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.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?" ~ Marie Kondo, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

One day when Bruce and I first started dating, I drove up the long, winding drive to his house and found him in the garage, on hands and knees, scrubbing the garage floor with a toothbrush. True story, retold many times, so I know that I am not "calling him out" here. This is the man who would dry out the kitchen sink after he had finished using it. Dry it out! No offense to any of you who share similar cleaning practices - they have never been, and never will be - mine.

I am more of the "shove in the drawer and hope to find it later" kind. That is true too. No "coming clean". People who know me deep down know that this is the truth. So - all of these years later - where are we? I would have to say that for the most part we have done what I would hope most would do - we have each migrated toward the middle. Bruce is still by far the tidier of our two, but I haven't found him on hands and knees, scrubbing the garage floor in a couple of decades. I don't know if it's the "getting back up" part that has curbed this practice, or the mellowing of time. He is much more easy-going about the things that I cast aside till "later". I suspect it still bothers him, but not enough to make an issue of it.

I, on the other hand, have gotten better about putting things away. Bruce may be rolling his eyes as he reads this, but if he thinks back to earlier days, he knows that I'm right. In fact, I have found that I am much, much happier when there is a certain order to things. Not "anal order", but "calming order". There is a difference!

I recently came across some "testimonials" from those who have read, and followed through with the lessons, found in the life-changing art of tidying up, by Marie Kondo. 

"Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?"

The life-changing art of tidying up, promises to help you bring order to your life, with no "rebounding". One should be able to get rid of all of the things that don't bring you joy, narrowing your clutter down to but a few precious, meaningful things.  Yeah, but......

With the exception of the shelves that I bought for my studio a few years back, I think that the newest piece of furniture that we own is a sofa purchased 14 years ago when we moved into our house. However,  I will readily admit that I like my "stuff". I love all of the things in my studio - each button, glue stick, skein of yarn, bead, you name it, I love it. I also love all of the family things that litter our shelves and table-tops. How could I rid myself of those things? I couldn't. But - I know that there is much under our roof that could go, and I know I'd be happier with it gone. Helping my parents downsize recently, and living in a one-bedroom condo over the winter have both helped to solidify this feeling.

So, yesterday I began with my closet, and I read the first few pages of the book. I'm not promising miracles, but I do know that the time for "downsizing" has been upon us for some time now. I will keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"How many things are now at loose ends! Who knows which way the wind will blow tomorrow?" ~ Henry David Thoraeu

Now that we are settled back in at home, I am tying up a few loose ends from our winter south. The Lucy Bag above is one of those loose ends! My go-to knitting project for travel (below is a photo that I posted a few years ago - winter travel!).  I knit the one above on our way south in January, and used odd skeins of Cascade 220. I love the color combinations, which I think are quite Floridian, even though the finished felting was done in NY.

I don't think that I've mentioned before that at our condo complex in Florida, individual ownership of washers and dryers is prohibited. There is a common laundry facility about two doors down from us, and I must say that I never really found it to be inconvenient. Anyhow - since I did not have my own washing machine to felt my bag in, and since felting can sometimes be an unpredictable process, I decided it was best to leave this until we returned home. 

I have made probably close to 20 Lucy Bags over the years (that's a lot of travel!), and have given them all away. This Floridian-toned one is for me! Whether I carry it as a purse or a project-bag remains to be seen, but I do love it and am happy to call it mine!

Right now I have no need for a winter one!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist." ~ Tammy Faye Bakker

We returned home from Florida a tad earlier than we anticipated. The upside of this is that I was home in time for the annual Flax Barn Sale that is held every spring in Ithaca!  Flax is a brand of linen clothing that is right up my alley (and pricey). This annual sale allows me (and several hundred others) to own a little bit of linen heaven! 

The sale floats from location to location based upon store vacancies. This year, for the first time in many years, the sale was held inside a mall (at the vacated Sears store), which was a definite blessing. I have spent many years (in good company) outside a store front in drizzly, cold spring weather, waiting for the doors to open at the appointed time.

