Friday, April 29, 2011

a royal dream

The Queen announced there was to be a Royal Family Photograph. 
It would be formal, staged in a room at Buckingham Palace
Everyone was to dress in black or black and white. 
It was not, however, to include spouses, but only those
born into the royal family. 

There was to be a second Royal Family Photograph she explained, 
which would include spouses.  
The picture would be taken in an informal setting,
perhaps the garden. 

They could dress in black or black and white but more casually; men with their ties loosened and shirts unbuttoned, ladies with their hair pulled up but mussed a bit. 
Or everyone could do the shoot in bluejeans
with crisply tailored, white shirts.

"But I don't have any bluejeans!" I wailed. 
(I do but they're a size six
so they've been hanging in the closet for years.)

What does this mean? 

Do I secretly wish to be a Duchess
do I just need to diet?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

could it be a sign?


Okay, I'll be losing some readers today.  I just know it.  They'll think I've lost my mind.  Losing both parents within two weeks could do that to you...

The amaryllis we enjoyed last November has been dormant since it bloomed.  It's still in its original plastic container but no longer camouflaged in a pretty china pot set in a sunny spot.  Instead, it keeps me company at the table in the 'back room'.  That room with the treadmill which I'll need to hop on following this afternoon's Easter Brunch... 

I water the amaryllis now and then but it wasn't until a week ago that it began to re-emerge; first one rounded, green tip, then a second, coming out of the dark root.  Just like in the fall, it began to grow at lightning speed.  I even measured it by pencil marks on the wall, curious to see what a difference a day makes in the growth of an amaryllis. 

Over one half inch.

During the week, it continued to grow but the tall leaves just weren't very strong and eventually they fell over.  Collapsed from their base end, they were limp, their tips resting on the marble tabletop.  That's how they've been for over a week now yet I couldn't bring myself to cut them off.


It's expected that these holidays following my parents' deaths will be hard but I woke up this morning with an unusually heavy heart.  My sister and I are getting closer to some decisions about their ashes. 

I've been mushing an idea around, as I like to say.  Mushing, mushing, mushing.  Is it a good one?  Would my parents like it?  Will it suit everyone?

How to know?! 

I sat down at that 'back room' table as I do almost every day, to check email, to write, to mush things around...

Did I hear something?  A soft, whooshy sound?  I was sure of it. 

I watched both amaryllis leaves begin to rise.  Miraculously.  In unison.  They rose from their lifeless arcs in slow motion, defying gravity, until they were both, once again, completely upright. 

I sat a few minutes, staring in wonder, in shock, in delight.  How incredible!  By the time I recovered and called for Spoke, the heavier one had fallen. 

I doubt I'll ever witness such a thing again.  I'm taking it as a sign.  I know I need to pot the amaryllis bulb deeper in the dirt but more importantly, I know I can stop my mushing now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

noon day shopping

"Think like a cook, Becca," I said to myself, walking into Cotton's a couple of days ago.  I continue to end up at Cotton's when I can't get cooking.

It's Holy Week.  Maundy Thursday's coming.  It was Mom's favorite service.

I see Noon Day onions.  Small and smooth with a thin skin.  I'll start with these.  Maybe I just need a good cry.

Another one today.

An old chest freezer has been converted to a cooler and I slide the metal doors open to choose a head of romaine only because we're out of lettuce. 

I walk the twenty feet to the opposite wall.  Spoke will get a surprise jar of Sweet Fire pickles; extremely hot jalapenos with cucumbers which he likes to pile on sandwiches.  Holy Moly!

I spot walnuts.  "Fresh from California," the sign says.  I envision stuffing the Noon Days with a nutty mixture and baking them until the onions are super soft.


I love it when I think like a cook. 

Baked Onions with Walnuts

4 Noon Day (or small) onions
3/4 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cups fresh bread crumbs, fine 
1/3 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
4 tablespoons reserved onion, chopped 
salt and pepper
olive oil

Peel the onions, cut off the very top and scrape out a hole large enough to add the stuffing.  Place them in individual dishes or in one large baking dish.

Chop and reserve the onion pulp. 

Mix the walnuts, bread crumbs, cheese, and reserved onion pulp until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.

