7.18.2014

I can throw a gala.

I'm afraid to throw a party or even a small dinner party....

or have another couple over for dinner.

I know.

Don't get me wrong.  I really want to have people over for dinner.  cross my heart.  It's just that I get stage fright.  It's that wonky perfection side of me that won't allow me to relax.  I put unbelievable pressure on myself to make any event one people will never forget.

Like this is the only gathering they will ever attend.

My goodness dude, I know people have lives.  This night in the big scheme of things is basically inconsequential.  Cook something simple and serve a decent bottle of wine and maybe you know, don't bring up religion or politics...

that's the key to a good dinner party. right?

Instead, if you come over to my house for dinner, I'm likely to cook something new, not kitchen tested (like hey you know what I've been wanting to try and would be so memorable?  Escargot.).  Or I might have a tad too much wine while making the meal, which I've learned the hard way dulls my savory buds, and serve you a piece of meat that is akin to a salt lick.

The one party I'm very proud of is the rager I threw for the hub's 50th birthday party. Yeah, you heard that right.  Unless rager is the same as a rave, which I think means there were hallucinogenics... and there weren't so I'm not actually sure what I threw.  I threw a cool party with old people.  What's that called?

I hired a band and a caterer and strung up lights.  Oh my.

I'm not sure how much skill that actually required.  That's really just coordinating everyone else to do the big stuff.  A strategy I like to call "spreading the blame" or "how could I have known?  They came so highly recommended".

I even made people requested that people bring their own booze in lieu of gifts, (stay classy darling) so that I could mark one more thing off my list.  Drinks. Check.  Hmmm, who could I get to bring streamers and ballons?



Side note: Ina Garten says always hand people a drink right when they walk through the door.  At the risk of sounding like we might all need some outside intervention, it does help to distract from  anything that might be going wrong in the kitchen.

Or you could hand them a fancy dressed up dude the hubs carrying a tray of assorted Hors d'oeuvre and Crudités while entertaining everyone with stories of days gone by.

I'm not gonna lie, it helps to have a nice guy roaming around your party engaging people in sketch comedy.

The hubs everybody. He'll be here all night.

In addition to getting people laughing, he moseyed around the party unscrewing light bulbs and lighting candles to create ambiance.  Nope, he wasn't asked to do it, that's just how he rolls.  (I probably cannot accurately stress to you how much I love that he does that sort of thing, it's so right up my alley).  He has done this at several of our dinner parties, I consider him a bonafide expert.  So whatever he says goes.

He says lighting is everything.  I don't disagree.  Good lighting and a cocktail.


Here's another party booster...

See if you can get someone in a dress and heels to lose their footing and fall backwards into the pool (true story), preferably early... around the start of the party.  Say about 7:15 p.m.?


Then they can adorn a towel while you dry their clothes.  It really does help get the party going.  I highly recommend it.


All in all that party was legendary.  We danced and ate and had the most awesome time.  So awesome that the cops shut us down at 10:30 p.m.  Shut down old people. Honestly, have you heard of such a thing?  I'm not bragging but people still talk about that party today and it was years ago.

Apparently I can throw a gala.

Last time I had family over for dinner (they can't judge me) and although I stressed a bit about the menu, I took the surefire way out and went to the butcher for a beef tenderloin, which let's face it is somewhat hard to screw up.  Unless it ends up a bit too raw rare... which...

oh well.  They just kept asking for the cuts at the end or anywhere near the end.  I also picked a variety of roasted vegetables which were the exact ones my brother in law doesn't eat.  Something was bound to happen.  It's starting to be my signature wheelhouse.

We had a fantastic time despite, and it reminded me that this really isn't so hard after all.

If you do come for dinner, just know that I'm hyperventilating happy that you're here.

Have a drink, make yourself at home.  I'm going to go check on the duck a l'orange.

 just sayin'.



  Panzanella


1 loaf of dense bread~I used a Rosemary Tuscan Bread
olive oil
garlic salt
herbs de Provence
sea salt
pepper
2 boxes of assorted tomatoes~my favorite for this salad are red grape and yellow pear tomatoes
1/2 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonades
3 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
2 cloves garlic, pressed
white balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut dense bread into big croutons, about 1 1/2 inch square. Put on a rimmed baking sheet, single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic salt and herbs de Provence and toss. Bake for 20-30 minutes until dry, hard and slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool. Cut tomatoes in half and add to a large bowl.

Cut fresh basil and parsley and add to bowl. Cut cukes and onion and add to bowl. Add garlic. Toss. Salt and pepper and toss. Drizzle with 1/4 cup good olive oil and a splash of white balsamic vinegar and toss. Add croutons and toss.
  Serve immediately.
Other traditional add in are:
mozzarella cheese
capers
bread and not croutons~ but this tends to get soggy and I don't like soggy texture.
peppers
fresh tuna
olives
I keep my Panzanella pretty basic. I love the the fresh taste of tomatoes, basil with a good olive oil! And the crunch and flavor of homemade croutons puts this dish over the top!

7.03.2014

in my pocket.


Certain days life feels a little harder than it should. On these days the carefree Summer of my dreams blurs into one mired in worry over illness and fatigue.

Mama said there'll be days like this.

Yet, just as swiftly as sunlight sweeps through June and into July, they'll leave again. Of this I'm sure.


I met with some friends a few weekends ago, and it did my soul some good.
The stars aligned and the air fell just right. And we had coffee. and giggled.

It wasn't about what someone needed. It wasn't about helping or obligation or watching the clock out of the corner of my eye.

