The Root of It All…

Root vegetables.  The staple of the winter dinner table.  Those vegetables which grow late in the season and keep well in the root cellar.  Those vegetables with the best price at this time of year, as hot house or tropical vegetables command prices well above their taste.

Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, turnips, beets, squash after squash variety.  And let’s add cauliflower and cabbage into the mix as well, even though strictly speaking they’re not ‘root’ vegetables.    Vegetables that roast well and enrich stews and make hearty soups.  Still, by the time you get to the end of February… aren’t you just the tiniest bit anxious for spring and summer vegetables fill up your plate?

Asparagus!  Snappy thin stalks of emerald green asparagus with their purple tips.  Barely steamed, drenched in lemon butter served hot, or dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette served cold, either way reminding us that, oh thank god, spring is fully here.

Lettuce!  Soft, tender leaves support a dash of lemon juice, a swish of olive oil, and enliven a slice of roast chicken in a most temperate way, another gift of spring.

Tomatoes!  I want tomatoes that are heavy and sweet and make juice run down my chin when I bite into them.  The best of the locally-grown tomatoes is months away but they’re not the only, local, fresh vegetables for which I long.

Sparky scallions, crunchy pea pods and tender peas, the first crop of radishes, the first burst of spinach, tender baby spinach meant for salads, not older spinach in bags perfect for creaming and serving with (again!) root vegetables.

Even potatoes taste different in spring and early summer, when they are those lovely little nubs of tiny new potatoes, potatoes that are perfect for a pot of salty boiling water, cooked to tenderness, squashed open for a pour of parsley butter, a twist of fresh ground pepper.  These are not merely spuds, they are the taste of spring!

All this ruminating about root vegetables is a sign, I think, of how long this winter has been.  How long and cold and snowy, with little sunshine and seemingly no hope that we will ever see grass, or asparagus, again.  I pull dirt encrusted potatoes and parsnips out of burlap bags.  I go through my cookbooks once again, seeking another way to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear or, in this case, a delicious gratin of carrots and parsnips.  There is borscht one more time this winter, an excellent soup the first three or four times we slurped it down this season.  Roast cauliflower is coming to the dinner table this week, perhaps dusted with cumin and turmeric again.  Or perhaps smothered in a cheese sauce because everything, even root vegetables in March, taste better in a cheese sauce.

 Roasted-Root-Vegetables

Cooking inventively is the definition of cooking well with root vegetables, and certainly in the winter months, I think it’s definition of cooking inexpensively. Perhaps our mothers, definitely our grandmothers, knew this sort of cooking, in an age when there were few hot houses, little transportation from Florida or California, and really no food coming from Chile or Israel or Australia.  So perhaps, because they were not tempted by tomatoes both over-priced and also, sadly, mealy, or thick stalks of Mexican asparagus that has woody ends and the lingering hint of illegal pesticides, or bags of baby lettuce for seven dollars and no guarantee it would not wilt before you got home, perhaps without those temptations, they would continue to cook and enjoy root vegetables.  Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that our mothers and grandmothers understood and lived better with the cycle of food that our four season climate gives us.

Whatever this malaise that might affect my taste buds by mid-March, I will rally.  I will roast beets and roast onions to go with the pork chops and sauerkraut for supper. I will make another batch of carrot-ginger soup. And I just might “borrow” Neil Perry’s idea for squash pancakes and try a version of these unctuous and savoury treats for myself.  All of these choices will be delicious and nutritious, and because they are seasonal also inexpensives.  And I will try to remember that last summer, in the middle of corn and tomato and watermelon season, I scrubbed some new beets and roasted them, along with the some potatoes, to round out a barbecue meal because, as I said, “roasted beets are so yummy!”

 

Robert W Mols

As my mother-in-law says, getting old is not for sissies.  But if you’re lucky enough to age with the support and love of family and community, it can be done with comfort and grace.

Dr Robert W Mols Musician, Conductor, Composer, Teacher Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather

Dr Robert W Mols
Husband, Father, Grandfather, GreatGrandfather… but also a gifted Musician, Conductor, Composer, Teacher

 

Jeff and I decided more than two years ago and seemingly on the spur of the moment (but with much talking and questioning for some months before hand) that we would move to Buffalo and be here for his parents.  At the time, they were 90 years old and mostly healthy but still… they were 90 years old!  It was time to get serious about end of life concerns. So we packed up and moved out and found ourselves here, Jeff’s hometown and my second favourite city in the U.S.

