Saturday, May 30, 2009

Let There Be Pears

Once there were white flowers.

Now there are teeny tiny baby pears.

I see pear sauce in our future. Lots of it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Peach Tarts, Again

I've posted about these tarts before, I just can't remember when.

But peach tarts are so good, they're worth an encore post.

I found this recipe while reading Under the Tuscan Sun.
Worn out?
Ready for a vacation but cant afford it?
Buy this book.

It's my go-to insta-vacation on paper. It's nothing like the movie, and I've read it four times. Going on five.

Cut up five or six peaches. I like to leave some of the peach skin.

Add a cup of marscipone cheese.

Add 1/4 cup sugar ( I add more depending on how ripe the peaches are).

Mix thoroughly.

Divide the mixture in two, placing equally in the centers of two pre-made pie crusts. Fold crusts over. Brush on egg whites to the crust. Bake at 375 for 20 to 40 minutes depending on how crispy you like it. I baked mine almost 45 minutes.

Let cool at least 30 minutes.
It's now officially the start of a very good weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Project, Need Ideas

Ok guys. I bought this shiny gold planter for a STEAL at a flea market. What should I do with it? Let me preface this by saying... the gold is gone. I'm painting it no matter what, but other than that I have no ideas. Should I use it outside? Inside? Candles? Plants? Ideas?

Amazing Race Contestants... Look Out

When she was little, my middle sister Rebecca wasn't scared of anything. She also had a penchant for, how shall I put this, gross things. Like what? Once she collected a cup full of craw dads at the creek, brought them home and left them in the bathtub.

Of course they died, stinking up the place like a rotten egg in a hot car. And as Rachel and I shrieked in protest, her excuse was, "But look... their shells are so colorful and pretty."

So it's not surprising that Rebecca, the fearless crawdad corpse collector, took me seriously when I said, "Hey, I dare you to eat one of those."

And eat she did. Chomp, chomp on a gross, jiggly, baby octopus. Head and all. I'm still gagging.

On the other hand, I'm starting a betting pool if she enters The Amazing Race.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ava & Charlie, Part V

To read the other chapters of the Ava & Charlie short story, click here.

(My grandparents, Liz & Forrest, along with their chaperon Gertrude. Yep, they had a chaperon on dates. 1942)

Charlie picked me up and we took a cab to La Mela, a tiny Italian restaurant tucked into the corner of an ancient brick building. He opened the stained glass door as we entered a room bathed in flickering yellow candlelight. The patrons sat in cozy booths and tables while speaking in soft, hushed whispers. The stucco walls were stained an aged tobacco brown and the wooden floor creaked beneath my heels.

Fantastic smells wafted past me; tomatoes, fresh basil, chicken. My stomach growled and I glanced quickly at Charlie, horrified that he might have heard.

If he heard, he never let on, “Table for two please.”

A waiter with black hair smiled at me, led us to a small table and then whispered as he walked away, “Bella, senora, bella.”

I frowned.

The restaurant couldn’t be any more romantic.

And I couldn’t be any crankier.

(My grandparents, Liz & Forrest, 1942)

Charlie pulled my chair out and we busied ourselves inspecting the menus.

It became apparent after a few short moments our dinner was not to be an uninterrupted one.

A cook in a white apron marched by and kissed his fingers at me, “Bellissimo!”

I gave him my darkest scowl and gritted my teeth. I've never appreciated it when anyone, let alone men, make uninvited personal comments. Even if said comments are murmured in a romance language.

Charlie never looked up from the menu, a smile lurking in the dimple on his cheek.

I took a deep, annoyed breath and returned my concentration to the menu when another waiter swished past with glittering brown eyes and stated in loud vibrato, “Bella senora!”

I slammed the menu down, “Is this not bothering you?”

Charlie reached out, pulled a piece of bread off the loaf in the center of the table, and eyed it calmly, “Nope.”

Another waiter waved at me from the back of the room, “Bella!”

“Well, this is ridiculous,” I huffed, “What’s wrong with these men?”

Charlie chewed a big piece of bread thoughtfully before swallowing, “Italians like pretty women.”

“And I suppose you’re not going to do anything about it?” I snapped.

“Nah,” he grinned, “They’re just paying you compliments. Something tells me all pretty women get special attention in here.”

“Listen carefully,” I pointed my fork, “None of this was my idea. Not the lunch with Mother. Not this dinner date. None of it. And I’ll be hanged if I sit here and get leered at by an entire wait staff.”

“They’re not leering, they’re calling you beautiful,” Charlie stated genially.