This year we waited in the Food Court. I was able to sit and, as always, make good friends with the other women sitting near me.

Even sitting in the Food Court, we still managed to form a line.
In spite of having many free seats, the line continued past the Food Court. A more civilized group of women you'd see nowhere else!
And then the door opens! I have tried to describe this to others, but decided to take a video of it this time! (if it doesn't come through via-email, please go to my blog) Each year the workers cheer our entrance!

My personal funds were a tad low this year, but I was able to pick up a few tops. And - I had money from a few other people to pick up some things for them. I love being a professional shopper!

It is tremendously good fun!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Who can't relate to the idea of leaving one chapter behind and moving on to the next?" ~ Mike Shinoda

As we wrapped up our time in Stuart for the season, and battened down the condo, I spent some time reflecting on our first winter in our Florida home. It was a busy winter, to be sure. Two out of the three months were spent pretty much dealing with condo stuff - furniture; decorating; some final construction things such as the kitchen backsplash, arrival of bathroom cabinets, etc. Even if we were not actually completing some things, we were waiting for scheduled arrivals - sometimes to have the agreed upon time come and go with no delivery. Other times, having things arrive and then having to put them together. I'm not saying any of this as complaint (except the scheduled deliveries that didn't arrive when promised - that pretty well ticked me off), just the reality of starting from scratch.

I said to Bruce at one point that I was just so happy to know that any dirt in the condo was finally "our" dirt! Which brings up a very happy "plus" of occupying a small space. We can vacuum the entire condo from one outlet - one! Tidying up takes a matter of minutes, and anything that you misplace can be found quite quickly - it simply can't have gone far!

On the down side, we live in very close quarters with other residents. We did not find that to be a problem, but it caused us to be aware that on days when the windows were open, we could safely assume that other people could overhear things that we were saying. We didn't have anything to keep "hush hush", but we were conscious of it.

Overall, we had a wonderful winter. We spent time with old friends and made new ones. I loved my early morning group of Jazzercise ladies, and am eager to exercise with them again next winter.  I enjoyed every minute with my knitting group - old friends and some new - all wonderful. We discovered new restaurants, and have added many to the list to try next year. We sat on the beach; walked on nature trails; listened to music by the water nearly every Sunday afternoon; read books; spent many a sunset sitting on the pier; ate Kilwin's Icecream at least once a week, and spent numerous hours laughing with friends - oh, and Bruce got to golf a lot!

As we made our way back to Central NY and we sat at dinner the night before we got home, we had a toast to "Next Winter"! The work has been done and we will open our front door to a home that is ready and waiting for us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"You've got to get out and pray to the sky to appreciate the sunshine; otherwise you're just a lizard standing there with the sun shining on you." ~ Ken Kesey

We are beginning to wind down our time here in Stuart. Most of our "snowbird" friends have flown back north. Happily, I still have a hearty number good friends who are still around! Bruce and I are spending time however, doing the little tasks that need to be done before we head home. Eating what remains in the refrigerator is one of those tasks. I did a good fridge cleaning the other day, and bagged things that needed to head out to the trash. On my way to the dumpster, I rounded the bend outside of our door and shrieked as a huge lizard (in my mind at that moment, it was several feet long) ran right in front of my toes. In reality, it was about a foot from nose to tip-of-tail.

We see geckos all the time, and occasionally iguanas at a distance - sunning themselves along a bank. I have not seen, up until this point, a lizard as large as this so close - at my toes close - living outside my front door close. I can't say that I am afraid of them, but I was seriously startled. 

Anyhow, as I made my return trip from the dumpster, I could see that it had parked itself near our car. I sneaked in to grab my camera, and sneaked back out again. He (she) played hide-and-seek around and under the car for some time, always tempted back out from underneath to the warm blacktop (it was an unseasonably cool day).

