Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Treats

So maybe I did go a smidgen overboard with the desserts this weekend. Maybe chocolate chip cookies, a rum cake and Cuban vanilla custard were a bit over the top, considering all the Halloween candy floating around the house . . .

But I had all this caffeine in my system and felt like the "Energizer" bunny. Or maybe I was just happy with the special Halloween treat cluttering my kitchen table.

He says he came back for "Halloween Soup" - just good ol' chicken noodle soup made from scratch, a tradition at our house since the kids were little.

Trick-or-Treaters: We are ready for you now!

Friday, October 30, 2009

25 Years Ago Today

This photo was taken on October 30th, 1984. A couple of gypsies, a little girl, and Al Capone's henchman were headed for a Halloween party.

Silly, but, ah . . . we were young . . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oatmeal weather

Actually, it's always oatmeal weather for me. Here's how I prepare it:

Basic Ingredients:
½ C. steel cut oats
2 C. water
2 tsps. extra virgin coconut oil
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
¼ C. raisins
1 T. raw honey

1 T. wheat germ
1 T. ground flax seeds

Bring water to a boil in a non-stick saucepan. Add all ingredients except for the honey and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook on very low heat, stirring occasionally, for approximately 30 minutes. The oats should be creamy but still chewy. Add optional ingredients after removing from heat. I'm told this preserves the nutrients from being destroyed by the heat. Drizzle honey on top just before serving. Yields 2 bowls and a contented tummy.

This is one of three methods I use for cooking oats. During the week, I make it in a slow cooker and wake up pretending that my own personal chef got an early start and made this treat just for me. It's not so hard to pretend, really, what with steam rising from the pot and the kitchen smelling of cinnamon and freshly brewed coffee. I also make it with rolled oats when I'm in a hurry, but the recipe above yields the creamiest porridge, so I make it on Sundays, and then I have enough left over to start Mondays right. The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple goodness of oatmeal. Goldilocks and the Three Bears had the right idea.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Best Seasonal Decoration!

Interior designers who wax lyrical over displays of fresh fruit are on to something.

Is there really anything simpler and more beautiful? The only inconvenience is having to keep replenishing the bowl because these Honey Crisp apples are so delicious they just don't seem to stick around very long . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bathtub update

We tested the new whirlpool tub for leaks before installing it in the bathroom.

The apron in the front of the tub actually pops out for maintenance - a nice feature should something ever go wrong with the motor.
No leaks! And look at those gorgeous bubbles! Ahh . . . progress . . .

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apple-loving season is here!

Another wonderful euphemism for our current season (Thank you, Angela!). The upside is being able to enjoy apples in a myriad ways.

Here is my favorite apple concoction: Apple-oosh - that's what our kids used to call it when they were little. It's just so delicious, especially made at home and drunk immediately after pressing!

This appliance takes up a great deal of precious counter space. It's big and weighs a ton, but if I put it away, I know it'll never get used, so it sits on my counter year-round, ready for me to go into my juice-making mode, which happens quite a bit, actually.

Naturally, we get a lot of use out of it during apple season.
A nice restorative for my hard working husband . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Bride's Trousseau

Imagine a chocolate truffle made from the most exquisite dark chocolate, with a cream filling lavishly flavored with Grand Marnier. The truffle is small, but it's so rich and the flavors are so complex that you only need one. You can't eat it quickly, you take a small bite, let the flavors reach every single taste bud on your tongue, then with an already impending sense of loss, you pop the rest of the truffle in your mouth. You close your eyes, and you breathe slowly, still savoring the treat while thinking that, surely, this must be what the ancient Greek gods called ambrosia. (Sigh!)

I tasted ambrosia today. Twice. First, a co-worker shared a box of chocolates that she just brought back from France. Then tonight I finished reading a wonderful book that also had to be savored slowly, was full of complexity, and was immensely satisfying. It was liquid prose. I wish I had read it before our trip to Rome last year.

