Sunday, June 26, 2011

"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's."~Mark Twain, letter to W.D. Howells, 2 April 1899

Addendum to my "Here's Stuff I Find Awesome" post many months ago...
- Leslie and Eric Conner

Your generosity, your warmth, your kindness, and your "take charge" attitudes have literally saved the lives of at least five animals (cats and dogs) over the past year. You have taken them in, regardless of medical condition, size, or breed; you have paid for vet bills, medicine, and food no matter the cost; you have given puppies warm beds and the attention they deserve; you have made strays feel both wanted and loved; you have welcomed the motley bunch of critters into your garage and your family; you have done all of this without ulterior motive and never in search of continually restore my faith in goodness and love.

PLUS, you collect antique lanterns (tastefully displayed in your beautiful cabinets in your breathtakingly classy, yet inviting, kitchen) and you plan to have some of the girls of '98 over for a slumber party. Could you get any cooler?

Leslie, I truly think you're awesome. Thank you for being you.
"Brutus" is going to make it, thanks to Leslie and Eric.
The neighbors' dog...I don't blame him for wanting to hang out at Leslie's instead.
He's even up and playing around.

Look, Leigh Ann!! Leslie lives across the street from one of our childhood hangouts. That's right, folks, Mom was a big fan of Crowe's. I'm pretty sure this is where I got my pink, pinstriped OshKosh B'gosh overalls. Hot.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

“Two things create a woman, pretty dresses and love letters.” Honore de Balzac, Pere Goriot, 1835

I can't remember if I've used this particular quote in the title of a previous entry or not, but I am fairly certain that good ol' Honore de Balzac has not gone unmentioned. Remember?... He's that French playwright and novelist considered one of the founders of realism in European literature, an artist known for exposing the deeply complex and often contradictory emotions of the human existence. ... Oh yeah, that guy.

And yes, a little of that just may been taken from Wikipedia.

Anyway, this quote is at the top of page 105 in Vivian Swift's, When Wanderers Cease to Roam (for those of you who remember, this is the "travel journal" that inspired Pillow Book...and hey, we have it available for checkout at the library now!). Found in the "July" section (Swift documents idiosyncrasies, funny moments, memories, artwork, and musings by month), this quote leads into a discussion as to why Swift bought four particular dresses, what each have come to mean to her, the memories they inspire, and what quippy words of advice they ill-fashionably offer.

For instance...
"I’ve never been a bridesmaid. I’m not complaining. But when I bought this frock from the consignment shop I justified the expense by telling myself that one day it will come in handy, when one of my friends has an impromptu wedding with come-as-you-are bridesmaids and I just happen to be wearing yards and yards of this tulle with a strapless, fitted bodice adorned on the back with a big pink bow. However, since the skirts are ballerina (Sugar Plum Fairy) length, and because one night I happened to be wearing it at home to re-arrange my tea cup collection while listening to the only classical record I own, I call this my Tchaikovsky Dress."

My Reward for Turning 40
If not for this dress, I would never have had the nerve to date younger men. I’d never been 40 before, and I had no experience acting my age. But I figured it was time for me to own at least one mature outfit. I let the salesgirl in a fancy dress shop pick out this beige dress for me. What’s more mature than beige? The dress was made of an elegant rayon moirĂ© and I doubted I’d fit into the tiny size 6 I was given to try on. Amazingly, the thing slid on me like dew on a rose petal, like inspiration on a non-ironic French novelist’s woman.

So when I started meeting men I wished I’d met when I was in my 20s I’d wear this dress and let them deal with the age difference."
I have one, too. I bought this dress when I was in Los Angeles five or six years ago. Several mornings a week, I would go to the outdoor market in Santa Monica and buy fresh fruit, the occasional book or souvenir, and obviously, multi-patterned outfits at the shop that alluringly resided on the corner adjacent to said market.

I had gone in one day in search of a dress to wear to a special dinner; I tried on several very classic, Audrey-Hepburn types, but it was this turquoise number that stole my heart. Yes, it somehow reminds me of a Bill Cosby sweater; it does indeed have an inside skirt layer that would make 4-year-old beauty pageant contestants blush; it honestly doesn't fit that well, as the waist needs to be taken in a bit (and not because I'm soooooo skinny; I bought a size too big because the dress just made me happy). I freaking love this dress.

When I wear it, I kinda feel like I did when Leigh Ann and I would put on the flower girl dresses we had worn in my uncle's wedding in the early 80s, the ones excitedly jerked out of the closet when the urge to dance and twirl around the living room during American Bandstand could no longer be suppressed. I feel like a gypsy princess. I feel like Angelina Jolie on a UNICEF mission trip, caught by some photographer whose magazine editor will inevitably use phrases like "Stripped down to no make-up and an oddly whimsical dress, Jolie jetsets around poverty-stricken countries."

I have worn this dress to wedding showers, to church services, to a BBQ at a Loyola Marymount professor's house on the outskirts of LA, to the Cumberland County Public Library. If I have children, this is the dress that I will pull out and let them make fun of in 20 years. This is the dress that I just might throw on today as I'm baking bread pudding and cleaning my house. This is the dress that few would likely characterize as "pretty" and the one that has inspired exactly zero love letters.

For this point on, I shall call it my Pillow Book dress.
$100 to anyone who can help me think of the name of the stiff lace layer that makes the dress puff out. Well, maybe not a hundred.
Looks even prettier blowing in the wind, doesn't it?
And it matches my chair.

Tell me about "your dress."
Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding
From the Taste of Home website
Yields: 2 servings (I tripled and baked in a 9X9 square pan)

1 cup cubed cinnamon-raisin bread (If you can buy Carri Peterson's at the Cumberland County Farmers' Market, do so!)
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
1/3 cup raisins

Place bread cubes in a greased 2-cup baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until blended. Stir in raisins. Pour over bread.

Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted 1/2 in. from the edge comes out clean. Serve warm.
That's right, that is butter floating on top.

Monday, June 6, 2011

When in Salzburg, loudly sing "Do Re Mi" with your best friend while on the Sound of Music tour bus

I love it when the hills are alive.
Luzern, Switzerland

Mirabell Gardens - Salzburg, Austria. And yes, we did hand sew our outfits.
Enjoy both the ordinary and the completely extraordinary... no matter where you are.
Marrowbone - first cucumber!
Marrowbone - this weekend! One of my favorite memories: doing the cake walk with Papa (Dad's father, Leon) at the "Fireman's Festival" when I was a little girl
Caroline and I had coffee, orange juice, yogurt and muesli/granola nearly every morning while on vacation. Inspired by this - as well as Carri Peterson's convincing argument that homemade yogurt really isn't that difficult - I decided to try some.

1) Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk (I used 2%). Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

2) Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

3) When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine. (At this point, I also added about 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla)

4) Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.
5) Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened (it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt). Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.

My favorite way to enjoy: Multi grain cheerios in the bottom of a bowl that you really like, between 1/2-1 cup yogurt on top, drizzle with maple syrup or honey, top with some of Carri's homemade granola and fresh fruit. Take out to your front porch:)