Musing with Max

Musing with Max

December 31, 2012

Traditional flowers in the house

As a child who would undoubtedly fall asleep way before midnight on New Year's Eve I was woken up at midnight by my mother so that I would join in the tradition of eating twelve grapes when the clock struck midnight. Each grape signifies each month of the year and eating them at midnight signifies luck. She would also hand me a half glass of champagne. I remember this as far back as being 3, Latins don't have big issues with giving their kids's a way of life, normal. My mother ate her twelve grapes every New Year's Eve of her life. When she was older and alone and knew she wouldn't make it to midnight she had them before going to bed. I haven't always kept this up as sometimes we've been out celebrating so it doesn't work out. I do when I can and hope to do so this year when tradition and luck are so very welcome.

I will also on this last Monday of 2012 join in another monthly (almost) tradition; Jane's flowers in the house party with some traditional December flowers.

and some greenery which to me counts as flowers

and we join the most beautiful flower in this house

in wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2013 full of wonder and adventure and the best of times. Until next year, or tomorrow. Feliz Ano Nuevo!

December 24, 2012

Christmas Wishes

A little gift from all of us at Max's house.

Hope you enjoy the angel voices and the spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

December 18, 2012

And so this is Christmas

We put up the tree this weekend even though it was hard to concentrate... pulled out all the ornaments and laid them all out

the vintage ones from the train store in Newton

the ones made from 50's Christmas cards we found in the antique server we bought a few years ago

the pine cones from Lillian Vernon

and all the others from Lillian Vernon

the nutcrackers and icicles

...after the lights went on, twice because I started backwards and had to begin again, we spent the weekend slowly adding on

until we had no more

and it made us smile...and hopeful.

and if this doesn't make you feel better, not a heck of a lot will.

December 9, 2012


We've been in a bit of a tailspin, and I don't mean this tail.
I'll explain. We are never ever ever lacking food in this house as I have a tendency to stockpile, if you will. Our freezer is usually packed; we shop at Costco and when we start running low by my kooky standards we go and replenish. This in addition to the regular shopping for items that we don't purchase there because frankly I don't know where to store 48 boxes of elbow macaroni. So for the most part what we purchase there tends to be big meat and poultry which I divide double wrap and carefully label. The freezer also contains frozen vegetables, frozen herbs from our garden, tomato sauce made with our Summer tomatoes, homemade pesto, and packages of frozen puff pastry and phillo dough. When hurricane Sandy made it's very unwelcome visit and we lost power we didn't expect to be without it for more than one day, because we are spoiled people. We had cranked up the refrigerator and freezer setting just in case though. So when powerless day two came around we decided we needed to do something with the exaggerated amount of meat and poultry in our freezer and the contents in our refrigerator. Luckily we have two very large coolers, so off we went to the market and bought a bunch of ice dumped it in the coolers, transferred the freezer stuff and put them out on the back porch. The contents of the refrigerator we put inside two heavy duty cardboard boxes and placed them out there too. The temperature was going down which was a double edged sword, bad cause we had no power therefore no heat and good because the food sitting outside was being kept cold. Miraculously the milk never spoiled. As the week without power wore on we were able to cook as if normal for the most part and kept things from spoiling by replenishing the ice a couple of times. When the power finally came back on an entire week later we surveyed our supply. The chickens were somehow still frozen and so was a package of sausage but everything else was defrosting so we had no choice but to throw it all out.

No Max, don't panic, not you.

All of a sudden I was staring at an empty freezer...the horror! We were really busy with a lot of other things and I went to the market a couple of times but it wasn't enough until finally this Friday a trip to Costco was accomplished and the freezer is once again full. So I can make...

