Saturday, April 27, 2013

“There is practically no activity that cannot be enhanced or replaced by knitting." ~ Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

A friend recently posted this clip on Face-book - too cute to not share!  It just reinforces my belief that knitting can solve just about any problem!

No video via e-mail?  Please go to my blog.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there." The Dowager Countess - Downton Abbey

That's right - BITE's back for a new season of cooking, baking and friend-gathering!  With two of our four members away for the winter, BITE takes a three-month hiatus.  Now that we are all back however, we are off and running!  When we parted ways shortly before Christmas, I let the others know that as host for our April gathering, I had chosen Downton Abbey as our theme.  What a season, with drama and trauma and more than a few tears - some of them my own! I admit to having great fun as I went about planning our dinner.  

There are many, many sites devoted to hosting Downton themed parties.  I will not list them here as a simple Google search will bring you right to them.  I did try to think of what I already had at home that I could put to use in terms of setting the theme.

I don't often use the crystal-ware that my grandparents received as a wedding gift; nor do I often use my aunt's sterling silverware.  It was so nice to have them out and in use!  I do not have formal dishware other than the beautiful Portmeirion Christmas dishes that were a gift from my husband many years ago - so of course - I used them!  My husband's sterling napkin rings made an appearance (actually, I can't think of ever having used them before!)

To find period appropriate recipes, I use The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, and two of the other group members referred to it as well for their recipes.

For our beverage, I decided to not do a wine as most wines consumed in England at that time (post Titanic sinking) were French.  Instead, the wine expert at the liquor store recommended that I try something called a Pimm's Cup.  Pimm's is "a gin-based potation made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices, and spices. Served with lemon soda or ginger ale, it becomes a Pimm’s Cup. Pimm’s No. 1 was created in the mid-18th century by English oyster bar owner James Pimm."
I muddled together lemon and cucumber, then added Pimm's and ginger ale.  I think that it is probably an acquired taste - I personally didn't care much for it.  But we did stay true to the times!

Tierney was in charge of our appetizer this time around, and she chose to do the Upstairs Anchovy-Onion Tarts.  Now - I happen to be an anchovy fan, so I eagerly anticipated biting into my first one.  It was truly delicious.  There was not a terribly strong anchovy taste - more oniony - and the crust was wonderful!

Chris took charge of our side-dishes.  Her first one was a Turnip Puree.  I confess to being a bit hesitant about this - I guess I'm not sure that I've ever even had turnips!  I was very pleasantly surprised - They were sweet, creamy and delicious - hey - you never know!  Chris's second dish was a Classic Summer Vegetable Casserole. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this dish - sorry Chris! Also wonderful, and a hint of summer flavors to come.

For our entree, I selected Roasted Rosemary Cornish Game Hens, which, if I do say so myself, were delectable!  If you follow this recipe however, allow for about 30 additional minutes of cooking time.

Lastly - Ellen, our fabulous baker, made Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce.  Now I am not the diehard chocolate fan that many people are, but I am a diehard salted caramel fan.  Oh my - in all of its creamy goodness, this pudding is one that could make a chocolate fan out of me yet!

Pimm's Cup.
Upstairs Anchovy-Onion Tarts (please see BITE page in the righthand column of blog for this - and all other recipes)
Turnip Puree
Roasted Rosemary Cornish Game Hens
Classic Summer Vegetable Casserole on right side of dish

Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
The best part of the evening however, was getting together with good friends who have not gathered since December.  This is a good as it gets!  Next month - France!  (Watch out Julia!)

P.S.  A quick reminder that my niece Rachel's performance will be on PBS this Friday at 9:00 on Live from Lincoln Center.  Here is a local broadcasting update:

We in Cortland will get the program on WSKG on Friday the 26th at 9 p.m.  Because WCNY is having its auction, the show will not be shown on that channel until:

Sat, the 27th at 2 a.m.
Monday the 29th at 3 a.m.
Monday, the 29th at 7 p.m. (on 24.4 not the regular WCNY)
Wednesday , May 1st at 1 P.M. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Hope and heartache. Risk and redemption" ~ Live from Lincoln Center - Carousel

Last year I introduced you to my niece, Rachel Rhodes-Devey, and her role as Nellie Forbush in the national tour of South Pacific.  I promised that there would be more on Rachel in the future - and I am here as promised!

