Sunday, January 25, 2015

the carousel















My retired life has become too busy.  They say this happens.   

It seems not so long ago that Spoke and I spent the days following Christmas greeting the New Year in Florence.  Only a couple of years were we gifted with sunny, fifty degrees days for most often Firenze was damp or downright cold, the city's centuries old gray stone walls enveloping us in the chill on every walk.  

One Natale we found ourselves by this piazza, the warm glow of the merry-go-round lights spotted from a distance, beckoned us to take a closer look.

I was a stranger looking in, a tourist thrilled at the sight but with no thoughts of jumping on a painted horse and taking a ride.

Our traveling days came to an end and our retirement these many years later is very much what we planned; days and evenings of domestic leisure filled with food, wine, family and friends, books, film, music, quiet, art, nature, beauty.  Life was paced and predictable until I did that very thing; I jumped upon a local carousel.

They say make a plan and you'll hear God laugh. . .  

I chose this merry-go-round for it is majestic.  The fillies are beautiful, the music is grand, and riding with others is fun, often daring.  Now the days fly by and I'm busier than ever, be it body or mind or both.  I am productive and creative on this ride, happy to canter while those around me seem to have mounted flying horses.                          

With admiration, I watch them reach for the brass ring.  I do not desire another ring.

Being on this merry-go-round looking out, is magical I admit, but my biggest thrill comes when the spinning halts, the lights go out, the music ends and Spoke helps me step down.  

My feet firmly planted on solid ground again, seeing the carousel from a distance, is when I hear the laughter.  Big belly laughs, loud and clear.       




Thursday, January 1, 2015

the coming year


"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."










(Zora Neale Hurston)
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

allee on a winter's night


12 Days


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.














































On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.































On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
















On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.







































On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
















On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.































On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.





























On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.




























On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.














  





































On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.








































On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.








































On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.






On the sixteenth day of December, two of my true loves gave to me, twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Thank you Dallas Arboretum and Dallas Opera for the spectacular show.  Merry Christmas!








 12 Days of Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum
through January 4, 2015. Details and tickets
at dallasarboretum.org

Sunday, November 30, 2014

pacing


It has been a glorious fall and my unwillingness to leave it is mated to the winter solstice, still weeks away. 

Mirroring the emotions in many of us this holiday time of year, our weather has been all over the place; warm and sunny days give way to sudden drops of thirty degrees and calm precedes fierce winds.  I am happy.  I am sad.  I want to slow down.  I feel rushed.  

I'm still enjoying the crunch of fallen leaves while my neighbors rake piles or blow them away to make room for Christmas lights.  The inflated yard Santa two houses down, put up before Thanksgiving Day, has collapsed twice already and will many more times before he's taken down the 26th of December.  No savoring Thanksgiving, on to Christmas!  Soon it will be no lingering Christmas joy, on to New Year's!

Talk about deflated. . .

 


















Beautiful pumpkins fill our rooms, filling me with awe of Mother Nature's mysterious gifts, unwrapped I'll add.  I want to enjoy this autumn mood for a while longer.

The first day of Christmas is December 25th so we've got time. . . 
We've got time for all of it.  As it comes.







Monday, October 27, 2014

big winners



They say things are bigger in Texas . . .  

Witness the glorious sky; layered streaks of red and purple on fall and winter afternoons, cotton-ball-clouds fill blue space on spring days and in summer, vast expanses of blazing sun for days on end.   

Bigger means big-hair on ladies and bigger hats on men.  Big is often confused with bravado, defined as a boldness designed to impress or intimidate, the concept easily grasped if you've ever driven behind a truck with an iron scrotum dangling from its bumper.

Let's not forget Dallas Cowboys' AT+T Stadium though it reflects a bit of both. 

A Texas size event was held tonight at Dallas' Westin Hotel at the Galleria.  A spacious ballroom hosted the XXII Annual Caesar Salad Competition presented by The American Institute of Wine and Food/Dallas.  Eight chefs competed for bragging rights to this year's best Caesar Salad including my friend Mark McDaniel.  I was lucky to be one of his guests.

