winter lunch, a study in orange

IMG_0583 I had an impromptu lunch with some friends yesterday.  We usually get together before our kids break for Christmas but didn't manage to pull it off this year. 

IMG_0584 Sometimes the unexpected feast is the best.  We created a little tapas of carrot cumin soup, sweet potato fries and tuna bites.  There was a lot of catching up to do.

IMG_0589 Some of us don't like to have their pictures taken.  Note that she's still managing to get the soup to her mouth.  Nice defensive move.

IMG_0591 Was it worth it?  Yeah, I'd say so!

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IMG_7646 We would sit, around her kitchen table, our coke glasses filled with ice and sweating in paper napkins and talk for hours.  Sometimes singing, sometimes quoting movies, ruthlessly teasing her mother, even mocking great historical figures (Oh, you Venerable Bede, you great big Venerable Bede...why the hell did we even study him, anyway?).  Always laughing.  Always laughing.

Slumber parties in my bedroom, or her family room, watching St. Elmo's Fire and About Last Night (Was Rob Lowe really naked in that one scene?  Did we ever decide?) and giggling under the pillows.  Always laughing.

We made your dad bring you to my house one snowy winter evening (No school tomorrow!), and that night we walked for hours in the chill twilight.  The Ingalls Girls from Hell.  "Smell your way to that damn cabin, Mary."  Laughing until we fell into the snow drifts.  Always laughing.

Driving (once we could) to the mountains in the summer.  New York Seltzers and Funyuns (god knows, I still love them!), singing to George Michael's Faith at the top of our lungs, waving at construction workers and, of course, laughing.

We quoted songs and movies endlessly, Into the Woods and thirtysomething.  How do you know what you want till you get what you want and you see if you like it?  We made up stories, walking in my neighborhood or yours, or a night away in Gatlinburg (my first Girls' Weekend!) about our futures.  The men we'd meet and marry.  The ones who'd love us to distraction.  We'd pick a spot on the map, based on its name (and proximity to the ocean!) and plan to live there "happily ever after."  Once, in college where "women" became "womyn," I was chastised by a roommate for such sexist day dreams.  The dads on the beach with the kids while you and I chatted in the kitchen, making ham sandwiches.  I could laugh now I suppose, at such simple dreams, but they haven't changed, really.  You and me, laughing and our families intertwined.  Bring who you want, my dear, no dads need apply.  

I'll make a shameless appeal, right here in front of all four of my readers, to bring you and your daughter to me.  Come to the beach and the little gray house.  Let's go shopping and walk beside the ocean and drive-in to Sonic for lunch.  Time, distance and contact can't erase it for me.  How I feel for you.  My oldest friend, dearest too.  Right there beside my heartbeat you are nestled in.  Right there, next to the echoes of laughter.  All you.  I hope you've had a wonderful day, birthday girl.  I've been thinking of you.

p.s.  I found a picture, but Neel wouldn't let me post it.  It was in a box filled with so much old stuff.  My college acceptance letter, pictures of my mom and dad and an old boyfriend.  It was taken that time we went to Isle of Palms (our only road trip, can you believe it?).  When was that?  Summer after our freshman year in college?  You're wearing a sailor cap (huh?) and clearly singing a song.  It's a great picture actually, but, hey, that's okay.  I've given the lack of posted photos as a present before.  But you know what else I found?  Our old Wills and Prophecies from our senior year of high school.   E-gads.  Seriously.  And do you know what I willed you?  "Belief in your possibilities."  Go figure.  Still true.  Happy birthday, my dear.  I love you.

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Today is my friend Megan's birthday and part of my present to her is: NO PICTURES.  Happy birthday, dear!  She's out of town today, and has been all week, and frankly, it's hard to imagine spending her birthday without her.  My weeks are definitely quieter and a little less sparkly when she's not around.  We've only known each other for about four years, and only really well for three of them, but she is so interwoven into my life here that it's hard to imagine it without her. 

