hung in the living room near the rocker where my grandfather often sat. It was a print I had seen more recently on my friend Rita's beautiful Panoply blog when she showed items in her shop one day.

Schenck was best known for both landscapes and paintings of animals. He later became a knight of the Legion of Honour.

Source: Wikipedia

I loved this print. Probably I loved it most because during my youth, we had a collie, Major. All things "collie" were part of my life -- Albert Payson Terhune's "Lad" book series, included. "Lassie" -- Not so much. I would always cry when Lassie was in danger. Sometimes that separating reality from fiction is hard!

I was an only child. Major became my "brother," my best buddy. He was a herder and I was his sheep.

One time, during my naughty period, mom went to spank me. (And guess what, I turned out OK) Spankings were rare (and pretty tame) and I wasn't a happy camper. Major got his face right in there and made it clear to her that "harming" me was not permitted. She stopped before she'd even started. That lesson came in very handy! Don't get in trouble without Major being near!

 Major "arrived" on my fifth birthday. He was part of our family until fall of my senior year in high school. The day we said goodbye was indeed a sad one.

He loved going to the lake and when we bought our own cottage a half-mile from the one where my mother grew up and where we had gone for the first eight years of his life, he simply would walk back to Wah Wah Soo and sit in his hole outside the old bathroom window.

In fact, one time he chewed his way our of our brand new porch (my dad hadn't even seen it yet!) and while sitting on the beach at my cousin's, our sweet old dog came ambling down the beach!

Many of us remember this print, perhaps as I do, hanging in our grandparents' homes. As I looked into it, I learned there were two very similar prints -- this one, by Schenck called "Found by a Friend"...

 And a very similar one by an artist called William Hunt.

This link explains how if you look at them side by side you will see the differences. The Schenck is softer and the background is slightly different with the position of the birds. My grandparents had the Schenck version.

Well, in my post-Easter post I shared that antique dealer/blogger Rita had done a purge of some of her things, offering them to blogger friends. She would make a surprise box for us, based on things we may have mentioned when looking at her booth or passions she had seen on her blog. When my box arrived it was chocked full of goodies! Linens, a cheese board, towels, a wonderful fleur de ils cookie cutter, two tablecloths and a lovely white runner, the marmalade jar I've always wanted and more!

And one such goodie was the beloved "Found by a Friend."

This now hangs in my bedroom and I'm not letting it go! Even the frame looks similar to the one I remembered! I don't know that Grandma's print ever ended up in West Virginia but stranger things have happened! And that is exactly what I would like to believe.

But what I especially love is that "Found by a Friend" was indeed, found by a friend. And with it, came many fond memories.

I'll be sharing more of Rita's treasures in future posts (including some cookies from that gorgeous fleur de lis cutter and the recipe) but here's a big thank you to her! For more stories of people who delighted in Rita's purge visit her Panoply post here and check out her other posts, too!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cork Poppers Go Italian! That's Amore!

My friend Roger's t-shirt bore a message to consider:

"I've never been in a vineyard but I'm pretty sure I've drunk one."

Cue the music! I think that's how all of us felt after our last Cork Poppers where we sampled wines of Italy. We met at Barb and Mike's house and it was a bit of a celebration and a sadness. We had two birthdays to celebrate and we also knew it would most likely be the last gathering for Pat, who is moving to Savannah.

Pat's farewell Cork Poppers. A toast.

So, I brought Incanto Prosecco to start us out. I thought it was really good and I'd buy this again -- I think it came from Trader Joe's and I bought it in the fall so I can't remember much else about it. Including the price. But time didn't age its sparkle!

We didn't discuss, we just sipped it while we were chatting, setting out wines and getting snacks.

Our first official wine was Benvolio Friuli Pinot Grigio DOC 2016. This was one hundred percent Pinot Grigio grapes and I liked its crispness.

But Cheryl didn't agree. "It smells like urine," she said, adding upon confusion from others enjoying it, "I didn't say anything bad about the taste." She was reminded that she was sitting by the dog when she made that announcement.

At this point, Barb noted that our newest member, "Bob is trying to figure a way to get out of this group," while Meredith, returning from winter in Arizona noted "I'm glad to see nothing has changed."