Here are the chefs and their dishes:


Chef Thomas Holt/Ruth's Chris Steak House
Great Caesar's Goat


Chef Chad Kelley/Cafe Pacific
Lobster Deviled Eggs


Chef Andrea Maricich/The Second Floor
House Cured Fennel and Black Pepper Lonzino with Orange and Oregano Compressed Melon


Chef Antonio Marquez/Lazaranda, Modern Kitchen & Tequila
Watermelon and Tuna Ceviche


Chef Mark McDaniel/ReMARKable Affairs Cafe
Cajun Gazpacho Soup "Shooter" and Polenta Cake

Chef Kenny Mills/Chop House Burgers
Chop House Burger Sliders


Chef Brandon Moore/Ocean Prime
PBLT; crispy pork belly, lettuce and tomato


Chef Julio Peraza/Komali
Ancho Braised Short Rib and Queso Fresco Tamal, Black Bean Sauce, Crema and Chile de Arbol Salsa
  




It was an evening of excess with no bravado.

Chef Julio Peraza was the winner and when asked what he would attribute to his success, without pause he gave credit to his sous chef.

No one cheered in agreement more enthusiastically than my chef friend Mark, his eyes on his own sous in the audience, his smile directed at her, Leslie Robbins.  He had moments before, when introduced, spoken heartwarming words which though he didn't win the title, won over the crowd, friends and colleagues who knew those words to be real.







There was a silent auction and a live auction.  Someone won this pony.





















Others ponied up big bucks for dinners and weekend getawaysHearts were opened, pockets were emptied, tummies were filled and a new generation of future cooks was given--let's say-- a Texas size boost.  




Several glasses of white wine and eight Caesar Salads later, I switched to red and I ate this cake.  It was provided by the very popular Plano restaurant, Whiskey Cake Kitchen + Bar.  Though it was absolutely delicious, especially the nutty toffee crunch on top, I was thankful the slice was not bigger.




My appreciation to Chef Mark McDaniel/ReMARKable Affairs Cafe(dot com)
Dallas  972.462.7470
For information on the next Annual Caesar Salad Competition, contact The American Institute of Wine and Food/Dallas    


Saturday, October 4, 2014

the storm
















It was a bright, temperate day as Spoke and I drove down Mockingbird Lane to catch a film at Angelika.  Little traffic made for a quick drive and we were settled into our top row seats before the previews started.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing I’ve come to think; good if the previews are new to you, bad if you must sit through them again, your small bag of popcorn half consumed before the feature begins.

I was looking forward to this one--- set in Paris!  Our post movie dinner plans would be based around croissants in the freezer and I was waiting to see if the film leaned us toward soup and salade or fines herbs omelets.  Either would be fine with me.  

When it was over, I'd wished for more sights of the city and its cuisine, but we left content and in awe of the acting.  Pulling out of the covered garage parking lot, we entered into what was, we thought, a typical Dallas afternoon storm.  It took only a couple of blocks for the severity to hit us.  Lightning was scary and winds were fierce, blowing rain sideways and taking metal signs along.  The light at Greenville Avenue made us thankful for the long city bus on our right which blocked the east moving winds.  Most stoplights were out, there was debris everywhere, crape myrtles were uprooted and one huge tree blocked the entire three lane street forcing us to drive up over the curb and across someone’s manicured yard.  Trees lay toppled across many home roofs.
  
We were lucky and feeling blessed by the time we’d detoured, able to pull onto our street and see the two huge trees still standing front and back at our house.  We love these trees.  They are our shade in summer and our rustling leaves in autumn.
 
Six hours later our electricity was not yet on, quite understandable considering the widespread damage.  I rather liked the evening, liked being forced into creative submission; a flashlight, pen and paper became my entertainment.  I studied the interesting shadows on the walls.  

It was canned tuna for dinner without complaint.  From our dark bedroom, several hours earlier than our usual, Spoke and I listened for owls but they were mute in the eerie quiet of the still night.  We played word games, waiting for a breeze, any brief breeze.  I fell asleep before Spoke gave me his ten syllable word beginning with the letter “l”. . .  

Seventeen hours from the hit, chainsaws were heard all around.  Friday's morning paper reports winds were up to ninety miles per hour and a quarter of a million people are without power.  I go into the kitchen to make my morning cappuccino, the act providing our first laugh of the day.  I drink water instead.  

By evening, the hassle of the past twenty-seven hours is diminished with the flick of a switch.  We have power!
  
Today there's tremendous yard clean-up to be done, the refrigerator and freezers need to be cleaned out.  Most of the bounty in the full freezer has fared well and I am thankful for it, especially the still frozen pesto which was painstakingly made by mortar and pestle.  This was a prolific summer for basil, yielding two large batches which filled numerous jars with pesto and more to be made soon.  

With the oven working again, tonight we'll finally enjoy those croissants.  I'll heat them; crisp on the outside with flaky layers inside.  We will have them with soup and salade.