I don't know if the book is available in English, and, if it is, I can only hope that the translation does justice to the language. The author, Víctor F. Freixanes, is an authority on romance languages, and has a doctorate in Galician language and literature. Galicia is a region in Spain, and, much like Cataluña, where Barcelona sits, has its own language and culture. He wrote the book in Galician, but I read the Spanish translation. His style was modern, yet timeless. The sentences were short, but the vocabulary was devoid of slang or contemporary terminology. It's a true testament to the purity and simplicity of the language, that I was able to read it without a dictionary by my side.

The story, an allegory of the battle between good and evil, is set in the Italian Renaissance during the controversial pontificate of Alexander VI. It revolves around the ruthless political machinations of Cesare Borgia, the pope's son, and the wedding of the pope's daughter, Lucrezia Borgia to Alfonso d'Este. It is an interesting study of the manners and customs of the time, and there's a very Spanish spiritual sensitivity running through the fabric of the book, which seems somehow appropriate, considering that the Borgias actually came from Spain. Reading it evoked memories of the grandeur I glimpsed during our visit to Rome. Just for a little bit, I wish I could travel back in time to witness this wedding celebration.

The flavor of ambrosia lingers. I have no desire to read anything else for a while. Michael Connelly's "9 Dragons" is going to have to wait until my palate is cleansed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun

Give me the splendid silent sun with all its beams full-dazzling,
Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,
Give me a field where the unmowed grass grows,
Give me an arbor, give me the trellised grape,
Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving animals
teaching content.
Give me nights perfectly quiet as on high plateaus west of the
Mississippi, and I am looking up at the stars,
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I
can walk undisturbed.
— Walt Whitman
I love quiet time when you can hear yourself think. Modern life is so frantic; we just don’t take enough undisturbed walks. Emerson has a quote I love: “Hospitality: a little fire, a little food, and an immense quiet.” Here's wishing you some quiet time.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creepy and Spooky

Creepy and Spooky perch themselves on the fireplace mantle every October, and, when not busy quarreling with each other, they share snippy gossip about the goings on in this household. Creepy thinks that the lady of the house could use a little help with her hair color, it's just too ordinary, for goodness sake! And, who does she think she's fooling with those highlights? She may as well go for something bold, something more purplish!

Spooky, meanwhile, just grins ear-to-ear whenever the husband walks by, shaking his head and muttering about bathtubs. He's so happy that he just gets to sit and enjoy the view and not have to worry about home remodeling!

And then there are the two sons, but one is away at college and the second one is hardly ever about, what with school and work . . . There sure was a lot more action around here when they were younger . . .

Of course, there was a little excitement last week when some mice tried to take up residence for the winter. The family was not amused by their audacity and promptly put a stop to their nocturnal wonderings. John, Paul, Ringo and George had no finesse and they quickly fell into the trap one by one.

Ahh . . . There goes the husband again . . . Still grumbling about that bathtub . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fiona is here!

This little witch comes by every October and flutters around our chandelier throughout the month.

We love it when she visits because she comes bearing apples and brings her very own broom!

Fiona believes pearls are always appropriate and is never seen without them. She's considered cosmetic surgery, what woman hasn't, but in the end she is happy with who she is and firmly believes her charming personality, and her knack for knowing when it's time to go, make her a delightful companion and a sought-after houseguest. We happen to agree.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

That wretched tub!

Here is Leo after opening up the ceiling in the kitchen, trying to figure out how in the world he's going to install the motor for the new whirlpool tub in the upstairs bathroom. Why is nothing ever simple when remodeling . . . ?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What a modern woman wants most . . .