“Most men would be jealous,” I muttered.

(My grandfather, Forrest, 1941)

“Sure,” Charlie broke off another piece of bread, handing it to me, “Most men would feel threatened and try to fight six waiters at one time. Most men are dumb.”

“But not you,” I snapped sarcastically, snatching the bread from his hand.

“Nope,” Charlie took another bite and smiled calmly, “When someone insults you, then I’ll do something about it.”

The ‘bella’s’ and ‘bellisimo’s dwindled as a tall blond woman sashayed through the front door and thankfully redirected the waiters’ attention. Our waiter brought our food without looking at me, his head craned to watch the blond woman walk through the room.

I breathed a sigh of relief and tried not to wolf down the bowl of gnocchi with pesto in front of me.

“So how do you like being in the army?”

It was a half-hearted attempt at making conversation, but it was all I could muster.

Charlie shook his head, amused, “I’m not in the Army; I’m in the Air Corp.”

“So you fly planes?”

He grinned, “Something like that.”

“And you like it?”

“I wouldn’t say I like it,” his smile faded a little, “but I’m good at it.”

He began to talk freely about how his family immigrated from Ireland and settled in the south. He talked about his younger sisters, their grumpy father and his beloved hunting dogs, Butch and Ralph.

I smiled, trying to disguise the fact that I had no clue what hunting dogs were.

“So what about you? What’s your hobby?” he slurped some spaghetti sauce on his face.

Without thinking about it, I reached out with my napkin and efficiently dabbed his chin.

He stared at me intently.

“Well,” I started abruptly, embarrassed, “I like to make money.”

Charlie belly laughed loudly, unconcerned that he’d broached a decibel level unsuitable for the quiet restaurant, “That’s not a hobby!”

I looked at the tin ceiling above us, thinking.

“I like to take things apart.”

“What do you mean?” he leaned forward, interested.

I flushed, slightly embarrassed to reveal my most unfeminine trait, “Well, lots of things. I fixed our landlady’s washing machine last month and she took half off our rent.”

“I’m shocked,” he grinned, but it was an appreciative grin.

Encouraged, I babbled on, “I helped our neighbor rework some old wiring in his kitchen.”

“And how did you learn all this?”

A waiter could have dropped a tray full of dishes behind Charlie’s head and he wouldn’t have noticed.

I shrugged, “If I look at the parts long enough, it usually makes sense. I also have my dad’s old plumbing and electrical manuals.”

Charlie pushed his plate back, “I gotta tell you, you couldn’t have shocked me more if you’d told me you were a trapeze girl in the circus."

I shifted sideways in my chair, simultaneously pleased with his approval and disgusted at myself for caring. A sudden noise across the room caught my attention and I glanced away from Charlie’s smiling face just in time to see a man in the center of the room jump to his feet.

(My grandmother, Mary Elizabeth)

The man was a marine, tall and thin, with a shock of red hair. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I knew because of the look that passed over Charlie’s face. His smile disappeared, instantly replaced with caution as he turned to watch the marine.

“Eat your food,” the marine leaned over his seated date, growling.

His date drew back, afraid.

The entire room fell silent as all eyes turned to watch.

One of his friends at the table, a fellow marine, glanced around nervously, “Come on Kilpatrick, just sit down.”

Kilpatrick’s face turned a sickened white as he swayed a little, the pulse beating visibly in his neck. He turned from his cowering date and surveyed the room, “Go ahead, everybody EAT YOUR FOOD!”

Charlie scooted his chair back slightly, his knuckles white as he gripped the side of the table.

“Eat your food. Drink your wine,” his voice began to rise, “None of this is real. Want to know what’s real?”

I swallowed nervously, glancing at Charlie. He cut his eyes, giving me a quick, reassuring glance.

“Wanna know?” he backed away from the table, leaning over a nearby woman in a mink stole, “Bloody snow banks!”

The woman flinched and looked away from him.

Kilpatrick moved closer to us, pointing at a man in a pin striped suit, “Wanna know what else is real? Trenches and men with frozen stumps for feet!” He reached out and knocked the man’s plate of food onto the floor.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a waiter at the back of the room pick up the telephone, cupping his hand as he whispered into the receiver.

“Come on Kilpatrick,” the other marine stood up slowly, carefully, “Let’s go outside and get some fresh air.”

Kilpatrick began to laugh manically, “Remember Kirby? Huh?”

“Just calm down,” the marine bargained.

“Kirby was my cousin,” he whirled and looked toward me, his eyes dead and unblinking, “But none of you care.”

