Down the Rabbit Hole

 

Alice Liddell aged seven

Victorians eroticized children even as they considered them total innocents which may have been very convenient for Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. Scholars dispute if Carroll was a pedophile but it is generally acknowledged that his relationship with Alice Liddell, her two sisters and other young girls was unusually intimate. Dodgson may have wanted to marry Alice, one of her sisters or perhaps her governess. Despite many theories nothing has been conclusively proved but one thing is clear: Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has never been out of print, has been translated into 174 languages and is an endless source of enjoyment in films, art, ballet, opera, musical theater and theme parks as well as board and video games.

Using Wonderland: Curious Nature as a theme, the New York Botanical Garden’s current exhibit attempts to bring it to life. Some of it is wonderful like the White Rabbit,

White Rabbit at the exhibit

(although he’s green as he’s made of plants), in the center of a pond and the rabbit footprints that lead visitors from area to area (which are on a paper map- better had they been painted on the paths.) The exhibit at the Mertz Library, focusing on mind-altering plants like mushrooms and depicting the Victorian interest in science, includes four mini-dioramas and some material from Charles Darwin but would have been even better had more works been included.  The day we visited, the “high tea” served in various locales featured sandwiches on stale bread and lacked the promised clotted cream and jam supposed to accompany the very dry scones.

My “tea’ came in a paper bag with a plastic glass of weak iced tea

The New York Times raved about the exhibit:

www.nytimes.com/2024/04/24/arts/design/new-york-botanical-garden-wonderland.html

but my friend and I gave it a B minus feeling there should have been more Alice-related items to see and far more comprehensive signage directing visitors. We noticed these odd-looking plants but thought only that they were peculiar and not set out to “stop and interact {with}. ” (My interactions with plants were limited to getting them into the ground, weeding, watering, and cutting them. We rarely spoke.)

It was a glorious late May day and the garden was  uncrowded. That alone was like tumbling down the rabbit hole. The exhibition runs until October 27th; if it sounds like fun, try to bring a child along. A young companion won’t be jaded and will likely find parts—or all — of the exhibit terrific.

Get into your own Wonderland with:

Crimini mushrooms

 

Mushroom Risotto

4 tablespoons  olive oil

1½ pounds mixed mushrooms, chopped

¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or less or none; I’m impossible about garlic)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1½ cups uncooked Arborio rice, rinsed

⅔ cup dry white wine

5 cups warmed vegetable broth

½ cup grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and several grinds of pepper and toss to coat. Cook, stirring only occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until soft and browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Work in batches if necessary.

Wipe out the pan and return it to the heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and rice. Let cook for 1 minute, then add the wine. Stir and cook for 1 to 3 minutes, or until the wine cooks down.

Add the broth ¾ cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to be absorbed before adding the next. With the final addition of broth, stir two-thirds of the sautéed mushrooms into the risotto. Cook until the risotto is creamy and the rice has a slight al dente bite. Stir in the cheese and season to taste.

Top with the remaining sautéed mushrooms, garnish with parsley, and serve with more grated cheese.

Maybe it only makes an impact if you watch? Do so: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=i%27m+late+song#fpstate=ive&ip=1&vld=cid:15cd8ae8,vid:Q93VrYOXSe8,st:0

 

 

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Elk and Moose

These are the animals shown on Michigan’s shield along with a sun rising over a lake. I spent almost a week visiting a friend’s house, bought by her father in 1947, that is literally on the shore of Lake Michigan. Factoid: Some people refer to Michigan as the “Mitten State” because of its shape. If you go with this, her house would be on the bottom of the palm.

While I was there my friend worked on getting the house in shape for upcoming summer renters. We still found time to pick wildflowers, walk on the beach, (some people were in the water which was about 60 so way too cold for this eastern wimp), pick up stones and paint a watercolor of them, cook, have dinner with her friends, eat outrageously huge portions of ice cream at a local stand, visit several Farmer’s Markets and so forth.

In my friend’s parents’ early days the house stood almost alone but over the years others have bought or built around it. There is a lot of construction going on, some building new homes and some fixing or enlarging existing houses. The place has a vibe of beach-cum- rural living- cum- farming with a good sprinkle of independence.

