Sunday, June 30, 2013

Greek Caprese Salad

Use Feta crumbles instead of mozzarella, add non-pareil capers, some calamata olives, and a few other tasty morsels, then drizzle with some Greek olive oil . . . and you have the makings of a wonderful tidbit tray to share while steaks are grilling . . .

Lemon thyme, native to the Mediterranean, and some peppery arugula, compliment these luscious little tomatoes . . .  Easy and delicious summer goodness.  Oh, summer, how do I love thee, let me count the ways . . .

And, as the 4th of July approaches, I'm seeing the red, white and blue everywhere . . . even a star thrown in! 

If you'll pardon me, I'm going back outside now . . .

I'm linking to Seasonal Sundays hosted by The Tablescaper.  Please stop by.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.”
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I particularly like this variegated lemon thyme, and keep it it on the kitchen window throughout the summer.  It's fabulous on an herbed vinaigrette, or simply scattered on a fresh tomato salad, or on fish or chicken . . .

Legend has it that thyme was an essential ingredient in a magic potion that allowed the drinker to see the fairies.  Simply touching the leaves infuses the kitchen with a delightful lemony scent, and it's so delicate-looking, one might easily imagine fairies fluttering amongst its leaves . . .  Another of the pleasures of summer . . . there’s never enough thyme . . .

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Roman Holiday: The Papal Audience

A trip to Rome wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Vatican.

This was taken in front of St. Peter's Basilica as we awaited the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI.  Every Wednesday, there's a Papal Audience in St. Peter Square. 

Along the balustrade, on top of the façade are statues depicting Christ the Redeemer, flanked by his apostles.  The place of Judas Iscariot is taken by St. John the Baptist.

Swiss Guards of the Holy See can be found mounting guard everywhere, especially whenever the pope makes public appearances.  Their uniforms are made in the colors of the Medici dynasty:  blue, red and yellow.  But don't let the charming costumes fool you.  The Pontifical Swiss Guard is charged with the security of the Vatican, and the Pope's personal safety.

The cobblestones found all over the Vatican, and indeed, Rome, are made of black porphyry tiles, and are called “Sanpietrini” in honor of St. Peter - San Pietro (Peter means rock in Italian).

From the central balcony, called the “Loggia of the Blessings” the new pope is announced:  “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope).  The Urbi et Orbi blessing is also given from this window.  Anyone who's watched “The Borgias” on TV will recognize this balcony from Season 1.

Two elliptical colonnades encircle St. Peter Square.  They were designed by Bernini as a metaphorical representation of the “maternal arms of the mother church.”  The left one is called “Charlemagne” and the right one is called “Constantine.”  Every little thing has symbolism here, and you really have to be up on your history so you don't miss the nuances.

The obelisk in the center of the square was brought from Egypt in 37 B.C. and transferred to this site in 1586.  It took 900 men and 140 horses to haul it into place.  The bronze ball on top of the obelisk contains a relic of the True Cross.

Visitors from all over the world, the faithful, and the curious flock here every Wednesday for the Papal Audience.  The place holds thousands, and, knowing that there would be a huge crowd, our expectations were low.  Perhaps that is why it was so wonderful.  There is a surprising amount of order and calm about this audience, despite the crowd.  We felt welcomed and enveloped in the genuine warmth of the Pope and the pilgrims.  As a catholic, I was moved.  As a people-watcher, I had a ball!

I'm linking this post to “Oh, the PLACES I've been” delightfully hosted by The Tablescaper.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scotch Eggs

I'm told that this simple dish is standard pub fare in England and Scotland.  What a great idea for a picnic, a brown bag lunch, or . . . Sunday brunch! 

I served them on my beautiful platter from HomeGoods . . .  It's so pretty that it's almost a shame to cover it . . . almost . . .

Hard-boil some eggs, peel them, and cover them with ground pork, seasoned to your liking - some people use bulk sausage - then bread them and fry them.  Scotch eggs!  Even better, this is a Paleo recipe.  I used almond meal, instead of bread crumbs, and I fried them in coconut oil - a healthy, medium-chain fatty acid.  Each serving provides 5 ounces (35 grams) of protein - a pretty decent meal if you are on a low-carb diet!

Then I laid them in a bed of baby romaine lettuce, and filled the gaps with cocktail tomatoes . . .  The tomatoes added sweetness and balance to this high-protein entrée.
And what could be better than serving this British dish on English pottery?  The transferware plate is Blue Calico, by Burleigh . . . Just a peek for now.  I need to play with them a little longer before I share . . .

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Paeonia lactiflora “Top Brass”

Ivory guard petals are followed by a dense champagne-colored petaloid center, and topped by the most delicate of pinks forming a whorl on the top of this exquisite double peony. 

This is the second of the three peony bushes that my husband, Lee, planted for me in 1989 - the year my son, John, was born.  I usually have to watch them like a hawk to make sure that rain doesn't drag them down and make their delicate petals wilt . . . 

This year, my husband spotted the first ones while he was outside cutting the grass, and brought them in to me with a huge smile on his face - two marvelous gifts to be loved and cherished . . .

