Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word." ~ Goran Persson

This post finds us on the road to our new condo in Florida! We are very excited to be headed there, knowing that most of the renovation work is behind us. There remain a few things to finish up, but the bulk of the "work" is done! Of course, getting furniture is another issue, but that should be fun - right?

We are luckily able to have our same house-sitter as last year. He and his dog loved the fire places and king-sized bed before, and I imagine will love them again! We know that our home is in good hands.

We wish you a wonderful New Year filled with all of the things we hope for ourselves, our loved-ones and our world.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"We'll be friends till we're old and senile. Then we'll be new friends!"

The day after Christmas I hosted a small, memory-filled gathering. Abbie, Diana and I are friends from the earliest of times. When we are able to get together, which is very infrequently (I will explain why in a moment) we are transported back in time. It could be the early 70's and we are sitting around a table at the Hollywood Restaurant with a pitcher of Coke and a pepperoni pizza sitting between us - "Rocket Man" and "Maggie May" playing in the background. It happens every time.

While Diana and I live near each other, we don't get together nearly as often as we should. Abbie however, has not lived nearby in decades. Over the years she has traveled the world, first as a Peace Corps volunteer, and most recently as a UN employee. She has just wrapped up a five-year stint in Liberia and is home visiting her father before venturing on to her new post in Kabul, Afghanistan. I told her that this seems a bit "out of the frying pan and into the fire" to me. Abbie has been posted to Kabul before, so this is not new territory. What a life she has lived.

Having just returned from Liberia we naturally had questions for her regarding the ebola outbreak. Abbie said that even though she lived in Liberia, the only people she ever saw with ebola were on the TV. She did go through CDC screening upon entering our country, and was actually called by a representative as we were chatting. They will call her every day for 21 days, monitoring her temperature and overall health. I guess that I am glad that there is such a procedure in place.

Bruce picked up a couple of Hollywood pizzas for us, so we kept with tradition a bit as we spent a few hours catching up with each other's lives. We marveled on how we are closing in on 60; how ours bodies seem to change every day; how our memories are not quite what they used to be! 

A lot changes and a lot stays the same - friendship being one of those constants. It was great to spend an afternoon with you both!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you're home." ~ Carol Nelson

We have just returned from an early Christmas celebration with Alex and Hannah in Vermont. We had a wonderful time! This will be the first Christmas in 26 years that I have not been with Alex at Christmas. I confess that it's a bit hard, but I know that things change. 

This change has reminded me of the most precious Christmas gift I have ever received. I have gotten wonderful, wonderful gifts over the years, but this one has a very special place in my heart. I'm not exactly sure how old Alex was at the time, maybe 8 or 9. He wanted something that I did not want to get him. I don't even remember what it was, but I felt that it was inappropriate for him. In my parenting wisdom, I decided to share a story of something similar from my own childhood.

As a young girl, I wanted a Barbie doll. Most of my friends wanted (or had) her too, but my parents felt that she was an inappropriate doll for a young girl to have - her curvaceous shape, her unrealistic proportions, her glitzy smile and hair. So - I didn't get Barbie - I think I got Skipper instead, and you all know that she was as flat as a board.

Anyhow, I shared my story with Alex by way of saying that he was not going to get what he was hoping for. At the end of my words of wisdom, I wistfully said that I always missed not having my own Barbie doll.

Come the Christmas morning following this conversation,  Alex presented me with my gift from him. It was a Barbie doll. I get choked up even writing about it. She was "Shopping Barbie", and came decked out in a smart outfit complete with a shopping bag - into which Alex had placed small weapons from all of his action figures. 

This is the first year that Barbie has adorned our Christmas tree. You can see that she is no longer shopping, but is on her way to a wedding. When I see her sitting there, I know that while Alex is not here this Christmas, his very special gift is keeping watch. Thank you my sweet boy.

Merry Christmas to you all..............

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"They call me mellow yellow....." ~ Donovan

December BITE, and saffron was our theme! Saffron was a new ingredient to each of us, and while I can tell you that we all loved the color that saffron brought to our dishes, we all admitted that we were not certain that we could detect a particular flavor that we could say - yes, that's the saffron! The day after, when I reheated leftovers, I think that I detected something a bit earthy that I could not attribute to the other ingredients. I don't know - weigh in - if you have eaten dishes with saffron in it, how would you describe the flavor? The color, in scarlet strands, is truly beautiful!

On to the dishes! Tierney prepared Malpura (Ricotta Pancakes with Cardemom Syrup). She called before dinner in a bit of a panic because the pancakes were sticking to the pan. Word to the wise - if you make this recipe (and I highly recommend it) insert "nonstick" before "skillet" in the instructions! 