Stuff as much as you can into each hollowed onion, allowing it to spill over.  Drizzle the stuffing with olive oil, let it soak down into the onion and then drizzle more all over.  There should be a little in the dish, coating the extra stuffing.

Bake  in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the nuts are beginning to brown.  Remove from the oven and cover with foil.  Bake another 40 minutes or until the onions are soft when pierced with a knife.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

get the hell out

How welcoming a door can be.

Tucked away in a quiet corner like this one

or claiming center-stage in a concealed courtyard.

Bells toll and magnificent cathedral doors open!

Of course, there are some doors I hope never to need to enter.

And doors that I could never, never tire of entering.

Here's our 3906 door.

It's a handsome door which will open to welcome you.  

I step outside this front door sometimes in the wee hours, to take a picture of the full moon or just to savor the quiet.  There's no other time of day or night that's so wonderfully quiet.

I stand on the walkway, knowing somewhere, there's another woman walking out her door in the middle of the night.  Maybe it's a ratty and torn screen door or maybe it's a custom-made, hand-carved, Italian import.  It doesn't matter; she got out!

It takes women in abusive situations, on average, seven attempts before they successfully leave.  Many of them have children.  Incomprehensibly, three children die every day as a result of domestic violence.

That's why I support Hope's Door.

Hope's Door provides emergency shelter and interim support for women leaving abusive situations.  They shelter, they counsel, they educate.

Their door is always open.

Hope's Door Hotline  972.422.7233 (SAFE)  Answered 24 hours a day.

Local Readers, You Can Help! 

Register your Tom Thumb Rewards Card for Hope's Door. 
Tom Thumb will contribute 1% of designated sales. 

Crissa's Closet 
Resale Boutique * Custer at Parker
Donate or Shop

Thursday, April 14, 2011

peony for your thoughts

My friend Cindy has a neighbor.
The neighbor brought her two peony plants from his farm in Cumby.
One didn't make it. 
One is thriving.
Cindy has a house full of peonies.  
She brought a couple to work.
Michelle took a picture with her phone.
Nice picture.
Really nice neighbor!

photos by Michelle

Sunday, April 10, 2011

a father, a daughter, and a chauffeur

Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verdi, was first performed at Teatro La Fenice on March 11, 1851.  The famous teatro was under construction when Spoke and I were in Venice back in 1999. 

I saw Rigoletto two years later, with my dad.  It was my first opera. 

I chose Rigoletto because I wanted my very first to be an Italian opera.  I didn't know the tragic story of a father and his daughter or that it would, that night and forever, break my heart while giving me such joy. 

That's opera. 

We sat on the eighth row at Dallas Music Hall, the Winspear Opera House still five years from breaking ground.  I remember giving my dad's arm a series of excited pats in anticipation as the curtain rose.  Then there was a jester singing to me and I fell in love. 

I don't think I took a breath until First Intermission. 

The romance briefly ended as I then had to figure a way to get my dad into his wheelchair, up the long incline to the single, handicapped, Men's Room and back, in fifteen to twenty minutes.  Whoa. 

I'll spare you the details; they aren't pretty but somehow we manged to get in our seats in the nick of time.  (You do know, if not, they close the doors on you.) 

For several years, Spoke drove us downtown for every opera.  We'd pick up my dad, he'd inevitably be running late but Mom would still insist on pictures before we left.  (Thank you, Mom.)  I'd cut up, my dad would laugh, Kevin would start the car... 

We'd give Daddy the front seat where he could talk sports with Spoke as we sped south on Central.  I'd be all cozy in the back, the wide, leather arm rest having been set up just for me with champagne or wine.  I'd tune them out as I watched the sun off to my right; a gigantic orange ball, tinting the sky all around as it dropped lower and lower, mile after mile. 

It was dark when we were dropped at the door and after the opera, Spoke was always there like all good chauffeurs, his limo big white car, ready to drive us home. 

Then there were Po' Boys!  I'd have picked them up in the afternoon and while Spoke helped my dad into the house, trying not to wake Mom, I'd pop his baguette (oyster or shrimp) in the oven so once he changed into comfortable clothes, his Po' Boy would be hot, ready to be slathered with tarter sauce, just the way he liked it. 

