Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Wish For You

Funny here in animal house. The Lab is sleeping and wagging her tail vigorously against the floor, thump, thump, thump.  The Cat is running from the bedroom, under the dining room table and into the kitchen.  Then back again and back again. Very loud for such a small cat, pound, pound, pound. We, however, are both minding our own business, GG reading a book and me reading and blogging.  Guess tonight is New Year's Eve in the animal kingdom.

We've planned a quiet night at home this year.  Tomorrow night we'll cook Marie's Swedish meatballs and serve them with a pile of GG's sinful mashed potatoes.  I don't watch her make them but I can taste the copious amounts of butter and cream.  What you don't see doesn't count, right?

A friend or two, maybe four, will come by to eat and attempt to and steal GG's Scrabble crown away from her.  I assure you I will be playing for blood and the crown.

And then, oh happy day, I hear it will be in the high 50's maybe low 60's and sunny on the 1st.  This means we can get outside and do some yard work.

Happy New Year to all of you.   Here's hoping in 2011 we all get a chance to get a little closer to living the life we want.  Wishing you all serenity, courage and wisdom.  And a delicious meal.

xo Jane

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Your Mother Should Know

So yesterday was the 28th of December.  And after a day of dog walks and lunching out, hair cuts and hair color (for me, some of us are natural blondes) GG asked me, did we ever figure out how many years.
How many years?  A Virgo who never forgets had mislaid the date.  I thought it was the 27th yesterday.

Yes, the 28th of December and 6 years ago I invited the "new girl" in the shop over for dinner.  Though much younger and much taller than I, she seemed worth getting to know.  I made  chicken and barley soup, a green salad with ripe d'anjou pears and french feta cheese served with freshly baked bread.  And we ate and talked and talked and after she did the dishes (I was so loving this part) we made a pot of tea and moved to the couch.

Then, with the most perfect posture I have ever seen, she poured.  That did it for me, I was smitten.

Several years later the Lab moved down from Connecticut and we were complete.  

My mother was totally right on two things: it's important to stand up straight and to know how to make a good  bowl of soup.
Happy Anniversary GG. 
xo Jane

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ham I Am

While blogland lies sleeping, there are still a few of us awake and posting.  And judging by the number of hits we get, I'm thinking there are people still reading.  And wanting more.  Hungry for more.

So today I give you a ham.  Actually I wish I could give you  a ham because I don't know what I was thinking  when I bought it.

Did I think I had a large family?  Did I think I was going to have time to cook it and serve it on Christmas Day?
Did I never want to take my rings off again? 

So far we have served cold slices on Christmas night with cheeses and pickles and pickled beets, just nice food to snack on  after a long and filling day.  Then ham and boiled eggs for breakfast yesterday.  A ham sandwich for lunch and potato soup with  with a touch of ham for dinner.

This morning GG made biscuits and a ham hash with eggs.  There is still a mountain to get through. 

The next plan is to bake it and serve it with a potato-kale gratin.  And a lot of water.  I am getting very thirsty.
  If you live locally and would like to eat locally, give us a holler.  Ham mountain awaits you.  Come on up!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year

Boxing Day 2010.  Snow and sleep are in today's forecast.  Actually 3 out of 4 here are still sleeping, and without GG, the dog or the cat to play with I have turned to you.

Christmas Eve was a long, delicious evening at  Tini and Nirmal's.  With both dogs helping ,Nirmal made a Spanish influenced dinner.  We started with a capatona like appetizer with tuna.


  Next were light citrus dressed salads with sliced of avocado and clementines, then the piece de resistance, a seafood paella, full of shrimps and scallops and fava beans, cauliflower and artichokes.  

 After dinner we lit the candles on the tree, destroyed beautifully wrapped presents and hazelnut ice cream with chocolate sauce.  We drank cup after cup of black tea and tried to stay awake just to be together a little longer.

 By midnight we gave in to exhaustion and your very own tired florist removed herself from the couch and was driven home to a warm house and a hungry cat.

Christmas day itself is kind of a blur but I recall Peking duck, coffee and butter stollen and going to see The King's Speech.

Which reminds me, there is more stollen in the kitchen.  Must go eat more sugar and take a nap.

Hope everyone had a delicious love filled holiday and will get to relax today.

xo Jane

And thanks to Nirmal  both for the dinner and the pictures, this blogger arrived with her battery uncharged ( in more ways than one).

Friday, December 24, 2010

We Need A Little Christmas Now

 For me?