A wonderful combination of flavors. You would never know that ricotta was the main ingredient - the texture betrayed nothing that I would attribute to ricotta. The addition of the syrup and pistachios - delish!

Chris made Risotto alla Milanese (Risotto with Parmesan and Saffron). I love risotto and have made it a few times myself. I appreciate the time that goes into it! Chris's dish had a wonderful, cheesy flavor.

I made Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce. Unfortunately, by the time we finished chatting and eating our appetizer, the chicken was pretty dry. I'm not sure how you prevent that if you want to make it ahead of time so that you can enjoy your guests. The saffron- cream sauce helped with the dryness. I might cut back on the shallots next time - perhaps I would taste the saffron! You can see by the photo above though, the color of the chicken and risotto is just lovely!

Here is a shot of the sauce as it was cooking down. Notice those beautiful saffron strands!

And lastly for dessert - Almond/Saffron Cake prepared by Ellen. Wonderful - dense; moist; not too sweet; wonderfully almondy-tasting!

A wonderful holiday meal with the dearest of friends. We won't gather for BITE again until sometime in the spring, when two of us return from wintering in the south. I will miss them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.” ~ Loren Eiseley

I have some friends who have, very goodnaturedly, teased me about my sea-shell seeking and collecting habit. I could (and have) wander the shore and tread into the tide in search of shells for hours. Who needs meditation - this is as meditative and relaxing a task as I could ever undertake. 

We will be heading down to our newly purchased and renovated condo in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, now that we will be located on the Atlantic side of Florida (I love it, make no mistake about that), I will have left behind my shell-seeking sites on the gulf side. So it goes. We have talked about making a few-day trip to the gulf side in order to visit some of our favorite spots (the St. Petersburg Farmer's Market; Pass-a-Grille Beach). I will get my shelling fix then!

Back to my collection of shells - bags and boxes and more bags and boxes! Several years ago, when my mother-in-law was down-sizing, I snagged a round mirror of hers with the intention of doing what I have finally done - years later! I put a small dent in my shell collection by redoing her old mirror. You will see by the photos that this project was started while the grass was still green. It was not a difficult task - also meditative in a way - but it took time. I would work on it for a bit, move on to something else, and return to it again. It was also a learning process for me. If I do something similar in the future, I will know to do the sides first, and to upgrade the hanging hardware before I begin attaching anything. 

All of the shells used are ones that I have collected over the years. Not so the sea-glass - I have never been anywhere that I could gather such a collection, so the sea-glass was purchased. I used E6000 glue, which, when it is dry, does not allow anything to budge! This was recommended to me by an artisan who had created something similar - I am so grateful for this suggestion.

Here are photos from beginning to end. The final product is now down from my studio, awaiting packaging for the trip to Florida! I know that I will be pulling strands of glue from it forever - but I really do love it!


The next photo that you see of this should be when it's hanging safely (fingers crossed) in our Florida condo!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted." ~ Mae West

This past week has been a reminder of why we head to Florida in the winter, and why I love a snowy day! A bit contradictory, I admit. We had a blast of weather that closed area schools (even though I'm retired, I still enjoy a snow day) and snarled traffic, but this is where I love it - I did not have to go anywhere or do anything. I stayed home, in my comfy clothes, knitting in hand, fire in the fireplace, and Christmas movies on the TV. I love days like this. Don't get me wrong, I am sorry for those who have had to venture out, but oh so grateful that I am not one of them. 

Bruce has taken to feeding the squirrels so that they do not try to get into the bird feeders, but the birds have not had much luck getting into them this week either!

It has been so beautiful out, but today I must venture outside. I think I may change my tune!

Beautiful but, brrr......

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

“The most colorful thing in the world is black and white, it contains all colors and at the same time excludes all.” ~ Vikrmn, 10 Alone

Several days ago, my good friend Judy asked me to participate in the 5-day, black and white photo challenge. I shared my photo selections on Face Book, culminating today. I'm sharing my photo choices in today's post. 

This was a fun and interesting exercise, and it brought about some good Face Book conversation. What is appealing to one may not be to another - how wonderful that we all see things through a different lens!  

All of the photos, except the last one, are mine.

Day 1 - Taken on Ballston Beach on Cape Cod

Day 2 - Taken on the Pamet Trail on Cape Cod

Day 3 - Taken at the Florida Oceanographic Institute in Stuart, Florida

Day 4 - Taken in Sarasota, Florida

Day 5 - and my all time favorite black and white photo, taken by The Cortland Standard when my son, Alex was about 2-years old (he will be 27 next month). I never had a color copy. I imagine that I could fill in the color blanks if I tried, but this is the way I have always known this picture - I love it so, just as it is.