Tuesday, July 28, 2009

berry disappointing

When I arose today, I declared that today would be a good day for wild blueberry-picking. Sometimes I declare stuff for no discernible reason. But today's declaration had reason enough.

Last year at this time, Friend #12 and I high-tailed it to the Adirondacks and harvested buckets of blue from the side of the road and from one extremely perfect forest grove we happened upon. This year, I ventured forth solo as everyone at our old stone home was hard at work.

Some people work for a living. I get to play. That's what my dear family says when I stay home to clean, cook, fold laundry, and play online scrabble.

Whoops. I let my slip show.

Blue-berrying is hard work. Really. No one believes me about this and also about many other things. Like practicing opera, for example.

At any rate, in one sweet hour I was at the edge of the mountains, spying the sides of the highway for short scrubby bushes bearing little azure jewels.

I was sorely disappointed. It seems that blueberry season is at least a week behind, owing to our rainy and unseasonably chilly summer season. I prowled around like a bear for a good while, scavenging a few quarts, before I gave up and tried a different tack.

I left my bucket behind and stepped into the woods to explore.

Within minutes, I spied blue, but not the kind of blue one might expect.
I can sniff out a body of water like a bloodhound.

Who needs wild blueberries to be completely happy?

The forest floor was replete with other colorful things, probably not for eating. But I enjoyed them anyway.

Back at home. a few precious cups of blueberries were tossed into a recipe for Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins with streusel topping. Please don't ask me for the recipe. It left my head as soon as the muffins went into the oven. And since at least three of those scrumptious delights went into my stomach, I can't think straight about much, anyway.

If I roll out of bed in the next two weeks with a new declaration about berry-picking, you will know about it. I rarely can resist posting pictures of my haul on this here blog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

the wedding gown

I could have been overcome with the ironies of life today. Instead, I chose to focus on what a pretty bride this young lady made, fifty years ago this year.

This is my mom on her wedding day. She was twenty-two in 1959.
I was negative three years old, if there is such a thing.

I don't know what kind of flowers she is holding. Freesia? A quick phone call to her would settle it. I do see eucalyptus in there. How classy!

Let's face it. Every grown woman wants to pronounce her mom "classy" at the slightest provocation. Every grown woman wants to pronounce her mom "pretty" in the bloom of her youth, too.

Luckily for me, neither statement is a stretch. Can we say amen?

For a number of years, her wedding gown resided in the back of my closet. After our family's move in June, amidst roomfuls of boxes, I asked her what I should do with it.

After all, the detail is lovely. Beads, applique, lace. The whole wedding gown package.

Then there is the whole "sentimental value" concept. Which looms.

After consulting her twice and getting the same response ("Sell it in your yard sale! Get five dollars for it! Let some little girls play with it!), I reluctantly brought it into the garage yesterday and hung it from a nail on a rafter. I fluffed the skirt a bit, stood back, stifled my visceral emotions, and said, "We are gonna sell this old thing."

People, it was a hard thing to say, I'll tell you.

After I had hardened my heart to do such an unfeeling act, I spotted the edge of a golden scalloped frame peeping out from a random box, directly behind the hanging dress.

Could it be? I squinted. Yes.

With a shiver, I rummaged back there a bit and pulled out this framed photograph:

Life is fraught with irony sometimes.

-like when you are conflicted about selling your mother's wedding dress at a yard sale because general opinion and your own conscience would agree what a TACKY and unfeeling thing this would be to do,
and all you can think about is how she raised you and your two younger brothers ALONE after her husband died so young and so very tragically, and also how when she wore this dress her life was brimming with promise and possibility and now it is fifty years TO THE SEASON that these things transpired AND DOES ANYBODY HAVE A HEART WHERE THESE THINGS ARE CONCERNED?

All morning and all afternoon, my mother's wedding gown graced our garage with its 1950's yellowed ivory lace and the golden scalloped frame with a technicolor photograph. And not one offer was made; not even from a few moms with young girls in tow who would love to play dress-up with such a perfect princess-dress.

I am certain therefore, and hereby proclaim that henceforth and for ever more there shall be room for a large dress-box in the storage area of the garage attic.