So - it was fun! A little wildlife at my front door. Now, I just don't want to run into him at night!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Making memories with friends is not a waste of time. It's a lifetime moment that will surely be treasured when old age comes." ~ Unknown

Recently, my Stuart knitting group had the good fortune of visiting the Tuckahoe Mansion. Located close to where we live, the mansion sits right on the Indian River. It has a beautiful, parklike setting, and is now used as an events venue for everything from weddings to musical concerts. It was featured a few years back in Southern Living Magazine as a lovely southern location for a wedding - see the spread here! Such a beautiful setting! I'm sorry that I did not get a photo of the mansion proper, but if you view the brief video toward the end, I believe that you will see it there. (Also, if you search for Tuckahoe Mansion on YouTube, you find numerous wedding videos posted there)

A Brief History

Mt. Elizabeth, Ais Indians and Racey Family Plantation 
According to archaeologists, Mt. Elizabeth is a 4,000 year-old Indian mound created by the Ais Indians. The mound, which was originally 60-feet high, contains broken pottery, tools, fish bone and shell ornaments and other discarded items used their daily lives. Mt. Elizabeth and the surrounding property were purchased by explorer William Henry Racey in the late 1850’s. In 1891, his son, Charles Racey, built a three-story wood-frame house on the mound for his family and started a pineapple and citrus plantation on the property. The Racey family sold the property to a New York Judge after the home burned to the ground in 1921.

The Leach Family and Tuckahoe
In 1936, Atlanta businessman Willaford Leach and his wife Anne Bates Leach, a Coca Cola heiress, purchased Mt. Elizabeth and the surrounding property and built the Mediterranean Revival home
that exists today. Named “Tuckahoe” (thought to be a Native American term for “Welcome”), the estate was completed in 1939 with the latest in architectural design for that time. Sitting on approximately 54 acres of riverfront woodland and rolling lawns, Tuckahoe was the hub of social life in Martin County and the setting for countless parties attended by the local social set and WWII soldiers from Camp Murphy. Mrs. Leach, who helped to start The Garden Club, also donated the funds necessary to build the original building for the well-known Bascomb Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.

Catholic Church – 
 Florida Institute of Technology - The Leach family moved to Palm Beach in 1950 and sold The Mansion and surrounding property to the Catholic Church for use as a Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Sisters later operated Florida’s only 2-year liberal arts college until 1972 when the entire property was purchased by Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), a 4-year college offering degrees in marine science. The Mansion became the college’s administrative offices and Rathskeller.

Indian RiverSide Park
After closing FIT in 1986, The Mansion and surrounding property stood vacant for more than a decade until local community leaders led a referendum drive to encourage Martin County to purchase the property. Purchased by the County in 1997, the property became the site of Indian RiverSide Park with the first phase opening to the public in 2001. Phase 2 included the restoration of The Mansion at Tuckahoe for public use and now hosts many events every year.
(taken from the Tuckahoe Mansion FaceBook page)

Prior to this window seat's completion, family members carved names, dates and locations into the concrete!

Because the mansion is no longer a home, the rooms are essentially empty. As we toured, we heard tales of its history, and were left to our imaginations as to its earlier prominence. Unlike many "mansions" of its day, the few photos that we saw indicate that Tuckahoe, while in an elegant setting, was decorated in a more modest fashion. It was often used as a primary residence, not just a winter home, and as such, featured the trappings of every day living. 

Anne Bates Leach and Willaford Ransom Leach, 1964
The original Racey home (circa 1900) prior to its burning to the ground in 1921

Anne and Willaford with children Ann and William

The mansion also contains some photos of Frances Langford, a local Hollywood star and philanthropist. She will have a future post devoted to her at some point - probably next year!

The Caterers'  Kitchen

Anne Winship Bates Leach
The Bride's waiting room as it is currently used as an events venue.