Once we caught our breath, we could see his father, in fact, was growing noticeably slower, aging quickly before us, showing signs of both physical and mental challenges. As the months went on, Jeff wound up doing more and more for them. Not leaving his sister and brother out of the picture, but they had (have!) lives that are more complicated than ours in many ways so it was simpler for Jeff to take on more of the little things that could be done.

Earlier this fall, after a difficult summer, and with his parents’ cautious agreement, Jeff moved in with them and was there 24/7 — except for Thursdays when brother Robin would stay for 24 hours.  Being there, being available to support his mother and physically help his father with day-to-day needs was not just necessary for their being able to live at home, but for Dad to be able to die well.

When I would call, to see how things were going, or stop by for a game of cribbage and maybe supper, I would ask how things were, what were they doing with their time.  Jeff’s first answer was always “We laugh!”  Over meals, they would share memories of people and places from his parents’ childhood, from Jeff’s childhood, about the suburban neighbourhood they moved into as “pioneers”.  They watched a few football games and a few hockey games, and Jeff suffered the Texas Rangers losing another run for the Series, and they listened to a lot of music.

With Jeff, with all my in-laws, it always comes back to music.  On October 20th, the Amherst Symphony Orchestra opened their season by playing, amongst other pieces, the first movement of Robert Mols’ Symphony No. 1  Fortunately, with the support of family and friends, Dad was able to attend, to hear his son play his music, to hear the heart-felt welcome and appreciation the movement received from the orchestra and the audience.  That evening created a memory we will all treasure forever.

From there, Dad’s decline speeded up a little more with every day, until there came the day when he went into hospice care.  We cannot say enough about the concern and caring shown by everyone who is part of the Hospice Buffalo team.  They made Dad as comfortable as they possibly could.  Almost more importantly though, they made the family comfortable too, as comfortable as possible with the idea of having someone deeply loved, deeply admired, dying and moving on.

Dad slipped away in the middle of the night, quietly, peacefully.  The way we should all die I think.  Another member of the Greatest Generation gone, but his gifts of family and humour, of friends and responsibility, and especially of music, will linger for as long he is remembered by those who loved him.

Senescence, or Seriously, How Did I Get Here?

I have been thinking a lot about ageing this week.

My birthday is Saturday and that always makes me think about ageing.  When I was a child, it was exciting to grow older, to be one step closer to adulthood and all the fun I saw come with being grown up.  When I was a teenager, it was still exciting to grow older, to start having some of that fun of being a grown-up but also to start shouldering some of the responsibilities that come with years.  When I was a young adult, it was still exciting to grow older, because the possibilities of my youth were coming true, so I was having that adult fun and yet also being An Adult and carrying more responsibility and obligation around with me. And now I am in well into my middle years, well into them, and I still love birthdays (most especially mine) but they’re not so much exciting now as they are nostalgic, sometimes Romantic, always emotional.

I must have an angel food cake for my birthday.  This is because my grandmother, Grandma Gert (whose name was really Hazel Isobel but we called her Gert), would bake one for me every summer.  We would troop up to their cottage, eat barbecued hot dogs, corn on the cob and angel food cake with a kind of inner ‘moat’ of mixed whipped cream, sliced bananas, mandarin oranges and tinned pineapple.  Sort of like this:

angel-food-cake-3

Having an angel food cake like this meets all my late middle years birthday needs. It is emotional and nostalgic, remember my grandparents and the fun having those birthday lunches with my family always meant. And now an angel food cake is Romantic because Jeffrey (almost always) bakes one for me, foregoing the ‘moat’ to make the cake last longer for just two people, but serving the whipped cream and tropical fruits on the side. The down side of having this angel food cake birthday was the location.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I loved the cottage life, and I loved spending all summer, every summer, at the cottage, but I never had a birthday party like my friends at school did because I was never around my school friends.  I was at the cottage!  And as much as I loved my family, it wasn’t the same thing, having hot dogs with them and not my friends.  So the year I turned 9, I decided to have a party for my cousins and “summer cousins” at the cottage.

