Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sum sum summertime

Summer is here. It's now in the 90's every day, and June 1st marks the official start of Hurricane Season.
Normally, I'm not a summertime person, but I have to say I'm kind of in a groove right now.
I'm eating lots of ripe watermelon...

Swimming all the time. And I just got this all-natural sunscreen from L'Occitane that I recommend. Supposedly from Brazil, it's got a pretty good scent, and works well.

Lucky loves to swim,

but our new dog, Friday, dreads it.

He's really not an outdoorsy dog. He likes the A/C. (Kind of like me.)
I'm slowly trying to get him swimming, and hope he eventually changes his mind. At this point, I have to track him down to "invite" him for a swim.
Friday says, "Noooooooo!"

Yesterday, I got the new Saveur issue, which features various road trips and road-trip food, including a string of Texas margarita hits. Upon the mag's advice, I made a margarita following this recipe:

4 ounces Herradura Silver tequila
1.5 ounces fresh lime juice
1 ounce Cointreau


That is one smooth margarita.
I was floating on the blue water, looking up at the blue sky, and thinking good thoughts about humanity after a few sips of this.
Meanwhile, I've got one heck of a stack on my To-Read shelf, and it's my goal to crack into these.

So wish me luck, and I wish you a very nice summer!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Now We Are Three

On Saturday we celebrated Cooper turning three. It was a busy but chilled-out day, and he seemed to really enjoy himself.
We went to Wyatt's soccer game in the morning, and hung out afterwards with everyone, eating pizza. There was so much pizza that we were sent home with a box.
Cooper is getting so big. Lucky is hovering in the background, hoping some pizza will be dropped.

Cooper requested a chocolate birthday cake, so I made the Chocolate Fudge cake (a.k.a. If-You've-Been-Chucked cake) from Nigella Bites. I tweaked the frosting, deciding to use only one stick of butter in the frosting instead of the two suggested, and I added some heavy whipping cream. I think it was a good call, as the frosting was buttery enough with just one stick. Then I wasn't sure I had enough frosting, so I spread Nutella between the two cake layers and used the frosting to cover the cake.

Here's my f-i-l -- isn't he cute?

He was diggin' the appetizers, which I had to place high on the countertop so that the little dog wouldn't eat them -- he takes it as a free-for-all if there's food within striking distance. So, we had jumbo shrimp & cocktail sauce; Giada's Italian hummus and toasted pita wedges; and hot crab dip & Triscuits. The crab dip recipe is from Michelle's m-i-l, and I liked it so much it's going in the ol' party repertoire.
And then there was Frito Pie. This is great party food.

Cooper got some great presents, including this sword, which he loved. Here he is practicing some Jedi moves on Troy.

The new pup may not have a name, but he got a party hat...

...and struck up a love affair with my m-i-l, Gina.

The boys liked the cake a lot.

And Cooper wound up the day as a swashbuckling super-hero. As it should be.

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bloom Where You're Planted

Oliver Douglas: Fresh air!
Lisa Douglas: Times Sqvare!

While I often feel like Lisa Douglas here in Hooterville, donning Ferragamo pumps to the local postal shack where there may or may not be a pig on the side of the road, I do try to find all things special & unique in my environment.
For a long time I have noted a hand-painted sign advertising STRAWBERRY MILKSHAKES on the side of the main road. I love strawberry ice cream, and recently finally pulled over to fuel up the boys on our way home from school. They are always so hungry after school, and I thought, "Why not." Take the edge off.

Driving over a set of railroad tracks, we were smack on the front section of a farm. I pulled right up to the tiny shack and ordered strawberry shakes -- the only menu item besides strawberry shortcake -- and chatted with the gal making them. She and her family ran the farm, and apparently the strawberry season was just wrapping up. She was quite sweet and charming, and we talked about her little sister, a budding musician and scholarship student. Then I noticed the flowers behind the shack.
"Are those snapdragons?" I inquired.
They were! she confirmed, and added that they often sell them to local florists, who jack up the price x 4. I adore snapdragons and they remind me of my childhood, because I remember a kind neighbor showing me how you could pinch the flowerheads on their sides to make them look like they're talking. I never miss an opportunity to make the boys giggle by making a snapdragon say something to them like, "Hello! What's your name?"
Although it's not exactly a scene from the Luxembourg Gardens, I thought the flowers were pretty.

I got the shakes and passed them up, then got back into the car, buckled up, said thanks, and drove off. We were on our merry way, and the strawberry shakes were deeeeelicious.

Farther down the road, there were little black pigs milling about and rooting through the grass. I thought of Arnold Ziffle, adjusted my crystal-bedecked sunglasses, and smiled.

