Thursday, August 23, 2012

LIFE IS LIKE . . .

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

rubylane sales image
 


Y’know, when you were a kid and you used to get that smallest Whitman’s Sampler in the box with maybe six pieces in it from your favourite Aunt, and you’d hide it from yourself and ration it out just a piece at a time? Sometimes, you’d just slip open the box with that little shussssh of sweet air and rustle of paper, and maybe just take a tee-ninecy bite off the corner of the chocolate-covered caramel, so it would all last longer?


 

 
I did; I could ration those beautiful confections out like Mickey and the bean, sometimes slicing microtomic sections off with my pocket-knife.  I hid the little hearts and several boxes in a pretty crocheted bag which hung in my closet, later to hold stockings and neatly-ironed hankies, but christened with import-for-life just by dint of  holding those coveted chocolates.  That silky bag was one of the loveliest things I owned, made by my Other Mammaw, of pale variegated threads in the tiniest of stitches---it was every color of a rainbow-seen-through-mist, though the thread had a shine like my satin hair ribbons.
 
I loved those little boxes just for themselves, like little memories I could hold in my hand and lift to my face for a breath of chocolate, and I must say that I’ve been rationing out memories of our weekend with Kim and Mike in tiny sweet bites, as well.    Our Saturday together is stored in a special place, like that beautiful pastel bag, just waiting to be savored again and again. 
 
When we returned fairly early from breakfast, we all went to our own rooms to freshen up, and then they knocked, carrying their water bottles and trundling that conniving chair, and we all got comfortable to chat.   And we TALKED.  For hours.
 
I made a big pitcher of peach tea and we sat talking of everything under the sun---children and trips and cooking and more children, as well as what-are-you-reading, and a great segue off into such diverse subjects as Game of Thrones and the genteel gentles of Miss Read.  I have no idea where the time WENT, but in contradiction to the usual time flies feeling, I looked at the clock WAY later, and it was still just eleven o’clock.   And hours of talk-and-laugh later, it was still only noon.   I don’t KNOW what happened there, but we were in some sort of Brigadoonish cocoon or perhaps living at Scalosian speed for a time, for we were immune to minutes, it seemed, and that was weird and wondrous all at once.

And the highlight, I’m sure, was that ridiculous spectacle I made of myself in that Humpty Dumpty moment when tush and teakettle swapped altitude, and I sprawled right down on the floor.  
 
We’d discussed going to dinner, and maybe we would, but we never got around to deciding.  And the night before, I’d said we could have a picnic, with all that ham and the Things in Dishes we had stashed in the fridge.  We’d looked out at the inviting patio, with its cozy groupings of furniture and umbrellas, but it was HOT out there.   It got to be four or so, with more mumbles of dinner, and Mike said, “I can’t think of anything better than to have our picnic right HERE.” 


 

And we all fell to, with the guys sliding that neat little dining table out from beneath the computer desk, arranging chairs, going for more ice.  Kim spread a big white towel down the table and set out the food whilst I peeled several tomatoes from our garden and one of the guys sweet-talked a lady downstairs out of plates and silverware from the restaurant, instead of the paper plates I'd thought they'd get.

Chris sliced a whole lobe of that fragrant ham:
Of course, there were Paminna Cheese and sleeves of Premiums, a Braunschweiger-based “pate,” little containers of Duke’s-mayo-from-home and wonderful industrial-strength Inglehoffer seedy mustard for the ham.   Naturally,  Chris had to have a loaf of “white bread,” and that’s our little trusty green Tup of salt---that thing’s traveled more than the Astors.

 
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Kim scattered several voluptuous peaches down the table---kinda like if van Aelst had been one to immortalize Tupperware, and we ate them in a down-and-all, chins-over-a-plate manner, like eating a juicy tomato sandwich.    Over in the left top is a plate of some of the cheeses Caro sent for them, along with jars of fig and cherry spreads to-go-with, but we didn’t even touch those. Caro's note in the cheese box:


 

We DID, however, delve into the cookie box, lifting the lid with great anticipation and delight, munching and sampling and probably sputtering crumbs onto the furniture as we just couldn't converse fast enough.

 

A perfect afternoon, WAY into evening, with the minutes flying and the hours slowed to syrup---sweetly,languorously spinning out of the bottle, laving us all.

 
I think the folks at Mike’s work teased him about traveling so far just to sit inside a hotel and TALK with people he’d met only once, but it was Old Home Week and Howdy-Do all at once.   Getting to know, and knowing perfectly already. 
 