Probably should have told my mother I wanted to do this BEFORE I invited everyone but… it all worked out in the end.  My grandmother came to the rescue with a cake, we had a field’s worth of corn on the cob, played silly party games, went swimming, and I got presents!

That was my last birthday party until I turned 18, which happened when I was in Australia, and then the next one after that was 30 and then 40.  That last one (a party planned by me but turned into a surprise by Jeff & my parents when they made it all happen a week earlier than I thought!) was especially lovely but also, in retrospect, sort of sad.  My mother was not feeling well and sort of held herself away from the crowd.  As it turns out, she really wasn’t well and died before my next birthday.  And that was when I started marking birthdays not just a matter of getting older but also of change.

This birthday brings more changes and more ageing, not so much for me, but for my in-law family.  My parents-in-law are just weeks away from their 92nd birthdays and 70th wedding anniversary, but both are facing the many changes and challenges of ageing, especially my father-in-law.  I watch them, I see how Mom deals with Dad, her impatience sometimes but mostly, especially, her love and devotion, and I feel so blessed to have them in my life, to have had them welcome and value me in their lives.

Wikipedia sugggests that ageing well consists of doing so with a low probability of disease or disability, enjoying high cognitive functions, and having an active engagement with life.  In other words, you’re healthy, your mind still works, and you’re out there having fun.  Okay, I’m three for three so far.  Well, maybe 2.5 for three, but let’s not quibble.  And I am grateful for ageing well, as opposed to badly, and especially as opposed to the complete alternative.  But still, this birthday reminds me I am ageing and while I have always changed with age, for the first time, I am seeing those changes, or more accurately seeing those changes more clearly, and some of them are… well, let’s just say I wish one needn’t see them quite so clearly.

I have a copy of the Musselman family tree (as of 20 years ago) and almost all of my mother’s father’s relatives on that very large and well spread out tree lived long lives.  I mean, long lives.  Even back in the 17th century, my ancestors lived long lives, and in the 20th, very long lives and apparently mostly healthy ones.  My maternal grandfather, who was born in 1899, once told me he wanted to live to be 101, because that would mean his life would touch three centuries; he missed by three years.  I think I am more Musselman than Staines; goodness knows I look like a Pennsylvania Dutch/Swiss farm peasant!  Perhaps this means I will enjoy that lifespan too.  I don’t know.

In biology, senescence is the state or process of ageing.  In life, the process of ageing is about grace.  It’s about facing what you have and who you are, it’s about enjoying those things you still can and remembering those things you cannot, it’s about family, still with us and still with us only in our hearts. Ageing is also another angel food cake, a bottle of champagne and a few birthday cards.  It’s also a little time reading old diaries, leafing through a few photo albums, and then enjoying a day with family and friends.

For Robert DeNiro, Mae West, Davy Crocket, Jim Courier, Belinda Carlisle, and especially for my dear friend, Richard Prazmowski, this wish for us all….

Birthday-Candles3

A Seriously Sad Cat

If anyone ever asks you if an animal has an emotional life, tell them about The Grey Cat.

She has one human.  He’s at music camp this week.  She misses him.  Oh, god, she misses him.

He had packed the car in a few trips, one bag or box at a time, trying to look like he wasn’t, you know, LEAVING.  Because The Grey Cat is a very smart cat.  She understands perfectly what bags and boxes mean — someone is leaving!  And if there is a soft-sided black bag with screening on two sides, she’s leaving with the human(s) which is much better than being left.  Only this time, no soft-sided black bag with screening on two sides so some surreptitiousness was called for.

By Sunday at about 10pm, she’s in the window sill, sitting there, watching, waiting.  She knows the sound of her human’s car very well.  A most distinctive diesel engine.  Oh, she knows the other car two, but her human’s car?  That one she picks up a half block away.

By 11pm, I’m in deep doo-doo.  She’s stalking me, as I close up for the night, meowing (which she hardly ever does), almost begging me to tell her where the hell he is.  Sadly as smart as she is, her human vocabulary is limited to ‘treats’ and ‘brush’ and ‘no’ — at least, when she wants to stay out of serious trouble.

Monday morning, it’s breakfast time.  I give her fresh water and food.  I offer to brush her.  She RUNS AWAY!  She loves to be brushed but apparently only by her human.  Who is not me.  Oh, I’m worth a good nudge at midnight, get the ears scratched, asked one more time “What the hell did you do to him that he’s not home with me?”, but I’m  not him.