(My great-uncle Elden)

Charlie muttered, “Don’t make any sudden moves.”

“Kirby got his forehead blown off while we were smoking cigarettes!” he was moving closer now, shrieking at me, “That’s what’s real! So go ahead and eat your food, you stupid dame!”

In a flash, before I knew what was happening, Charlie was out of his seat.

I sat frozen as Charlie tackled Kilpatrick. My head began to spin, trying to decide what to do. I pondered jumping on Kilpatrick’s back and poking him in the eye with my fork, because at that moment, helping Charlie was the only thought pounding in my brain.

But it became quickly evident that Charlie did not need any help, let alone mine.

He grabbed Kilpatrick by his arm and whirled him around, grabbing his other wrist and holding both arms behind his back. The other marine dashed forward as they forced Kilpatrick down on the ground.

“Get off me,” he screamed, his face pressed against the wooden floor plank, “Get off me you Nazis!”

A waiter shouted from the back, “The police… they’re coming.”

Kilpatrick screamed and wailed like a cat, but the horror in his voice and the anger in his grimace never made it into his eyes. His eyes were pale blue marbles, blank slates, no expression, no life left. I'd heard about the thousand yard stare, and apparently, this was it.

(My grandfather, Robert, New Guinea, 1943)

The front door burst open as four policemen raced through the crowd and relieved Charlie and the marine. But Kilpatrick was finished with his struggle. He quietly stood up and let the police handcuff him.

Charlie strode across the room and held out his hand.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” he tossed some money on the table.

I looked up at him blankly, stunned.

“Ava,” he leaned down and spoke gently, “give me your hand.”

I cleared my throat, picked up my clutch and took his hand. There was a buzz around the room as other couples took our cue, standing and exiting the restaurant as the police led Kilpatrick outside.

Charlie patted my hand, “I told you when someone insulted you I’d do something about it.”

I stared at him, undecided whether I should slap his face or hug his massive shoulders.

“You like ice cream?” he asked.

I drew a ragged breath, wiping my forehead, “What?”

“There’s a little ice cream place over by Central Park. What do you say let’s go?”

I eyed him for a moment, pondering his instant metamorphosis from battle hardened soldier to cheerful ice-cream fetching date, “Ok, why not.”

“And I promise,” He held up a hand solemnly, “we won’t ride in any of those cheesy horse and buggy get-ups. I get the feeling you wouldn’t like that.”

I smiled genuinely for the first time all night, taking his arm, “Well in that case…”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Goodbye Jon & Kate Plus 8

I usually avoid blog ranting. I steer clear of politics and social commentary because for the most part, it’s not the main focus of my life. But not today. Today, as I watered my herbs and watched the morning sunlight illuminate the bright green of early summer, I decided I would let this rant fly.

I have watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 from its inception. I’ve watched since the first TLC/Discovery Health specials, right down to the season opener last night. I’m a fan. I know the kids’ names, their favorite stuffed animals, and their teachers’ names.

But last night, during the season premier, I felt sick.

I felt sick that TLC is willing to bask in the media limelight and make a profit off an imploding marriage and family.

I felt sick that Kate & Jon spent time talking to a camera, vaguely hinting at their failed marriage, instead of stepping out of the spotlight and going to a marriage counselor.

I felt sick that I was watching it.

But most of all, I feel sick for the children.

There was a reference at one point in the show (can’t remember where) that the ‘children weren’t really aware’ of what was happening. That was where I got off the boat. That was the point where I thought, “I’m done with this show.” Because Jon & Kate… those kids are aware.

How do I know? Because I was aware at the age of three when my mother miscarried. I was aware as she sat on the kitchen floor and cried and our dog Gus tried to lick her in the face. I was three. And I was aware.

I was aware at age five when my parents went through the adoption process. I was aware of how much money it was costing, that it meant buying a four door car and being interviewed by child psychologists so they could decide whether mom and dad were fit parents. I was aware.

I was aware of the wall-shaking joy the day mom found out she was pregnant with Rebecca. I was five. I was aware that my father didn’t like his job. I was six. I was aware of how sad my Meme was when her mother died (my Granny). I was seven.

And I’m here to tell you… children are aware. They are intelligent and they are constantly listening. And the Gosselin kids are aware that the paparazzi stalk them. They are aware that their parents don’t like each other. And they are aware that every moment of it is on camera.

I love this show, so when I say that I’m boycotting it; it’s not an easy decision. But I personally refuse to be part of the media hype leading to this disaster. And I certainly hope Jon & Kate have put together some healthy trust funds for the kids. Those poor little guys are going to need it to pay for their future therapy sessions.