Peonies at a market

Most of our lunches were salads in some form. One day, in a very successful effort to use up a bunch of bits and pieces hanging out in the fridge we had this:

 

 

Salad Lake Michigan

 

Salmon left over from being cooked the day before

Quartered small previously oven roasted red potatoes roasted with olive oil, onions and rosemary

A slice of grilled zucchini cut up

One slice leftover tomato

½ a yellow pepper cut into small dice

1 large radish cut into small dice

Gently combine all the above in a bowl

The dressing was roughly ¼ cup mayonnaise combined with roughly ¼ cup of my standard vinaigrette as follows;

Vinaigrette MG

½ cup olive oil

Less than ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Squeeze of honey (or a few pinches of sugar)

About ¼ tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Pour dressing over the salad and toss. Pile the salad over lettuce, preferably from a local market.

Put on mittens and while serving sing a chorus of Hail to the Conquering Hero. If you’ve forgotten it, this should do the job.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mURDwg_wilE

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Go-wanuus!

Floating pollutants on Gowanus Canal

For my 2024 involvement with Janes Walk, named in honor of Jane Jacobs, City planner extraordinaire, I went on an excursion billed as a “Gowanus Soundwalk.” Organized by the Municipal Arts Society, my walk was led by delightful Miranda S., a musician whose knowledge made her well-suited to the focus on sound. About twelve people gathered at the starting point, many of them residents of the area we were exploring. We walked for several hours stopping to discuss the sounds we’d heard on each stretch and learning about the Canal.

As to what we heard: even though it was a Saturday there was plenty of construction noise to say nothing of cars, an EMS vehicle, trucks and the accompanying human sounds and yes, on some streets, chirping birds. Inside Powerhouse Arts, a “factory” for ceramicists, print makers and other artists, the sounds were very different partly because we were indoors. Interestingly, the people pushing heavy-looking carts around the Grand Hall didn’t talk to one another much but the noises of their carts and footfalls were audible. (Side note: Powerhouse Arts is well-worth visiting and offers tours. To learn more and sign up: https://powerhousearts.org/about/visit-us/)

Great Hall of Powerhouse Art, the former artists’ and squatters ‘Batcave’

 

 

The Gowanus Canal was designated a Superfund site in 2009; cleaning it up began in 2013. Despite all the work by the EPA and other entities including the City, and the over $1.6 billion and rising funding the work, my impression is that the main beneficiaries will be developers. The area  has had stone and coal yards, flour mills, cement works,  manufactured gas plants, tanneries, factories for paint, ink, and soap, machine shops, chemical plants and sulfur producers operating on its banks since the nineteenth century, all dumping waste into the canal. Waste from area housing is also in the mix.  The lawyers of sewage, locally known as ‘black mayonnaise’ are deep; to add to the problems, climate change contributes to flooding. The air smells awful and apparently on hot summer days it’s awful plus 100. For more details on problems affecting cleanup, click here: https://www.eenews.net/articles/watchdog-to-epa-step-up-gowanus-canal-cleanup-enforcement/

The area was rezoned in 2021 with 8500 new apartments slated to be built over the next twelve years. 3000 units of this new construction will be “affordable” housing; luxury units are also being built.

Black mayonnaise is repulsive so here’s a recipe for the delicious kind:

Homemade Mayonnaise –courtesy Melissa Clark for New York Times Cooking

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • ¾ cup neutral oil such as safflower or canola

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, salt and 1 teaspoon cold water until frothy. Whisking constantly, slowly dribble in the oil until mayonnaise is thick and oil is incorporated. When the mayonnaise emulsifies and starts to thicken, you can add the oil in a thin stream, instead of drop by drop.

Watch Melissa in action: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12459-mayonnaise (Note: some of the commenters report using an immersion blender. Melissa’s version with a whisk gives you a mini-arm workout as the video shows.)

I’m entirely confident about the recipe, far less so about the Canal.

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Wendy the Welder (Rosie the Riveter’s Cousin)

A friend and I went to see Behind the Mask: The Art of Women Who Weld at The Culture Lab in Long Island City. So cutting edge (or torch) I hear you saying. LIC always seems like it will be a huge trip but from the Upper East Side it’s two simple subways and a short walk, the  trip total about a half- hour  (friend opted for the ferry.)