Godiva, Laduree’, Fauchon, a five-pound, ribbon-tied satin box from a handsome swain---none of those could equal my memories of the charm and taste of those long-ago little Whitman’s boxes, and I don’t think I’d be remembering a Grand Tour with the fond reminiscence attached to that wonderful day with those dear friends.
 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTING




On our Friday night in Pittsburgh, we went out to a Chinese restaurant on the list of “recommends” that Kim had obtained from friends, and they were absolutely right---it was a lovely place, with whispery fountains and soft-walking, gracious serving ladies, as well as spectacular food.

Our lady took the soup orders, then returned with a basket of still-warm, crispy wide noodles for dipping into the little bowls of “duck sauce” at each place.    Mike much approved his Hot and Sour soup, and we debated the merits of having/not having rice in the bowl---we lean toward “having,” for we make a whole meal of Caro’s marvelous concoction several times each Winter, and that bed of plump little Calrose pearls just “sets it off.”

Mike’s was slender strips of tender beef and crisp vegetables in a very spicy sauce.   I chopsticked one strip from the proffered plate, and declined another.   It was HOTTT.



Kim ordered her favorite:  Coconut Shrimp, and instead of the usual very-crisp, shreds-in-the-batter shrimp tossed atumble like rocks amidst the parsley, it was an artfully-arranged dish of proud-tails-aloft shrimp on bright shards of celery, with a lovely scatter of sauce and a snowing of almost-powdered coconut atop.  Just lovely, though I did not taste one.

We decided those festive flowers must be thin curls of turnip or daikon, dyed for the effect.




My own “AMAZING CHICKEN” was scrumptious.   “Tell me about the Amazing Chicken,” I said to the lady-with-the-pencil.  The tiny red pepper beside the name on the menu had led me to inquire, because once, in a never-to-be forgotten venture into a new-to-us restaurant here, I’d had a memorable surprise.  

We’d taken Daddy out on one of his visits, and had chosen a much-admired place, with all the beautiful d├ęcor---pink tablecloths beneath glass tops, real linens and candlelight.  We hadn’t realized what a role the lighting would play in our evening, for upon ordering a dish well-known to us in other places---nicely zingy and flavorful---we were in for an unpleasant surprise (at least I was).

The several dishes were set down, garnished and fragrant, and in the dim light, we carefully served our plates.   I took the first bite of the “new” dish, chewed for a second, and began to cough.   And sputter and cough, reaching for the water, which I probably sputtered INTO as I gulped in down.

My mouth and throat were aflame, and everyone else stopped eating, as Chris whipped out his ever-present, trusty little pocket-light and illuminated the platter.   No wonder.   We counted eighteen---EIGHTEEN---of the little red wasp-tail chiles nestled amongst the strips of chicken---and I’d already swallowed one.  That was not a dish for dim lighting, let me tell you.



Thus the inquiry.



A smile, possibly of joy at the prospect, or perhaps toward my own good taste.   “It’s A-may-zing,” She said.



At my lifted brows and little incline of encouragement to further elaboration, she went on, “It’s a little bit sweet, and a little bit of hot, and with snow peas.”



And it was---succulent chunks of thigh, with a lovely sesame sauce and slivered vegetables.  I offered it all round, and Kim and Mike took a tiny portion; Chris was way too wrapped up in his Seafood Delight.


And it MUST have been delightful, for I’ve not seen so much glistening seafood on one plate since we used to order the Neptune Platter at Red Lobster in Memphis.

And this was gorgeous---shrimp and scallops and pale calamari circles, with big coral chunks of lobster, and several meaty mussels peeping from their shells.   Wow.   It looked amazing, its ownself.

And you know, until I had the pictures to remind me just now, I could not remember anything about what we ordered or what it was like, for the conversation was flowing fast, with each of us chiming in and interrupting and laughing, laughing, getting every word in, making every moment of this too-short-time count.

Food for the soul.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

ZINNIAS, ETC.




While awaiting a CD of trip-pictures from Kim, I think I’ll pause a bit in the Tale of our Trip to mention a few things I’ve been thinking of during these LONG HOT days of drought and sun.   We mention “What if we were still Down South?---We’d REALLY know what heat is.”

And we still grump about the 105 afternoons, with the hover-haze over the lawns giving a mirage-wave to the trees and umbrellas and yard-art that we see every day.   We’ve set both little blue plastic “pools” to use, with innumerable hours whiled away in the cool water---the slow, unerring pouring of cups and pans and tiny cookpots and teapots and pot lids of water from each into each, and onto the ground. Several pool-sized Fairy Rings of moss and expectant grass have  sprung up hopefully all around the yard, and though we haven’t had to have the lawn crew here in about six weeks, there’s a nice verdant patch over by the patio, where the little stream from the faucet-leak flows toward the yard.