And mom? Are you there? I know you read my blog.
You are welcome to come over and play dress-up with it anytime you want.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The 1843 House

The entertaining has begun here at the new/old house!

Last Sunday, we had a summer dinner on the porch with two young friends that I know from the college. I mentioned to them that they were the first "dinner company" we had since our move.

(Of course, the week before we hosted 25 people for dessert, but that was really a good-bye party, not a dinner party.)

We never thought to get the camera out for that historic event. Oh well.

The following Saturday, I played with two kids my own age. Friends #88b and #32 came over for breakfast. We had bagels, fruit salad, and some pretty amazing coffee. It doesn't get much better than that, I tell you.

Last evening, we hosted a dinner for some new friends. A young lady who happens to be outrageously pretty prepared a great meal. She had an assistant in the kitchen who rivaled her prettiness, if that is even possible. Together, they hit a home run with their culinary prowess.

My tiny, dark, and poorly designed kitchen makes prep and clean up oh-so-fun, too. And we have a mouse in the pantry. We shall overcome! -and continue to mix food and friends to our heart's delight.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Because I needed a change of scenery.
Because Hubby acquired a red convertible.
Because it is only a 90 minute drive.
Because we both needed a day away from the noise & dust of construction in our front yard- not to mention the pressure of the impending deadlines of our latest remodeling project....

-For all these reasons and oh so many more, we took off for a day last week and went to Ottawa.

If you are interested in the historic gristmills we visited along the way, see here. If you would rather pick up where we entered the secret gardens, stay right with me.

By the way, these gardens aren't really any secret. And entrance is free. With us, free works really well.
As a matter of fact, free is truly up our alley. It leaves us more pocket money for coffee & donuts at Tim Horton's.

"Honey, you you build me one of these?"

These pictures don't do justice to the things one can see there. I suggest you go there yourself!

Finally, after an afternoon of happily wandering off the trail, we arrived in downtown Ottawa. I like this shot of Hubby. He really enjoyed viewing tall buildings without the hindrance of a car roof.

Are "Oh Canada" cookies the new food-thing here? Well, okay- but they will never take the place of a Beaver Tail in my heart.

I would have eaten a Beaver Tail, but I didn't want to spoil my dinner. (Also, I already had consumed a doughnut from Tim Horton's.)

Most tourists would take a picture of the Parliament buildings, but not me. No, I take a picture of the reflection of the Parliament buildings and call it "art".

We visited a gallery and were inspired by some real art. We met the artist; an energetic and friendly lady who talked to us about her work. We really connected in the area of art and music. When my husband told her I was a classical pianist, her eyes lit up. All she wanted to know was this: "The Goldberg Variations. Angela Hewitt or Glen Gould?"

"Glen Gould, OF COURSE!"

We were fast friends from that moment onward until the time when we left her gallery without buying anything.

Any day I meet an artist is a good day.

Our tummies brought us to a Vietnamese restaurant with a "Ottawa Cheap Eats 2009" sign on the window. Well, if you can't eat free, cheap is the next best option.

We had curried beef, lemon grass chicken, two kinds of spring rolls, and a delicious chili-peanut dipping sauce. Green tea accompanied all this yum.

Thank you for vicariously sharing this relaxing day-trip with me. If anyone would like to duplicate this experience by driving to Ottawa themselves, please count me in. A helpful tour guide is of great assistance, and besides, there are a few more doughnut flavors I would like to try.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

our front porch

Our front porch has
-two turquoise tables
-some cast-off chairs (non-matching) painted vibrant yellow
-three hanging baskets of flowers
-a view of the town dock, the Madrid falls, the river,
a pair of blue herons, kids that fish and swim
-laughing people of various ages
-coffee and dessert, if you are lucky
-two candles
-a mosquito or two
-a front door that everyone seems leave swinging wide open
-constant commentary on everyone who walks by.

Come on down anytime!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Amish jokes

I approached the wooden side porch with a twinge of trepidation. After all, I was on Amish property in an Amish neighborhood to buy their cherries, and I drove a red PT there, not a black buggy. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, not a dark blue bonnet and a full-length black dress fastened with pins.

Two men sat in wooden chairs. The king of the domain, a robust Amish man with a beard, held a lined notebook in his work-worn hands. With a fat pencil, he checked off my order for sour cherries. I asked him meekly what I owed him and he looked me over with narrowing eyes.