Below you will find a brief (very brief) video of the mansion and its grounds and one last bit of historic information, taken from the Martin County site. Lastly, many thanks to our knitting friend Mary for coordinating our outing and arranging for our wonderful lunch out afterward! 

Thank you Mary!

The Historic Timeline

•4,000 years ago, the Nomadic Tribes inhabited Jensen Beach & built the midden we see today.
•1850 -Explorer William Racey bought property and named it Mount Elizabeth. One of the earliest private property sales in Martin County.
•1891 –Charles Racey (son of William) built a two story, wood home . Racey family operated citrus & pineapple farms.
•1900’s –Racey family moved to Miami to be with their daughter. Harold (son of Charles) stayed at Mount Elizabeth to tend to home and businesses.
•1921 –The Racey home burned to the ground due to a pot left on the stove. 
•1930’s –Judge Swan, from Manhattan, purchased Mount Elizabeth.
•1936 –Willaford and Ann Bates Leach (a Coca Cola heiress), long time winter visitors, purchased the land and built the Mediterranean style mansion, which they called “Tuckahoe,” a Native American expression meaning “welcome.”
•1948-1952 –Due to the struggle between the County and the Leach family regarding taxes the hurricane of 1949, the Leach family decided to sell Mount Elizabeth and move to Palm Beach.
•1950’s-Leach family sold property to the Catholic Church, which established a novitiate for the Sisters of St. Joseph, who later established a liberal arts college.
•1972 –Due to economic difficulties, St. Joseph’s closed. The Florida Institute of Technology purchased the property and for Oceanographic Studies . The Mansion became the admissions building and student center.
•1986 –Due to declining revenues, FIT closed.
•1986-1990 –Business man James Mets attempts to purchase property before becoming bankrupt. In 1990 FIT forecloses.
•1997 –Martin County closes on the property.
•2001 –Indian RiverSide Park opens to the public.
•2006 –the . cent sales tax passes and raises funds to restore Mansion and for sensitive lands.
•2008 –Restoration and construction on the Mansion begins. 
(taken from:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it." ~ Walt Disney

Another gorgeous day, and another art festival here in Stuart. We spent a lot of time wandering around and we picked up a few more prints for our walls. With the exception of our bedroom and the larger bathroom, the walls are pretty much full!

After we wandered, we grabbed a front row seat for some folk music. Blue sky, bright sun, lovely breeze - it was wonderful. When the music ended, we stayed seated because Stuart was going to have its first ever "Chopped" competition. I was sorry that I didn't have my camera with me, but still snapped away with my phone. 

Like the Food Network show of the same name, four local chefs were going to compete for the top prize, while the other remaining three are "chopped". Each chef was provided with a bag of secret ingredients (all four had the same things). Those ingredients were:

  1. flounder
  2. capers
  3. honey
  4. strawberries and blueberries (they had to use one or both)
  5. balsamic vinegar
  6. cashews
  7. brown fennel 
  8. sorrel
In addition to these ingredients, there were numerous other general ingredients that each contestant could choose from. Each also had a large, individual table, complete with sauté' and saucepans, bowls, knives and gas burners. The clock was set for 60 minutes and the competition began!

A local radio station had an announcer who was closely following each chef's progress, and reporting to the audience. It was all quite festive. At the end of the 60 minutes, the three judges tallied their individual scores (based on things like presentation, and of course, taste). In the end, they announced the winner of the golden chef statue - Eric Grutka of Ian's Tropical Grill (pictured above).

I confess that we were rooting for Eric all along because he hails from our neck of the woods - Syracuse, and then Lansing, NY. Eric actually prepared a few different dishes, which none of the other contestants did. One was a ceviche of flounder marinated in lime, grapefruit, fennel and cashews. Another was a sashimi of flounder topped with a pesto blending all of the required ingredients. Lastly, his main course consisted of pan-seared flounder in oil and butter with a miso cream sauce of honey, cashews, strawberries, fennel and capers. Phew! Sadly, there were no audience samples. Regardless, it was fun to watch!