And she misses him.

So, to make the days go faster, she’s sleeping a lot and ignoring me more.  I’m hoping that the little calendar I made for her and posted by her litter box helps.  I’ve circled Sunday in red.  ’cause I miss him too.

Grey Cat on Love Seat

 

It Was Meant As a Joke. I Didn’t Get It.

I was never cool as a kid.  I didn’t get the inside jokes most of the time, and unless it was a literary reference or involved movies or music from the 30s and 40s, I rarely understood pop culture references.  I was middle-aged before my time, and I’m not getting any younger.

That being said, I still sometimes try.  For example, I am enamoured of Twitter and so witnessed the trending of what seemed to be an impossible film.  I gave in to my need to be cool:  I watched the re-run of SHARKNADO on Thursday night.

I am not proud of myself for doing this.  It was a dreadful, dreadful movie that the director and others have said was meant to be a bloody, gory, inside joke about horror films.   It took 18 days (that many?  given the quality of the appearance of the movie, I would have said 8 tops, and 3 in post-production) and a million dollars to make (or maybe two, depending on who you read in researching this) and earned lousy ratings (maybe up to 1.4 million people on the debut night) for the SyFy network.  Still, the network and everyone involved in making this piece of purest schlock says it was a hit! People loved it! They’re looking at a sequel, maybe with Johnny Depp!!

If you saw it and enjoyed it for what the network and movie makers say was its purpose — a light-hearted albeit gory summer movie — then good for you.  I have other movies, better movies, with which to take a break from the summer heat, starting with another movie about sharks, a cheap-to-make but easy to look at and frightening as hell little number called JAWS. Still, if SHARKNADO rocks your boat (or your Hummer or your helicopter or your chain saw or your frickin’ bar stool) then… yea??

The thing about jokes is, they’re supposed to be funny.  And inside jokes are supposed to be presented with a wink and a nod to the audience.  Yes, I got some of the references to other movies (not least, JAWS, when they paraphrased “I think we need a bigger boat”) and a couple of other pop culture toss-offs, but it wasn’t enough.  Every plot contrivance possible was built into the story: separated young-ish middle-aged couple with conflicted adult children; slightly crazy best friend who becomes hero blowing up a Hummer & dying; drunken friend who becomes hero saving dog & dying; idiot boyfriend of wife who just dies; orphan waitress, former shark victim, whiz with a shotgun, with crush on husband; bus filled with stranded children; old folks’ home — at an airport!! — in danger of sharks in their swimming pool; husband as Jonah but with a chain saw.

All those stories, with completely mis-matching footage, cheesy special effects and at least six actors who really ought to look into real estate as a different, wiser, career path all added up to 90 minutes of my time I will never get back.  Still, I did learn a couple of things I want to share:  inside jokes are great fun, as long as you’re already on the inside.  They’re not meant for outsiders and it was foolish of me to think I could be one of those people.  And the other thing I learned is

whale shark

when the life guard — or a surfing champion named ‘Fin’ — says get outta the water, get outta the water!!

(photo of whale shark from National Geographic)

Porn? I Asked Bing for Porn?

I’m writing a novel right now.  It’s kinda just pouring out of me and I’m loving the process even if I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  A couple of people have read the couple of chapters just to help me be sure that I’m right, it’s pretty damn good reading. But this is what I’m writing about, actually complaining about:

WHY DOES PORN SHOW UP WHEN YOU’RE DOING RESEARCH THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX?

I’m a little pissed off about this because a) there are times when I enjoy erotica (not stupid and/or violent porn) very much and these images just showing up are a significant reason why people protest against ALL sexual expressions and b) I’m trying to actually work not wank and this slows me down.

You may or may not have heard about a children’s book that’s actually meant for adults called “Go The Fuck to Sleep”.  I am referencing it in my book and wanted to be sure I got publication dates, history, author’s name and so forth all correct.  So I Bing’d the title and these admittedly blurry images showed up.  Good for Bing for blurring them but even so, apparently all it takes for porn to show up is the word “fuck”.

