Saturday, May 2, 2015

"The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home." ~ Stephen F. Foster


Today finds us scurrying around, preparing for our annual Kentucky Derby party. A number of years ago we decided that we wanted to throw an annual party, but we wanted to steer away from traditional holiday ones, and do something a bit different. Hence - The Kentucky Derby! We have had a lot fun with it over the years. Early on, elaborate (and funny) hats were the norm. These days, most folks forgo them, and today I will as well. And yes, we do sing "My Old Kentucky Home"!

Last year, when we purchased our Florida condo, we acquired some additional Derby party decorations. The condo came furnished (99% of which we did not keep). Along with the furnishings, several metal pieces were left behind, including the vase above (I think it's a vase, and it will have flowers in it later today) and the horse head statue below. The vase weighs about a thousand pounds - heaven only knows what it's made from. The horse-head is made of metal and wood. Much of the metal is rusted. It's huge!

The last couple of years have shown us that things change. Kids move away, parents downsize, we buy a condo and begin the plans to downsize ourselves. We have therefore decided that this Derby party will be our last. We would like to think that down the road we would stay a bit later in Florida, like possibly past the Kentucky Derby later. We don't know when that will happen, but it will.

We will have plenty of opportunity to gather with our friends, just not this party. I will have a supply of Kentucky Derby decorations if someone else would like to carry on the tradition! It's all good!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Es en torno a una mesa que los amigos comprenden mejor la calidez de estar juntos." ~ It is around the table that friends understand best the warmth of being together.

One of the lovely things about being home is finding myself back in the fold of my longtime friends. I have reconnected with my knitting group; I am having lunch today with my birthday gals; will meet with my book group this evening, and met recently with BITE, our small cooking group. This all makes it sound as though all I do is float from group to group, which really isn't the case. With the exception of knitting, which meets weekly, everything else gathers once a month. Things just happened to fall all at the same time this month!

BITE does not meet during the winter months as Chris and I are south, while Ellen and Tierney are north. We are always eager to get back together once we hit the same neck of the woods. For our first gathering in 2015, Chris chose Tapas as our theme. Small bites! By the time we had finished our evening, we were in agreement that we could eat like this all the time. Small bites of various things, enjoyed with a glass of sangria. We actually never even made it to the beautifully set table. We just pulled chairs up to the counter where each offering had been placed!

To begin with Ellen brought Patatas Bravas, a bar dish made with roasted potatoes topped with a delicious sauce. Having had these herself in Spain, she felt that this would be a wonderful opening act, and it was. The potatoes were perfectly done, and the sauce had just enough zippiness to have us scooping up more.

Crisp Sangria whet our whistles as we moved on to Tierney's contributions of Fresh Veggie Rolls with Peanut/Ginger Sauce, and Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad. Both were wonderfully delicious, even though fennel could not be found locally at all. I imagine that it would be a wonderful layer to these bright flavors. Both dishes were fabulous and fresh. The sauces this evening were stars themselves, from Tierney's, to the ones accompanying Chris's dishes further below.

Chris used bacon (both regular and turkey) as the wraps for her two different tapas. First up were Bacon Wrapped Scallops, salty, fishy, wonderful! Next she served Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, which were sweet, salty and crispy - all delicious! With these she served Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce, Thai Style, just the right combination of heat and sweet!

Last up, with dessert, I tried something completely different. Thinking that any dessert could be served up as a "small bite", I decided to try my hand at making ice-cream. I like ice-cream, but do not crave it the way I know some people do. Having recently acquired the ice-cream making attachment for my mixer however, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity. I hunted for a recipe that had Spanish flavors and found Rosemary, Olive Oil and Pine Honey Ice-cream. Wow! While the recipe called for Spanish olive oil and pine honey, I used what I had in my cupboards. I'm sorry that I did not get photos of the process, which was visually interesting. The rosemary stems were simmered in the custard and then discarded, but the rosemary flavor ended up being very, very strong. As did the honey. As did the olive oil. This was a very flavorful dish and happily, we all enjoyed it very much. The recipe called for Fleur de Sel to be sprinkled on top, and this salty addition was amazing!

We chatted away the evening, catching up on each others lives over the winter and talking about upcoming plans. Wonderful conversation with wonderful friends. I am leaving you with an article that surfaced this week in the New York Times. Our cooking group is only 3 and a half years old (I think), and we don't have nearly the bylaws that the highlighted organization does, but it's fun to read about other groups, and to see how some of them have stood the test of time and are going strong!

                     The Thursday Afternoon Cooking Club, 124 years Old and Counting.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?" ~ Marie Kondo, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

One day when Bruce and I first started dating, I drove up the long, winding drive to his house and found him in the garage, on hands and knees, scrubbing the garage floor with a toothbrush. True story, retold many times, so I know that I am not "calling him out" here. This is the man who would dry out the kitchen sink after he had finished using it. Dry it out! No offense to any of you who share similar cleaning practices - they have never been, and never will be - mine.

I am more of the "shove in the drawer and hope to find it later" kind. That is true too. No "coming clean". People who know me deep down know that this is the truth. So - all of these years later - where are we? I would have to say that for the most part we have done what I would hope most would do - we have each migrated toward the middle. Bruce is still by far the tidier of our two, but I haven't found him on hands and knees, scrubbing the garage floor in a couple of decades. I don't know if it's the "getting back up" part that has curbed this practice, or the mellowing of time. He is much more easy-going about the things that I cast aside till "later". I suspect it still bothers him, but not enough to make an issue of it.

I, on the other hand, have gotten better about putting things away. Bruce may be rolling his eyes as he reads this, but if he thinks back to earlier days, he knows that I'm right. In fact, I have found that I am much, much happier when there is a certain order to things. Not "anal order", but "calming order". There is a difference!

I recently came across some "testimonials" from those who have read, and followed through with the lessons, found in the life-changing art of tidying up, by Marie Kondo. 

"Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?"

The life-changing art of tidying up, promises to help you bring order to your life, with no "rebounding". One should be able to get rid of all of the things that don't bring you joy, narrowing your clutter down to but a few precious, meaningful things.  Yeah, but......

With the exception of the shelves that I bought for my studio a few years back, I think that the newest piece of furniture that we own is a sofa purchased 14 years ago when we moved into our house. However,  I will readily admit that I like my "stuff". I love all of the things in my studio - each button, glue stick, skein of yarn, bead, you name it, I love it. I also love all of the family things that litter our shelves and table-tops. How could I rid myself of those things? I couldn't. But - I know that there is much under our roof that could go, and I know I'd be happier with it gone. Helping my parents downsize recently, and living in a one-bedroom condo over the winter have both helped to solidify this feeling.

So, yesterday I began with my closet, and I read the first few pages of the book. I'm not promising miracles, but I do know that the time for "downsizing" has been upon us for some time now. I will keep you posted!