Happy… birthday. Happy!? I hope I have made you as happy as you have made me so. In a simple collage we have the essence of it all: cat, food, travel, spinning, beach… together. Good time?! Yup! Favorite cat? We all have a special one. Ha! Not really. If a picture is worth a thousand words… I hope you will know how my feelings are in this collage. Happy?…. as the cow jumped over the moon. Happy? … my wish to you.
Flag? Symbolism? Meaning? Interpretation? Philosophical? Deep? Poetic? … Nah! Spontaneous. It was eye catching as I edited… gestalt. Ah! And flowers….
I could hardly be accused of being cramped. I keep saying there are too many images and not enough time. The cameras give me technically sound shots. I used to shoot 36 images (film) per day. Now, it can easily be 700 images (digital) in a single outing. Philosophically, less is more?! One image? Sure. But, it’s so much more illustrative (fun!) to share the backstory (ha!) on what’s doing.
Look to home when you need inspiration? My cat Feather has replaced Peas in the basket in order to occupy space and ambush Peas (in her former favorite spot). After Barb cut down my passion fruit vine, the new one and its flower is a surprise brilliant red. Sometimes things happen for a reason (photo op). Meanwhile, you will see Chestertown illustrated. It was a charming town, an over the top excellent find by Colleen, who loves history, shopping, eating, art, and above all, all things “charming.” We could not have had a better day with our clothes on. (Shhh, she wasn’t sure about the dress length; she wore shorts beneath.)
If you take away no other information, Colleen loves to eat out. It’s a bread stick! …but sublime. What a smile! Travel day – it’s the long ride to or from. We usually squeeze in an antique store or two. Some are high end “curated” – i.e. expensive! – and others are more practical – fun. No matter what, there’s always a lot of what you don’t need or didn’t know anyone else would ever buy – an electric cow milking machine? Shepard and sheep? Empty tin cans? Iron skillet? Oh, the things you find! Herd immunity? And the smile (eating out)… priceless!
We just experienced Jane(d) again. This would be a follow up to a recent post on this very subject. Never take a photo of someone while they eat. (They look funny – ridiculous.) Jane loves to eat out. She loves to try everything on the menu – if only she could. She ordered tacos. I do not believe she has ever eaten a taco and probably misheard the waitress. She was surprised enough to ask what it was they placed before her. And she did not eat it. She took it home to die in her refrigerator until after we left. Ditto – the dessert. It was a mango parfait. The baker came from the kitchen to ask how she liked it. Jane said it would have been better with fresh mango to which the baker replied she had used a fresh mango puree. Insert foot…. Colleen and I thoroughly enjoyed dinner. I pretended Jane ate everything and was pleased as well. That would be my story and I’m sticking with it.
These are random observations today. 3% is the amount of lemon juice in this container of frozen treat. Two servings at 130 cal for a total of 290 cal in the container. Yeah, do the math. And, two plus two…. Oh, 3% juice? It’s sugar water! Lemons are not naturally sweet. It’s the flower of a dill plant. Who cares? And, look at that fat ass. Sorry, not PC. The pic is to illustrate two – count ‘em – phones. Matching cheeks? Ooops! Phones? Was the daughter embarrassed? This was a random capture. So, the image left me wondering too. Sometimes things just don’t make a whole lot of sense. Tillie? Eyes torqued and tongue out? I don’t know either.
This would be my second time. We tried it in Scotland. And, now we found a Tea Room closer to home. It was shut during the Covid crisis. Now that we are vaccinated, the shop has opened and accepted reservations. The hat is de rigueur. Afterward we wandered through the local antique store trying on more stylish chapeaus for the next occasion when we take high tea once more. Pennies on the table? Shiny. They keep away flies. Uh, ok. It worked. We did not see a fly all day.
I had a baguette. So, sandwich! – Chutney, whole grain mustard, garden lettuce, ham, swiss – and a hearty appetite. To drink – lemonade and root beer. Yes, it’s a weird combo, but… And my cat? – Spice – had her own opinion about my repast. Open wide.
Digital cameras allow you to make a mistake that keeps on giving. Since August 3 of last year, for nearly eight months, I have had an erroneous setting for the ISO. Ordinarily, it is set to “Auto.” Somehow it was set to ISO 800. So, a lot of pics were taken with the wrong setting. The other parameters adjusted “automatically” and I never noticed the error till now. I only picked up my mistake because the camera used a very long shutter speed one day. Aha! Corrected! Fixed! All is right again. It only took eight months to notice. Gee!! The pizza? As long as we are talking mistakes, this shot was made after I fixed the ISO. The pizza is the error. We have a pizza chain. The pizza is nearly inedible. I kid you not. I was desperate for a “slice,” any slice. I actually went home and ate something more. To protect the name of the guilty I won’t mention the name Grotto.
