Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Stuart is surrounded by opportunities to revel in nature and the arts as well as indulge your inner history buff." ~ Smithsonian Magazine, April 16, 2015

This past month, Smithsonian Magazine listed their picks for the top 20 Best Small Town to Visit in 2015. Ranked #3, behind Estes Park, Colorado and the island of Nantucket is our own little Stuart, Florida - our winter home! The cat's out of the bag!

"Perched on the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere, the St. Lucie Inlet (we live on the St. Lucie River), Stuart is surrounded by opportunities to revel in nature and the arts as well as indulge your inner history buff. See the sea turtles on warm summer nights at the nearby Hobe Sound Nature Center, (gently) touch a stingray at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, or visit the House of Refuge—a former haven for shipwrecked sailors operated by the United States Lifesaving Service and now a beautiful historical museum. Stuart also boasts the newly renovated Lyric Theatre, a former silent movie palace now hosting concerts and art-house movies. And this July, Florida’s “Treasure Coast” commemorates the event that gave the region its name—the 1715 hurricane that struck Florida’s east coast, sinking 11 Spanish galleons laden with New World silver and gold. The summer, area events include a two-day conference at the Vero Beach Museum of Art (about an hour north of Stuart), lectures and public exhibitions."

Just as we love Truro, on the Cape, we love Stuart in Florida. Both places are lulls in the storm. The Cape and Florida can be crazy, crazy places to live and drive, but there are little oasis's from this and we have found them both. Now - if they can just remain that way!

You can read the entire Smithsonian article here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

"The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home." ~ Stephen F. Foster


Today finds us scurrying around, preparing for our annual Kentucky Derby party. A number of years ago we decided that we wanted to throw an annual party, but we wanted to steer away from traditional holiday ones, and do something a bit different. Hence - The Kentucky Derby! We have had a lot fun with it over the years. Early on, elaborate (and funny) hats were the norm. These days, most folks forgo them, and today I will as well. And yes, we do sing "My Old Kentucky Home"!

Last year, when we purchased our Florida condo, we acquired some additional Derby party decorations. The condo came furnished (99% of which we did not keep). Along with the furnishings, several metal pieces were left behind, including the vase above (I think it's a vase, and it will have flowers in it later today) and the horse head statue below. The vase weighs about a thousand pounds - heaven only knows what it's made from. The horse-head is made of metal and wood. Much of the metal is rusted. It's huge!

The last couple of years have shown us that things change. Kids move away, parents downsize, we buy a condo and begin the plans to downsize ourselves. We have therefore decided that this Derby party will be our last. We would like to think that down the road we would stay a bit later in Florida, like possibly past the Kentucky Derby later. We don't know when that will happen, but it will.

We will have plenty of opportunity to gather with our friends, just not this party. I will have a supply of Kentucky Derby decorations if someone else would like to carry on the tradition! It's all good!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Es en torno a una mesa que los amigos comprenden mejor la calidez de estar juntos." ~ It is around the table that friends understand best the warmth of being together.

One of the lovely things about being home is finding myself back in the fold of my longtime friends. I have reconnected with my knitting group; I am having lunch today with my birthday gals; will meet with my book group this evening, and met recently with BITE, our small cooking group. This all makes it sound as though all I do is float from group to group, which really isn't the case. With the exception of knitting, which meets weekly, everything else gathers once a month. Things just happened to fall all at the same time this month!

BITE does not meet during the winter months as Chris and I are south, while Ellen and Tierney are north. We are always eager to get back together once we hit the same neck of the woods. For our first gathering in 2015, Chris chose Tapas as our theme. Small bites! By the time we had finished our evening, we were in agreement that we could eat like this all the time. Small bites of various things, enjoyed with a glass of sangria. We actually never even made it to the beautifully set table. We just pulled chairs up to the counter where each offering had been placed!

To begin with Ellen brought Patatas Bravas, a bar dish made with roasted potatoes topped with a delicious sauce. Having had these herself in Spain, she felt that this would be a wonderful opening act, and it was. The potatoes were perfectly done, and the sauce had just enough zippiness to have us scooping up more.

Crisp Sangria whet our whistles as we moved on to Tierney's contributions of Fresh Veggie Rolls with Peanut/Ginger Sauce, and Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad. Both were wonderfully delicious, even though fennel could not be found locally at all. I imagine that it would be a wonderful layer to these bright flavors. Both dishes were fabulous and fresh. The sauces this evening were stars themselves, from Tierney's, to the ones accompanying Chris's dishes further below.

Chris used bacon (both regular and turkey) as the wraps for her two different tapas. First up were Bacon Wrapped Scallops, salty, fishy, wonderful! Next she served Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, which were sweet, salty and crispy - all delicious! With these she served Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce, Thai Style, just the right combination of heat and sweet!

Last up, with dessert, I tried something completely different. Thinking that any dessert could be served up as a "small bite", I decided to try my hand at making ice-cream. I like ice-cream, but do not crave it the way I know some people do. Having recently acquired the ice-cream making attachment for my mixer however, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity. I hunted for a recipe that had Spanish flavors and found Rosemary, Olive Oil and Pine Honey Ice-cream. Wow! While the recipe called for Spanish olive oil and pine honey, I used what I had in my cupboards. I'm sorry that I did not get photos of the process, which was visually interesting. The rosemary stems were simmered in the custard and then discarded, but the rosemary flavor ended up being very, very strong. As did the honey. As did the olive oil. This was a very flavorful dish and happily, we all enjoyed it very much. The recipe called for Fleur de Sel to be sprinkled on top, and this salty addition was amazing!

We chatted away the evening, catching up on each others lives over the winter and talking about upcoming plans. Wonderful conversation with wonderful friends. I am leaving you with an article that surfaced this week in the New York Times. Our cooking group is only 3 and a half years old (I think), and we don't have nearly the bylaws that the highlighted organization does, but it's fun to read about other groups, and to see how some of them have stood the test of time and are going strong!

                     The Thursday Afternoon Cooking Club, 124 years Old and Counting.