Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Note From Her Familiar

Tho' I'm not a black cat, and Jane isn't a witch (occasionally substitute a b) I am her familiar.

I was here before the Lab, I was here before German Girl. I've been here since the beginning of time.

I've been around the block a few times, got into a few fights. Vision in both eyes is overrated. So are fangs. I still rule this hood and this house. I have my hiss. And a hitch in my back leg.

It's Halloween morn. The moon is setting and my fur is getting ruffled thinking of the night ahead.

We have a pumpkin with a face on it, we have bowls of candy, candles will be flickering, the Lab will be barking then wagging it's tail. And me, I'll be waiting, to pounce, to hiss, to make all the little children cry.

This is my night. Fear me.

( I'm sure Jane will be back tomorrow with some saccharine post about how sweet it was, but you will know , you have been warned)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Halloween. This year I have to decided to dress as my garden. The colors and textures are perfect.

If I croched a shawl out of bronze fennel appliqued with sedum blossoms.

And trimmed the edges with callicarpa berries.

Clothed my limbs in black like the trident maple.

Made a necklace and earrings out of the winged euonymus and a ride from the scotch broom.

Topped it all off with a mask made of a black elephant ear .

Would you know me?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm Queen of The World!

(The Lab and German Girl)

Well let me tell you, the Lab is over the moon after her first foray into blogging. She didn't expect everyone to be so welcoming. Plus she received comments from 2 canine superstars of the blog world, The Hound and Flossie. She has a huge crush on the Hound, well who doesn't and even though Flossie is much younger (maybe a touch of jealousy here) Nika still loves to read her posts and snicker at what she gets away with.

We both had a fun day yesterday while waiting 8 hours for the service tech to show up and work 2 and a 1/2 hours on the washing machine , which still isn't fixed. We read the comments, made minestrone, went for several squirrel/ rabbit hunts aka walks, bought some wallpaper on ebay, and talked about the day she can buy her own computer and write her own blog. Because it's bad enough I have to fight the cat for my chair much less the dog for my keyboard.

As I write this the Lab is lolling around on a sheepskin, noisely banging a bone on the floor and impatiently waiting for me to finish so we can go look at the Hound's blog again. Jeeze, puppy love.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And Now: A Brief Message From The Lab

Pssst, listen to me now, I don't have long. Don't pay any attention to Jane's complaints about living in squalor ( she's so OCD). The house has never looked better. The bed is now on the floor, no jumping necessary and it's easy to get off ASAP when someone comes knocking at the door ( I'm the greeter). There are boxes full of treasures stacked everywhere and if I just keep sniffing I might find a hidden treat.

The shades and curtains are gone from the windows and have been replaced with batik sarongs. These are darker and allow us all to sleep later. Though the humans don't seem as happy about this as I am. Jane keeps saying that all we need to do now is start burning incense.

I must be quick here, I'm a very slow typist, another 10 minutes of granola baking and we're off for a walk!!!!!! And then it's time for breakfast!!!!

The best news of all is the clothes washer repairman is coming this morning, sometime between 8:00 and 12:00, so not only will I have a new man to bark at, Jane can't go running off with her fiends, I mean friends and leave me all alone. (though I do have my favorite toy Asterix to keep me company)

Oh happy squalor, oh lovely disarray!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Under Construction

Because I love all of you and fear for your sensibilities, I will not post pictures of our house. We're in the middle of a little construction project and starting Friday night our bedroom moved into the living room and the bathroom moved into the hall and we were either huddled around the dining room table or (until this morning) enjoying the relative order of the kitchen.

Our bedroom ceiling has been dry walled, our east facing wall completely re-plastered and a very pregnant wall in the bathroom has been cut out and replaced with dry wall. Our house is over 70 years old and has (had) the original plaster. We will now live for a week in boho squalor until the workmen return next Saturday to paint.

In all this, the kitchen was my haven. That is of course until the washer popped a valve this am and water poured out and into the kitchen. My floor is now very clean. A neighbor washed, dried and folded our laundry and through it all the sun kept shining and we kept breathing and laughing and dashing outside as often as possible to breathe fresh air. And quite frankly I kept sneaking outside and taking pictures of the garden to both distract myself from the chaos and to have something to post about. Blogging, one of my other great denial tactics.