This time around, you get to see Rachel perform from the comfort of home!  For several nights this past February, Rachel was part of the ensemble in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel", performing with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center - an amazing opportunity and experience.  The performance will be broadcast this coming Friday, April 26th, on PBS at 9:00 eastern time (check local listings).  See the preview in the above clip.

My niece Rachel, on the right.
Rachel - far right, standing.
Rachel, sitting on the left.
Top row, 5th from the left.
She's in there somewhere!
I know that I am biased, but it's wonderful!  I hope that you find the time to sit back and watch this talented group of performers.  Go Rachel, Go!!

A few more clips to whet your appetite!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Savor a world of authentic cuisine." ~ Saveur Magazine

If you have looked at the sidebar of my blog - you will see that I have shared any number of links to "foodie" sites that I enjoy.  I love to look at them, and also have a fondness for "foodie" magazines - I love the pictures, the stories, the recipes.  One of my favorite magazines is Saveur, and if you follow me on Pinterest, you know that many of the recipes that I pin come straight from Saveur.

Saveur was . . . "Created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts, the magazine emphasizes heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, evoking flavors from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the cultures and environments in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable."

Because of it's focus on international cuisine, my BITE group (But Is This Edible?) enjoys reading and referring to Saveur as we choose our menu items.  In fact, our group recently made the donation of a three-year subscription to our local library.

Another thing that I enjoy about the magazine is that it hosts an online contest for "best food blogs" every year.  This is how I often learn about blogs I haven't heard of before - it's a great opportunity to explore what's out there!  

Check it out for yourself - you will need to register at the site in order to jump to the different blogs - but it's worth it!  There are 12 different categories, with 6 blogs per category - that's a lot of exposure to new and wonderful food sites!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

“Take what you've learned and love someone again. Find someone to love and love without condition. This is why we're all here.” ~ Lisa Genova, Love Anthony

The return home from a few months away means a return to routine things - knitting group, cooking group (next week!) and book group to name a few.  It has been good to see my old friends from home!

My book group met the other evening to discuss the third book by Lisa Genova that we have read.  Each of the three are very powerful, very different, and stories that hang with you long after you turn the final page.

The first book that we read several years ago was Still Alice.  I hated that book - and couldn't put it down.  

"Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease."

I think it's fair to say that this story frightened us as well as sparked spirited conversation.

The second Lisa Genova book was Left Neglected.

"Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole."

A certainly amazing story of tragedy and of regaining life, this did not affect me in the same way as Still Alice. It didn't feel as real as the 50-something woman descending into Alzheimer's.  A good story - but not one that frightened me.

Next has come her most recent, Love Anthony.

"Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a “normal” life shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn’t speak. He hated to be touched. He almost never made eye contact. And just as Olivia was starting to realize that happiness and autism could coexist, Anthony was gone.

Now she’s alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way.

In a warm, deeply human story reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Daniel Isn’t TalkingNew York Times bestselling author Lisa Genova offers us two unforgettable women on the verge of change and the irrepressible young boy with autism whose unique wisdom helps them both find the courage to move on."

The Amazon summary above neglects to clearly mention the other woman in this story, Beth.  Beth is a  wife and mother of three girls, also living on Nantucket, who discovers that her husband has been having an affair. Beth's and Olivia's paths ultimately cross, bringing to each a piece of a puzzle that they are desperately looking for.

It would be very easy to label this an "autism story", but it is not.  It is a story of friendship, forgiveness and resilience.  Unlike her first two stories, this one feels more like a real "story".  There a relatively few medical explanations for what is going on (perhaps one of the greatest frustrations with autism), and this allows the anguish of both women to feel more real to me.

To move away from the story, I think that it was perhaps a coincidence that this book was chosen during Autism Awareness Month. One does not have to look too far to hear or see or read about individuals with autism.  Current statistics are alarming - nearly one in every 50 children is considered to fall somewhere on the autism disorder spectrum - and this rate has been on the rise for the past several years.  There is rampant debate as to its cause - environmental, genetic, innoculations - which I will not get into here.  The reality is - while there are certainly better means of identify individuals with autism, the numbers are still clearly on the rise. 