Megan is a remarkable woman.  She is the most prolific reader I've ever met, an amazing cook and an incredibly gifted artist.  We quickly discovered that we have fiber in common, both of us with looms stashed away in storage.  She didn't teach me to knit but her advice and her persistence turned me into a knitter.  She switched me to continental, took me to my first real yarn store and got me knitting socks.  She has a fierce determination like nobody's business and a competitive spirit that we like to make fun of, although it's a characteristic I truly admire.  She's a gifted athlete who loves to try new things.  She keeps me focused on my running, and it was her love of Hot Yoga (along with my friend Marianne) that got me there in the first place, and now I love it too.  She is truly the most loyal person I've ever met.  She would do anything for me, this I know for sure.  She loves me and my husband, and my son has been absorbed into her family as her "honorary fifth child."  Knowing her has made me a better reader, better athlete, better cook and a better woman.  (And don't think I don't recognize how lucky I am to be surrounded by women who lift me up and make me a better me.  This is an amazing time in my life, largely due to those who are around me.)  Megan and I danced around each other for awhile as we became friends.  But what started tentatively quickly slid into something precious.  We were soon finishing each others sentences and, let's face it, planning our shared suite in hell.  The afterlife will be a lot more fun with her around, I promise.

There are relationships in your life where you just don't have the right words, or enough of them at least.  And although I've tried, I can't do justice to her, the kind of woman she is, or the place she has in my heart.  Happy, happy birthday my dear friend.  I miss you.  Come home soon.

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(12/30): Necklace and a birthday wish


Today is my friend Marianne's birthday.  I thought that rather than posting a picture of her (and let's face it, we don't generally love the photos taken of us and that's perfectly fair.  What doesn't seem fair is to post one on your birthday without first getting approval.  Although the threat of posting photos can be a handy tool, right Megan?) I'd post one of the beautiful pieces of jewelry she makes.  I am really digging this macro thing, and if it weren't so early I'd have better lighting for taking this picture.  The beads are a dark, dark teal, and the pendant (a Christmas gift from my dad) is gray shot with black...Picasso something, I can't remember.    I love it, (although *cough, cough* none of my current earrings are a perfect fit, if you take my meaning), and I'm always so proud to wear something she's made. 

I have a lot of her stuff (I was actually accused of being a "jewelry hog" just last week), and every time I go to put on a pair of earrings or a necklace, I think of her.  We don't see each other a lot (but hey, summer vacation is just around the corner with the beach beckoning), and wearing her jewelry is a nice way to have hear near me.

She has, as you can imagine, a great eye for fashion and color, and is one of the most glamorous women I know.  And that's glamorous in a good way.  A way that makes me want to be more like her.  She's funny and generous and confident and creative.  When we were first getting to know each other, we found so many similarities (remember Perpetual Motion and Brian Andreas?!) that we started to wonder if we were separated at birth.  She's an appreciative friend, a phenomenal cook, and brews up the best Bloody Marys.  What more could you ask for in a friend?

Have an amazing day today my dear.  It sounds like it's going to be a lot like the wonderful birthday you helped to give me, and I can't think of anything better for you.  I hope that you enjoy it to the hilt, and I have no doubt that you will!

xoxo, me

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Thursday: (08/30).  How to survive a golf tournament.


Friday: (09/30): Girls weekend.  Snacks and drinks.


Saturday: (10/30): Breakfast thanks to Kim.

Sunday = a day of rest.


Monday: (11/30): Party favor.


I have to take a brief break from all these photos and wax rhapsodic about my weekend.  My friend Lisa is so generous, in many ways really, but one spectacular way is in the use of her parents' beach house.  She offers it up twice yearly for girls' weekends, in the spring and the fall, and this past weekend was our weekend.  I don't always manage to make it, but man, this year, come hell or high water I wanted to be there.

I won't share the few photos I took because, well, you know...what happens at girls' weekend stays...yadda, yadda, yadda.  But let me just say there was amazing food (even for the vegetarian!), plenty of drinks, a contraband dip in a pool, what was that?  Oh, never mind.  Didn't happen.  There were beer fairies, movies, a gorgeous storm that I watched track along the coast from north to south and a perfect beach day.  I slept better than I have in months and even missed the sunrise (that almost never happens).  It was the setting, for sure, but more than that it was the company.  Thank you my dears, for rejuvenating me.

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(03/30): bag


Up close.


Full on.

