Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

A happy post-parade face!

Our Beads hung and ready to be flung!
Saturday was parade day for our Mardi Gras Krewe. The weather was perfect; more like an early summer day in May (I know, June 21, but not here!) instead of a day in late February. It was sunny and warm and people were laughing and smiling with the happiness the first really pretty day of the new spring brings.
Our friends had fired up the grill and had paper plates stacked with burgers and hot dogs. A tip for grillers - pour a little Dale's Marinade into a plate and flip the raw burgers over once in the marinade and onto the grill. Don't let them sit in the marinade, just put them into the plate, flip them over and then onto the grill. Don't otherwise season or salt them.
We ate and drank and then the music started and the floats rolled.
The parade always seems to end too soon. It is so odd. When the float is rolling all you can really see is what is behind you and on either side - looking forward you can't see more than a few feet because of the way our float is built. So five minutes later or 90 minutes later or five years later it was over.
I am young again when I do this. I am a 17 year-old Pine Tree Princess in a mango colored chiffon evening gown, waving from my seat atop a convertible.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spring Dreams, Fall Memories

 My Pansies

Pansy heaven, which I'd rather have!

After prying myself away from HGTV and the novelty of being able to leave the French Doors to the deck open I made a trip to Lowe's to look at ceramic tile to re-do my kitchen counters with and was lured into the garden department by visions of colorful perennials in hanging baskets.
The sudden arrival of warmer weather must have caught the Lowe's buyers by surprise since the stock is still mainly delicate annuals like pansies, petunias and violas. So much for new hanging baskets. I saw the mark-down cart and went to have a look; one of my best plants ever was a nearly dead tea rose that appreciated my attention so much that it became a 4'wide by 6' tall bloomer that faithfully provided perfect pink blossoms and true rose scent every year from spring til late fall. I miss that rose.
Anyway, not much to choose from in the markdowns but I did pick up two pots of pansies for $3 to sit on a double plant stand by the driveway. If I were fat with money and time, my yard would be a pansy heaven (like the other picture!) every year from October til the heat ate them up.
The year Charlie and I got married, autumn began arriving in September and temperatures were dropping before I had expected. We were having an outdoor wedding in our own backyard and a cold October afternoon was not what was required for my dream wedding! I soldiered on with preparations, getting the landscape ready for company.
I was in the habit of only growing plants that I had figured out neither my hands nor yard soil could kill, so I had a pretty hardy group that were still blooming or looking bright and healthy. My purple queen (called wandering jew by many of you) sat in pots around the swimming pool in company with hisbiscus trees and moss rose (portulaca) showing their red, pink and orange flowers.Since I had chosen my favorite colors, blue and yellow, for the wedding, I needed something to punch up the yard to match my theme.
I've always loved pansies. The contrast between the boldness of color and delicacy of the petals appealed to me but the short period of their viability in an unpredicatble Northwest Florida spring/summer discouraged me from ever buying them. But now I needed the reliable profusion of blooms that could stand the current temperatures from 40-80 degrees and bring me all of the shades of yellow I needed along with the violet that was as close to blue as I was going to get.
I bought my pansies and placed them strategically for the wedding and gave them permission to die after the honeymoon.
They didn't. They bloomed until Christmas, and although they are supposed to be annuals, either they self-seeded in their pots or just decided to break the rules and I had pansies every year until we left that house.
Every time I saw their little faces opening in bloom I was, for a second, in my wedding dress again and walking determinedly across the grass to marry the right man at last.

Picture of a happy bride:)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hello, Young Lovers! and older ones...