We have binge watched the Great British Baking Show. It’s sad to see amateur bakers criticized for mistakes they make under the pressure of an audience and the judges. But, it did teach me some things about improvising. We recently had outdated whipped cream that had been frozen. Nope, it’s butter. Toss it. And then, I was making meringue cookies. The egg whites did not whip up. What to do? Quick, add some flour and cocoa powder – sponge, jelly roll cake. Fresh whipped cream, ha ha. And there was enough cream for the Atlantic pie – a lemon curd, (saltine) cracker crust pie. A happy ending! So, I have advanced my baking skill by becoming less intimidated that everything must be precise and measured in baking. There are limits to be tested. How about that? A jelly roll cake!
Colleen loves to eat out – as in – we live to eat. Restaurants are a fun experience. Mostly… Sometimes, you get a dud. But, on this occasion, we got a fun experience. Colleen was worried. She’d made the reservation. So, a lot depended on her choice. To her delight, I was very happy with her choice. Of course, I love her dearly, and, I love to eat out in a different restaurant. Success! Amuse bouche! It’s a classy prelude to dinner. It is a complementary touch to the meal. I digress. The restaurant name is Krazy Cat. My mask (made by Colleen) had a cat face. Cats were dispersed around the restaurant. We had a great time. Colleen made a great choice. But, more than anything else, I was enjoying a moment with the one I love.
I’m spinning the photo catalog today. Originally, I had intended to publish one picture a day of “ooh and ah!” quality along with a story. Lately, it’s been about the stories triggered by the images. Technically, it still fits the title of the blog, but we are a long way off. I’ve been on a lot of planes. The middle top pic is instantly recognizable. Colleen hates to fly. She goes because she does not trust me alone? ?? Dunno? Ha! The first thing we did upon arrival was seek a vegetarian restaurant. It’s very appetizing – if you’re a rabbit. And she got a bottle of organic beer. Isn’t all that beer vegetarian and organic to begin with? I think maybe I would have rather been in the pakora place next door. But, it is now revealed Colleen doesn’t care for Indian. Damn, so far and yet so close. Figuratively, literally, you do the math and take your pick of the choices here in my words. The truth: We have fun. Anywhere is good as long as I’m with Colleen. Happiness is…
… eat in a restaurant called Ketchup? Would you? We did. It was in Jeddah. Why? The name, of course. It was a Middle Eastern restaurant. Of course, it was. Good? I have no recollection. So, I guess, forgettable.
… eat, deep fried kale? Preserve, Annapolis. It was a restaurant recommendation at another store. Spectacular! And messy! I tried it at home. Kale splatters oil all over the place. It is the quintessential poster child for “Don’t try this at home!” Good? Spectacular! Have we been back? No, it is, alas, (it’s) bad for you. But boy oh boy, was it good!
Cut flowers have no chance in our house. The cats like flowers – to eat! Yes, laugh. The oddity extends to the artificial flowers too! Yes, they eat plastic. Taste? I don’t know why in the world, but they eat the flowers. And, they like it. Look closely. The petals nearest Nutley are gone. There goes the idea of gifting this plant.
3/11/21 – this year, designated the “one year anniversary”
57 million vaccinated – have had one shot or more
Vaccine – an actual one was developed in less than a year
Speech – a national address by our (real) leader on the 1st anniversary. trump???? who????
Covid relief American rescue package – it passed. Not a single republican voted for it. Traitors.
Eve of 2nd shot – I got mine the next day.
“If somebody said ‘N95’ to you one year ago, you’d think they were a bingo caller.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
They talk about a year ago. 3/11/20. Anniversary of corona. Where were you? Memorable? No, it just came and went as an ordinary day. I can note it/did note it, because I have a photo diary. The news and late night shows were full of the “anniversary.” The “event” (last year) was marked by the shutdown of Delaware by the governor. For us it was the evening/night of 3/16/20. All business was shut. A year later, the library opened for the first time. We did a little victory dance. Anniversary Day +1 is my second shot. I’m old. For most the first shot is months away. For others, they will be foolish, ignore the science, and decline the vaccine. What a world? What a time? The “former guy” is out of office. Sanity, truth, and science have returned. If you commit a crime, you do not get a free pass – see Gov Cuomo. Yeah, it’s been a hell of a f’n year!