If you all experience 50% of the happiness the Lab did today when she received a  present of holiday milk bones, you are going to have the best Christmas of your life.

Let's all remember to wag our tails and open our gifts with our teeth to let our loved ones know how much we appreciate their thoughtfulness

A little gratitude goes a long way.

Merry Christmas and love from our house to yours.

Jane, GG, Nika and Pokey.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Satellite Of Love

Work continues to run on and on like a never ending reality show.  In the midst of the madness, friends drop by to visit, bearing cookies and babies.  Clients come by with vases to be filled and presents for all.  Drivers get lost, coffees get drunk and we get sillier and sillier.

Two more wakes then we can sleep.

I mean we can celebrate Christmas and then we can sleep.

Fresh from the bath and soon to bed. Listening to the songs of Mozart sung by Barbara Bonney.  Quietly celebrating the news that GG made the Deans List.  Now that's a Christmas present.

We'll spend the night of the 24th with Tini and Nirmal ( my computer is underlining both these names) eating seafood risotto and watching the dogs careen about.  Al la family tradition Tini will have candles on her tree. Both beautiful and terrifying when lit.  

I didn't know so many of you this time last year and now here I sit filled with details of your upcoming holidays.  Who is coming, what you will eat, how your houses are decorated for Christmas and whether or not you're dreaming of a white Christmas.

                                                           Me?  I'm always dreaming.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Off With Their Heads

Conversation with a customer:

" Excuse me, excuse me ( voice rising) EXCUSE ME.  Do you work here"  I exit cooler with arms full of flowers.  I am dressed in a dirty apron, covered in glitter and pine sap and  woefully in need of hair cut and color and general cleaning up.  Let's hope I work there.

" Yes, may I help you".
"I want to order a centerpiece".

" If you go to the front counter someone will take your order".

"No I want to talk to a designer".
 " Yes, how may I help you".

"I want a centerpiece, but I hate your centerpieces". " But I don't want to go anywhere else".

" So you want us to make you a centerpiece but you hate our centerpieces?"

" Yours are all squashed down", gestures rather wildly.

" So you want a loose, airy centerpiece?"

"Yes, with those big yellow roses but in red".

 So, you want a loose, airy centerpiece", now I'm gesturing also, " with yellow roses but make them red?
" Yes, and white also"

I'm feeling very Alice In Wonderland at this point.

Today is the winter solstice and a full moon.

Definitely a down the rabbit hole kind of day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Spreading The Joy

I am one tired but happy critter today.

 Congress passed the repeal of DADT with a sizable majority.

And one of my best friends, Anne, got engaged last night.

This makes 3 friends in the last year who have said yes to love.

All 3 have been divorced, 2 are in their 50's, one is in her 30's.  So much for that study telling women if you're not married by the time you're 35 you can forget about it.

GG's sister Tini, is one of the three.  We first met Nirmal at our annual 4th of July party.  They both came early and  worked like fiends helping us set up in the sweltering heat. We knew he was a keeper.  He made 3 store runs.  And helped do the dishes.  It was love at first store run for us.

Now they will be married in India on February 9th, 2011 at 11:00am.  An auspicious day and time.

We have just had a visit from our newly engaged couple.  Anne's a green eyed redhead  who now sports a deep green emerald ring.  But their evident happiness sparkles even brighter.

I feel so lucky to live in a world where so many wonderful things can happen in a day.

Really makes me want to get up in the morning and see what tomorrow will bring.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Weekly Review

There doesn't appear to be a creature stirring nor moving its mouse in Blogland tonight.
But I'm unwinding from from another holly jolly fun filled day of holiday party arrangements ( must you all need 12 pieces?) and looking forward to a similar tomorrow.

GG is studying for her final final tomorrow.  On a Saturday, how cruel. December is the cruelest month.

This week has been filled with winds up to 40 miles an hour, freezing temps, a lovely little snow and GG studying aloud.  Tonight it's endocrinology.  Not Shakespeare folks, but somewhat musical all the same.

In the world news, I got in a fast phone call to the lovely and lovely sounding Miss Pickering.
She's British don't you know and had posted a comment about the staggering amount of work she had to do and the impossible number of hours she had to do it in.  

So I rang her, and once it was understood I wasn't calling from India trying to sell her something we had a brief but heartfelt florist to florist, blonde to blonde chat.

My smiles came quicker the rest of the day and  I even managed to be charming to a customer who showed up at 4:00pm with 6 vases she needed filled for a brunch tomorrow.  Could she pick then at 10:00 am tomorrow?