I love food. I love really good food most of all. I also adore my husband who routinely drives anywhere between 2 and 6 hours to spend the night with me when I am on travel for work.
Today being Valentine's Day and my meetings starting at 8:30 eastern tomorrow (ack) we decided to celebrate in Tallahassee tonight. The best resevation I could get was at 5:30 at Chez Pierre - I was willing to have dinner at Barnaby's (love that pizza) but my darling wanted to take me "someplace nice" so Chez Pierre it was.
The restaurant is in an old home, looks to be from the late 19th century, with a beautiful set of what I think of as French garden around it. They planted rye grass to continue to have some greenery and have little vignette areas of flowering plants, fountains, benches, statues scattered along the path to the entrance.
Our table was in a room with aqua walls, white crown molding and various non-traditional style French scenes. There were three scenes painted in a macro-pointillism style that I wasn't real sure I cared for but I liked the pen and ink drawings.
I really liked the menu. The make of a really good restaurant to me is what they offer in the way of small plates or appetizers. Chez Pierre's normal menu has so many lovely apps that I have a hard time choosing which to order. Since it was a holiday they were iperating with a limited menu so my choices were easier. We opted to share a cheese board with cheeses from Thomasville's Sweet Grass Dairy - Tomme, Brie and a bleu that was so beautiful I almost wanted to taste it. We had plain and olive bread, grapes and strawberries on the plate as well. We nibbled and talked about the art, the way the crown molding wasn't flat to the ceiling, and where we'd go if you could time travel for vacation.
I had some escargot and ordered the smoked salmon appetizer as my entree. The salmon was beautiful - the picture doesn't do it justice. The slices were thick, the flavor was delicate, the meat was buttery-smooth. A small arugula salad with a generous helping of capers, mixed olives and red onion was served on the side along with slices of olive bread and a dollop of herbed creme fraiche.  The latter for those who don't read cookbooks like they were porn is simply a high-end sour cream with fresh herbs mixed into it. But creme fraiche is to Breakstone as creme brulee is to the filling in a Hostess Twinkie. All good, oooonly different:)
My Charlie had wild mushroom ravioli that was tasty but after the escargot I was glad of the relatively lighter salmon dish.
One of the many joys of having been together for so many years is that the scary parts of the relationship are gone. I wanted to go to the new organic grocery store (Earth Fare) after dinner (which we did) without worrying that he expected some Valentine's Day action right after we ate. He knew how much I'd enjoy the store with its rows of produce in their naturally bright, un-wax-coated splendour. We bought Meyer Lemons and organic cider and organic chocolate truffles and 3 dozen organic eggs from free range chickens.
We came back to the room and rested a little and snuggled together and he reminded me again of why, back when I first saw him, he took my breath away.
Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The kind of friend you need

This is Randy and Wink. Randy is the one who looks like he's snarling; he is just having a yawn. Up until the moment I snapped this pic he was laying curled around Wink looking for all the world like a teenaged boyfriend with his arms wrapped around his girl.
My cats are pretty important to me; I've always loved my little non-human friends but since we had our unintended cat population explosion I have realized that all of them, not just the specials I had before, have distinct personalities. Randy is laid back, chatty on occasion, and loving to human and feline alike. Wink is a (spayed) little flirt and likes to snuggle with the big males of the house. George is a cranky SOB except when Wink or a kitten has laid down with him. Otherwise he is chasing sister Trixie or swatting his twin, Cabrillo. Romeo is a very large flame point Siamese who used to also be very timid. When the cat accumulation began, Romeo, as senior cat, developed a backbone of sorts.
When I came home from the ritual hunting and gathering at Walmart this afternoon my across-the-street neighbor was in his front yard tossing a football with his girlfriend's kid. Russell is an easy-going guy in his early 30's, likes to talk, likes to hunt and take his truck to bog-ins. I waved, he waved back and I started unloading my haul. Oddly, only 5 or 6 of the cats were around to escort me inside and politely request feeding. I put down food and treats and kept putting up groceries and then heard a non-My House sound - dog barks in my back yard. There were two silly canine faces with a backdrop of windshield washer tails in one of my breakfast room windows!
I went out through the French doors to the deck and patio and there were DOGS. First thought on surveying the scene: My gate was closed, how'd these guys get here? Second thought: Oh hell, the big one has seen Romeo!
If we'd been dealing with a beagle sized dog Romeo would have immediately won this encounter. He arched his back, fluffed out his fur and presented himself as 30 pounds of pissed off instead of his actual 16 pounds of sweetness.
Big Dog, who appeared to be shepherd and collie, was unimpressed and ran at him along with his young American pit bull partner. Romeo cut his losses and ran like hell. I tried to grab the dogs and put them out of the yard but my gate WAS CLOSED (how'd they get in?) and I couldn't open it. Deciding that panic had made me stupid I ran through the house to get help - Russell!
I got into the front yard and yelled "Russell! I need help!"
I wasn't screaming or anything, just a yell. He didn't ask me what I needed until he had run across the street and through the yard to get to me.
He got the gate unstuck, helped me get the dogs out of the yard and identified one of them as belonging to another neighbor and left me to rescue my panicked fur babies. Trixie was up a tree, Wink had gone to visit the old slow dogs on the other side of the house and Romeo and Fuzzbutt were perched on my other neighbor's chicken coop. Long story, but previous husband raised exotic chickens and now he and the chickens were gone.
After calm had been restored it occurred to me what a good guy Russell is. And how exactly appropriately he responded to my request for help. None of this "what's wrong" while standing like a stump in his yard. No leisurely stroll from his yard to mind. No laughing at my problem, no having to stand still to think.
So remember - the next time someone calls your name for help, don't stand around, just run like hell and think on your way. If you can't think and run at the same time, just don't go outside, ok?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Adzuki Beans!

