Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Two steps forward . . . One step back . . .

So there we were, moving along at a nice clip, my husband Lee was getting ready to put mortar to the tiles around the perimeter of the bathroom floor, when he noticed a crack on the flange that holds down the toilet, a fairly big crack that would likely cause us trouble down the line. It had to be replaced (sigh!).

In the "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" remodeling tradition at our house, to replace the flange, he had to cut several of the PVC pipes that were glued to it, . . . and in order to do that, he had to open another hole in the kitchen ceiling!!!!!

Remember the hole he had to cut open in order to install the whirlpool tub?

Well, look how nicely it accessorizes with this new, BIGGER hole!

And here is where the story gets ever so much better: Tip to future bathroom remodelers . . . HIRE A PLUMBER!

Hah! So you think you can do this, eh? So you are going to ignore my sage advice, eh? All right, here's the next best piece of advice you will ever get . . . mind you, these are pearls I'm giving you: If you are so determined to do this yourself, be absolutely, positively certain, that before you open up any bathroom pipes you flush your toilet a minimum of 10,000 times, no, make that, 20,000 times!

I will let you use your imagination to figure out what happened when Lee cut into the pipes. I would just like to say two things: First, I love my husband with all my heart! Another man would have turned tail and run, but not Lee. He finished the gruesome job - and he cleaned my kitchen afterwards. If you asked him about it today, he'd say, with that calm demeanor of his, that it wasn't all that bad. Secondly, I can say, without hesitation, that I now have the cleanest kitchen in North America. You could perform open heart surgery on my kitchen table right now, it's that clean.

So we're back on track now. Of course, we have to wait until next weekend to continue the work, but that's O.K. We need a few days break from all the mayhem. It's nice to go to work and relax.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Couscous . . . couscous . . . don't you just love saying that word?

Couscous with Apricots and Almonds
—from "SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life"

Healthy side dish, great flavor, nutritious . . .

Didn't love the texture . . . the dish was saved by the almonds and apricots, otherwise it would have felt too mealy on the mouth. I've since learned that couscous is great stuffed in pita bread, with other veggies. I'll have to keep it in mind when I make it next time. Yes, there will be a next time, I have to finish the package!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bathroom Remodeling Update - The Floor

We (this is the royal “We” - meaning my husband, Lee, does the remodeling work, and I watch and remind him to use the level) are now tackling the floor.

I fell in love with this travertine tile, but it has proven challenging. Travertine is a natural stone, which means that it has lots of personality, each piece is unique. But it is also a relatively soft stone, so it chips and cracks easily during installation. We are already committed and will see this project to the end, but are now wondering if the tile will crack unexpectedly in a few months. I hope not!

Because each piece is different, we layed them out before glueing them down, so we could select their unique placement. Our least favorite ones will end up under the vanity. We used little Post-It notes to label the tiles in the order in which they are to be installed.

Progress is slow, but I just have to keep telling myself that, at least, the project is moving forward . . . Arrgh!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nature . . . Hmm . . .

This week's PHOTO OF THE DAY theme really had me stumped. A nature girl, I'm not. I've always lived in cities and adore its many conveniences. I like to enjoy nature in pictures. Then, I can marvel at all of God's creations and only think beautiful thoughts. Real nature is seldom idyllic.

What to post . . . ? What to post . . . ? Ahhh! Of course! There is one aspect of nature that I am drawn to . . . water.

I was 21 years old when this photo was taken on my first visit to Niagara Falls. Somehow, I forgot to be suspicious of nature. The Falls really touched me. It might be a cliché, but I truly felt God's love in this spot. I know that some people experience that same feeling in other places, and when I saw the Mighty Niagara, I understood.
José María Heredia, Cuba's National Poet, one of the first romantic poets in the New World, wrote his Ode to Niagara in 1832. It is a beautiful, long, melancholic, long, instrospective poem that shows his love of nature . . . did I mention long? He reminds me so much of Percy Bysshe Shelley. His poem was my introduction to the Falls . . .

It truly is a lovely poem. I didn't quite like it at fifteen, when I first read it, but I re-read it as an adult and found it profoundly moving.

There's a plaque on the American side of the Falls honoring Heredia. He's called "The Sublime Singer of the Wonderous Greatness of Niagara Falls."
I strongly recommend a visit. Yes, there are lots of tourist traps nearby. Ignore them. Just stand on one of the many lookout points and listen to the water's roar. Feel the mist on your face . . .