What were/where were you? We learned to make Nantucket baskets and ate Thai as they announced all business was closed. The flowers were in bloom. (Not yet this year.) I was in my fake flowers/vases phase. Colleen made a “Giovanni” burger for me. The groceries were suddenly without TP! Toilet paper!?!? Patch was sleeping soundly through it all on our bed. It’s not an anniversary. That would impart more of a celebration. This was more like – “yeah, I was there. Ain’t it amazing when you look back?” Life, as we knew it, changed right afterward.
I take pictures everyday. I edit infrequently. I edit to cull best shots. I edit to keep the database up to date. On January 28, three pics popped up. They are unrelated except to document the day. Blue Willow plate – English – it’s a divided plate that conjures past memory like Proust’s madeleine. Colleen recalled fond memories when none of her food was allowed to touch each other on her plate. She was indulged by Mother and served on this divided dish. Well, not this dish, but it was one similar. And I indulged her and bought one for her. Ah, the things one does for love. We were in the market and a package of sausage meat germinated the idea to make sausage cake, a British concoction. Colleen says it is akin to plum pudding. It’s a spice cake with walnuts… Good? It’s an acquired taste, I think. And on the same morning, my death-defying cat, Ray, climbed the rail and casually nipped at the planter. He jumps. He is our climbing cat (see climbing the bookcase) and he constantly scares Colleen. She would definitely miss him if he fell. Until recently I could say, “No problem, I have seven cats.” It’s no longer true and I never believed it anyway.
We ate in this restaurant the night we were married. It was pre-Covid. But, we sort of eloped. Not even our hosts joined us to celebrate with dinner. Luckily, restrictions are not so tight now. We returned to a splendid evening out and had another excellent meal. Crab, lamb, and creme brulee – have you gotten the idea Colleen likes crab? Happy? More than ever. Given my tendency to nuttiness, that’s saying a lot for Colleen’s patience. Saintly!! – her, not me!
What do you do on a day you’d like to celebrate in an understated way? Head to the bookstore, antique store, and on to the favorite restaurant. Someone got a very nice day out of the deal. Pardon the out of focus shots – low/dim lighting. That would be crab imperial – pretty much straight lump crab meat. We got a teacher discount at Apple. And, “one thing” at Barnes and Noble – that’s the rule, just one thing. Happily married? I joke. But, it is not an oxymoron in our little house.
Gotta have green beer. Don’t forget the beads. Why mess around with a perfectly good beer? It’s food coloring. It doesn’t change the taste. Ok?! Shamrock? Shamrock teapot? We did the usual: corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, soda bread, potato salad, and apple sauce. It got to be a little bigger than I intended. As you can see, we had a grand time. There was even enough for two more (guests). We are still being cautious. The pandemic is not quite over. We’re taking no chances, still.
When you have lemons, you make…. Meyer lemon. Special. You bet. I’ve never distinguished. A lemon is a …. In this case, we got a scraggly tree a few years ago. Would it live? I coddled that thing. … mainly because it cost so much $$$. Nada! We had a few thimble sized lemons; they promptly fell off the tree. Now, finally, about three years later…. we got a lemon that grew. … and grew. It ripened on the tree. It was huge. It did not fall off. Colleen was concerned it was overripe or dried out. Nope! She finally cut into it. It was perfect; not dry; mildly sweet; not overripe. And! She made lemonade. Special? Of course, this was lemonade three years in the making. I think I won’t see another lemon for three more years. Darn! It was good!
Ok, I have never officially made lemon curd. I make a lemon tart but it’s not quite the same? Really?! Eggs, butter, lemons, no one really tells you much more than “large” lemons or “large” eggs. I had what I had. I zested and I juiced the lemons, and was prepared to add bottled lemon juice as needed. Nope! That was not a problem. The problem lay in knowing what it looks like when it thickens. I was uncertain my mixture had reached the correct doneness. Would it be runny and fail to hold between layers of puff pastry later on? It was hell. I cooked and stirred way beyond what was recommended in the recipe. Imagine all those eggs and lemons and time gone to waste. Ha! As you saw in yesterday’s post, it was a spectacular success. If not, I wouldn’t be posting and there would be no pictures.
We giggled the whole time we ate these. Actually, Colleen could only be heard to say, “Mmmmmmmmm…..” She hummed as she ate never saying a word unless a single sound qualifies as coherent conversation. I have never worked with puff pastry. It got away from me and really “puffed!” It started with two bags of lemons. I mistakenly bought two bags of lemons. In December one makes lemon curd not lemonade. That’s what the internet says. And marscapone cream – I found it in the grocery. I’ve never worked with that either. Anything looks better with powdered sugar. Wow! I think I outdid myself. Picturesque?! You bet. But the “Mmmmm” that Colleen hummed has me smiling as I recall the moment we cheated and ate one before taking it out for dinner. Who’s counting? Yes, this is essentially a repeat post. But! It was so freakin’ good! It’s not the first Napoleon ever made. But this/these were mine/ours. You gotta smile even if you can’t eat one. That is Colleen’s “mmmmmm” and I’m stickin’ with it!