Green Acres fans click here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Giving thanks for Annaboo

I've never met Anna in person, and yet I feel like I've known her forever. Back in the happy days of, she popped in like a breath of fresh air, full of life and love, and she's been in my life ever since.
The first thing Anna did was introduce herself and say she was a wife & mother of four, and she was about the same age as me. We had things in common right off the bat. I'd just had my fourth baby, and had turned 40. I remember Anna posted a picture, and there were four people in the picture: an older woman and man, and a girl in pigtails, and a guy. She said something like, "Here we are with our winning fish & chips." I thought she was the older woman, and I immediately said, "Oh no! She's my age! I am getting old! I wonder if I look that old?" I didn't realize until later that Anna was the one in pigtails, with the smile, and the old lady was one of the fish & chips judges, who indeed was past 40!
Everybody loves Anna. She is pure of heart; full of love, full of life, and full of light. She's incapable of lying or pretense, and I find her so refreshing because I always know where I stand with her. I love reading her blog because she truly speaks from the heart, and I keep encouraging her to write, write, write -- she's good at it.
It's like awards season in blogland, and to see that Anna gave me a "You Make My Day" award, I was extremely touched! This, coming from one of the most kind & generous souls I know, means a great deal.
Thank you, Anna.
Since we've been friends, Anna and I have exchanged emails, swap boxes (in fact, I think, the original! Who could forget the Teacle?), gifts, thoughts, and stories. She's very far away, but I have seen pictures of her view from her kitchen window, sometimes framing a beautiful cake, and I picture myself one day sitting at her table, looking out that window and having a nice cup of tea. A cuppa. In my kitchen, I have a Greek icon of Saint Anna, Mother of the Theotokos. In the enclosed note, Anna told me that she hoped that it would serve as a reminder of the beautiful and special bond between a mother and daughter, and it has. During the very difficult first months of my grief, I kept the icon by my bedside, and although I am not religious, my mother was Greek Orthodox and the image gave me strength when I desperately needed it.

When I moved house, the icon found a natural spot in my kitchen, and there it sits to this day. I look at it every day, and think of Anna, and of my mother, and of the importance of my former Greek life, which is instilled in me, and of the power of love and friendship.
I consider myself very fortunate to have met Anna, she is a beautiful person, inside & out. I hope she knows how much she is loved.

Monday, May 05, 2008

New & old books from the Dahl family

All right, all right, all right, what's it going to be? A Triple Cream Cup for Christopher. A Sizzler for June Marie. And listen! Wonka's got a new one today.

What is it?

This is called a Scrumpdiddleumptious Bar.

When I was a child, of course I saw the movie, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," but I don't think I read any Roald Dahl books until my son Wyatt was old enough to listen. Now I consider myself a big fan.
While I haven't read everything Dahl's ever written, I have read most of his childrens books, and an assortment of his stories for grown-ups. Those can be quite disturbing...I am not certain Dahl was the nicest man in the world, and sometimes I think he might have been a bit of a scary personality! I remember my mom telling me that he was quite tough with his wife Patricia Neal after she suffered a stroke, and really harassed her into recovery. I don't know if that's true, but it has always bothered me in the back of my head, since she seemed like such a cool lady. If you happen to know, please educate me.
Most of the time, however, I do align myself with his kind & down-to-earth perspective in the many adventures portraying a fight against evil adults and wicked people -- who are sometimes supernatural. "The Witches" is one of my favorite books, with the endearing relationship between a boy and his grandmother battling creepy & crafty purple-eyed witches. The movie is fantastic, too, with Anjelica Huston as the spooky Grand High Witch.
Last week I stumbled upon what I consider to be a real find: a book written by Dahl and his second wife, Felicity, titled, "Memories with Food: At Gipsy House." I ordered it in a click. I love off-beat "cookbooks," and this one provides a double thrill, as it must be packed with Dahl genius.
Gipsy House is the home of Roald & Felicity, in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, and apparently, this book is about the life and food they enjoyed while living there during the last decades of Dahl's life (I think Felicity is still there). I can't wait to see it!

Reading about Dahl's appreciation for candy and chocolate in his excellent memoir, "Boy: Tales of Childhood" has held me rapt more than once; and I attribute part of my Scandi-obsession to his beautifully conveyed memories of his idyllic childhood summers spent in Norway.
Not coincidentally, his grand-daughter, the beautiful Sophie Dahl, has recently published a fiction novel called "Playing with the Grown-Ups."

The protagonist dwells in Hay House, presumably modeled after Gipsy House. Perhaps a riskier proposition than buying one of her grandfather's books, but I'll probably end up getting it, too. I'll be very happy if it's turned out that Sophie has inherited the gift of storytelling.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Rays of sunshine

Oh, I am so tired. I always say my personal life motto is "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" (that should really be in Latin), and this week provided further evidence of my particular brand of folly.
Um, what was I thinking, getting a puppy?
Puppy-training is exhausting! You're constantly monitoring them to see if they're peeing or pooping or chewing or choking. I take the dog out a thousand times a day and encouragingly (somewhat hysterically) say, "Go potty! Good boy! Good boy!"
Nevertheless, the pup is here and I'm dealing with it, and right when I was ready to collapse and break down into a weeping pile, I clicked over to Ilana's blog and read this:
...Because, on my other blog, is where I have the literary freedom to rhyme or to philosophize or talk about shoes, and I take my inspiration from Lisa, because her talent for putting certain words together is marvelous - she makes everything beautiful.

What sweetness. Thank you, Ilana.

This means a lot to me, because, as you know, being a chambermaid is often a wearing job, and I appreciate the kind compliment! It's nice to think that my brain is still utilizing the ol' synapses.
Coincidentally, it was Ilana who inspired me to start a blog. When she visited here and I was perched at the kitchen counter, watching her make dishes for her Cupboard Love project blog, and the computer was right there beside us. The night Ilana went home, I had nothing to do, and thought I'd mess around on blogger, and voila! Another blog was born, whether needed or not.
The other aspect of why this makes me happy is because it seems like there's been a lot of bad juju going around in the world lately. A lot of people I know are having a hard time, and it has a worrying effect that shakes us up. Receiving a little love is something a lot of people could do with right now, and a kind word or deed really boosts the spirit.