It’s a great word.  I myself have used it with great feeling and import as noun, verb, adjective and in adverbial form.  It’s also a great recreational activity but again, not when I’m working.  More importantly, and I know I’m being very naive about this, but sometimes it really is just word and should be treated that way. Leave the pictures for those who actually ask for photos.  Leave the pictures for those who pay for them.  Leave the very good word for those of us who use words to enhance our pleasure.

But were I to need a picture “to go the fuck to sleep”…. this what sends me off….

now this...

Hope y’all have sweet dreams tonight…

Lessons From the Big Screen

I watched “The Caine Mutiny” again last night, perhaps for the 10th time, and loved it just as much now as I ever have.

The remarkable thing about the performance of Humphrey Bogart is that it is the opposite of the kind of tough guy he played in so many of the thrillers and mysteries out of Warner Bros (and other studios) in the 30s and 40s.  Captain Queeg is a weak man, driven by demons of perfectionism, trying to fit in, trying to be “one of the boys”.

Bogart

(a great shot of Bogart – this one comes from the LA morgue file in 1957)

I was quite young when I read the Herman Wouk book on which the movie was made, and probably about 11 when I saw the movie. Even at that age, I recognized how painful life must be for the commander who was, after all, doing his duty well before the time most people considered it.

Maybe because I, too, was one of those people who was always looking for a way to fit in, and who tried to be the perfect kid to get there.

I’ve never said that out loud before, and I don’t think it’s affected my life in a negative in the long run.  Still, being short, being the youngest in my classes all the way through high school, being smart (and especially a smart, well-read GIRL) with pretty strict parents all played against me pretty much until university.

You don’t need to fit in when you read good books or watch good movies.  In fact, I think they can help you find a niche that works for you.

If you have read this blog before, you might remember that my favourite book is “To Kill A Mockingbird”.  Reading it again and again, I would think of myself as Scout, a girl who looked up to her smart and bookish father, a girl who was trying to find her place in the world, to understand her world!  Watching the movie gave me the same sense of looking for “fit” and hoping for understanding.

I must have been 14 when I saw “Now Voyager” for the first time.  With one exception, all the serious romantic relationships I have had in my life have been with men who were at least 7 years my senior.  Blame Paul Henreid for this.  His warmth and charm in “Now Voyager” helped give Bette Davis courage, amongst other feelings, and he did the same for me.  Not that I understood exactly what those feelings were completely but I enjoyed them!

Books get so much of the credit for expanding my horizons, opening my eyes and mind, taking me to places I both long to see and hope never to find, but movies have done much the same thing.  From the first movie I saw at the drive-in (“Pinocchio”) and the first one in a cinema (“Mary Poppins”) to the one I’ll be watching later tonight (“Deception”, again with Paul Henreid and Bette Davis) I pull things from them that enrich me in all ways.

It must seem that, with the exception of Disney, I haven’t seen a movie in colour!  I was just at the theatre last week (“White House Down” — the action was so over the top but I loved Jamie Foxx as a very liberal president).  It’s just that I have a special fondness for black & white movies — maybe it’s because of the shades of grey, just like life.  Or maybe it’s because those were the movies from which I learned the Big Lessons.

Be strong. Do right. Fall in love. Be true to your friends. Learn as much as you can. Fight the Nazis.  Smoke heavily and drink more.

Well, maybe not so much the smoking.

Instant Pen Pal-ship

In the past ten days or so, I have written a number of letters to about 20 individuals.

Some have gone by snail mail, some by email, but all have been written with the knowledge that I am sharing my feelings and ideas with friends around the world.  However, I am still so far behind in catching up with my correspondence from Christmas and New Year’s my angst is beginning to feel like a comfortable blanket.

Fortunately it’s as hot as hades right now (albeit not as hot as Texas!) and I will shake off that blanket and keep writing to my friends.

Letters are an extraordinary way to deepen relationships of any nature.  Yes, we may very well need to have the warmth and connection of speaking face to face to enrich the relationship to its maximum, but there is much to be said about the intimacy of the written word, whether it is in ink or by the magic of the internet.

When I first married and moved far from home and family, there was no such thing as email or texting, if you can imagine such a world.  Although calling people was possible, it was also expensive (again, imagine the pain of paying for long distance telephone calls) so to remain close to people, to continue to value their friendship and companionship, paper and pen were our usual, our only, option.