Cedar Planks & Evening S'mores

While purchasing camping supplies last week, Matt noticed cedar planks for sale. Cedar planks especially for cooking fish on a grill or over an open fire. Heaven bless that creative brain of his, because those cedar planks made some of the best grilled salmon we've ever had.

And while we marinated the salmon in a fresh lime juice/teriaki sauce, I played around in the backyard with the camera. The hour before dinner, when the light is soft and children ride bicycles in the street, is a magical time. It's my favorite time to take pictures.

Here's the cedar plank...

... and you just cook the salmon right on top.

While we were out there, I noticed that the garden is making progress. If you call yellow flowers progress. But still.

And after we devoured the salmon, we headed back outside for s'mores.

They were gooood.

Here's proof.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Eureka Post, I Promise

I wish I had a cottage here.

Just a tiny, out of the way gingerbread cottage with a bedroom and a claw foot tub. And a porch with geraniums. Somewhere I can hang my hat on the weekend, walk around in flip flops and take pictures to my heart's content.

I find myself pulling up these picture files while I'm at work, clicking through them and wishing with all my heart that I owned a shop here. A little coffee/sandwhich place I could run with my college-graduate-job-hunting sister. Between the two of us, we could figure it out.

We would wear jeans and listen to Rosemary Clooney and serve coffee and cookies.

And then walk home after work surrounded by stained glass, old bricks...

... aged plaster, patio lights, and sidewalk grates encrusted with purple glass.

And then I blink back to reality and answer the phone while shuffling through a pile of paperwork. It's good to have dreams. It's even better to have pictures that remind you of them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Greek Food, and a Little Dancing

The local Greek Food Festival featured an International Dance & Music series.

And while I snapped pictures and admired the colorful costumes, I also had to ask myself a silent mental question, "So Liz.... could you get down on the ground and stick your leg out backwards like that?"

To which I answered out loud in my most annoyed voice, "No."

And the people beside me looked uncomfortable and moved farther away.

It was a beautiful night, with crisp early-summer breezes ruffling the trees overhead.

Fantastic aromas filled the night air; tatziki, pastitsio, baklavas.

But the best part, better than the flashy costumes, beautiful dancers and mouthwatering food, was little Noah and his hat.

Sorry Greek Food Festival, Noah totally stole your thunder.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waiting For Matt

Before Matt gets home, Mabel droops on the floor. She wilts like a delicate flower next to the front door, rolling her eyes and perking her ears at the sound of every car.

But as soon as Matt walks through the door, she squiggles and figure-8's all over the floor. Note the blurry entire-behind-wagging. We refer to this as 'helicopter tail.'

But just as soon as he is revered, he is forgotten. Mabels spots a squirrel on the tree outside and errupts into the loudest, shrillest, screamiest schnauzer barking. Ever.

At which time Matt looks at her, exclaiming loudly, "NOOOOOO."

And I catch it on film.

"You're going to put that on your blog, arent you?"

"Not if you don't want me to," I mutter.

He shrugs his shoulders.

I consider shrugged shoulders code for, "That's fine with me darling, do whatever you want."

Friday, May 22, 2009

House Flattery

Apartment Therapy featured my office! Excuse me while I fight off the vapors.

Anthropologie Thank You & Rosemary

My friend Deanna went on vacation this past week, and upon her return, she stealthily delivered a small white bag on my doorstep. I’ll confess, when I pulled into the drive and spied the package, along with the familiar Anthropologie logo, I screamed. Inside my car, drowning out the radio. Flat out screamed.

You see, we have no Anthropologie store in our fair city. Not that I haven’t petitioned their website repeatedly about it. So my obsessive love for this store has to be contained within the confines of cyber shopping, which just isn’t the same. Thus the screaming.

She gave me the most marvelous dish towel, which I’m here to tell you will NEVER actually be used to wipe down greasy skillets. This is deserving of something better, a pillow perhaps. Heck, I might even frame it. But no grease wiping.

I’ve also started picking long strands of rosemary when in need of fresh flowers. Nothing, I repeat, nothing smells better in a kitchen than a vase full of this stuff. Plus, it's free.

And since Yankee candle has YET to create a jar candle that smells like rosemary, I’m toying with the idea of buying a scentless candle and sprinkling some fresh rosemary in the hot wax, just to see if it would smell. Has anyone ever done that? Thoughts?

So thank you Deanna!

And now I'm off to create my very own rosemary candle. Or burn the house down, whichever comes first.