This is Amy Butler's Nigella Yoga bag.  I made it for this person:


This is my friend Jean, and today is her birthday!  Hooray Jean!  You're getting older.  In this picture she's dong what she does best.  Hanging with her baby while balancing her famous hot wing dip.  Really, making her hot wing dip is another thing she does best.  Callum just came to read this post as I write it, and he instantly accused me of eating Jean's hot wing dip without him.  That's how much we all love it.

We love Jean too.  She is one of my favorite people in the world, and it's hard to imagine my life right now without her in it.  She make me laugh, she listens and she "gets" me.  Who could ask for more in a friend?  We started taking yoga together a few months ago, and if anything, we're growing closer.  I wanted to make the yoga bag for her birthday to celebrate Jean, but to also celebrate this thing that we do together. 

Thank you for taking the journey with me, my friend.  And many happy returns of the day.

Namaste bee-atch.

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marky: UPDATED


See that bozo on the far right?  That's my friend Mark and today is his birthday.  He doesn't look a day over twenty-three.  Actually, as you can see, that photo was taken in 1996, and he still doesn't look a day over twenty-three.  On the left is Mark's partner Fred (also showing youthful vigor), and in the middle is the other Mark, also known as Curve.  Are you out there Curve?

These are three of my favorite people in all the world.  We did a lot of growing up together and now we have jobs and kids and all sorts of crazy things like life insurance.

Marky, what I wouldn't give to be living down the street from you again (especially now that you've gotten so good at remodeling kitchens).  Happy Birthday, dear friend.  Go tap that box and have a great big glass of wine on me.


Oh, good...Now that's a happy birthday!

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heavy sigh (of the contented variety)


Oh what a lovely birthday.  I mean it, I've had the loveliest celebration that lasted days and days.  I've had, as I mentioned before, a slew of not-so-special birthdays, from plain old meh to downright miserable.    Not this year.  This year I felt cherished and loved and celebrated just the way a person should be on her birthday.

In eastern Virginia the lilacs are blooming around birthday time.

I took a great yoga class, and it was thrilling to watch friend after friend walk in to join us.  Then off to lunch for more surprise guests and a fabulous meal.  Not to mention presents!  I wasn't expecting presents!

Neel and Callum took me to the beach for a picnic supper.

Here's Neel putting together the picnic table.


We snacked on chicken and olives and pistachios and champagne and watched Callum chase away the seagulls and the fog roll in.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I love the ocean and how grateful I am to live near it.  But those are thoughts for another post.


On Friday night, SOBO helped me celebrate with a fire pit, lots of food and, ahem, lots to drink too.  It was my favorite kind of Friday evening.  Hanging out in my most comfy clothes, kids and dogs running around.  The buzz of laughter swirling around me.


Tyler made rum punch, Jean made Sangria, Rebecca made this lovely dessert and all I had to do was show up!


Even Bear Grills says there's nothing better for morale than a fire.


I love this picture of the morning after...testament to the wonderful evening we had.  And even after that, the festivities weren't finished.  Neel took me to dinner on Saturday night and surprised me with even more very favorite way to spend an evening.  Good food, good drink, and the warm and wonderful company of those I am fondest of.  My only regret was not having my camera handy, for lunch on my birthday, for dinner last night, for the tulips my dad sent me and for the extra helping of dessert that Rebecca made for my breakfast (right Neel?).

So here we are at thirty-eight, facing a whole new year.  This past year has been a good one, and I have high hopes for the next.  I guess birthdays are time to take stock, and I've been doing that too.  I'll probably process that here as I figure out what is going on.  For now it's enough to face the busy last months of school, Callum's play next weekend, and the one year anniversary of this little blog.  I've been considering an overhaul...what do you think?


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My demanding readers (Megan) have taken to calling me to ask if I'm going to write a post for the next day.  Never mind that I'm working my ass off slaving for a tyrant of a boss (Megan's husband) from sun up to sun down, and that I'm T.I.R.E.D.  Never mind all that.

So, I'm tired.  Did I mention that?  Unfortunately, that means all you get is my Wednesday night. 


Callum was in charge of dinner.  And by that I mean he conceptualized it.  He went to a cooking-themed birthday party a week or so ago where the kids made their own pizzas and decorated cupcakes.  That was fun, let me tell you.


Even Neel got in on the game, but my pictures of his pizza making are too fuzzy to publish.  On the drive home from the party, Callum ran through some pizza-topping ideas.  He came up with artichoke and bacon, and after I suggested feta cheese, we decided to make it.