I still long for letters to come to my mail box — they rarely do these days — but I can’t blame anyone except myself.  I’m just as guilty as many of my friends and even siblings of choosing email over snail mail.  Even the snail mail that was posted this weekend was typed (Emily Post, forgive me) because it was the simpler way to get many letters written.

If it seems that I am decrying the loss of physical letters, well, yes I am to some extent.  There was something particularly exciting about popping a letter into the mailbox, knowing it would take a few days to reach its destination, and then perhaps a few weeks more waiting to hear back from my correspondent.  I would spend that time wondering if they enjoyed reading about my life, my ideas, even the feelings I might have confided to them.  And I would have anticipated learning about what was on-going in their lives, hearing about mutual friends, perhaps sharing some thinking about politics or books or maybe personal triumphs and tragedies.

I enjoyed having pen-pals, so to speak.

Still… the waiting could be endless.  Especially, sadly, if you were waiting to hear from me.  Procrastination is not a new hobby of mine.

Thus, email makes heroes of us all — or at least of me!

This past weekend I have shared with a friend many ideas about many issues by email.  Not long rambling letters I must say, but short notes that would bring up a point before answering the other’s last question.  This way we discussed writing, music, politics, sexual politics, diplomacy, postcards, birthdays, geography, family, food, exercise, children, poetry and (my own personal favourite because, as you may know, I am stalking) Paris.

Yes we could have shared all this information in longer letters but over a much longer period of time — weeks, even months, given the geography of where each lives.  And perhaps in hand-written letters there would be more information shared than in each of the five or six sentences (at most) that made up our emails.  Indeed, I would like exchange snail mail some day with each other but I don’t want to give up the immediacy of instant pen pal-ship (that cannot be a word, can it?)

My siblings and I have a brother who does not email; in fact, he no longer has a computer.  We all find it frustrating that we cannot communicate with him on an immediate basis when we need to.  He, on the other hand, now that he can afford to do so, delights in making phone calls to us for our birthdays, or even just for a little gossip. It is his way of maintaining a bond, a closeness, in the way which is most comfortable for him.

I have one friend with whom I Skype regularly, as I do with my sister.  I Skype irregularly with my “daughter”.  I have two friends with whom I am developing Skype habits.  It’s easy to Skype and there is a remarkable sense of instant gratification in sharing a moment (or in the case of my sister, up to three hours) with someone you treasure.  This  technology might be the new email, although I hope not.

Perhaps because I am a writer, I believe in the power of the written word.  We hear words and, unless we have used them in a particularly, emotionally powerful way, either because they are too ugly to bear or too beautiful to forget, the words can slip away from us.  On paper (or on screen) they live forever.  They can be read and re-read and cherished — in peace, in love, in sorrow, in remembrance, in lust, in joy — forever.

Pen and Paper

In just the past few weeks, I am picking up a friendship that was in long-abeyance, a cousin by marriage whose sunny disposition and warm kindness could win over any one is keen to become closer again and I am following up with her in every way we can.  Sadly though, over the past few years, I have lost touch with several friends — a woman I met at Summerfolk in Owen Sound who lives in England and with whom I am two addresses behind; a number of Navy friends; a work colleague and his partner on whose white pants I spilled a glass of red wine the first time I met her; a now-grown woman who was a child when we met and who has been beloved for nearly 30 years; an old romantic relationship turned friendship I loathe losing — and I cannot, I will not do this again.

My distant friends and family are integral to my well-being.  I am again, as I was when first married, away from “home”, from long-term bonds and familiar places.  I do not regret being here but I deeply miss the more familiar.  To embrace those people and those places, to keep them close, I must be the better correspondent I swear I will be — by email, by snail mail.

I will even, if you want, enclose a SASE because I want to hear from you, too.

Sexy Is a Fabulous Kitchen

It’s very busy inside my head.

This is, apparently, one of the signs of a truly introverted person, that s/he spends much more time, and more contented time, with an internal life than mixing and mingling with others. And it is quite true, for example, that I don’t like going to parties, unless I know pretty much everyone there because the noise and the effort are too much.  I am at my happiest when I’m with a small group of friends and/or family, or even when I’m just alone.  I read a lot, I write a lot, I dream a lot — dream time spent both awake and asleep. And these are fully detailed dreams, even the ones asleep, complete with sounds and colour, texture and taste. This is a rich life I have going on inside my head — and rich may be the perfect word for one little “room” in there.