From the start to finish all you heard from Colleen was “mmmmm” in one form or another as she slowly savored this Napoleon. It was so touching. She loves my cooking and is so kind. On this occasion, an infrequent occasion (that I bake), she just adored my baking. (It assures that I will live here another year.) We made lemon curd. Yes, if you have lemons – two bags (mistake) – make lemon curd. It would not thicken. Long story short, we finally got it to do so. And I found marscarpone cheese in the market – lemon marscarpone cream! Napoleon, anyone? I have scant experience with puff pastry. Prick the dough with a fork to keep it from rising too much. Hey! That didn’t work! Lemon curd, marscarpone cream, berries (four kinds), and powdered sugar, what could go wrong!! I will treasure the “mmmmm” for a long time. Of course! We tried one before we took them to New Year’s dinner. Who’s counting? Baking is very precise – measure, cut, timing, shape, and appearance. Who cares?
… about food, I have to mention Beef Wellington and Yorkshire pudding. The internet will provide you with about any recipe you desire to tackle. Ha ha, my vegetarian wife (temporarily on hiatus) suggested Beef Wellington. She reads recipes – yes, even after dinner, they appeal. Well, ok! We needed meat. Off to the butcher to discover the cut needed to put this together. We were told to call a day in advance only to be stymied when I called to put in my order. No more phone orders, it was too close to Xmas. We got there just in time to snag the very last Filet mignon roast out of the case. Pfewff! Yorkhire pudding? Why not? We’ve never done that either. There were more steps, a lot of mushrooms, some Dijon mustard, and more steps. I have never worked with puff pastry either. Wrapping the meat in puff required some logical thinking. Fortunately, we were up to the task. The Yorksshire pudding calls for drippings in the muffin pan on high oven heat. It was smoking hot and not too promisingly looking when it went back in the oven. It returned gloriously risen. We were giggling. (Yeah, a couple of grown-ups giggling.) All in all, it was fabulous. Borscht might not be the soup to pair, but hey, Colleen wanted it. And, she prepped a Waldorf salad. Darn, we’re dropping a lot of names here. Did I say it was a fabulous meal? It came out delicious and perfect. My only regret is that we could not share the good fortune and bounty with family. I’m hungry writing about it. The very good news is that there are leftovers in the fridge and dinnertime is soon. Historical note: this was a fabulous meal. Three dishes began with names with capital letters. How neat is that?!!
We made gifts for the family – local cousins. Times five – one each and one for us, it was to be Challah bread, brownies, and flavored oyster crackers. Ha ha. Oyster crackers? Yeah, a guilty pleasure triggered by a memory while grocery shopping. Hey, they are good! The bread – who knew – Colleen started baking them after dark. Five loaves. Five recipes, one at a time. It turns out the loaves were huge, as in really large! This was way too big for one or two persons. Ha ha! She followed the directions. We were exhausted and I fell asleep by the time the first loaf came out of the oven. Colleen still had four loaves rising all over the house in every warms spot we could construct. She finished around 1:30am. Over baked! Dammit. You could tell from the loaf we had/sampled. Trash or gift? Four huge loaves. You could cry. The pecan tassie – “tea time tassies” (local vernacular) were inspired by a visit to the grocery and a NYT recipe. That would have been perfect but we were not ready for mass production…. yet.
What could go wrong? Brownies – I added chocolate chips and walnuts. No problem. And sprinkles on top, it’s Christmas. The sprinkle stars melted into the brownie top making unidentified holes. Not too bad otherwise, I was sure no one would notice after they were cut.
Pea soup? Yes, that was the opening act to our day before we started baking bread. Who figured proofing and rising would take so long? Leftover ham bone makes great pea soup to go along with ham and cheese sandwiches. Really! And yes, that’s a bite out of the sandwich. (I forgot to snap a picture before I was savoring my sandwich.) Yes, we have been eating well during the pandemic.
We delivered (bread), mentioning it was large (ha ha) and would make great French toast. It worked. Ultimately, we got messages of approval. Of course, I had messaged images of the French toast and my “mmmmm’s.” It turned out to be fabulous French toast! – We’ve had no feedback. My opinion: the brownies were overdone and the challah overbaked. Well. Damn!