That iris just won't quit will it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Accidental Chef Goes West

Not too much going on this week, still trying to recover from Saturday. This involved lots of sleep and a trip to the chiropractor. So you have several option here, look at the pics of a very few flowers I have stashed around my house, read the post or ignore the whole thing until I'm up to speed. But, if you've gotten this far...

Sometimes after the gold rush, my friend Peaches and I left Nantucket and flew off to California, San Francisco to be exact. We decided to look for jobs as domestics. This seemed romantic to us. I snagged a job as a live in domestic chef and she became a nanny for a big $$$ brewery family. We had one and a half days off a week and lived within blocks of each other in Pacific Heights. I was responsible for staff (butler, personal maid) breakfast and lunches ( add in various housekeepers, laundress etc.) and dinners for the family. Every morning I prepared a tray of 1/2 a grapefruit and coffee and sat by the bedside of Madame as we planned dinner. Then, off I went to shop and meet Peaches for a coffee. There was no budgeting, there were many, many dinner parties, out of season fruit and vegetables were preferred and my gi-nornomous kitchen had a incredible view of Alcatraz ... well you get the picture.

I was in HIGH clover. I was sent for cooking lessons with a very old, very wise, classical French chef Josephine Araldo, who took a liking to me and when there were seriously VIP dinner parties she'd sneak in the employee entrance and help me cook. I had a huge Vulcan stove and 2 wall ovens, marbled counters for pastry and a china filled pantry bigger than the house I live in now.

After dinner I was out that servants door in a flash, partying it up in the city by the bay, though I could often be found at 2:00am, back in the kitchen practicing pie dough. My nemesis then, my nemesis now.

If only I hadn't started dating the son...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Day In The Life

What no florist ever wants to hear at 4:30 on a veryveryvery busy Saturday is that a hotel is calling wondering when the 45 centerpieces will be delivered. On Monday I reply, and though I try to stick to my guns I cannot sway them. Our client said the party was the 18th, she was wrong, it was today at 6:30. My boss and mentor said, what will we do, I said let's make 'em, no biggie. The flowers were conditioned, the containers already prepped by our flower cleaner. All we 3 designers had to do was veryveryvery quickly make the centerpieces and get them delivered by 6:00.

(We call the basement the hell hole)

Done. At what cost to our complexions I can't imagine. Then we got to trot upstairs to our other design area and do all our Monday morning office flowers, and a few more random corsages and boutonnieres for a big homecoming dance.

We were very tired, we were very merry. At least until mother of a teenager attending the homecoming dance cried when told we weren't making any more corsages and offered us $50.00 to make one. We made it, sheesh. No crying in floristry, unless it's by us.

The front staff referred to the retail area as a war zone. The Lab was with us all day and getting kind of grumpy because she wanted a walk and we were acting all kinds of busy.

But we're home now and GG is making something delicious out of leftovers and I'm hot out of the bath and sitting down and writing this in an attempt to make sense of my day.

Impossible. But now my weekend has begun and I predict a beautiful sunny Sunday with a pedicure on the horizon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Is Now, Then Was Nantucket

Not to whinge, but may I? I've just come down with a cold, it's chilly and rainy outside and the pup and I were locked out for 45 minutes after our afternoon walk. Where were the 3 neighbors who all have a key to our house? Not home, I'll tell you that. Finally I moved a row of cacti from the windowsill, took out a screen and climbed in the bedroom window, muddy wellies and all.

I took a hot bath full of bubbles and self pity, now I'm drinking tea and waiting for Thai food to be delivered.

May I amuse myself while waiting and tell another story?

How did I become a chef? I didn't intend to. It was a beautiful September evening in Nantucket and I was having a dinner party. Unbeknownst to me a local restaurant The Boarding House had just lost it's 2 Italian cooks to immigration. Also unbeknowst to me, one of our dinner guests took a plateful of our dinner to the owner of the restaurant. And before I could serve dessert, I had an appointment the following day to interview for a cooking position.

I was hired to do the vegetables. The restaurant had 2 seatings a night. You paid your money, you ate our dinner. Every day I wandered downtown to the farmers market and selected the freshest most appealing vegetables and wandered back. I would sit outside under a trees and peel and chop and read cookbooks. Come 7:00pm we were all in our finest assortment of vintage finery and we served the meal we had cooked. Then we served again at 9:00.

This went on for several months until the restaurant closed for the season. I lingered longer on the island until the snows came and some days the ferries didn't run. Then my friend Peaches and I flew away to California. To be continued.....

