Monday, June 30, 2014

Best Cooking Tip Of The Week

I have a blogging friend, Pat, whom I only see rarely, but she's cool so I follow her on Facebook in between visits. We don't live that far apart, just over one bridge, but our lives are busy and we are each seasoned enough to know we can't "do it all." So, we enjoy this FB friendship to keep in touch.

This week, she posted the following article on Facebook and the idea was just brilliant, so I wanted to share it with my other blogging pals, especially Katie Z, since she has an extensive herb garden. Maybe you already knew this, but I'm tickled pink to learn this trick and will be using it with all my delicate herbs from now on.  With only two of eating fresh herbs, sometimes they go to waste. How much smarter to freeze them in oil or butter to preserve that wonderful, fresh garden flavor!

You're welcome.

Friday, June 27, 2014

True Summer

The calendar can say what it wants, and the weather can be nice and warm, and Memorial Day weekend is all very well, and Solstice be damned, in my book it isn't true summer until there are really ripe nectarines in the markets.

I am happy to report, complete with dripping chin and sticky fingers, that summer has truly arrived. Let's hear it for fruit so ripe that the juice runs clear down to your elbows.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


You would hardly believe the number of choices to be made when either building or remodeling a house. I remember from when First Husband and I built a house that every single thing, from ceiling to baseboards must be chosen from a plethora of choices. Even something as simple as white paint comes in a bewildering number of whites - from French Vanilla to Snowstorm Whiteout and everything in between. And, yes, they always do have a fanciful descriptive name. I have often wondered who sits around thinking up positive-sounding names for even the drabbest of colors. A good job for a serious wordsmith.

Knowing this, I approached the selection of handles for the bathroom vanities with trepidation. Happily, it wasn't all that bad. First, it's easy for me to eliminate the ones that resembled something launched from Cape Canaveral and the ones that would look better at Versailles than they do here in America. Ditto anything gold plated - even if I could afford them, there's something too Decadent Roman Empire about them for me. 

So, my choices were somewhat limited and, hence, somewhat easier. A little grace. A little quality. That's all I ask. After a couple of hours in the fixture store and a few week's wait for delivery, here's one of the handles we chose for the sinks. 

As you can see, Cora is exhausted from all the trips to the various vendors and she's in need of a nap. I will be joining her shortly.

Monday, June 23, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, we found the world's prettiest sconces for the bathroom - or so we thought, anyway - and ordered them happily from a boutique lighting store in Berkeley. We were told they would take a couple of weeks but we didn't need them quickly, so that was fine. While we were away on the east coast, the call came that they were in.

Our first real snafu. The glass in the sconces was perfect but the finishing on the back plate was nothing like the sample we had seen in the store. The photo is of My Beloved holding the new one up next to the sample. 

So, we had to send them back, not only because they were not as expected, but also because our contractor worried that they might rust with the thin finish on what we received. The manufacturer was very accommodating, offering immediately to replace them, so we mailed them back last week. Sadly, that likely means a 2-3 week delay. *sigh*

However, if that's the worst thing that happens in this very complicated process, I guess we will be lucky. Fingers crossed, here we go!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Some people like a forest to unwind in, with nothing but the sound of the wind and the songs of birds to break the silence. Others prefer to get into a car and drive away from their problems with the breeze blowing in the window and clearing their heads. Still others enjoy losing themselves in a good book. Or walking on a long beach with their feet in the water. I can also recommend taking a pottery class - slamming clay around is a fine stress reliever. At one time or another in my life, I have enjoyed all those ways to unwind, and been grateful for them.

Right now, this is my refuge. When I have answered all the builder's questions I can answer, listened to all the hammering I can stand, and reached my limit for construction dust, I grab my swim bag and go down to the pool to swim laps.

When I'm swimming laps, I'm alone. All alone. Even if I'm sharing a lane, I'm alone in the sound of the warm water rushing past my ears, the sound of my breathing, and the blissful solitariness of the lap swimmer. I don't have to interact as I would if I did water aerobics or aquaZumba. Instead, I can just settle into my own rhythm, moving precisely, parting the water softly.

No one asks me a more demanding question than "Mind if I share the lane?" and I can just chill out, not even counting strokes, or lengths. I make the turns automatically and push off for another lap without thinking.

Maybe that's the secret: I'm not thinking. I'm just letting the world and my concerns slide by like the water slides by my body. I'll be dry and back in the fray soon enough.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

This one was glad to see us and, boy, were we glad to see her, too!  Ten days was fun, but too long to be away from our girl. I guess we are suckers for that wagging tail and soulful eyes.

We had a splendid trip packed with all kinds of pleasures - My Beloved's 50th prep school reunion where he got to connect with 25 of his classmates, three days with my older bro and his wife, a couple of days with my Fairy Goddaughter and her fiancé, not to mention touristy things in Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

If you go to Philly in the summer, don't miss Philadelphia Water Ice, a treat similar to shave ice in Hawaii. We can also recommend sitting in a park in the shade watching little kids cavort in a fountain, picnic suppers in the hotel room, and the Rodin Museum.  We also saw the Barnes Collection, which was very interesting, but a couple of other highlights were the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Those last two literally brought tears of pride to my eyes. For all its imperfections, we still have a great country and we are lucky to live here.

Then down to DC to spend a few days with my older bro and his wife - she's an incredible cook who served us two absolutely killer meals, a prawn risotto and a cold dish of poached chicken breast with a tuna sauce. Now, I know that last one sounds vile but it was absolutely delicious and wonderful on a hot, humid Washington evening. 