"Where do you get you shoes repaired?" he said matter-of-factly in clipped English.

"Um. Excuse me?" I stuttered politely. I shifted my weight from left to right nervously.

"WHERE do you get your shoes repaired?" he again inquired. I thought I detected a twinkle begind his bushy eyebrows.

"Uhhh....the shoe makers?"

"No!" he roared, gesturing to the sole of his leather shoe. "Where the seam is coming apart!"
Together, the two men shared a merry look and then grew serious once again.

"How is your English? Good?"

"Ye-e-sss...." I ventured, knowing another joke was on its way.

"Well, then. Is it 'the yolk of an egg IS white" or 'the yolk of an egg ARE white' ? "

I pride myself in my command of English grammar, which is what blinded me in taking the bait.
"It's 'the yolk of an egg IS white!" I stated emphatically.

"No!" roared again. The yolk of an egg is YELLOW!"

This obvious proclamation was followed by hearty chuckles and plenty of good-natured shrugging of shoulders between themselves.

Fifty pounds of sour cherries and two jokes for 35 bucks. Not a bad deal.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

things you need to know

Did you know?

-that garlic bread can be grilled instead of baked?
We (6 people) inhaled some (2 entire loaves) last night with dinner. Before the dishes were even dry, grazing cattle were nosing around the kitchen looking for more. They were sorely disappointed. The dish-washing crew scavenged the last crumbs for themselves.

-that one can kayak on both sides of the falls here in Madrid?
I put in at the public dock (above the falls) regularly, but yesterday I ventured down the steep bank behind my house (below the falls), kayak in tow. I set my craft in among cattails and took off like a shot, seeing that the current is rather swift there. Don't worry- if the rapids get too bumpy, I can always get out and stand up. It's only a foot deep in most places.

-that we are going to have ONE KICKIN' garage sale next Saturday? 9 am -2 pm.
It's true. Furniture, framed art, carpets, books, lamps, quilts, household goods of all kinds; you name it. Please come and peruse our stuff. Do not leave empty-handed, I beg of you.

-that I love traveling overseas? This will be my second summer without using my passport and I don't like that. I used my passport recently in order to get something notarized, but that doesn't count.

-that we have a secret tunnel in our cellar?
Word on the street is that it was used for the Underground Railroad, but I am skeptical. I am willing to be proven wrong, though. If anyone wants to volunteer to crawl through the darkest parts of our basement to find it, be my guest.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The other evening, I needed a quick marinade for chicken. Necessity being the mother of invention, I used what I had on hand and prayed for success as I threw things into the bowl.

A few nights later, we had chicken again (no one ever complains about too much chicken on the grill!) and I tried the same marinade once again with amazing results. Before I forget it, I better write it down. I can imagine it would compliment pork, too.

Asian Lime Marinade

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (approx. 2 limes)
4 T soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil ( if you have sesame oil, even better!)
3 T white wine vinegar
a shake of hot pepper flakes
salt & pepper

Combine and pour over chicken (enough for 4 lbs). Marinate for a few hours before grilling, if you have that kind of time!

I humbly submit this recipe to make up for last week's post, "All Gross Food". I cannot resist throwing in this suggestion for a side dish, though: "Barbequed Jell-o Squares".

No! Don't do it. I beg of you.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

a girl and her cake

Let me tell you a tale of a girl and her cake.

In order to throw a patriotic spin on the 4th of July, I requested that she make a Flag Cake.
"What is that?" she asked.

And I gave her the answer that every home-schooling mom gives to an inquiring child:

"Google it."

So she did, and went straight to business without further instruction.
Mothers: teach your children how to read and they will never bother you again.

After the cake cooled, she brought the decorating ingredients out onto the front porch so no one would interfere with her artistic pursuit of happiness.

Of course, I stood over her with a camera. But she grooved that cake just fine. Very fine, I tell you.

The chef gives it two thumbs up!
Flag Cakes rule the earth.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

scolarly pursuits

My good friend, Timotheus the Unique, had a scholarly hand in this amazing project.