Be still. There's tremendous power to be felt in this place . . .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I blame my mother-in-law . . .

It's all Lillian's fault. Actually, it was Mrs. C. That's what I always called her. She's been gone for many years now, and we miss her, especially her cooking. That woman could cook. She was born in the U.S., but her parents came from Italy; passed through Ellis Island, as a matter of fact. Anyway, she introduced me to Roman Potatoes, which she also called Rosemary Potatoes.

Last night, I tossed and turned, and woke up several times, and each time, I would think of her potatoes. I wonder what a dream analyst would have to say about that. Naturally, I had to make them today. My husband reacted in that cool way that people do when they really want something but are afraid to make too big a deal, just in case it doesn't come true . . .

So I started with a 5-lb. bag of red potatoes. If you are going to make these, you may as well commit - there's no point in making less than 5 lbs. When she made these, Mrs. C would start peeling potatoes first thing in the morning. To feed her large family, she would sometimes make 15 lbs.!

The recipe is quite simple, really. You peel and cut the potatoes, add rosemary leaves, fresh if you can get them, olive oil, salt and pepper . . .

And . . . oh, yes, one last ingredient: Garlic. Um . . . I'm afraid this is the one change I've made to her recipe. Mrs. C's idea of adding garlic was to take one single clove, rub it on the bottom of the pan, and then discard the clove.
My idea of garlic is . . . Well, let me give you a visual . . . Imagine me as Dirty Harry, only shorter and rounder, Dirty Harriet, if you will . . . She is standing in front of the stove, facing down a vampire . . . Then, Dirty Harriet, curling her lip, says to the vampire: "I know what you are thinking. 'Did she add six cloves or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a powerful weapon, an herbal wonder drug, and delicious to boot, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" That vampire doesn't stand a chance.

You put them in the oven at 350º for an hour and a half until they are tender and brown and a bit crispy. I made a pot roast to go with these beauties, but it was totally irrelevant. However, the bottle of Chianti we opened up to go with dinner was a nice touch.

And then we could raise our glasses: Here's to you Mrs. C. Thank you for the memory . . . and your wonderful recipe!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I dream of Harry's Bellini . . .

I love this week's POTD theme - dreams/goals. Ahem! . . . er, you may have noticed the name of my blog . . . ? What would we do without dreams? Well, here are some of my dreams . . .

My husband, Lee, took this picture of me in January 2009, right after I got my computer. I'd worked with computers practically all of my life, but had never had one of my very own, and, frankly, up until then, had never been particularly interested in owning one. I had always just simply shared my husband's. Lee, and I mean this in the nicest sense, is a computer geek, and the one great disadvantage of sharing a computer with a geek is that you will never find your stuff in the same place twice. Lee would load programs, remove them, "improve" them, move files around, and it all made perfect sense to him, but to me, turning on the computer was more adventure than I wanted just to check the balance on my checking account. Clearly, this little computer chick (moi), was ready to fly solo . . .

I really like this picture of me, and, in many ways, this is how I see myself. I dream about staying home and writing the "Great American Novel" (or, at least, the next bestseller) . . . I dream about being mistress of my own time . . . and in my dream, my hair always looks good and I'm wearing lipstick . . .

This poem, by Langston Hughes, hangs on my vision board . . .

My sister-in-law, Barb, made me the "Dream" glass pendant a while back. It's become part of my vision board.

This is just one section of the vision board, but do you see the picture on the lower right corner? Yes! It's Venice. La Serenissima - the most Serene Republic, as it was once known. Seeing Venice is both, a dream and a goal for me.

I have it all planned out in my head. Yes, I want to see the Basilica di San Marco, that gorgeous Byzantine cathedral, built to house the remains of St. Mark . . . Of course, I want to quietly glide down its sleepy canals in a gondola, manned by a handsome gondoliere . . . Naturally, I want to visit the island of Murano, where all that marvelous glass is blown, and, who knows, perhaps pick up a little something to bring home . . . But I also I want to go to Vivaldi's Church, the church where Antonio Vivaldi worked as choirmaster while he composed some of his masterpieces. I read in "1,000 Places To See Before You Die" that the "Four Seasons" is performed here regularly - by candlelight! Finally, I want to sit in Harry's Bar, the original Harry's Bar that drew Hemingway time and again, and drink a "Bellini" - its signature drink - while watching the tourists stroll happily through St. Mark Square . . . Sweet dreams are made of this . . .