Hell if Miss P. can get all those wreaths decorated surely  I can do 6  extra arrangements.  

With such baby steps is world peace and harmony achieved.

There's a song in here somewhere.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

O But It's Cold Outside

No matter our living room/dining room hosts the Christmas tree and an assortment of lit candles.  This time of year I like to eat dinner in the kitchen.

It boasts no holiday decor, but there is always a vase of something fresh on the high top table.  Today it's a little blue pitcher full of scraps from my work table, privet berries, eucalyptus berries and boxwood.

It's the warmest room in the house and there is usually something delicious simmering on the stove or baking in the oven.

Today was our first snow so we both baked (cornbread) and simmered (chili).

Baby it's cold outside but it's pretty toasty in here.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Food Porn

Who of us can resist it?  Not I and not when it is written as seductively as it was by Sam Sifton on December 5th in the NYT  magazine.  The lure was asado negro, a Venezuelan roast, that he claims "makes a mockery of pot roast".

He also writes " The meat in napped in blackness that comes not from fire or smoke but from the absorption of all colors into one, a color as deep as space itself.  It is beef the color of a velvet dinner jacket seen across a dark lawn at midnight".

 Okay, okay, you had me at velvet jacket.  I made it. Actually I doubled it. I caramelized the sugar and added the white vinegar and red wine.  I browned the beef and then cooked piles of thinly sliced onions and cloves of smashed garlic in its juices.  I added the soy and Worcestershire sauces  along with several bay leaves to the onions.  I skipped the celery because I never have celery.

Then I covered the browned beef with the vegetable mixture, covered both roasts with thinly sliced green peppers, added salt and pepper and poured the caramelized sauce over it all.  Covered it went into a 375 degree oven for 3 and 1/2 hours.

I served it with white rice and a simple green salad.   First I read our guests the same parts of the article that I have quoted here.  Then we ate.  And ate.  And ate a little more.  Our appreciation was as deep as space itself.

Blaise said his friends asked him "What does Jane do while everyone trims the tree". "Jane cooks" he replied.

You didn't think they did this out of the kindness of their hearts did you?

And Sam Sifton where ever you are, Word.  Read it yourself if you think you're strong enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rocking The Christmas Tree

It's up.  It was drama free. We kept the crowd at bay this year and decorated in secret, keeping our shades down so no one was drawn in by the magic.

Learning (somewhat) from last years disaster we decided to put the tree in a large crock we had sitting about.  GG cut about 15" of branches from the bottom of the tree giving us a long trunk.  She anchored this in the crock with pavers and we filled in the spaces with river rocks.  It stood, proudly.  We held our breathe and poured in water, it held.  If it was up to us, we probably would leave it just like this, green and fragrant.  But we have traditions  And they involve friends and shiny objects.

Our friend Blaise arrived at 4:00 and started wrapping the tree in lights.  By the time Beth hit the door, we were ready for ornaments.  When Anne and John came at 7:00 they had time for a drink and then dinner was served.  By 10:00 everyone was out the door and we were alone with a clean kitchen, some new Christmas tunes and a beautifully decorated little tree.

In closing: A link to my favorite Christmas song...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

With A Little Bit Of Blooming Luck

Until today only a few fragrant vases of pine and an occasional rose have decorated our house for Christmas.

Not a bauble, not a flicker of light, not a glimmer of glitter.

But today the tree goes up, and with any luck it stays up.

You probably didn't know us last year so take a peek at our tree trimming adventure Christmas 2009.

Then keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Since You Asked

 Last Sunday we went to Trader Joe's for a little grocery shopping.  It was almost noon and it was as hopping as if it were Thanksgiving eve.  As we stood in line for like forever, I remembered Belinda asking me what kind of grocery store TJ's was.  To GG's horror I started dodging people, carts and crying children to get a few pictures.

They carry charming seasonal plants...

big bundles of cut flowers...
caters to one's sweet-tooth...

and one's inner child.
I had no chance or room to get to the real food ie: meats and grains and vegetables and teas and coffees and and and but suffice it to say most are packaged as their own brands,  By the time I wound my way back, most of the groceries were rung up and GG was just finishing up the packing.  Note: TJ's is definitely the kind of store you bring your own bags, pack your own groceries and if you're smart, go with your girlfriend so you can meander off in search of pictures and still get home in time to watch your football team loose yet another game.  Good times.  Great groceries.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Back At The Ranch

The first Tuesday in December is showtime at work for us.

A group of about 40 ladies in Chanel suits show up for a floral demonstration.  They belong to a DC garden club and they're in it for the shopping and the entertainment.