I think often of those muggy, hazy afternoons of my
growing-up and my younger adulthood, those times when  “Shut the DOOR!” greeted more folks than “Hello,” and getting into an inferno of a car was a careful procedure---scooching onto a towel over the leather, into such stifling heat that you could feel it crackle the down on your cheeks,  letting the A/C blow into your flushed face and onto the steering wheel long enough to keep it from blistering your fingers.



That was just Summer.   Accepted, remarked on, grumbled about, and tolerated, with cold wet rags on the back of your neck, joining the kids in the dashes through the lawn sprinklers, endless sweating pitchers of ice-tea, shade where you could find it.



I think of our yards of that time, with overgrown roses higher than the house, vines which threatened to cover the windows like Sleeping Beauty’s nest, and bright floral punctuations from the color palette of Kindergarteners---true reds and blues and eye-blinding oranges and yellows.  






Mostly I remember zinnias, those big ole bright Bubba flowers, immune to drought and sun and child-pillage.  We all had bright zinnias (called ZEEN-yuz by most), and they dotted the yards of every house, from the showy flaunt of can-can skirts to poufy pastel pinecones. 




Mammaw had lots of dinner-plate dahlias, which were bigger even than the sunflowers Mrs. Prysock used to raise to feed her pet crow. 





  After a lifetime of thinking they were only “mawve,” for that was the only color we had, I was surprised to find that they come in lots of shades, even swapping their showy garb for the creamy white and approximate size of those huge mums our Homecoming dates used to pin on us at Ole Miss.




And now on that note, and with a BIG BAD Birthday coming up, I think I’ll go think awhile on being eighteen.




Sunday, August 12, 2012

SATURDAY BREAKFAST

SATURDAY
 

We went to Saturday breakfast, also on the recommendation of someone from eG, and were most happy with the choice--- a wonderful place called Eggs ‘n’‘At.  

I’d expected it to be one of those Kountry Kitchen types that you see advertised---those which deliver KILLER breakfasts or Meat ‘n’ Threes and the best biscuits in five states, or are famous for their pie or chicken.


The menu offered neither AIGS nor BISKITS, but was nicely varied, with especially delicious food, in WAY generous portions.
   A good Country breakfast of eggs and bacon and grits for Kim, (and she just today---Tuesday---reminded me that I forgot about the skillet-crisped biscuit halves and the only less-than-stellar dish of our whole trip:  a bowl of soup-thin Sawmill Gravy).


A colorful veggie wrap with salsa for me:




Eggs Benedict, Chris’ favorite, silky with yolk and Hollandaise:



And a gorgeous omelet with Spinach, Olives and Feta for Mike:


The porch was railed around, and with a breeze barely stirring, it was rather warm, with tea-sweat ringing the wooden table, and I kept surreptitiously dunking my straw in my water to dampen a paper napkin for dabbing my face.


Though the food was a little bit fancier than we had anticipated from the name, we were all super-pleased with our selections, and the service and atmosphere were just what you’d expect in a good ole Southern caffay---our cheerful jeans-and-T waitress practically called us “Hon,” as she bustled around with refills.   

Extra points for a neat circle of black eyeliner all the way around at nine a.m., and a big grin around her Doublemint---just perfect.

Then straight back to the hotel for a whole day of TALK.

I DO plead SORRY, for somehow in the interim between posting and now, the pictures are all sideways.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

SHOWERS OF FUN





We had a singular aim for our trip last weekend---to TALK, to go out to a few fun restaurants, and to TALK some more. 


We’d been to lunch on Friday, as soon as we all threw our luggage into the rooms, stashed the Things in Dishes and the ham in the minuscule fridge, and freshened up from our travels.  That Friday lunch was at Forgotten Tastes, a delightful Pierogi place, recommended by someone on the recipe-and-restaurant site where Kim and I met.    Indeed, she’d sent out a blanket request for anyone in the Pittsburgh area to recommend their favorite places, and they didn’t miss, not once.

The restaurant was in a sizeable “strip” which made an immense square of Yogurt and Yoga, bookstore and bikes, and quite a few varied eating places.  This one could have been any order-at-the-front place, with bright pictures displayed in that neck-crick area above the counter, cheery folks to help you, and fresh flowers on the formica.