* photo courtesy of wikimedia

*Boarding House link show the restaurant today, clearly when I worked there things were a wee bit more lax or do I mean relaxed?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Girl, A Goat And A Mile High Ghost Town

After the reality of my last post (and thanks to all who commented on it ever so eloquently) I thought I'd send you all to sleep with a tale from olden times.

My goat story is short and sweet and half forgotten. Once upon a time a brunette and her husband moved to Arizona. They started off in Sedona, but it was a little too commercial for them, so they left the red rocks, rode through the valley of Cottonwood and up into the mining town of Jerome.

In Jerome, the houses were old and seemed about to tumble off the side of the mountain. One twisty road led up to the town and then back down. Chickens ran freely about yards, we had a shower in the rose garden, meals were cooked on wood stoves. Someone gifted me a goat. I woke up one morning and struggled to understand what I was seeing, my goat was giving birth. I hadn't considered it's gender until that very moment, nor the reason I was given the goat.

My goat's name was Luna. I learned how to milk her and make cheese. I also had a dog named Chutney. I was rather boho. I baked bread in a wood stove and sold it to the town. Once I baked a 4 tier wedding cake in an empty house where vines grew through the windows and up the walls of the kitchen.

In retrospect it seems odd I lived in a house that had a corral in the yard and that someone gave me a goat to go in it.

But that's how I rolled until I settled down and became a blogger.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grown In Detroit

Who read the NYT magazine today? Did you read that there are no national chain grocery stores within the city limits of Detroit? More than 90% of food is purchased at liquor and convenience stores. Unbelievable. And while the good news is that backed by organizations such as Urban Farming and Grown In Detroit people are growing their own food and learning from others how to cook this food,the bad news is: summer is over.

I'm from Michigan and irregardless of climate change, winter will come to Detroit. And what?
And what? No gardening then. What will people eat?

Though I'm happy to read of the changes and the community that is growing strong and adapting to the paucity of available food, I still am sad and I worry. What has this country done to itself?

This morning GG and I shopped for our weekly staples at Trader Joe's and made a side trip to Whole Foods to pick up our ecologically and politically correct meat and poultry. We live 3 miles outside of D.C.. There are government jobs, construction all around us, new restaurants and bars opening weekly. The expensive farmers markets are packed and we all carry our own bags whenever we shop.

But we live in a bubble here. And I wish I knew how to help those whose bubble popped a long hungry time ago.

First step: remember to be grateful for all that we have.

What's the second step?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Secret Life Of Bees

Before I pop into the shower and start my Saturday workday I have a few garden moments to share. And I believe I have a clue to the missing bees.

Baby Love, our ever blooming, licorice smelling shrub rose. A delicious tangle of pineapple sage and Japanese anenomes and our second year of flowers from the begonia grandis, long may it spread.

As to the bees?

The Lab spots them. ( African foxgloves, blooming and attracting bees since July)

The Lab stares them down. The Lab chases them.

And the Lab eats them.

Shudder. Enjoy your Saturday. If you need some flowers call me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Of Cabbages And Kings

So there I was at work yesterday, busy as a little bee, spraying ornamental cabbages gold. Starting now thru December everyone seems to want a splash of gold in their arrangements. We will be gilding the lily till December 31st.

As fast as my hands were working so was my mind. We were suddenly having a birthday dinner, for 5, that very night and I had nothing to cook. The birthday boy suggested carry out but that wasn't flying with Ms. More Home Cooking. Then I took a blog break and saw SmittenKitchen's post for a mushroom lasagna. This sounded delicious and was composed of ingredients I could run to my local Safeway and grab with my golden fingers. Though she said it was perfect as is, I had to gild this recipe also.

I knew there would be a rebellion if I only used parmesan cheese, so added shredded mozarella. When sauteing the mushrooms I threw in a handful of minced shallots to each pan full because I love the combo. A green salad, a loaf of french bread garnished with butter, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and broiled till brown, Happy Birthday!

The house smelled like it should on a chilly October night, the 6 to 8 portion pan went down without a whimper and there was enough left for lunch for both of us.