. . . right after world peace, the safety and happiness of her children, thick, luxurious hair, and nail polish that doesn't chip is . . . OUTLETS! And, not only outlets, but desk level outlets that are easy to reach, to plug in the myriad rechargeable electronics that have become essential to our lives.
And I generously insisted that Lee put in another four by his desk.
This is the third and final project in our home office for the time being. No painting for now, we need to go back and focus on the bathroom project now that the tub has arrived.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My sister's hankie

This one was given to me by my sister, Carely, shortly before I left Cuba as a little token by which to remember her. My super cool, modern sister, who wore slacks, drove a Harley twice her size, played the guitar and knew all about American music gave me the coolest handkerchief I had ever seen - a black gingham hankie with a purple border, quite unusual, but a hankie nonetheless. It's always been one of my favorites.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Closet Revival

O.K. This is a work in progress so you'll need to use your imagination. This is one of the two closets found in the room which Lee and I share as an office on the 2nd floor of our home. This weekend, we took down the old shelf and rods and replaced them with vinyl-clad shelves.

This has now become . . . my photo closet!!!!! Yay! Up until now, I've been storing photos in the basement. Yes, two floors down from the room in which I blog and photoshop, not to mention that the humidity wasn't good for the photos. But we never seemed to get around to tackling the office - until this past weekend, when all of a sudden I couldn't stand the mess any longer. No more photos waiting for a trip to the basement to be put away in its proper box! No more albums piled on the floor for lack of a proper storage place! And no more cobwebs or dust bunnies building up around the stacks of photo albums and boxes!

The door of the closet will go back up this weekend, after I finish bringing up all the albums. We haven't painted the closet yet, or the room for that matter. There are still several additional "improvements" that I'd like to see before we paint (sorry, darling, brace yourself!).
Lee did tackle one more project in this room this past weekend but it's not quite finished yet. I'll let you know soon . . .

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A disappointing read

What is there to say? I already knew that Dan Brown was not a good writer. He has a talent for developing a plot, I'll give him that, but reading his books is like eating fast food - it seems pretty good in the moment but leaves you feeling icky and guilty afterwards. I read it anyway. Oh, well, maybe the movie will be better . . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5, 1969 - Arrival in New York

These photos were taken upon our arrival at La Guardia Airport. For the first two years of our lives in the U.S. we lived in New York City.

Here is a photo of my father, still very tanned from working in the forced labor program imposed by the communist regime upon all those who were waiting for their exit visa to be approved. We waited three years for our visa. In front of him is my brother, Al, who was 9-years-old at the time. The lady on the right is my aunt Rosa.

Here I am getting my cheeks patted by an older cousin.

The blue skirt and cardigan were knitted by my Aunt Lala, who worked incessantly to finish them before we had to leave. The coat was a donation from the Catholic Charities who were on hand in Miami to give us a bit of help. All of the people in this photo, background and foreground are paternal relatives.

Here is my mother drinking a bit of the bubbly that was popped open when we arrived at my Uncle Sergio's home.

And here I am, tasting champagne for the first time. I was only 11 at the time, but it seemed like the occasion called for it. I liked it just fine!

Well, we had finally arrived. Our adventures in the U.S. were about to begin.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bathroom remodeling by way of the office

Progress on the bathroom is slow for now. We ordered a new whirlpool tub and have to wait until that's in before anything else can be done in the bathroom. The wait has given us a chance to bring boxes from work to fill with debris so it can be hauled away by the garbage truck.

In the meantime, we tackled a few projects to make our bedroom-turned office space more efficient. The first problem was the extremely poor lighting in the room. We had been getting by with a mish mosh of lamps that should have been thrown out long ago, but, in addition to being ugly, they were just simply not doing the job. It was difficult working in the office at night - and let's not forget that our eyes aren't what they used to be . . .

Here is the new wonderful track lighting system that my husband installed today, selflessly braving the creepy crawl space filled with dust, insulation and spiders.

I really have to brag about my husband. He managed to install the lights by opening a single, tiny hole in the ceiling, which is now covered by the brackets. I was prepared for a ceiling that looked like Swiss cheese, and that would need to be re-plastered. Instead, the ceiling looks as pristine as it was this morning before he started - only way, way better!

Now the only question I ask myself is: “What was I thinking when I bought that hideous lamp by the window?”

That wasn't the only problem we solved in this room this weekend . . . Stay tuned for . . . “The Closet Revival!”