In my 30-year teaching career, I primarily taught students with disabilities.  Nowhere in my education decades before, had I received training in, or knowledge of, autism.  My last few years in the classroom found me teaching a handful of students who were somewhere on the autism spectrum.  I went to some workshops, read some articles, but I was mostly "flying by the seat of my pants" and relying on 30 years of practical experience as a teacher and a parent.  Younger, newly graduating teachers have much more training and experience - thank goodness.  I loved the students that I worked with, but saw the daily struggles that they and their loving parents went through - much like Olivia, David and Anthony.  If autism has not hit you close to home yet, statistics predict that it's not far behind.  Education now, early intervention now, are vitally important.  

I felt that Love Anthony, was a wonderful story on its own, without being a book to bring light to the issues and concerns of autism.  However - it does bring light. If you know of someone with an autistic child, are a parent, are an educator (regular or special education), consider reading this book.   It brings such a human touch to autism.  Thank you to Lisa Genova for that.

Below is a very recent article that I think you will find touching.  Also, a video clip of Lisa Genova talking about her book.  If the clip does not come through via e-mail, please go directly to my blog.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"All you need is tea and love." ~ Charlotte Mitchell

I stumbled across this recently, loved it - wanted to share it!

"Our first love story from the road: We came to Sri Lanka with every intention of filming a video about an organic, fair trade tea farmer. That is exactly what we were planning when we set foot on the small tea farm of Piyasena and his wife Ariyawatha. What we didnt expect was to be so taken with the relationship between the two of them. What started as a farm story quickly turned into a story about love and dedication amongst the Ceylon tea fields."  from The Perennial Plate:  Adventures in Sustainable Living 

If the video does not come through via e-mail, please go directly to my blog.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Give me the islands of the upper air, all mountains and the towering mountain trees." ~ Hilda Doolittle

On our return trip home from Florida, we plotted our route to take us through two destinations we have never been to before - Asheville, NC and the Blue Ridge Mountains - wonderful on both counts.

It had been our intention to tour the Biltmore Estate while in Asheville - this had been recommended to us by a number of friends.  However - the fact that we arrived there at 1:30, the estate closed at 4:30 and that regular admission for adults is $59.00 for a one day visit - we changed our plans.  We definitely would like to do this another time - but a little planning ahead of time would have saved us money, and had us there earlier.  
Deciding to grab a late lunch (we had planned to eat at the estate), we headed into Biltmore Village, adjacent to the city of Asheville.  It was a lovely area, filled with quaint shops and restaurants, as well as more contemporary stores - without any flashy signs or advertising.  We found a wonderful little restaurant to eat in, The Corner Kitchen, a clearly popular spot.  Bruce and I each had a cup of delicious corn and crab chowder, and split a wonderful roast-beef sandwich - it all hit the spot.

We then decided to take a stroll, and low and behold, right across the street from the restaurant was a knitting shop!  Kismet!   The shop, Yarn Paradise, was one of those spots where, when you walk in the door, you are welcomed and feel right at home.  While we didn't spend long there, I enjoyed my visit.  As we were leaving, Bruce handed me a pamphlet he'd picked up titled "Fabric, Fiber, Bead Trail".  What?  My dream come true! The link below will take you to the pamphlet complete with 12 different stores and a map to them all, found in or around surrounding Asheville.  Now I know that I need to come back again!  Anyone want to join me?

Fabric, Fiber, Bead Trail 
Asheville proved to be a great city (as far as a quick overnight can tell you).  It seems like a very artsy place with a good vibe - I'm eager to go back again for a longer stay.

The following morning we resumed our trip, which took us along the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The photos below do not do it justice.  Our route took us through the mountains, but did not have many spots to pull over for picture taking.

Our travels and stops along the way, made for a very pleasant trip home.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Mine is the sunlight. Mine is the morning" ~ from Morning has Broken by Eleanor Farjeon and Helmut Kirchgaessner, sung by Cat Stevens

This post finds us safely back home in Central New York.  One of my earliest posts from Florida was a sunrise walk along the beach.  I leave you with parting photos of a recent sunrise walk along the same stretch of beach not long before we left.