And here it is.  A little olive oil, some roasted garlic puree, artichoke hearts, bacon and feta.  Callum's creation.  Gobble, gobble, gone.

He's studying gemstones in school, this kid of mine.  A subject after my own heart.  (Does that surprise anyone?)  And since my screen door is camping out on the dining room table (a story for another day), we ate in front of the t.v. tonight.  Jewelry TV and Gems TV.  Sapphires, rubies, and diamonds, oh my.  This is my life.

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first dip


It's done.  The first trip to the beach of the season.  After days and days of drizzly mist (mizzle) and gray skies, the sun came out and the air warmed up.  Oh glorious sun.  How we missed you.  As soon as the temperatures soared above seventy degrees, we started talking about the beach.  And on Friday night, after long weeks for everyone, we headed out.


Super relaxed and easy, we threw it all together.  I had to laugh on Friday morning as I was getting ready to leave the house.  In a few short (sunny) weeks, we'll have this down to a science and an art.  This act of sliding to the beach at the end of the week.  It involves chairs in the back of the car and beach bags packed.  Everything at the ready.  I'm not there yet.  Winter interrupted and there are no systems in place.  It's like I have to relearn this process every year.  I threw two spreaders into my purse and headed to work, knowing that the rest would fall into place.

And we didn't need anything fancy.  Throwing things together worked just fine.


The steamed shrimp was perfect, as was the chicken salad and the artichoke dip.  Beer and wine were plentiful, as they should be.


The water temperature in the bay is still only 53 degrees or so, but the kids went swimming anyway.  The grown-ups sat and watched the sun go down in glorious solitude.  The only other people on the beach seemed miles away.


I could seriously do this every Friday night for the rest of my life.  Summer can come anytime now.  I'm ready.

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raindrops and rosebuds

I've been knitting some too.


This sweet hat is for a baby girl born to the block about six weeks ago.  Another neighbor of ours threw a shower for her on Sunday. 


As sweet as "rosebud" may be, it seems a bit impractical, so I whipped up a plain old stripey to go along.  Both hats are from Itty Bity Hats, my current go-to when it comes to knitting for the infant set.


There was a lot of discussion around the hood about what to wear to this baby-shower.  I have learned that baby showers in the South are quite the event.  What you wear is almost as important as the gift you give.  Back last week when it was spring, the general consensus was pretty skirt, tee shirt and flip flops.  There was a flurry of e-mails detailing all sorts of outfits (drawn, by me at least, mostly from go fug yourself) and amazing helicopter hairdos.  By Sunday it was sleeting and all any of us wanted was to stay home in our sweats.

We persevered though and all wore pants.


There was some concern that a certain former neighbor of ours would be present at said shower, and we all felt that some pre-party fortification was in order.  This is where we're discussing all the amazing baby-shower food we had to look forward to. 


Gorgeous cake.


Beautiful table.  Fruit salad.  Cheesecake thingys.

And that's all.  No decadent quiche.  No chicken salad.  No meatballs in sauce in a chafing dish and no crustless sandwiches.  And all this time I thought chicken salad was required at baby showers. 


Sigh.  At least there was champagne.  And all our worry about the former neighbor?  She never showed.

It was still a really nice shower for a really nice person who had a girl after three rough and tumble boys.  And we're really happy for her whole family.

Less than ten minutes home another flurry of e-mails:  "Are you in your sweats yet?  I am."

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our weekend


In which Mark takes a nap at three o'clock and learns that too much info on the Internet can be dangerous and Neel CAN be pushed too far.

We had some very dear friends make the trek south for a visit this past weekend.  (I won't say "old" friends, because I don't want to be reminded of how much older we all are.  Although it's kinda fun to remind you how much older you are, Mark.  Fred just manages to keep his girlish figure.)  We've known each other for a long, long time, and it's such an amazing thing to pick up the threads of friendship over and over again.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Except we're all so much older.  And we have kids.  How weird is that? 

These are, in essence, the people I grew up with.  We all knew each other when Neel was in graduate school, and he and I lived in our first apartment together.  How many bottles of wine did we drink over those five years?  How many trips to Ikea?  Mark, remember that time that we stopped in Pottery Barn on the way home from Ikea?  Before Pottery Barn was big?  And expensive?  We each bought a bunch of stuff.  I still have the lamps I bought.  What did you get? 