The free exhibit has about twenty-five works on view, all interesting if not what you might like in your living room, (although there are a few I would welcome.)  Culture Lab operates in a large converted warehouse with two galleries, a theater and an outside venue and is open Thursdays through Sundays starting at 5 PM. There are concerts every Saturday night, dance and comedy presentations, and opportunities for artists to participate in many ways. For more: https://www.culturelablic.org/

We didn’t partake of the Culture Lab offerings for sale (wine, chips, soft drinks) but went to Cyclo, a Vietnamese restaurant a short walk away. https://www.cyclolic.com/

Summer rolls with peanut sauce

The place is very popular with good reason such as delicious food, charming young women servers and reasonable prices  We shared Vietnamese summer rolls and a bahn mi on perfect, crispy French bread,  a must for a good bahn mi. (A woman at the next table was eating pho, the quintessential Vietnamese soup, but that’s a hard dish to share.)

 

 

Pho

 

 

 

 

And now, food as art. This particular recipe is filled with nostalgia. When I was a kid, my parents sometimes hired a waitress when they had large parties. Barbara, the waitress, always made these penguins to decorate the passed hors d’oeuvres plates. They were fascinating then although I don’t expect anyone to make them now—the age of passed food has itself passed and guests for dinner can mean ordering in Chinese.

Herewith,

Barbara’s Penguins

large ripe olives

6 hard-boiled eggs

12 small baby carrots (or pieces of regular carrots)

For the penguin heads, attach one olive to the top of each egg with a toothpick. For beaks, cut six carrots 1/2.in from the pointed end; attach the flat side of a pointed piece to the center of each head with half a toothpick.

For the feet, make a lengthwise cut through the remaining carrots; place flat side down in pairs (trim carrots if necessary). Place a toothpick in each carrot; press an egg on top of each pair.

For flippers, cut the remaining olives lengthwise into quarters; attach one olive quarter to each side of eggs with half a toothpick. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Inspired to make egg penquins (eggguins)? Learn to weld? Visit Long Island City? Why not all?

 

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Mattress

Playbill cover for Encores!2024

 

As in Once Upon A, not the kind from Caspar or Tempur-pedic.

I saw the original show with Carol Burnett as Princess Winnifred, the performance that brought her well-deserved fame. (I’ve had a long affinity for her as people used to tell me we looked alike or ask if I was her. Back in the day there was a sort of resemblance; now she’s been nipped and tucked so that she no longer retains her essence. On the other hand, she’s 90 so she can do whatever she wants.)

 

 

No one ever claimed that Mattress, the one Broadway success by Mary Rogers, was a staggeringly great musical but it was fun.  (As is Mary’s book, Shy, which is highly entertaining and gossipy but also very sad. Her parents, Richard and Dorothy weren’t even remotely snuggly and that, combined with Dick’s depression and Dorothy’s haute approach to life didn’t add up to a cheery childhood.)

 

The Mattress revival at City Center is well-done with a terrific cast including Sutton Foster (very carefully avoiding Burnett’s approach) and J. Harrison Gee of Some Like It Hot fame as the Jester with more numbers than this role usually gets which isn’t a bad thing. His eye and lip glitter aren’t bad either.

And now to food. Searching for “foods to eat in bed,” I found lots of recipes, all of which require cooking. My view of bedroom food is that it should be easy to throw together, portable and not likely to end up all over you, your sheets or the floor. When stuck I used to rely on a peanut butter, Swiss cheese and mayo sandwich, a fave of my first husband’s. Unless you’re on the anti-mayo wagon, don’t scorn it. No need for a recipe: take a piece of decent bread, (side note: bought a loaf of supposed sourdough at Pain Quotidian recently which was ghastly but has ended up as delicious bread pudding), spread with Hellman’s Mayonnaise (no substitutes please), a healthy dollop of your preferred PB  topped with one or two slices of Swiss cheese, preferably one like Finlandia as opposed to those reduced salt versions that lend a new meaning to bland.

Bedtime snack

That’s it. Grab a napkin and you’re set. While you munch listen to Shy, sung here by Sutton Foster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CswHHvTbeV8

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Films, Food and Fun in Palm Springs

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has a certain rakish charm. According to people met on line prior to seeing films, PSIFF, now in its 35th season, is much more organized than in the past. My friend and I stayed at the Palm Springs Hotel, a fifteen room, quirky spot that doesn’t have a restaurant but has a pool and hot tub as well as old-fashioned metal room keys that defeated me for days. The hotel is within walking distance of Rick’s, a popular restaurant for breakfast or lunch; nearby is another Rick’s serving dinner.