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh, well . . . more for me . . .

I knew before I made it that they wouldn't eat it . . . Still, it's so disappointing when they don't . . .

My persnickety family would not go near this Creamy Cauliflower Soup, from the Fit For Life Cookbook, made with a shiro miso base, and no dairy. It truly is delicious, light and flavorful (not to mention healthy), but would they even try it? Nope.

So, I ladled it into soup mugs, sprinkled a little extra nutmeg on top, and froze enough portions to last me two solid weeks (if I were to take it to work every day).

Their loss . . . (sigh!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sundae on Sunday

My sweet, imaginative, fun sister-in-law, Barb, made me this piece of wall art for my birthday. Perhaps the inspiration came from knowing how much I like ice cream . . . or perhaps it was the memory of all the delicious gelato we shared in Rome a couple of years ago . . .

As soon as I saw it, I felt an uncontrollable, urgent need for an ice cream sundae so I ran to the store to get the essential ingredients, including the maraschino cherries. Is this art imitating life, or the other way around . . . ?

For some reason, my family has gotten it in their heads that if they rub the glass bowl, magically, ice cream sundaes will appear in front of their eyes, sort of like Aladdin's lamp, but sweeter . . . so now it's hanging in the kitchen . . . but the boys (and that includes my husband) have promised me that they are going to take very good care of it and rub the bowl no more than once a week . . .

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Sunday - Food and Family

I made my sister-in-law, Angela's, Morning Glory Muffins. Ahh . . . cinnamon . . . is there a more glorious kitchen smell? Here's a link to her recipe:


Then, my husband cooked my sons' favorite breakfast: Pancakes and sausage. I made the scrambled eggs.

Wow! I caught him twice in one day! This has to be a record. He doesn't like to pose for pictures!

Here's my son, John, displaying his bored college look . . .

And David was doing his imitation of a statue . . .

My family likes very basic, unpretentious food, which is usually a source of frustration to me since I like to cook and experiment in the kitchen, but on days like this, it's nice to relax and just enjoy them. (Whew, that was a long sentence!)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Brunch

We celebrated this special day with simple comfort foods.
The rabbits left the mantle and got closer so they could join the celebration . . .
They were very attentive, hoping we'd drop a carrot or two . . .
Yellow tulips and blue delphiniums . . . Don't they just scream SPRING!!!

The most scrumptious candy-coated truffles, laced with some sort of cherry liqueur, are disguised as robins' eggs. I found them at Williams-Sonoma, along with the nests.

You wouldn't believe how much cream this little cow holds - enough for four cups of coffee, Boston-style! Another find from Williams-Sonoma. I could move right into W-S and live happily ever after. I love that store!

Moo! Happy Spring!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

There are so many memories gathered in this photo. All of this Easter stuff has been around since my sons were little. Sometimes, we'd add something new, but for the most part, the boys didn't like it when we messed with their traditions.

Always had to have a package of Peeps . . . to blow them up in the microwave!

The dents on these candy tins are like badges earned for the many years of service . . . The one with the rabbit was John's . . .
And the one with the sweet boy dressed as a bunny was David's . . .

I bought the papier maché eggs at a store called Logos, not far from our old house in the city. I could get lost in that store for hours perusing their book selection and all the charming collectibles they offered. Sadly, the store has gone out of business.

One of the nice advantages of these eggs was that they were large and took up a lot of room in the basket. We tried to fill the baskets not so much with candy, but with books, or the occassional small toy.

Uh, oh . . . ! There's a Peep missing!

Happy Easter memories to everyone!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Then and now . . .

There are no girls on my side of the family. My brother and his wife had three boys, and Lee and I had two. We frequently photographed all five of them together . . .

My David was the youngest of the bunch. Here they are in 1992 . . .

This one was taken at Christmastime in 1997 . . .

Skip ahead a few years (it couldn't have been more than 2 or 3 . . O.K. maybe 5 but that's tops!

(Sigh!) Actually, this last one was taken at my son John's high school graduation party. There are a few more recent photos, but this is one of my favorites. Where did the time go?