Brazilian Feijoada adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

  • 4 cups dried black beans, picked and rinsed
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb pancetta, cut into medium size cubes
  • 4 pieces of oxtail, about 1 1/4 lb (I didn't have oxtail so I doubled the beef)
  • 1 lb top round, cut into big chunks
  • 1 chorizo (linguica), about 1 lb
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup leeks, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of ground chili pepper
  • Few drops of Tabasco
  • Few drops of Worcestershire

1. Place the beans in a very large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat to medium, and cook, covered, for 1 hour, until the beans are just cooked but not too mushy. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, start preparing meats and vegetables. Saute the oxtail, top round, and sausage in batches, until browned on all sides.
3. Heat the oil in an extra-large Dutch oven pan, and cook the pancetta until lightly crispy.
4. Add the onions, celery, leeks, shallots and scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Add the garlic and stir to blend with other vegetables. Add the beans and bring to a boil.
6. Add the meats and any accumulated juices from the bowl. Cover the pan and simmer at low heat for about 3 hours, until the meats are tender and falling off the bones. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika, Tabasco and Worcestershire, all to taste.
7. Serve over rice

8-10 servings

We're getting there.

November 25, 2012

Max goes boating---or---a Philadelphia Thanksgiving

For years I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and enjoyed it immensely. I suppose it all started with my mother who immediately embraced this holiday in her first year in this country as if it were the most wonderful day on earth. She would start very early in the day with help from my aunt and prepare all the traditional dishes. The turkey, yams with marshmallows, salad, sides of green beans and carrots, cranberry sauce, Mrs. Smith's pumpkin pie and of course her favorite, "the stuff". My aunt would drive her crazy as she ran around making hor s doeuvres of all sorts which as far as my mother was concerned weren't traditional. She'd buy a tablecloth with turkeys on it, matching plates and little paper turkeys that opened their festive tails. At first it was just us but then as the years wore on and my brother and I grew up, got engaged, married, etc. there were more and more people at the table. Once I got married and moved away it wasn't always possible for all of us to get together for the most famous of family holidays. Very soon afterwards I started my own Thanksgiving cooking tradition and when our families couldn't attend there were always friends and their families which were pretty much our extended family. Eventually that changed too as marriages and relationships broke up and family dramas just got a little too soap operaish for our taste. So this year when planning for Thanksgiving we decided to bolt out of town, just the three of us. And what better place for a quick but always fun getaway than lovely Philadelphia and the houseboat under the Ben Franklin bridge.

which Max just loves
so he can look out at the other boats on the pier

while sitting on the deck with his favorite person
and being rocked to sleep
while we go out for breakfast at our favorite greasy spoon
and take a leisurely stroll through Society Hill
shuffling through the ginkgo leaves that cover the sidewalks

while we marvel up at the trees
and the fact that some Summer flowers are still around
then head over to Center City
for a nice lunch of fish tacos

and a drink at Rouge
And did we have the traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Well no, because if it's not made at home it doesn't count. Instead we headed over to Parc and had
Salad Lyonnaise
Rabbit Pappardelle
and Steak Frites.

And then head back to find our little sea dog
taking over our bed.

We have lots to be thankful for.

November 18, 2012

Autumn Leaves

Despite the fact that we had a monster hurricane with ferocious wind followed by a nor'easter that dumped a bunch of snow on everything there are happily a lot of trees still holding on to their leaves. As weird as it sounds, and feels, I think that this Fall has lasted for quite a while longer than usual, which is wonderful since we can witness those ever changing leaf colors.
As the days have gone by they seem to intensify. The reds have turned into a glowing cranberry that just shimmers in the light, the yellows are deep and vibrant and just so intense in their hue.

Then there are the burnt oranges and all the shades of browns
and a little green still peeks through

It's just so breathtakingly beautiful

...and also a little dangerous. The road I take on my way to work goes through a mountain which is a nature preserve and I am surrounded on both sides by forests full of a huge variety of trees full of every autumn leaf color imaginable and it changes daily. It is impossible not to be awestruck by this amazing sight and I can't help but just stare with my mouth wide open which doesn't bode well for driving so I have to tell myself to snap out of it lest I crash into something. The other day the car in front of me almost swerved off the road which sort of brought me to my senses, now I'm sure to look straight ahead. So I'll enjoy it at my house
which probably won't be much longer

but it has been nice.

Right Max? He's depressed just thinking about it.