Among the films my travel companion and I liked were BlackBerry, Ezra, the Trouble with Jessica, Zone of Interest and, to a certain extent, 20,000 Species of Bees. Despite the presence of Juliette Binoche, I wasn’t as thrilled as critics have been with The Taste of Things–watching a meal being prepared for over an hour felt incredibly slow—I doubt I’ll ever look at veal loin the same way again. But what a relief to not lug metal pots around a 19th century kitchen! (Should you care to watch the trailer and see that veal click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKKCGtoIOVY )

In between films we explored the area. Sunnylands, where Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg welcomed political, business, educational, and entertainment leaders to their 200-acre winter home in Rancho Mirage, CA, is complete with a mansion, guest houses, a nine hole golf course and the greenest grass ever, although they recycle water to keep it that way. The very new Agua Caliente Cultural Center includes a permanent outdoor exhibition with native plants, rock formations and water features; inside are galleries incorporating digital animation, projections, some in a theater setting, and displays of artifacts, all stunning and dealing with the Cahuilla Nation, As Easterners very conscious of saying “Native Americans,” we were struck by the use of “Indian” everywhere including the Palm Springs High School where the team name is —you guessed it—the Indians.

Restaurants abound, some good some not so. One night before a film we ended up dining on soggy sandwiches upstairs in a ‘lounge’ at the Camelot theater, an enormous contrast with the chic white décor and delicious lunch at Eight4Nine in the Palm Springs Uptown Design District. (A stop for a date shake early in our trip was well worth it.)

We arrived at the PS Art Museum just as a wildly enthusiastic docent was starting her tour which we joined, stopping at many exhibits including one devoted to contemporary glass. Another day we went to the Architecture and Design Center to learn about Albert Frey (1903-1998) who introduced Desert Modernism and was involved with NYC’s original MOMA structure.

Walking around Indian Canyon we were greeted by this sign; happily, there were no actual snakes present.

 

 

 

 

 

In keeping with the Agua Caliente Cahuilla spirit, here is a recipe for Three Sisters Stew. The Three Sisters are beans, corn and winter squash usually planted together—the corn stalk serves as a pole for the beans, the beans help add nitrogen to the soil that the corn needs and the squash provides a ground cover of shade that helps the soil retain moisture.

Three Sisters Stew –courtesy Veg Magazine

1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 bell pepper green or red, cut into short narrow strips
14 ounces canned diced tomatoes with liquid
2 ½ cups canned pinto beans drained and rinsed
2 cups corn kernels fresh or frozen
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1 hot chili pepper fresh, seeded and minced; or substitute one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder (taste and add more if you like spicy)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

How to:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove stem from squash and cut in half lengthwise. Cover with aluminum foil and place halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until you can pierce through with a knife, with a little resistance.

When cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds and fibers. Slice, peel, then cut into large dice.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.

Add the squash and all the remaining ingredients except the last 2, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ideally let stew stand for one or two hours before serving, then reheat and add the parsley or cilantro.

While you eat watch this video and hear the Agua Caliente Indians sing: https://www.facebook.com/AguaCalienteIndians/videos/2120262831660829

 

 

 

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All Aboard for Art

When significant developments take place in New York City I try staying current but  knew nothing about Grand Central Madison (GCM), the terminal below Grand Central proper that connects the East Side to the Long Island Railroad. Looks like The Municipal Transit Authority dropped the PR ball because the other senior auditors —also au courant New Yorkers—in my Art in New York Class at John Jay College didn’t know about this space either.  GCM opened in late January, 2023; it’s a wonderful (and useful) space that includes the longest escalator in New York,

For long escalator fans

stunning tiles in blue, purple, light green and cyan and knock-out public art.

Among the permanent displays are huge glass mosaics by Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith that are both stunning and more or less impervious to damage as they can easily be wiped clean. Kusama’s work, the 120-foot long A Message of Love Directly from My Heart unto the Universe, features heads, suns, amoeba-like shapes and her signature polka dots. It’s full of color and life.