The drunkest I have ever been was at Mark's apartment (ahh Riverview, how I miss you) when a bunch of us had dinner together and managed to consume five or so bottles of wine.  It wasn't until the next day that we realized that Mark, Neel and I were the only ones drinking.  Three people + five bottles of wine = one helluva hangover.  We started having dinner parties with those guys.  It's when I started cooking, really.  While Neel was at the lab, I could spend all day getting my apartment ready, going to the farmer's market to get food and flowers, choosing music and cleaning.  At dinner we'd sit and talk and eat and drink for hours.

This weekend was a lot like that.  More of the same.  Mostly.  More kids, less wine.


We went to a Chinese Friendship garden...


and a battleship.


We were oddly fascinated with an egg-drop contest.  Look how serious those guys look!  "And the egg survived!"


We went antiquing and made a great dinner.  We compared notes on Project Runway and watched Top Chef.  Fred and I talked about sewing (When is your final exam, Freddy?) and Mark and I talked about houses. 


The kids played and played.  No squabbles, no fights. 

Like I said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Thanks for a great weekend, guys.  We'll get up there soon.  Call me when it's warm.

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tea with santa

Well of course Santa is real, here he is coming through the door! 

Some friends of ours clued us into a great holiday tradition at a local Victorian restaurant, and we joined them this year for Tea with Santa. 

The kids sat together and were remarkably well behaved, despite the considerable amount of sugar cubes (both in and out of the tea) which were consumed.

This left the grown-ups to their own sandwich tray (minus the PB&J).  Scones with blackberry jam, lemon curd and clotted cream, pimento cheese and chicken salad sandwiches, and lots of cookies.

And tea, of course.  Apricot for the moms and English Breakfast for the dads.  Must be a man/woman thing.

This is the door that Santa came through.  Each kid got to sit on his lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.  Can you believe that this was the first time Callum ever sat on Santa's lap?  We had to prep him!  (For the record, he asked for Pirates of the Caribbean:  At World's End, both the movie and the XBOX game.)

After that excitement, you dip another scone in the lemon curd and clotted cream and have another cup of tea.  The kids get jittery from all the sugar, and some of us start to wonder if we'll make it home in time for kick off of the Dallas-Eagles game.

But there's one last thing!  Carols around the piano!  Santa has a great singing voice, let me tell you, and my kid can belt them out too.  A few songs, and he was done, so even if we missed kick-off, we had a lovely afternoon, and we're home and cozy now.  It's blustery outside, and as Santa kept reminding us:  CHRISTMAS!  IT'S NINE. DAYS. (oh crap, eight now) AWAY!

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weekend engagement


The "friend" portion of the holiday season started in full force on Saturday with the engagement party of some friends of ours. 

Scary_pumpkin_face_3 A few weeks ago, back in early October, Nurse Rebecca and her family took Callum to Busch Gardens for the day to celebrate HallowScream.  Oh my God the fun that kid had.  If I did a whole "Thanksgiving-y" post of things I'm grateful for, numbering near the top would have to be the people who include and even absorb my young son into their lives.  Name any of our near neighbors, but their parents too, and they all welcome Callum into any endeavor that they think he'd enjoy.  He doesn't get it now.  For him, boat rides and Busch Gardens are just an accepted part of his life.  But we get it, and he will.  When he looks back, he will. 


On that day it was Rebecca, her parents and this happy couple.  Rebecca's brother Wyatt and his fiancee Megan.  On Saturday we celebrated their engagement.   


Sometimes I get the sense that we didn't really know how to do things until we moved here.  Finally, with lots of exposure, we're learning.  This oyster roast engagement party was just how a fall party should be.  A perfect location, with the weather dialed up for a perfect fall day. 


Img_6630_9 The house is part of the Episcopal Diocese and is on a point of land sloping toward the river.  The wide, wide lawn was the perfect spot for a couple of fire pits, games of frisbee, tree climbing, and water watching.  All of the activity was outside under the tent and around the fire.


I don't love oysters, but I can sure appreciate their ambience.  This is only the first oyster roast I'll happily attend this winter, all without sampling the oysters.


Fortunately crab cakes were passed around.


