Musing with Max

Musing with Max

February 28, 2013

Reading rooms

I'm in a reading rut. Don't know why or how it happened but there it is. Maybe it's the choices I'm making, I seem to pick up a book and regardless of the subject or writing style or story line I can't find the interest. Sometimes I plod on and finish it, others I just put it down and back on the shelf which is something I hate to do. Maybe it has to do with the change in life style. All those years I commuted into New York and rode the train and subway this is where I would read, sometimes I would almost forget to get off I was so engrossed. Now I drive to work. Not a good idea to read while driving despite all the texting idiots I see around me...maybe because of all the texting idiots I see around me. I hope this passes soon since reading has always been such a passion of mine. Our parents taught us how to read before we were even in school, which meant that I could read at the ripe old age of three

even though in this photo I'm five.

When I was a child our house had a library. It was a room at the bottom of a winding staircase with a small courtyard in front of it towards the back of the house. That part of the house was enclosed in glass so the courtyard had all forms of tropical foliage and the light just filled the space. The library's door however was always closed. You walked into a very cool room with dark wood paneling and surrounded with dark wood built in bookcases filled to capacity. There was a dark wooden desk with a swivel leather chair and brown leather sofas. It would seem out of place in a tropical setting where all was terrazzo floors, bamboo furniture and block glass but it was my favorite room in the house. When I was four years old I had my hair cut; it went from shoulder length to short, probably like the photo above. I remember looking in the mirror and hating it. I hated it so much I wanted to hide from the world. My family looked for me all day long, finally for the third time that day my father walked into the library and had the wherewithal to look behind the door he had just opened and find a whimpering child with an ugly haircut taking refuge in her favorite room of the house. I have always wanted that room so I somehow tried to recreate it. We decided one of our spare rooms would be a library so we painted it chocolate brown and brought in bookcases
and some leather furniture

and lots of books. Not identical but it works.
You'd think I'd be so inspired. Right Max?

Maybe I'll get a bad haircut and hide in there all day!

That should do it.
Suggestions are welcome.

February 19, 2013

Winter blahs

February does it every time. By the time we get past the mid point I'm all wintered out, regardless of the fact that Winter hasn't made much of a showing in the last couple of years but nevertheless that's how it goes. The gray ashen pallor that is my complexion at this time of year doesn't help either and neither does the fact that my blondish goldy hair (ahem) somehow manages to stay a shade of plain mousy brown no matter how many times I visit the hairdresser. So just picture this vision that greets me every morning, gray face topped by a mousy brown head of hair. Blah is right! It really shouldn't be this way, after all February starts out by being Frank's birthday, then it's my brother's birthday as well as a couple of friends... and St. Valentine's Day! Wow, this is even more depressing, this month can make one broke. And then this year to make matters even worse, that little bug that has been going around and around and around finally landed on me. It's not "the flu", or I'm sure I would have felt much worse but I wake up with a splitting headache and arms and legs that ache every inch inside and out. So I stayed home and in bed. Luckily I wasn't alone.

Which makes me feel a little bit warmer

and a little bit better. And after a little rest I can go downstairs and make some soup which, let's face it, is the best remedy.

This one's lentil because I always have some and it's easy.

Saute a sliced onion, peeled and sliced carrot and celery in a little bit of duck fat

add two cups of lentils, picked over

cover with about 5 cups of chicken broth, add salt and pepper and herbs de Provence to taste, bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes until lentils are tender

Process in a food processor or pass through a food mill until smooth. Serve hot.

Feel better. Pinch your cheeks like Scarlet O'Hara and go snuggle with the baby.

I think I found the cure.

February 9, 2013

Finding Nemo

Well the Winter that wasn't finally arrived in the way of the first ever named snowstorm. Nemo. A very stupid trend if you ask me considering that the drama queens in the weather prognostication profession call every snowflake a snowstorm which means they will run out of names very very quickly, but that's their problem. Our problem is whether to believe their hype or not and to what extent. Their calls for weather Armageddon are prolific which has sort of put them in the category of the boy who cried wolf and we, their captive listeners, have become more and more cynical in our response and therefore complacent. Case in point, hurricane Sandy, or superstorm Sandy, or the perfect storm, or the million other descriptive terms they used which got tiring fast. They were wrong---it was much worse than even they imagined but since people are so tired of their drama they didn't heed the warnings and the damage to both property and lives was and continues to be horrific. So now we come to Nemo. At first they predicted we, in our area, would get 1 to 3 inches, shortly after it grew to 3 to 6, then 6 to 8, then a foot, then the superstorm of snowstorms, a storm of historic proportions, the worst snowstorm EVER. I'm not sure how they came up with EVER considering that weather records haven't been kept for that long and I don't know of anyone who has been around forEVER and can back that claim up.

Anyway, so Frank and I both worked from home on Friday even though the snow accumulation wasn't due to start until late Friday afternoon. Wrong, when Max and I went for our morning walk it was already snowing, lightly but snowing nonetheless. By early afternoon I looked out the window

not too bad but I'm glad I stayed home. I signed off about 2:00 PM and a little while later stepped out back.

Doesn't look too bad but it's a lot earlier than they said it would start, cold too. Maybe I'll make some soup. No, we need something a little more substantial. So I pull out this book my friend Louise gave me

nothing like a little pork stew to keep one warm and cozy.

West African Pork Stew, adapted from The Whole Hog Cookbook
serves 6

Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 3lb. boneless pork roast (I use shoulder) cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 scallions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
4 cups pork or chicken stock
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts (optional)

Liberally salt and pepper the pork.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the pork and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Stir in the scallions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, curry powder, ginger, red pepper flakes, bell pepper, sweet potatoes, and stock. Stir to combine, cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours, or until the stew thickens.

Stir in the peanut butter. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts (I didn't use)

That certainly warms you up on a cold snowy night.

We looked out the window and watched as the snow came down in that beautiful way that it does at night shimmering in the moonlight. Woke up at 6:30 AM when one of those guys that comes to see if he can shovel for you rang the doorbell. Yes, I said 6:30 AM, and on a Saturday no less. Lucky for him we were too asleep and groggy to come down and tell him what he could do with his shovel. Too late though, Max is wide awake now. Let's see what Nemo has left behind.

looks like a foot or so,

and some pretty winter images

and an empty street for a boy and his dog

Was it a lot of snow? Yes.

Was it the worst snowstorm ever? No. At least not here. Our friends in Massachusetts might think differently though. I hope they're home and safe and warm and playing with their dog in the snow.

February 4, 2013

A rose is a rose is a...ranunculus.

Since today's flowers in the house party falls in the month of February I thought I would share a little romantic story.

When I was in fifth grade I had an enormous crush on a boy named Gaston. As if just the fact that he had that really cool name wasn't enough, he had soulful deep brown eyes. Sort of like this:

He wore his stick straight hair in the obligatory sugar bowl haircut, like this:

and he had a grin like a Cheshire cat,

I'm sure you can understand my attraction.

He wrote in my autograph book:

Roses are red

(OK ranunculus, but I have editorial license)

they grow in this region

if I had your face

I'd join the foreign legion!

Yep, you guessed it...he liked me too!

Happy FITH!