I was expecting a couple of Pierogies with my stuffed pepper, and a nice little serving of the cabbage-and-noodles, just like our neighbor Mrs. Kowalski used to make.   But these plates were GIGANTIC:


The others had Kielbasa and the noodles and several incarnations of cabbage, and the Pierogies, one with tangy, long-cooked Sauerkraut---just looking at it would make your tongue curl:  



We sat long at the little table, and were dismayed to have to leave so much food.   We had nowhere to stash go-boxes of such proportions, and ruefully scraped and stacked our plates as we left.   Next time, we’ll share just two plates, or maybe ONE.

We went back to our rooms, took a little break to unpack and wind down, then spent the entire afternoon talking and laughing---my friend Kim has the richest, most infectious laugh you ever enjoyed hearing.  And I cannot tell you the zany subjects and the funny stories and the magical way that being with some people seems to multiply everybody’s wit and humor exponentially, till we were on this roller-coaster of finishing each others’ sentences, and adding our own bit to the tale.

I provided a small floor show of my own, as well---kindly remember the word "floor" as we go along here.   We did all the gathering in our room---they were both bright and spacious, decorated in bright reds and stripes of Queen Anne’s lace, with a pretty little sofa and coffeetable on one end, and a stylish black desk-chair under the little dining-table-for-four snugged up BENEATH the computer desk. 

   They’d rolled over their own chair to provide the extra seat, and somewhere after a lotta conversation and laughing and the making of pitcher after pitcher of peach tea and pouring of Mountain Dew, I got up to re-fill my glass of tea for the umpteenth time.

I walked back to the group, intent on what someone was saying, and as I sat, the chair rolled, and so did I---for minutes, it seems.    You know how some things seem to go on forever, captured in all their freeze-frame embarrassment?  

I remember falling for the longest time, just going forward, forward, and reaching for the coffee table, for Mike’s knee somewhere ahead of me, for the arm of the sofa, and somehow I flipped on the way down to land on one knee, then all the way over onto the very point of my left shoulder.



Shouts of, “Catch her!” and “Are you OK?” punctuated this loony movie, as I finally landed.  I waved them off and got back up to my hands and knees to rise.     And THEN I felt the streams and sluices of tea falling down my face and dripping from my hair--I’d somehow managed to pour the entire contents of my tea glass over my head. 

The absurd posture and what I must look like set me off into this uncontrollable cackling ---if I’m not really hurt, I ALWAYS laugh when I fall down in public.

I could hear, “I just couldn’t get up in time to catch her!”  I couldn’t move fast enough!”    And then I heard Mike say, “I was just wondering how the Russian judge would score that one.”    That set us all off, as I got to my feet and accepted a towel.  

Nothing broken, though the shoulder is still a little tender.  And I promise, there was NO alcohol involved, but I think we were all drunk from laughing.
Moire non of our wonderful adventures, 




Friday, August 10, 2012

SWEEEEET!






No words enough to tell you the fun and laughing and talktalk and dining and more talk, more talk, til we were brimmed full and overflowing.   I cannot remember a more fun weekend in a LONG time---it’s really memorable when you laugh so much your face hurts.



Lots more telling and pictures---just for now, the bounty of homemade cookies Kim made for us.  I’ll get her to “guest tell” about the kinds and maybe the recipes later.



And the photos don’t show the absolute marvel of those cookies---they are IMMENSE.   That Macy box measures about six inches high and at least fourteen square---it could have held a good-sized Spring hat, with room for coupla new hankies and a pair of white gloves.



We ate some just for nibbles, and several at our “picnic” lunch, and brought home several dozen.  Since Kim had quoted Annelle Dupuy’s “freezes beautifully,” I’ve opted to save most of them for a little tea party we’re having next month, so we’ll have a “Kim Dish” on the table.   Somebody who makes all this, including melting-crisp butter cookies neatly stitched with little fork-pokes all round REALLY loves you.









They were already wrapped in fours or sixes in layers of Saran, with the delicate Butter ones in twos, and Caro managed to get nearly all of them into this handy air-tight box in her freezer.    She had to uproot the two ice creams, hers and ours, from their accustomed center stage, and though the vanilla was as laid back and mellow as usual, the Fudge Tracks was grumpy and stuck his tongue out in a razzberry every time we opened the door.





I just like walking by and opening the door to gaze on all the love and meaning in that box.


   The trip was all we hoped and much more, so Moire non when I get more organized.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

IF EVER A WIZ THERE WAS . . .


We're taking a little break for the next few days, and will probably be back on Monday.

I wish you all a safe, happy, cool weekend, with rain if you need it, sunshine and gentle breezes if that's what you're in need of.

We're not off to BE THE WIZARD this time, but we ARE headed for OZ.