I love to cook. With possibly the exception of washing up, I love the entire process of cooking, from searching out meal ideas and recipes, to buying or finding ingredients, to prepping these ingredients, to putting it all together and then finally to enjoying a great meal, I love to cook.

When I’m not cooking, I’m looking at gorgeous, fabulous, sexy kitchens (yeah, I think great kitchens can be sexy; I also think mohair blankets, Jamie Foxx, ripe peaches, Monet paintings and Marvin Gaye songs are all sexy) in which I might see myself cooking. Of course, these are wonderful kitchens… if only this was so or that was different. I do this so much that I think I could do a drawing of “my” kitchen with almost all details. With that, and about $250,000, I could have the kitchen my sister-in-law Rita says is impossible — the kitchen that could make a member of the Staines family truly happy.

It starts with the oven/range and hood.  Meet my dream cooker:

La Cornue

It’s French (d’accord!) and made to order by a company called La Cornue. They also do much more than just this incredible double oven (one gas, one electric, for different kinds of cooking) with multiple burners and grills and a “plaque” for long, slow, braising of such comfort foods as cassoulet and coq au vin, not to mention keeping soup on the simmer for a few hours. Sigh.

However, the one other product of theirs which will go in my perfect, fabulous, sexy kitchen is this:

rotisserie-5-900x450

Doesn’t that look so delicious you need to have chicken and roasted veg right now?? (At our table tonight will be sausage w/grilled cherries, pineapple & onions, mashed potatoes, green salad, just so you know.)

I also want two 18 cu ft refrigerator columns and one freezer column, same size. I have been known to conjure up amazing meals out of pretty much nothing, but having a well-stocked freezer & fridge makes conjuring a little easier.

Cleaning up is easier with a dishwasher but with all of you showing up for dinner all the time, maybe I need two of these:

miele dishwasher

This one is a Miele, but I have to say there’s still an internal debate going on – Miele v Bosch. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Naturally, after an incredible meal, coffee. Or maybe cappucino, or tea, or hot chocolate!  Whichever strikes the fancy, I want the do-it-all machine built-in, and not taking up counter space. This is another Miele product:

integrated espresso

But most of all, what I truly need in that fabulous, sexy kitchen is great fenestration. I want there to be lots of natural sun light and fresh air pouring in not just from one set of windows over the farm sink…

great fenestration

…but from several sets of such windows around at least two sides of the kitchen. And please, no curtains.  Ick is just waiting to happen to kitchen curtains.

Earlier today I shared these ideas (and many more) with a friend — a physically distant but long-time friend — who thought the food that came out of such a kitchen, my such a kitchen, might actually be worth the expense.  That made me smile as I know the money tree we planted in the backyard hasn’t yet blossomed and it’s going to have to be one healthy, productive tree to make this kitchen happen.

Still, a girl can have her dreams — always plentiful, always cheap, and so sexy.

 

Happy Birthday to the Daughter I Didn’t Give Birth To!!

There are four people in my life who have birthdays today — that I know of, there may be more! — plus one yesterday and two coming up before the end of the month.  And as much as I treasure all those friends and family members, besides my sister, the most important birthday belongs to my daughter by another mother.

I’ve written about Durita before, and I suspect I’ll write about her again.  Certainly whenever I need to laugh, I just close my eyes and remember every morning of her life with us and how much we laughed then, and I can start laughing all over again.  She was 16 when she fell into our lives and turns 21 today.  21!  It hardly seems possible and yet…

She’s a world-class adventurer now, having just returned from a many weeks’ sojourn through Asia, riding elephants, zip lining through jungles, zooming along country roads in Cambodia on a scooter (Jeff’s reaction to those photos was priceless!) and so much more.  I suppose if you live in a (physically) tiny country like the Faeroe Islands, you want to get out and explore the bigger world as much as you can.  But I can’t tell you how much I want her explorations to bring her to her “other” home, here with us.  Maybe not forever, but surely sometimes.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Forever!

Durita on the train

So this is my beautiful, adventuring, darling girl, celebrating her 21st birthday on a day when the sun really won’t set, surrounded by friends and family, missed very much and loved very much by this family.

Make the birthday wishes count, Durita.