Bob might be wondering why he decided to join us!

Barb and I both noted we liked this (and for $10 a good buy) while Rick observed that the "apple comes and gets you from the next room." So I won't be sharing it with him. Pat, Anne and Dick, though, were happy to pose with a bottle of white!

The we tried Roger's Pino Grigio delle Venezie IGT 2016 by Kris. I noted that it seemed deeper and smoother than the other with a nice finish. Dick thought it was more tart while Anne said she liked it and Barb assessed, "This is yummy." At $15, a fair buy.

About now we were ready for more food, especially since we needed to soak up the wine that was coming! Rick brought a loaf of Italian bread he baked that morning and it was delish.

I contributed the antipasto platter, while Cheryl/Dick and Pat brought the cheese and crackers. We needed this for our upcoming red wine line-up.

Anne was first with Allegrini Valpolicella DOC 2015. The family has been making wine since the 15th century and the winery itself since 1854. Rick proclaimed this one "delicious!" (But then, it's Valpolicella -- if it's not delish, there's a problem.) He also called it "the best one yet," which made sense because whites aren't his fave and this was the first red. But then he added, "Of all the reds we've had in a long time, this is one of the best."

Someone else said it was like "picking up a handful of cherries and squishing them."  I called it "lovely" and Barb said it's "really, really good." At $20 ($17 on sale) it might not be your daily dash of heart meds, though.

At this point, Dick noted "I think this group has lost a little of its's not just a prime educational experience anymore," (which is how we started.)

He then introduced Tenuta Sassoregale Sangiovese Maremma Toscana 2015 DOC, explaining the grape was usually used as part of a Chianti blend. I thought it tasted good but seemed more like a Pinot Noir to me.

Dick reminded us one should remove chilled wines from the fridge 20 minutes before serving and chill reds about the same amount of time.

Bob offered Modus Tuscana IGT 2014 by Ruffino, saying "I have no idea if it's good or not," to which Rick replied, "It's getting better by the bottle." It was an equal blend of Cabernet, merlot and Sangiovese grapes aged in oak casks.  I found it very smooth. It was Roger's favorite. Price: $21.

About now the group had disintegrated into a panoply of unique and diverse conversations and all who brought wine and presented early were grateful their wines were done so they didn't have to compete with the camaraderie.

Pat then offered up a 2013 Villa Antinori Toscana ICT ($21). Her presentation was the best of the day. "It's a red. Enjoy."

Then it was Rick's turn. When we were visiting Kevin and Molly last, we bought several wines at our favorite Italian grocery. Rick rode his bike to the tasting and said, on his way out, "Just pick one!" from his cupboard. Well, that meant we didn't do any background on it. I grabbed the first Italian I could find -- Cantins Paolini Gurgo Frappato Syrah Terra Sicilane IGP. ($14.99) Bob declared it was a good wine and Mike said, "It's real good." So, there you have it.

Our last wine was Mike's Vietti Barbera d'Asti DOCG 2015 by Tre Vigne. Dick noted "It's like Welches grape juice this first sip, and then it's really good." It's from Northern Italy's Piedmont region (my favorite) and I noted it had nice tannins and a lasting finish. It was very dark. At $18 I think it might have been one of my two favorites (the other was the Valpolicella).

On to dinner to soak up all that wine. (I make us sound really decadent but we aren't really that bad -- they are tasting sips, not whole glasses. Just had to clear that up!) Barb always sets a beautiful and colorful table.

This time we had Corkie place cards...

...and pretty flowers (which we got to take home with us!)

They were a nice accompaniment to Barb's 17 pounds of lasagna and Anne's salad.

 It was very good, but as my socks indicate...

Roger provided a birthday cake for Meredith and Barb.

And it was yummy! No candles though!

There is something wonderful about sitting around a dinner table with a group of friends, everyone having brought something to the table, sharing stories, laughing and celebrating.

And the wine was pretty good, too!

For more Cork Popper posts, see the tab above on the menu bar. Wines are grouped by category. Not all wine is available in all locations and certainly vintage years will be past from older posts. Prices may change based on region and vintage as well, but it's an idea.

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