There was lovely live music.  All the best songs, from Dave Matthews to Van Morrison with just a guitar and an amp.  Callum asked as we were leaving if I liked the musician, and I told him that I wanted him to come to my house and play for me all the time.



There were lovely warm fires to gather around.  Just like at home, Neel couldn't keep his hands off the fire.  It was the setting that really got me, though.  This lovely point of land.


The autumn light on the water.


Lovely homes peaking through leafless trees.



These happy people.



And these happy people.



When the sun went down, we all trooped home.  But what a wonderful day.  Jan and Bill, Nurse Rebecca, Wyatt and Megan...what a great party.  Thank you so much for including us again.

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grub club


Just when you thought you'd seen my last blog post about Greece, here I am, back on Spetses again.  Oh how I wish.  I wonder what it's like in the autumn.  Hang on a sec....Okay.  About the same as here actually.  Highs in the mid to upper 60s.  But still...Spetses...Okay, I know, I know, I digress.  Seriously, this post isn't really about Greece.  It's more about food and friends, and how we decided that we should start cooking together but we mostly ended up eating out a lot together and now we're broke so this weekend, as promised, I made us all some Greek food.  Opa.

I know I mentioned awhile back that I love having dinner parties.  We just don't do it much any more, and I find that I miss that part of our lives.  I think the plan for this whole grub club thing (correct me if I'm wrong, guys) is that we cook together or all bring stuff to share (Clearly, we've been pretty fluid and laid back in our planning so far.), but it was Greek Night, and I really wanted to cook for my friends.


I love the feeling of getting ready for a dinner like this.  I spent the day in my Crocs, the same shoes that saw me up and down the steps of the Parthenon and all across the islands of Santorini and Crete.  A little shopping, and then chopping, chopping, chopping.  Setting the table, washing serving spoons and lining up wine glasses.  It's soothing and special, opening your home to your friends.  Making your hearth shine while at the same time knowing they don't care if the bottles on your liquor cabinet are dusty.  It's a good friend who doesn't mind that kind of thing.


You have to start with Ouzo, of course (that's how I discovered the dusty bottles).  The Greeks are known for their ebullient nature, and a lot of people assume it's all that Ouzo.  Not really.  This is more of a sipping drink.  Greek men would sit in the taverna over their mezedes (appetizers) all the long lazy afternoon and could easily sip away on just one Ouzo.  Have it straight or with pineapple juice and a handful of smoky pistachios. 


With the Ouzo came mezedes.  Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), olives (of course), several dips and spreads (bean dip, olive jam, and red pepper and feta spread with bread), and Halloumi. Let me just take a moment and tell you about "the cheese that grills." First off, I don't mean a grilled cheese.  Secondly, we never have much success with it on the grill.  Thirdly, it's entirely possible that you've tasted nothing finer.  It's the cheese that squeaks.  We use a saute pan with no oil.  Just medium high heat until the cheese is brown on both sides.  Slide it on a plate and squeeze some lemon juice on top.  I mean it.  This is seriously good.


And then we had dinner!  One of my favorite evenings on our trip was when we were still in the science portion.  Each day, the organizer of the trip, Dimitrios would go off to scout out some restaurant.  He'd talk with the owners, taste the food, try the wine and ask if they could accommodate a group our size.  I want his job.


It was at one of these spots, this one in fact, a little taverna by a slip of the sea and the setting sun that I thought I might die from eating too much.  They brought so many mezedes.  Anchovies and tapenade and shrimp wrapped in bacon and zucchini fritters.  The food just kept coming and coming.   And I thought, great!  My favorite kind of meal.  But then dinner came.  It was the simplest, loveliest piece of swordfish I have ever seen.  I was so full, but how could I not at least try some of that swordfish?  Dinner on Saturday was kind of like that.  We ate and ate and ate.   Then we had dinner.


Horatiki salad (your basic Greek salad, of course), gigantes plaki (giant lima beans), braised Greek-style green beans, beef baked with orzo and chicken and fennel stew with quince.  All pretty basic recipes.  All google-able, but perhaps the chicken.  I'm going to share that one with you here.  Although I'm going to say that I'm a little hesitant to share it...because what if, once you know how to make it yourselves, you don't love me anymore.