We toured the White House in a driving thunderstorm and got soaked waiting in the security line, but it was worth it. Our tiny umbrella wasn't working for the two of us anyway, so we gave it to a harried mother to shelter her tiny, wheelchair-bound, five year old son. We walked away with the fun visual of his little face framed in the rainbow-bright umbrella and his piping voice followed us down the street shouting "Thank you for the umbrella!" Once you're all wet in a warm rain, it really doesn't matter, does it?

Another day we toured the diplomatic reception rooms at the State Department and loved that tour. We had a great guide and they let you take lots of pictures - and the rooms are splendid, just filled with the very best examples of American 18th century furniture, portraits, clocks, and carpets. We feel really good about how foreign dignitaries are welcomed to our country, having seen those two splendid places.

And finally up to Baltimore for two days with my Fairy Goddaughter. Several people have asked why I call her that. Well, she's the daughter of my best friend but we are not really related, so I can't be her aunt and I'm more than just a friend. In a stroke of genius one day, her mother and I decided that I could be her children's Fairy Godmother, a post I hold with pride. Pamela (yes, she is named for me - another point of pride) has just gotten engaged to a nifty guy, so we just had to stop in and admire her sparkly ring and her beautiful dress, and to catch up with their news.

Matt (the fiancé) has a fun Boston Whaler boat, so while we were there on a brilliant, warm day that came behind the humid weather and cleared the air, we skimmed across the Chesapeake in his boat to Annapolis where we tied up to the public dock, ate a fun picnic on the boat under the eyes of envious tourists, and toured a little of the Naval Academy grounds.

I come from a Navy family and four of my family members have graduated from Annapolis, so it was a particular joy to be back there and to have our picture taken with Bill the Goat's statue. When Plebes (first year students) are asked by upper classmen, "How long have you been in the Navy?" they are required to have memorized the answer, which begins, "All me bloomin' life, sir!" That's how I feel about the Navy, too. Even though I am no longer a Navy junior nor a Navy wife, I'm still a Navy person.

And, finally, home to that sweet face and wagging tail. Our cousin Jan sprung Cora from the doggie spa where Cora stays when we are away for a long time and brought her home so we'd have her a day earlier. We treated Jan to an early dinner to say thanks, and then home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I don't know why this picture so tickles my sense of humor but it does. Must be that my funny bone is still 7 years old; my granddaughter of that age is into butt jokes, too. Anyway, at the wedding last weekend, we had to transform a men's bathroom into one for women, so we didn't need these particular fixtures. Some brilliant person came up with this idea to repurpose them and it just made me smile. I hope it does the same for you.

We are off again, this time to the east coast to attend My Beloved's 50th prep school reunion, to do some touristy things, and to visit my older brother and his wife, plus my Fairy Goddaughter and her fiancé. It will be a busy 10 days and I'm pretty sure I won't find time to post anything new during that time, although I will try.

Come back in a couple of weeks, when I'm sure to have lots of stories to tell about our White House tour and other assorted pleasures.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Perfect Match

We just spent the weekend enjoying the wedding of some dear friends, Irene Shin and Guy Stilson (we are now calling them Guyrene Stilshin). Their venue was a rustic summer camp tucked in the hills of La Honda, California. A bunch of their friends, including us, arrived early on Friday to begin setup, as this was a homemade wedding with friends and family providing all kinds of assistance in the preparations. Paul created a wonderful music selection on his iPod from his personal album collection and Colleen provided a sophisticated sound system to broadcast them. Others set up and covered tables. Another hung white paper lanterns from the rafters. Jeff and Monique made chili and a big salad for the work crew. My job was to do the flowers.

'Way back when I first moved to Rochester, New York, lo those many years ago, I landed a job at the local florist. I worked there for about six years in several capacities, lastly as a floral designer. Irene knew of that background and she tapped into it for her wedding. I tried to weasel out of the job because florist work, especially wedding work, is strenuous and stressful, but Irene is good at persuasion so I agreed to do it.

The morning before the wedding, four of us including the bride headed out to the grower's greenhouses to choose flowers. We bought an amazing carload of blossoms, coming in well below budget, so we went back for even more and it's a good thing we did as we had just barely enough.

Because Irene loves Hawaii and they both love cowboy hats and boots, we decided on a Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) theme, so we made some of the arrangements in cowboy boots that Irene bought by the dozen online. If I do say so myself, they turned out very well, spaced evenly around the rustic hall at eye level. They were festive and a little quirky - completely fun!

I had a crew who worked with me, Shin Ai (the bride's mother), my pal Sari, our friend Monique, and a new friend, Susan, who traveled all the way from Alabama for the wedding. We filled milk bottles with more flowers for the tables; they lent a very festive air along with the other decorations. 

But, we were a little short for flowers for the head table - what to do??  The greenhouses were 30 minutes away, and 30 minutes back! I went back to the cooler where I had saved a few greens and tried to decide how to make a centerpiece out of virtually nothing - this is where florist work gets stressful.

Grabbing a red french fry basket off the shelf, I used all the greens I had, plus some Queen Anne's lace, and still it looked a little sad. I went out the kitchen door looking for wild greens but I was afraid I'd cut poison ivy or poison oak by mistake, so I went back inside and, in a moment of inspiration, opened the gigantic commercial fridge. The only green in there was a head of Romaine lettuce left over from a salad - well, why not?

So, here is my head table masterpiece, complete with lettuce leaves filling out the rest!

The celebration included live bands, line dancing, Hawaiian food, silly speeches and toasts, and two sets of family singers with guitars and a trumpet, not to mention a very meaningful ceremony. There was laughter and conversation and dancing and a whole lot of fun. Many of their good friends had a sense of accomplishment at having donated some effort and time to the preparations. All in all, a splendid celebration of the perfect match.