Monday, February 28, 2022

A Lemon Kind of Day

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade . . .

Or set a pretty table to enjoy your new Citrus Salad Plates from Williams-Sonoma . . .

And some of your other favorite lemony things.

Like the lemon embroidered napkins that a friend gave you . . .

To go with the little lemon bowls that she found, I think, at Pier1 a while back.

These plates are so fresh looking, my mouth is puckering just thinking about lemons!

But, what can you make besides lemonade with this wonderful fruit?

Well, Crab Cakes, with a Remoulade Sauce and a squirt of lemon juice might be the very thing . . .

Followed by some Lemon Vegetable Rice . . .

And ending with Lemon Mousse.  I took the Silver Palate recipe for Lime Mousse and simply replaced limes with lemons.  Here's the recipe posted a while back:  Lime Mousse.  It was sublime!

Despite all the lemons, the taste was subtle in each of the dishes and left us feeling refreshed.  And now, I wish I had seen this quote before I started:  "When life gives you lemons, it's time to do Tequila Shots."  (Or Lemon Meringue Pie, or Lemon Squares, or . . . ).

Monday, February 14, 2022

Valentine's Day Dinner for Two

Sometimes, when I'm not feeling inspired, I rely on the flowers to speak to me.  This year my husband came home with a couple of mixed bundles that were so beautiful and looked so fresh, especially the mini-carnations, that I just knew this would be the starting point.

The whorls continued with the ruffles in these soft pink napkins.  They really did remind me of the pedals of a flower.  

I pulled out the lace placemats from Horchow, which I've had for a while.  I first used them here when my husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  Unfortunately, they are no longer available.  The flatware is Jefferson by Reed and Barton, for Monticello.  I've also had it for a while, and have used them here and here, among many other tables.  I love the gentle heart-shaped curve of the handle, perfect for the day of Love!

The goblet and wine glasses are part of my wedding crystal collection — Chartres, by Atlantis.  After all these years I still love them!

The rose gold chargers were a lovely complement to the pink . . . 

So, I decided to pull out the copper tube napkin rings . . .

And the copper hobnail votive holders.

The salad plates are part of the Williams-Sonoma Citrus Salad Plates.  This one is supposed to represent a pink grapefruit.  The set of four comes with a lime, lemon, orange, and grapefruit plate.  It seemed to go so well with the copper that they just fell into place.

And, voilà the table is set!

Time to start thinking about the food, my least favorite part.

To start, a Grapefruit Avocado Salad on a bed of Romaine, with Goat Cheese Crumbles, and a simple vinaigrette with Dijon mustard.  I should call this the Costco salad since all the ingredients were picked up there.  The grapefruits may be the sweetest and juiciest I've ever had, so if you live near Costco, run and pick up a bag!  

The salad was followed by Pan-fried Garlic Shrimp, served with Quinoa Fiesta — a quinoa salad with corn, red bell pepper, jalapeño, scallions, dressed with lemon and olive oil.  

The dinner was delicious and it left us filling satisfied, but not stuffed so that then we could indulge in some sinful desserts!

Dark-chocolate covered strawberries . . .

My vanilla custard (Natilla), decorated with a powdered cinnamon heart in the center.  This is one of my husband's favorite desserts.  Actually, my entire family loves it.  I make it all the time, so to dress it up and make it seem special, I created my own stencil in the computer, cut it out, and used it to create the heart.  

The sugar cookies came from our supermarket, but balanced out the plate, and my husband loves cookies!

And once dinner was finished, the flowers remained, to delight and make me feel loved.

Friday, February 4, 2022

My little heart sachets are a delight. I scatter them through drawers to keep them fresh with their lavender scent. They are fun to spot as I rifle through drawers, and then, once a year, I gather them in a pretty basket and display them on my dresser.

To line the basket, I used my wedding handkerchief, handmade in Cuba and brought to me by my beloved godmother, Mamá Lala.

The sachets have been collected through countless years; some are gifts, others I found in unexpected places.

Here's the basket from a few years ago, in which I used a different handkerchief to line the basket.
Love is in the air.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

2022 Lunar New Year - Dinner for 2

A humble nod to Chinese culture to welcome the Lunar New Year!  Inspiration was sought everywhere.  I learned a lot by putting together this table, mostly that my inventory of Asian dishes is sadly lacking.  Still, it was fun to discover so many new things about Chinese traditions.