I do believe he sat, like I sat at home an hour later, reading the Stagebill, the big, fat Po' Boy dripping while Verdi still circled round in his head. 

After a few years, Spoke decided it would be easier to stay for the operas.  My dad was in his eighties by then and Spoke took over the mad dashes to the Men's Room.  (Thank you, Babe.) 

My father never saw the Winspear. 

A couple of seasons he was ill and then, when he wasn't, it was just too hard.  He'd disagree with me.  He imagined himself as young as when he liked to dash across Peachtree to Sal's (Salvatore's) for Intermission martinis.  He saw a lot of operas at Atlanta's Fox Theater and he met a lot of the casts at Sal's.  I'll tell you about them one day.  Met stories too. 

But tonight, I'm savoring the Rigoletto I saw today.  Kevin patted my arm sympathetically as the curtain rose.  I cried. 

That's opera. 

That's life. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

i made him kimchi

"I'm making kimchi," I said to Spoke when he came into the kitchen as I was trying to keep the cabbage submerged in the salt water.

"Great, I love kimchi," he said, turning to head back to the yard.

Pick me up off the floor!

"You've had kimchi?" I asked.

"Yeah, in Saigon.  Some are really hot."

The humor of it struck me as I'd just grabbed a bottle of spicy RED ROOSTER Heirloom Tomato Bloody Mary Mix to help weigh down the cabbage. 

Funny, after so many years together, I can still be surprised by Spoke.  I like that.

Kimchi, a condiment made with Napa cabbage and mixed with any number of things, often scallions, radish, garlic, ginger, and dried red peppers, can range from mild to fiery.  Once ready, it's added to soup, stir fried rice, sandwiches, even omelets.  Its uses are endless.

It just needs time to ferment. 

Like those buried eggs the South Vietnamese officer so proudly offered to Spoke... 


1 1/2 pounds of napa cabbage
9 cups of very warm water
3/4 cups Kosher salt
2 small carrots, washed, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes

Wash each cabbage leaf.  Cut them into chunks.  (This will allow you to serve them this size or to chop them finer, depending on the dish.)  Set aside.

In a very large bowl, dissolve the salt in the water.  Add the chopped cabbage.  Use a weighted bowl or plate to make sure the cabbage stays submerged.  Let it sit for 4 hours.

Drain the cabbage and rinse it well.  Rinse and dry the soaking bowl.  Add the drained cabbage and the rest of the ingredients.  Mix until it's evenly combined.

Pack into sterilized jars and refrigerate for several days until it has fermented and is ready to serve.

{makes about four pints}

Monday, April 4, 2011

i dove right in

At the risk of sounding like a bad food writer, I will flat out say this dish turned out "light and sweet but yet very flavorful". 

Wait!  Don't quit reading.

There was a bag of petite scallops in the freezer, scallions in the bin, and surprisingly, jalapenos and cilantro both on hand.  Spoke ran out for a knob of ginger, I threw it together, and suddenly we had the most incredible, bursting-of-springtime dinner.  It was light and sweet but yet very flavorful. 

I could have eaten two bowlfuls. 

Spaghettini with Scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 thick slices or chunks of ginger root
8 ounces thin spaghetti
2 bunches of scallions, green and white parts, cut across the width
1 jalapeno, seeds and some of the membrane removed, chopped fine
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger root
2 dozen petite scallops, patted dry
black pepper
chopped cilantro (leaves only)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan large enough to later hold the pasta.  Add the two chunks of ginger root and allow them to permeate the oil as you move them around now and then. 

Heat a large pot of water for cooking the pasta.  When it comes to a boil, throw in a big tablespoon of salt and drop the spaghettini.  Stir to bring it quickly back to a boil. 

Discard the ginger root, add the scallions, salt them, and stir to coat with the oil.  Let them cook for a few minutes, then reduce the heat and keep warm.

A minute before the pasta is ready, add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan along with the jalapeno, the chopped ginger, and the scallops.  Give them a few grinds of black pepper and a quick toss.

Transfer the pasta to the saute pan.  Reserve some pasta water.  Sprinkle the spaghettini with salt, then toss to combine all of the ingredients.  Add a little of the reserved water if needed.

Serve in warm bowls with a topping of cilantro.