Part of Kusama mosaic

Smith’s abstract River Light is composed of blue and white irregularly-shaped tiles that reference sunshine glinting on the East River. Four smaller Smith works nod to Long Island with depictions of wild turkeys, a deer standing among golden reeds, Long Island Sound and an abstracted wave pulling back from a rocky beach.

Kiki Smith with deer mosaic

 

The permanent installations incorporate a three-part work by Nick Cave, Each One, Every One, Equal All, a mosaic version of his Soundsuit sculptures, which camouflage the wearer’s shape hiding gender, race, and class and make noise when the wearer moves. These practically dance off the walls.

There are also changing exhibits including digital artwork such as a video of people watching and reacting to being ‘watched’ and another of a playful man and his hat. Down the center one corridor is a panel of photographs by Paul Pfeiffer showing a street performer known as Da Gold Man who has appeared for years as a living statue in Times Square. On one side panels show Gold Man in various poses; on the other are his clothes which could easily pass as advertising for jeans and tee shirts (especially if you favor clothing dipped in gold.)

Da Gold Man photo

 

    

Lauren Kaplan discussing a mosaic at GCM

 

 

 

 

The class tour was led by delightful, knowledgeable Lauren A. Kaplan who teaches at Hunter and John Jay; has run adult programs at MOMA; school programs at the Guggenheim and offers private and small group tours in museums and galleries throughout New York. (For more information: : https://kaplanarttours.com

 

And what could be more appropriate than:

Melon Mosaic Salad— courtesy How Sweet Eats by Jessica

(This amount serves 4-6—increase ingredients to serve more people.)

2 cups watermelon cubes

2 cups cantaloupe cubes

1 to 2 seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into cubes

1 to 2 avocados, chopped

1 8 ounce block feta, cut into cubes

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons fresh herbs, like mint, basil and chives (if you like)

Cut up or buy pre-cut ingredients trying to make them all roughly the same size. Plate pieces like a mosaic, drizzle with a good vinaigrette (Jessica uses a ‘hot’ honey dressing I thought too complicated), sprinkle with salt and pepper. (If you opt to make this ahead toss it all into a baggie and let it marinate with the dressing—don’t add avocado until ready to serve.)

Serve humming Chattanooga Choo-Choo or I’ve Been Working on the Railroad—up the GCM theme by adding Long Island Iced Tea.

 

 

 

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More on trip to Cinque Terre

Hi reader,

Here is a link to the article running in GoWorld Travel. All the commercial messages were added by the editor or site.

https://www.goworldtravel.com/cinque-terre-things-to-do-there/

 

 

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Paint the Town Red–and Yellow, Turquoise, Peach…

Italy’s Cinque Terre (Five Towns) was created by a series of rock folds that were pushed and raised together during the Tertiary period, roughly sixty-six million years ago, the era that marked the end of the dinosaurs. The towns: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manorola and Riomaggiore, sit on the Ligurian Sea, part of the Mediterranean.

After almost a week in Florence (another story), I went to Cinque Terre to join a watercolor workshop, specifically watercolor en plein air, which gave me new respect for Monet, Renoir and Sisley

Claude Monet

toting their stuff around. Could have all that lugging have contributed to Van Gogh’s madness?  Probably not but I could have used a caddy to help deal with my folding easel, collapsible stool, palette, water containers, spray bottle, sponge, brushes…

Our group, one of many workshops run by Il Chiostro, www.ilchiostro.com, was based at La Cabana, a hotel high on a cliff overlooking Monterosso, serviced by a (steep) path and frequent shuttle service to and from the town below. Not only was the setting lovely, it got us away from the town which gets crowded especially when cruise ships disgorge passengers. Ambitious hikers can trek from town to town; we visited several by train and traveled by ferry to Porto Venera, a town slightly south of Riomaggiore.

 

Houses in Cinque Terre are a glowing rainbow of color as they cling to the cliffs— perfect for painters. Besides masses of tourists and great gelato, each of the towns have lots of restaurants serving terrific pastas, bruscetta, foccia and seafood—anchovies in various guises are part of many offerings as are squid, mussels, cuttlefish, etc. My two fave dishes of the week were faggotini, pasta shaped like a purse with a filling of soft pecorino cheese

Faggotini

and pear and a pumpkin (rather like our acorn squash) risotto. More complex than they seem, I am unlikely to reproduce either.

 

In between bouts of painting there was plenty of free time to explore the area, shop, swim or just hang out enjoying the views often with a glass of wine in hand. Other than a five minute sprinkle one day the weather was warm and sunny.