My work amiga Betty and I provide the entertainment.  Every year we have a theme, the theme occurs to us in November when someone calls to ask "  What's the title of the program".  I quickly spit out something then promptly forget about it until the first of December.  This year was Winter Wonderland.  We made it snow for them today.  

We filled bowls with "snow" and a few cymbidium blossoms, pepper berries and  small gold pine cones.  And loaded birch bark sleeves with  tallow berries and eucalyptus buds, white roses and evergreens and a silvered protea.

There was a wreath with gold hydrangea and galax leaves, white birch branches and birds nests.  There was a milk glass compote overflowing with roses and ornamental kale, calla lilies and mistletoe and a fat white pillar candle. There were cylinders layered with cranberries, more "snow" and floating candles.

We chatted, told stories on ourselves, arranged flowers; they clapped and asked many questions.  The hour flew by and they had to drag us off the stage.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dear Santa

I'm starting my Christmas list early this year.  Last year you arrived rather late and the lab had been outside for hours awaiting her Christmas treats.

This year I would like:
  1. Congress to pass the Dream Act and repeal DADT now.  This session, before they adjourn for the holidays.
  2. My milk glass compote to remain magically full of thin skinned, juicy clementines.  Preferably the Darling brand.
  3. Our troops out of Afghanistan.
  4. The money pledged to Haiti to arrive in Haiti.  And someone of moral fortitude to get the aid to the people.  
  5. A mani-pedi and all the glitter out of my hair and eyelashes.  Floral designer, grubby yet glamorous.
  6. The hallway painting project finished ( this wish looks like it might be granted soon, very soon)
  7. One more warm sunny Sunday so I can finish, or do, my fall garden clean up.  60's please.
  8. GG to do well on her finals. ( probably do better if she could stop painting and start studying)
  9. Enough strength and creativity and coffee to get through this Christmas season. 
  10. Peace on earth.
  11. And maybe just one more good year where I don't  look my age yet.

Another reason to get to our house early: remember how ticked off the cat was when you woke her up?

Thank you Santa and GG, hallway project over, done, finished, beautiful.  O night, O night divine.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who You Looking At?

What we have here ladies and gentlemen...

is an old fashioned Christmas stare-down.


The kitten ( 17 year old kitten) has moved into the living room for the holiday season.

The Lab is terrified.

We are delighted she has chosen us over the attic.  Delighted but wary.

Next Sunday we move the couch to put up the tree...

The cat will not be amused.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Together Again

Luckily the canine revolution was quelled yesterday.  I finally got a day off to spend with the Lab.  We were waiting for another repairman to come ( this is becoming a habit, but I'm not going into a rant about Sear's products here) and of course if your hours are 8:00am to 12:00pm, you can be sure no one will arrive until 11:30.  Who gets the 8:00am appointment do you think? 

After a rainy walk filled with squirrel sightings, but NO chasing, we came home and made breakfast.  I'm an oat eater, granola in the summer and baked oatmeal in the colder weather.  And believe me , that colder weather has arrived.  I've been fiddling around with this recipe for years and am happy with this latest version.

I use 1 cup of uncooked quick oats and 1 cup of mixed grain cereal, both from Trades Joe's.  I add 1/3 cup of dried fruit, this time raisins, sometimes, cranberries, often a mix of dried berries, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, a 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of brown sugar but this is too sweet for me.  Yesterday I used a few maple sugar candies a friend had brought us from Canada,  Last week I used honey.  I melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and if using honey melt it along with butter.  In another bowl I have a beaten egg to which I add 1 and1/2 cups of skim milk, and a 1/2 cup of low fat french vanilla yogurt,  you could also use applesauce in lieu of yogurt.  When butter has cooled down I add it to liquid ingredients, stir and then add this to oat mixture.

I pour into an 8" square baking dish, coated with oil or butter.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  I cut this up into 9 servings.  GG eats one in the morning with a splash of milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar, heated in the microwave.  I pack mine up and take it to work to be eaten with my work amigas and the Starbucks latte that awaits me every morning on the work table.

Cooking together is such a bonding experience that the Lab and I went on from there to make a delicious black bean soup, but that's a story for another day.

Suffice it to day, the house was filled with delicious smells all day, the dryer was finally fixed and  now I can stop showing up at my neighbor's houses bearing flowers or bowls of turkey noodle soup, and wet laundry.

Oh, and I promised the Lab her own blog later on this month as long as she promises to stop writing about our dirty laundry.