Kota me krasi, maratho ke kydoni
chicken and fennel stew with quince

1/4 cup olive oil
3 thick slices pancetta, diced (about 6 oz)
1 lb. organic chicken breasts and 1 lb organic chicken thighs
2 lg. onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 carrots peeled and cut into pieces
1 large fennel bulb, halved and sliced
1 quince halved, cored and sliced*
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup Mavrodaphne or sweet wine
1 cup dry red wine
1 t thyme crumbled
1 t rosemary
1-1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
2 bay leaves
1 t salt

*I couldn't find quince, so I used almost a whole jar of quince preserves instead.  It seemed to work just fine.

1.  In a large skillet with lid or Dutch Oven, saute the pancetta over medium heat for about a minute.  Add the chicken in batches and saute, turning until golden brown on both sides.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

2.  Add onions, carrots, and fennel and saute for five minutes.  Add garlic and quince.  When it starts to sizzle, return the chicken to the skillet and add the wine, bay leaves, pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary and salt. 

3.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours or until chicken is very tender. 

I adapted this recipe from The Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi.  It was one of those things where I knew it would be good...I could even conceptualize how it would taste, but some how it was better than the sum of all of its parts.  Better than me, really.  It was that good.  And I can't take the credit.  Try it.  You'll see.


We finished with this.  It's called Tentura.  A Greek liquer that tastes like cinnamon.  And baclava and a fire in the fire pit.  The food was great.  The wine flowed freely. 


It's friends that really make a meal, don't you think?  And just look at these two.  Don't they look ready for a puppy?  Good friends show up early and dig in and stay late and take home leftovers.  And that's what a good meal is really all about.

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the whirl of gaiety

Can you believe that there was another birthday around here? Yesterday it was my friend Tracy. I love giving her presents because she's so expressive and appreciative when she receives them. No matter how much I love a gift, I feel self conscious and awkward. Not genunie.

Not Tracy. Her enthusiasm is clear and most genuine. These sushi plates are from our friend Megan.

This is a "calendar egg." I got my mom one of these for her birthday this year too. There's a muffled rattled inside the egg that brings magic to the owner. We could all use a little magic, muffled or no.

Tracy is also getting a new house for her birthday. She, like I, moved here from California, and she's had some trouble getting her legs under her. After her birthday lunch, she took us to the house that her family has decided to rent, and I'm finally seeing her happy about being here.

My childhood friend Sarah's mom used to drive us crazy by saying, "bloom where you're planted," but I actually think there's some truth to that. I would say instead, "be where you are." Watching Tracy move around her funky new mid-century mod house with views over the water was so, so lovely. She's here! She's blooming! A weight is off her.

And what a house! It even comes with instructions! If only life were that simple. Still, I think with a little magic, Tracy is getting it figured out. Happy happy birthday dear friend. Did your dad ever call?

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labor day weekend round these parts


There are times that I just imagine that it looks like I have a charmed life. That my days are filled with dapple-shadowed back-yards and sunswept beaches. And really, for strangers reading these posts, it probably does look like that a good bit. I know I've touched on some sad stuff here, and there were days that this summer has been really hard. And really, whose life is totally charmed anyway? For all of us those dapple-shadowed back yards can hide clobber-filled sheds (and I'm speaking both figuatrively and literally!), and sunswept beaches can swarm with red tide. Still, charmed is the way it really is sometimes. And that's how this weekend was for me.


We started on Friday night celebrating a birthday with some newish friends of ours. We've been hanging out with this other couple, some friends from work, since just after the first of the year, and it really feels as if we're starting to get a groove on. Do you ever notice that you have first dates as couples? It's funny to look back on those first nights that we went out to dinner when we're now teasing each other about "no mas Jose'" and how I saw Peyton Manning last night. We share an interest in food and movies and (for some of us at least) football and just being together and having a good time. Not a bad basis for a friendship, I think. The beribboned package is this (perfect for beach picnics). We made her put it together...a sort of beachy-trial by fire.


It's a good Friday night when your dinner consists of portabellas with blue cheese and a chocolate pound birthday cake. When you can grill sitting down and the beer is icy cold. When the water is warmer than the air and someone has a birthday so you can drink champagne. We've tried to do this little celebration several times and in a summer of near-drought got rained out again and again. At the start of a long weekend, this third time was the charm.