Montorosso beach

 

Pesto appears everywhere in Cinque Terre, sometimes made with the addition of potatoes and green beans. This is a more streamlined version:

 

 

 

Pesto

 

¼ cup pine nuts

1 or 2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper

½ cup olive oil

¼ Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

Put pine nuts, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped but not totally mushy. (Purists do this with a mortar and pestle; be kind to yourself and don’t.)

With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Then add the cheese which some recipes direct you to incorporate after the pesto base is out of the food processor-why, I can’t  imagine but suit yourself.

In Cinque Terre pesto is often served with trenetti; you can use linguine or almost any long pasta shape you prefer. I freeze extra pesto in ice cube trays and pop them out when wanted.

Serve with white wine (or sparkling water or whatever you like); the area’s whites are pale yellow and delicate.  If you want to toast in a group, the easy Italian way is to touch one other glass (rather than scrambling to connect with everyone), while saying: Toccato uno, Toccato tutti meaning ‘touch one, touch all.’ If you said cheers I doubt if anyone would object. Just smile.

Drinking while painting could be fun although your artwork may suffer a tad. On the plus side, carrying a wine glass up hilly paths seeking the perfect point of view is a lot less taxing than toting an easel.

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Heraclitus Was Right

Heraclitus was the ancient Greek who wrote “you can’t step into the same river twice.”   On the money!

I rented the same adorable, quirky house in Bucks County as last year when the whole thing was blissful perfection.  Although the house remains adorable and quirky this year’s experience had a few bumps. On day two I launched my rented car into the gully at the side of the ‘challenging’ driveway requiring a visit from AAA.

Car in gully

It took the (very unpleasant) AAA guy an hour to extricate it. In addition, I suspect Avis will not be thrilled with the damage to the front right fender. On the plus side, the car emerged drivable and no one was hurt.

Last year was bug-free. This time something—not a simple mosquito—fed all over me. Four days later the itching subsided.

All my electronics worked except my laptop which refused to hold the Wi-Fi signal.

However, these were minor matters. My houseguests were delightful as were many adventures. There was a painting-and-pottery show at which guest #1, a pottery devotee, admired the work and chatted with the potter. Guest #2 and I went to the Moravian Tile & Pottery Works on the National Registry of Historic Places and had a great time seeing the place, learning about the founder, Henry Chapman Mercer, and meeting a young tile-maker who demo-d some of the processes.

A demo at the tile works

I connected for lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for years. The produce stands were great; I ate some of the best corn ever. Frenchtown, just across the Delaware, remains entertaining if crowded on weekends. Older daughter and her partner came for Labor Day weekend which included a visit to the Stover Grist Mill open only once a year for tours; a mini-hike; dinner at Caleb’s American Kitchen, an excellent restaurant in the ‘hood, and Scrabble.

To my mind, a caprese sandwich when tomatoes are really good spells summer (OK, end of summer.) Note: The pesto called for isn’t classic pesto; it’s what the recipe creators call “creamy basil sauce.”  Real pesto—homemade or bought would be fine as well and especially great if you’re anti-mayo.

 

Caprese Sandwich – courtesy Cookie and Kate

1 baguette (16 ounces) or any good, sturdy bread you have (personally I like sourdough)

1 tablespoon thick balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ cups arugula

 8 oz mozzarella

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds

Flaky sea salt or kosher salt

Creamy basil sauce (this makes extra

1 small or ½ medium clove garlic, roughly chopped (not for me)

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup (1 ounce) lightly packed fresh basil

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

C and K begin by toasting bread which isn’t necessary to my mind.

To make basil sauce they suggest using a food processor. I concur but a mini chop would also work. As written it makes about ¾ cup. Leftover sauce is great on raw veggies.

To assemble the sandwiches, lightly drizzle balsamic and olive oil over half of the cut sides of bread. Layer some arugula on top, then weigh it down with rounds of mozzarella.

Top with the sliced tomato, then sprinkle the tomato lightly with flaky salt.  Spread the basil sauce generously over the cut side of the remaining slices of bread. Place them face down over the tomatoes. Serve or take on an end-of-summer picnic. Hum something Italian and maybe pour rosé wine if it’s a dinner or especially celebratory lunch.

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