In traditional Chinese culture red symbolizes good luck and wealth.  So, out came napkins, ramekins and water goblets.

The dragonfly is a symbol of prosperity, good luck and harmony.  The Kim Seybert napkin rings are still a favorite, and seemed to work well with the red napkins.

My mother bought me this trinket box back in the 70s, in a Chinese import store on Clark Street, in Chicago.  I still remember vividly that shopping expedition with her, and the discovery of the little box in the midst of fans, slippers, silk purses, and a myriad other tchotchkes.  It was intended to hold my fortune-telling cards, however, it turned out to be a tad too small for them.  I still love the little box with the flying swallows, and it usually lives in my dresser, where I keep my special treasures.  I remembered it today, as I was running around trying to find Asian things for the table, and although it served no purpose whatsoever, I set it on the table to look at because it makes me smile and reminds me of my mom.

A few years ago, the owner of the nail spa I frequent, gave me this envelope as a token of appreciation and to wish me luck on the Year of the Rooster.  Apparently, despite its peculiar appearance, it's legal tender.  The search for inspiration continues.

The mandarin orange is an important symbol of the Chinese New Year.  The small, round fruit looks like the sun, and is a symbol of abundance and happiness.  Mandarins should come with stems and a few leaves, which is part of the symbolism and denotes freshness.  They are frequently given as gifts during this period to wish the recipient a long life and fertility.

I placed the mandarins in a Blue Calico plate.  The plate was manufactured in the pottery district in England, however, the cherry blossom pattern is evocative of Asia, where the flowers grow in abundance.

I just learned today that in a traditional Chinese table, you are not supposed to place a knife.  Supposedly it's bad luck to cut your noodles.  Imagine my chagrin when the noodles in my takeout Pad Thai came already cut!  This restaurant is not following the rules!

So, the menu consisted of Char Siu (Cantonese BBQ Pork), which I made myself, Chicken Pad Thai, Shrimp Dumplings, Egg Rolls, and Steamed White Rice.  

Then, to finish the meal, we shared almond and fortune cookies, and those delicious mandarins.  Oolong tea was served in my little red ramekins.

Happy Year of the Tiger!

Gold Chargers - Marshall Field's many years ago
Black Dinner Plates - The Dollar Tree, many years ago
Red Water Goblets - HomeGoods
Red Ramekins - Emile Henry, available through their site or Amazon
Napkin Rings - Kim Seybert
Fork - Treble Clef, by Gourmet Settings

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Our amaryllis is blooming! Isn’t it lovely?

We (er, Lee) planted it just after Thanksgiving and today it finally decided to show us its colors.

What a wonderful surprise when we are in the middle of blah winter weather!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Three Kings Day in the time of COVID-19

We were supposed to hold our used-to-be-annual Three Kings Day Open House this coming Sunday, January 9th.  We usually celebrate it on the Sunday closest to the 6th of January, however, since this year that would have fallen on January 2nd, we felt it was too close to New Year's, and people might need a few days to recover.  Well, it became a moot point anyway since the Omicron variant is currently running rampant in our country.  COVID cases are on the rise once again, and it's just too risky to entertain a large gathering under the circumstances.

Today also marks the one-year anniversary of the assault on our Capitol, and in the ensuing year, we have learned a great deal more about the insurrection, with sadly more revelations to come.  We came very close to losing our democracy that day.

And yet, when I begin to despair, I'm reminded of the light of God, and the goodness that still exists in the world, and the ability of some people to simply cheer us up.  My friend, Patti, gave me these beautiful ornaments for our tree.  She knows how I've always celebrated Epiphany, and how much I love the Kings.

We may not be able to celebrate together this year the arrival of the Magi, but we feel their spirit and their message of love.  There's always enlightenment.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New 2022

 A new year "Good Luck dinner, because if we ever needed some good luck, now is the time!  So, I amped my chances with the Three Johns:  Hoppin' John, Jalapeño Johnny Cake, and my son, John, who is visiting and was our First Footer this year.

May the pandemic subside, may our political leaders return to sanity.  Health, wealth and happiness to all my friends and family!