It was just for me, and I guess that's allowed sometimes. So, I basked. I reveled. I did not take a single picture, mostly because there was more beauty than I could handle, and because the light kept shifting around. It begged to be captured. My mind wasn't enough for the memorizing. Still, I landed somewhere out in the deep end, and I decided to stay. Because these are some of my people. They are newish additions and half of my youth. They helped shape me and encourage me.

They dole out the love and don't bat an eye when I keep going back for more.

They love me. I love them back. We stayed until the sun hiked up past the edges. We stayed 'til the coffee kicked in like it meant it. We stayed while the air thrummed then hushed with the sound of our laughter, our shadows casting love on the walls.

We stayed while the music slowed and the cups drained. We stayed because all of us, each one of us, needed that morning. We needed it then and we need it even more now. Because as Reunion 45 winds up, this is a memory we'll carry with us. forever.

There will be a next time and it might involve sweatpants, under-eye circles, and caramel macchiatos. We'll hold it just as fiercely as the fancy, seeing the wonder in the simple and abundant gift of friendship, the coming together of all different hearts to walk together through all our come-what-mays.

In the meantime, I will cherish the gifts as they are handed to me.
I will wrap my heart around them, memorize their shape, stow them safely in my pocket.

just sayin'.


zucchini bread


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 3/4 cup sugar
 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
 2 large eggs
  1/3 cup vegetable oil
  1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium)
  1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8 1/2" by 4 1/2" metal loaf pan. In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts.
2. In medium bowl, with whisk or fork, mix eggs, oil, zucchini, and orange peel. Stir zucchini mixture into flour mixture just until flour is moistened.
3. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

6.27.2014

feel like home.


I love my garden. It's true.

I wish I could just leave it at that. And I suppose I could. But what kind of friend would I be if I didn't tell you the whole story?

So let's just chalk this photo up to things that make my heart beat faster combined with eerily gorgeous sunset lighting and keep moving.

I know you can handle it.

It's not that I don't entirely adore my garden. Ya'lls - I adore it. It makes me swoon. It's just that it's not perfect. It is a work in progress, just like me.

I am working it more this year than the past two, and it has revolutionized my garden. And by revolutionized, I mean that for the first time ever, I have more flowers and less Amazonian Weed Forest.

My whole gardening philosophy is to cram things in very tightly so that the weeds just don't stand much of a chance.

Still, I kinda dig weeding. It's calming. And it's a darn good thing, because how on earth would I ever solve any of my life problems without my beloved weeding time?

If you only remember one thing I say here, let it be this: weeding a controlled area is supremely satisfying and acutely therapeutic.

Repeat that 20 times, go out and pull a few Prickly Lettuce, Carpet weeds, Cockelbur, and Redroot Pigweed. So I load up the garden tools and away I go. This truly makes me feel like Summer is fully happening, plus those hours in the garden go a long way toward recalibrating my soul for whatever happens next.

Dude, I'm having the time of my life.

 Because there's just something about summer.

I know I talk excessively about summer, but it can't be helped. Something happens to me in the sunshine. It's an almost  tangible thing. It's a feeling I can conjure up, a feeling I can carry around the whole day long.

I think it might be rare. Maybe it's a wild stroke of luck. I don't know.

Some things have stayed the same in my life. Some things are different.

I spent my early years banging around on a street that dead ended into woods, riding my bike around the familiar curve in the roads, running the yard, slow-poking around all bored and hot.

That's how I lived Summer back then. 

I still loved all the pretty flowers but did not have a clue about weeds when I was eight or ten. I didn't have a clue about what I had.

It was simply summer, and it hugged me right.

 Every time I go back, my memories grab tighter.
And this is what I want to feel.

I always used to think the only way to replicate this sureness was through white sand and pounding waves.

But here I am, on my oceanless, wonky plot of city land.
And it feels like home and I can almost hear my roots clawing down through the clay.

My heritage follows me wherever I go. It's wound into the fibers of my heart and mind.
I get a lot of this, a little of that.

And the summers of this season don't match up completely with those of years gone by, but if I squint my eyes it almost feels like a ringer. Summer reminds me of who I am right now. It gives context to my world that sometimes feels unmanageable, inconvenient, and just plain hard. These summer days are not a departure from my life, they are a part of it. It's not about then/now. It's about a story. My story. Chapters end, but the book never does.

All those gardens and summers shaped the me that looks out tonight at my garden, so close I could grab it.

All this space has taught me that happy living is a state of mind. I can clip zinnias and pickle a cuke as easily here as anywhere.

All that freedom, all that permission to try, all that acceptance in failure, all that faith, all that faith man shows me that the only way to live at all is by living each moment to the fullest. These are my gifts. I can have them anywhere.

And when I move to the prairie or the mountains or the ocean, I know that what matters most will go with me.

And I know it will always feel like home.

                                                                                just sayin'.


fruit pizza


1 pkg.  (16.5 oz.) refrigerated sliceable sugar cookies, sliced

1 pkg.  (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened

1/4 cup  sugar

1/2 tsp.  vanilla

4 cups  assorted fresh fruit (kiwi and strawberry slices, red and black raspberries, drained canned mandarin oranges)

1/4cup  apricot preserves, pressed through sieve to remove lumps

1Tbsp.  water
 
Heat oven to 375°F.
Line 12-inch pizza pan with foil; spray with cooking spray. Arrange cookie dough slices in single layer in prepared pan; press together to completely cover bottom of pan. Bake 14 min. cool completely. 

 
Invert onto plate; carefully remove foil. Turn crust over; place on plate.
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended; spread onto crust. Top with fruit.
Mix preserves and water; brush onto fruit. Refrigerate 2 hours.