Not to be outdone, neighbor Rebecca decided to hold a crab feast on Sunday night. What a marvelous place we call home, really. Ours was a street in transition when we moved here very nearly four years ago. Older families moving out, young couples moving in. Well, those young couples are moving on with their lives, having babies, growing families, all sorts of crazy things and here we are smack dab in the middle of all the fun. We call ourselves SOBO, based on the direction of our block, and any given evening you can find the kids playing football across the front yards and the grown-ups drinking beer beside somebody's firepit. Sometimes, someone steps it up a little, formalizes things enough to ask for side dishes, and suddenly there's a party.

We aren't at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for nothing, and apparently Rebecca had been thinking about picking crabs all summer. We had a perfect night for it. I've said it before, summers are muggy, buggy and hot here and they usually last deep into September. Not that night.  That night was perfect.  Clear.  Not muggy.  Star-filled and almost cool.  It's all part of feeling charmed, and I know our hostess felt that way.

A perfect cool evening with so much good food.

The kids were thirsty, and someone said, "Here's the lemonade." Well the kids drinks were in a bucket on ice. The stuff in the pitcher? Lemon drop martinis. Our kids our pretty sharp though. "This tastes like alcohol!!" was the horified cry, and the mistake was quickly remedied.

I have one friend who I knew would go into the crab-zone. "Gonna pick any for me?" I teased. I didn't think he'd really do it.

"Um," he said. It sounded sort of affirmative. It's clear, he's in the zone. As I prod his bubble, he continues his rhythm of WHAP with the mallett, crack of the claw, peel off the meat. I would not actually call the ensuing dialogue a conversation.

"I'll pay by way of a drink," I offered.


"What do you want? Beer? Wine? Planter's Punch?"


"Corona or Sam Adams?" Seriously, I think he found me annoyingly chatty.

"Corona," he grunted. I delivered an icy-cold Corona, got the tiniest sliver of crab meat in return and didn't see the guy for the rest of the night. It's a whole different world out there in crab-land.

People sat around this table deep into the night. Talking and laughing and always picking crabs. Music played, babies danced, people talked and laughed. As night fell, the firepit was actually necessary and you had that sense of being caught in a perfect moment in time. It just doesn't happen like that in real life.

Picking crabs, I must admit, is an art that remains elusive to me. I do love some crabmeat, don't get me wrong, but the process of getting it is new to me. Daunting too. Many of my friends are old hands at this, however. Growing up around here makes it a way of life. And Rebecca cracks me up. She is so lady-like in her pink and green strapless sundress as she ruthlessly wields her crab mallett and stuffs the meat in her mouth. She told us great stories of her granddad teaching her how to pick crabs a child, and as shift after shift would surrould her table Sunday night, she was almost always in their midst. I love the idea of growing up with something like this as part of your life. Knowing how to do it from childhood. Knowing all the parts of the crab from the feelers to the dead man's fingers. Knowing how to steam them (Miller Light and Old Bay) and what to dip the meat in (cider vinegar and Old Bay...always Old Bay, butter is for the weak apparently). And I love the way an activity is connected to a place the way picking crabs and eating crabs is so connected to this place, crab-land.

Sometime after ten Callum looked around and said, "When are we gonna have the crabs?" He'd been so busy circling the house with this huge pack of kids and icy pops and glow sticks that he didn't see all the dozens of pickers at the table. Patiently Rebecca sat with him and taught him every step. (She has photos of this, but they'll have to belong to another post.) One rule, "Don't pick crab for other people," shifted a little in this generational pass-down to, "Pick some for your mom." A fact for which I am very grateful. Even after I went to bed, he sat with her, picking crab until almost midnight. He's nearly eight, just a few more days now, and of this place more and more.

And even on Monday that feeling of walking glowingly through someone else's life didn't end. Monday afternoon we spent again with friends. Due to some camera quirks that have me very nervous, I don't have any photos, but this little guy captures all the joy I was feeling. The sun, the friends, the kids always hovering around, the water, the wind and the sense of "this can't be my life" as I swim out to a boat belonging to the Friday night birthday friends. He took us on a great ride. The water was so blue and the sun so bright. As I floated lazily on my back heading back to the beach, I couldn't help thinking, charmed, I'm sure.

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