This is just fun to say: Adzuki Beans! AddddZoooooKeeeey!
These are little red-purple beans with a white fleck. They are actually a color called puce, which is the color of a tick. I know, highly appetizing, right?
I had heard and read a good bit about these beans. Gillian McKeith, the Scot Tyrant Holistic Nutrionist, says they are helpful for weightloss. Lots of fiber, good nutrients like potassium and magnesium (good for you if you are a charlie-horse person) but a lot of calories. The latter adds up to 320 calories per HALF CUP! I know, a lot - but it is very filling, lots of protein so you can have a bowl of these with no meat and feel pretty good about yourself.
I soaked mine overnight, drained and rinsed and then added 3 cups fresh water to my 1 cup of beans with about a tbl of Vigo Ham Base (powdered soup base) and a pinch of sea salt.
My stove is still new to me so I had to adjust, but I got a boil for about 5 minutes and then a nice simmer for an hour. I added a little water to get the amount of pot likker (bean juice in this case) I wanted and simmered until the beans were just tender and good from the seasoning.
I had a nice bowl of beans, which amounted to 3/4 cup of actual beans and 1/2 cup nummy bean juice.
And I wasn't hungry an hour or even two or three hours later. I am 4 1/2 hours out now from Aduki/Adzuki bean dinner and am STILL food happy.
Maybe hateful Gillian has a point. I guess I'll try the warm glass of water with lemon tomorrow morning...
**Gillian McKeith is the host of "You Are What You Eat" on BBC America.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It was My BIRTHDAY!!!!

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of my arrival upon this stage and I spent the evening alone by choice.

I wasn't grumpy or feeling sorry for myself - my husband has been spending weeking at the hunting camp and there are only few weekends of hunting season left so I gave him a guilt-free pass to the woods. He gave me a really nice fat Bed Bath and Beyond gift card and brought me a bottle of champagne and some soup from my favorite restaurant to have for dinner.

My BFF stopped by and had a glass of champagne with a float of Chambord across the top then it was just me, the cats and the television.

The rain kept the cats inside and since they couldn't run around outside to play, they tore around the house like furry Gran Prix racers. I left the back door open in hopes that they'd run around on the deck but I didn't get many takers. I stepped out the door myself to try to encourage some of them to follow me and admired the bounty of my calamondin tree's fruit. It was hard to get a good picture, but imagine the fruit you see above covering the whole canopy of the tree. The fruit are small, the size of a jacks ball (remember playing jacks?) and rather like kumquats. The peels are sweet-tart and the flesh will make your mouth pucker!
I've got a jar of liquour I made with them and some oranges from a neighbor's tree 'curing' in the refrigerator.
There was a 'Murder, She Wrote' marathon on and I got hooked into that until about 3 am at which point I decided that my birthday was over. I then slept until about nine, decided I wasn't really through sleeping, and snuggled down again until noon-ish. I had to get up and dress then in order to get some food for the cats. I tried to get them to eat some of the Old Roy dogfood I bought for the possums and that was a no-go. I even sprinkled cat treats on top, but they just ate those and then glared at me.
I brought home acceptable food and the cats were pleased. I can hear one snoring now:)