I'm joining The Tablescaper for her Seasonal Sundays blog party.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Roman Holiday: The Pantheon

I'm joining for the first time The Tablescaper in her terrific new blog party, “Oh, The Places I've Been!”  The wonderful memories of our trip to Italy in 2008 keep coming back to me, so I thought I'd share this excursion to one of the most remarkable buildings in Rome - The Pantheon.

Located at the Piazza della Rotonda, originally built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, and rebuilt circa 125 A.D. during Hadrian's reign.

Fontana del Pantheon, designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Leonardo Sormani, located in front of the Pantheon.  I was so fascinated by all the architecture that I took copious notes during the trip.  I was such a geek!  For this post, I dug out my little travel notebook to refresh my memory and it was like going back again.

Robert, my husband's brother, and Barb, my sister-in-law, traveling companions extraordinaires.

Entrance to the Pantheon.

Pope Urban VII (1623-1644) ordered the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon's portico melted down.  Most of the bronze was used to make bombards, an early form of cannon that fired stone balls.

The oculus, the Great Eye, is the opening at the top of the Pantheon's coffered, concrete dome, and is the only source of natural light in this building.  The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet.

Pope Boniface IV converted the Pantheon into a Christian church and consecrated it to Santa Maria ad Martyres.

The tomb of Raphael Sanzio, usually known by his first name alone (in Italian, Raffaello), one of the great masters of the Italian High Renaissance.  The  inscription on the tomb was written by Pietro Bembo, a brilliant intellectual of the period:  “Here lies Raphael, by whom Nature feared to be overcome while he was living, and while he was dying, [feared] herself to die.”

And as we came back outside, awed by all we'd seen, we found this stand selling the same book of Rome in, oh, at least 30 languages!  A little modern capitalism to counter all those centuries of history.  From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


“The common hill-flowers wither, but they blossom again. The laburnum will be as yellow next June as it is now. In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars. But we never get back our youth.”

Monday, June 3, 2013

Paeonia Festiva Maxima

This peony bush followed us from our old house in the city.  It is one of three varieties my husband, Lee, gave me in the Fall of 1989, the year in which my first son was born.  When we moved, we took a cutting and planted it in our new home, and it has continued to thrive beautifully.

This is a pure white double peony, with crimson flecks at the base of the center petals.  It has the most wonderful fragrance.  These are the first of the peonies to bloom every year, and when they do, we can usually get at least 30 flowers from one single bush.  It's such a treat!

The blooms are huge, much larger than my hand!

The Vera Wang vase that I received as a 10th Anniversary present from my job was perfect for these heavy blooms.  The leaded glass is sturdy enough to hold all these flowers.  Here's a link to another post about this gorgeous vase. 

For me, this is truly one of the great pleasures of summer!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Raven

Our old Dodge Caravan, affectionately known to us as Moby Dick, the great white whale, because it was huge, and, well . . . white, has finally gone to that big ocean in the sky, or wherever it is old, beat up, seriously used whales . . . er, vehicles go after they've completed their run.  Here's a farewell shot taken with my phone as I said good bye . . .

Moby Dick never carried strollers, or wheel chairs, as our previous minivan did.  Instead it carried our children through the teen years, taught them how to drive, and moved my son to college and back many times.  It took me to work for a decade and was a comfortable ride for the long commute, albeit, a mite expensive.  It also hauled a lot of construction material:  Cement board, lumber, cabinets, floor tile . . .  Its roof bore the scratches of many Christmas trees . . .  Happy memories . . .

But!  Here's my new love:  Our brand new Toyota Rav4.  It has all the bells and whistles.  My favorite new feature is power adjustable driver's seat with two settings, one for me and another one for my much taller husband . . . bliss!

Yup.  It was a thing of beauty . . . for exactly 3 days . . .  Then I took it to work, where a tow truck proceeded to take a bite out of it in the parking lot, all while I was working and minding my own business . . . Arghh!

I'm taking it to the body shop tomorrow morning to have them fix it.  Thankfully, the damage was not extensive.  (Sigh!)  I just didn't expect to have to deal with repairs so soon!

We have a tradition in our family of naming our cars after literary characters, beginning with my father's 1970 (or 71?) Chrysler Plymouth Fury III, which we called “Rocinante” because it plodded along, just like Don Quixote's horse.  From the first, The Raven seemed like the obvious choice for the new car:  Raven . . . Rav4, the words were so similar . . .  But Edgar Allan Poe's poem is so dark that I thought to wait a little longer to make sure the name fit such a pretty car . . . 

And then, almost prophetically, the accident happened.  I suddenly recalled that Poe said that the raven was meant to symbolize “mournful and never-ending remembrance.”  Clearly, this is something that I'm not likely to forget.  No matter how good a job the body shop does, and even if no one can tell that the car was hit, I'll know.  It will never be the quite the same again . . . nevermore.

The Raven it is . . . but I still just love this car!  It rides beautifully, uses less gas, and I feel hugged by the comfortable seat and smart interior.  Toyota does a great job of laying out the interior features.  I can't wait to take it on a long road trip!  This Raven is gonna fly, baby!