Blogging, where would I be without it? Eating carry out and fretting about how to get the voles out of our garden no doubt.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pollo Milanese

You know October is truly here when you start digging around for gloves and hats for dog walking. When an armful of warm dried laundry feels good hugged close to your chest. When you come home from work and make a cup of tea, not an iced tea but a proper hot potful. And when the cat begins to spend more and more time indoors, unfortunately curled up in my blogging chair. Either my posts will be fewer or they'll be written in a strange language only a few can understand.

Tonight's dinner was a mixture of fall and summer dishes. GG made a favorite salad of ours with chunks of avocado, mozzarella cheese, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and onions with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

I made chicken Milanese with our one remaining chicken breast. I sliced it thinly against the grain, pounded out each slice, dipped each piece in 1 egg beaten with S&P and finely chopped garlic. Then I pressed each piece into a plate of fine bread crumbs.

This was served with a red quinoa pilaf. I sauteed 1/2 a finely chopped onion and some garlic in olive oil, toasted 1 cup of grain in the same oil, added 2 cups of chicken stock, S&P and a few crushed red pepper flakes. Brought to a boil, covered, turned to low and cooked it for about 15 minutes. I took it off the heat and let it finish absorbing the liquid and fluff up while I cooked the chicken in a cast iron skillet in hot olive oil till golden brown on both sides... yum:

I believe my time here is up, the dog is talking about walking and the kitten is pacing around my feet hollering something like"Move It". I'm scared of her so I'm outta the house. Next post will be sent from an as of yet unknown destination.

A day later and wiser: My Bolivian co workers suggest toasting the quinoa dry in a pan for several minutes until it turns golden brown. This will result in a firmer grain more like couscous. Gracias amigas.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Caution: Women At Work

Busy Sunday in the Hood. Our favorite neighbor The Major returned from Afghanistan last Saturday. In the past week he's adjusted to a 8 and a 1/2 hour time difference, learned while it's okay to put beer in the vegetable drawer it's not okay to put in on the vegetables, been to Home Depot one million times and I believe has found out home repair is not as much fun as golfing.

A 6 week old German shepherd puppy also arrived on the block last Saturday. She too is being domesticated, but since she doesn't drink beer or handle power tools it appears to be going a little more smoothly.

While watching the Major and his one true love hang a new storm door today and visits with the new puppy we gave the garden a day of beauty. The front yard and beds are pruned and weeded, the grass mowed, the edges trimmed. I was feverishly weeding a side bed when out popped a vole. That was an adrenalin rush and a half and drove me inside to make my first batch of chili for Fall 2010.

Now it's raining, the dog is snoring, the defiant cat is outside soaked to the skin. All is well in our house and I hope in yours. Oh, yeah, and if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can remove the fern chewing, hosta chomping rascally vole from my flower bed please tell me. ASAP.

Friday, October 1, 2010

For the Love Of England

My always glamorous and witty friend Miss Pickering needs details. She's a florist and specializes in weddings. So the very idea that I married thrice (can you say that?) is statistically overwhelming for her. 3 dresses. 3 bouquets, 3 times?

I could write her an email and spell it out there, but why be shy now? So here's the scoop.

#1 A September wedding in a field, only family and two best friends in attendance. I wore tall oxblood leather boots with a french blue flannel skirt and an embroidered peasant blouse. My bouquet was a nosegay of leaves and berries. Shortly after a delicious lunch with a cake baked by a neighbor the groom and I hopped in a car and drove across the country to Arizona. This scenario led to the bread baking and goat owning. ( brunette)

#2 A summer wedding in Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown. I wore a shirred columnar dress in apricot, my Mother made my bouquet of cream and peachy roses with garden flowers. Many friends and family in attendance. A fantastic reception at a very upmarket Indian restaurant also in Georgetown owned by a friend of the best man. Same best man was later husband #2's divorce lawyer. ( red head)

#3 We were wed by a justice of the peace in Easton, Maryland. Sunshine, the Chesapeake Bay and 2 men in handcuffs spotted out a window as we said our vows attended. I wore a white sundress. Friends drove to the bay to dine with us under the trees that evening. Another florist friend brought me a belated wedding bouquet of white peonies and roses. We laughed and ate and drank and sat out in the moonlight for hours. Later I hung the bouquet upside down and dried the flowers. It kept for many years. ( blonde)

So there it is , the clothes, the flowers, the hair colors ( all my hair colors BTW). Only the names have been withheld to protect the innocent. Now can we go back to reading about what I'm cooking or is there some other burning desire I need to address?

Love to all and to all a goodnight.