I have very cool friends.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

all gross food

I received a package last week from my sister. She had mailed me a cookbook which she snapped up at a yard sale. Price: fifty cents.

"The American Woman's Cook Book " was first published in 1938 when women all across the fruited plains wore aprons all day long. Sometimes I yearn for those days, since I am definitely an apron kind of girl.

I also love, love, love reading old cookbooks. The food they ate back then! The many parts of a cow, sheep, and chicken which we can't imagine had culinary value: liver, tongue, gizzard, neck, tail, and sweet bread!

What is sweet bread? Well goodness, anything SWEET must be good. Maybe not.

Before the recipes even begin however, the author urges the reader to "strike up a warm acquaintance with your oven and its special temperament." -like the oven is an animate creature.

I love that.

"Time and your oven await the occasion and the man." I love that, too. Notice how the two terms are intertwined, as in the occasion IS the man.

Now, don't get all get-up on me. I am at this very moment in time awaiting an occasion and a man, and I don't mind admitting it in the least. Back in 1938, people told it like it was.

No apologies necessary.

Now, THIS. This deserves an apology.
I think it is stewed prunes stuffed with cheese served over a slice of canned pineapple and an electrified leaf of lettuce.


I could look up the identity of this one under the "Presentation of Vegetables" section. But I would rather let my imagination roam. "Boiled Green Sticks with Cream Sauce Sprinkled with Shredded Yellow Stuff", I call it.

You don't want to know what I called this one when I showed it to the family. But it has something to do with the reason why we don't own a dog.

Dogs sometimes leave presents behind couches, especially when they have eaten something they shouldn't have. That's all I'm trying to say.

I will give you this: they don't usually deposit it in a gelatin mold.

Now, HERE'S an idea you may not have thought of.

The author asserts that these carrots are easy to make and serve.
She DOES NOT claim that they are easy to eat.

When showing the contents of this amazing book to #1 Son, he tossed his lithe body onto the leather couch and proclaimed:

"The next time I get an award and have a party thrown in my honor, I want to serve all gross food. Everything from this cookbook."

That about sums it up, folks.

beautiful people

Just look at these beautiful people whom I love.

This is my sister-in-law, Zalika. She was born in a mud hut in the middle of nowhere. Niger, to be more specific. She likes to crochet, shop yard sales, and make delicious African stew. She also likes to mix stripes with paids, florals with paisleys, and oranges with pinks. Zebra is also a signature look of hers.

You never know what you're gonna get with Zalika.

This is my niece, Aisha. She is ten years old. She takes lessons at Dance World and has a pet parakeet named Sunshine. She also owns a few cats.

Her smile takes my breath away.

These two beautiful people (whom I love) are now in Niger, Africa for two whole months.

This is my nephew Djibo. He was born in Africa but jives likes an American teenager. I love every smidgen of his cinnamon-y, rubbery and handsome face. He opted out of the Niger trip, as he has college classes and work to do over the summer.

Anyway, he's been back to the village where he was born, and they no speaky eng-laish there. So the draw is minimal.

I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that no one has relatives nearly as beautiful as mine.
The end.

trip to Adams

As a Father's Day gift to my dad, I traveled to Adams (2 hours, not too long!) along with #1 Son, and weeded his garden. This gesture was particularly useful because he recently had knee replacement surgery.

I was happy to do this outside chore for him as the weather was cool and breezy (keeping the bugs away) and also because it's a really wonderful garden! #1 Son weed whacked for a few hours -because that is also a chore that can't be done with a bum knee.

One of the perks was snagging a large bag of fresh spinach to bring home.

One of the other perks was finding this shoe in the barn:

#1 Son and I stood in puzzlement over it for a long while. What was it for? Why was there only one of them?

Upon inquiring in the house, the answer became so vividly clear. This shoe, tied to a crushed milk carton filled with sand, is the perfect way to exercise your good knee before surgery.

Well, YEAH.

#1 Son and I took off after dinner and went to Sackett's Harbor, where elegant houses and elegant people are everywhere.

Roadside, we found the latest in modern technology up for sale. #1 Son was taken by the sleek, retro design.
The price wasn't bad, either.

I know this is random post, but I am working on getting some of the quirky pics out of my camera. They say one can just delete 'em. But that's no fun now, is it?