Tuesday, July 31, 2007

not a food blog

My attention seems to be taken up with good things to eat over the past few days. I've been so busy cooking, chopping, grinding, sniffing and eating that I have not paid attention to the writing about it.

At Saturday's Farmers' Market Dorothy had not only the most beautiful deep purple eggplant but also bags of her famous best- ever basil. They called out to me, "Pesto me!" Just as the peaches begged, "Cobbler me!" and the corn, "Grill me!" So I brought home a big bag of fragrant basil leaves along with the other usual veggies and fruits of the season. At home I dragged out the (Beta version) very old Cuisinart, tossed basil, garlic, oil, almonds (no pine nuts on hand) beneath the whirling blades, and presto! Pesto! Not the best I have ever produced; I guess I am sorely out of practice. But certainly good enough to slather over some delectable penne for dinner. The rest will be put into an ice cube tray and frozen for future enjoyment. It needed to be smoother; a bit too coarse. That was the fault of the almonds, I think.

The next item on the menu was gazpacho, to my mind the perfect summer soup. Right behind vichyssoise at the Georges V or tomato en croute at the Domaine Chandon winery in Yountville. The tomatoes, peppers and cukes were so abundant in the market what else could I do? I dug out my old recipe, set up my magic chopper and went to work. After letting the soup chill, I sat down to a most refreshing lunch! I was missing the sour cream dollop, but it was so spicy, crunchy and rich I hardly missed it.

But now comes the really good part.
Babcock Bonanza!

Into my neighbor's yard fell a fully-loaded branch of these delicate beauties. Like a gift from heaven instead of the yard in back. She picked two boxes of these lovely, sweet peaches; one had peaches ripe and ready to enjoy, the others still with a few days left to mature into perfection. I remember my mother prepared a dessert of half a Babcok with a spoonful of brown sugar in the pit cavity then drizzled with sour cream. Summer in a bite! I have never been able to cook with these successfully; they are too delicate for a pie. They turn to mush. But they can be gently poached and served warm or cold with softly beaten whipping cream and some slivered almonds. I will undoubtedly end up peeling and eating most of them. They're just too good to eat any other way.

Today is the birthday of J. K. Rowling, creator of Harry F. Potter. HB, JK.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

POP! goes the tube

According to the Patient, the great removal went like this. The doc had him lie down on the table. He chatted amiably, put the Patient at ease, and suddenly just pulled the tube out, like the plug from a bathtub. It gave a little POP like the cork from a champagne bottle. Slapped on a bandage, shook hands and it was over. Took about 10 minutes. I am still trying to figure out how something that took surgery -- complete with anesthetic -- to get in can come out with a simple yank. We could have done this out by the pool and saved the co-pay! But it's out, the Patient feels fine and had a nice glass of 2005 $2 Chuck chard for dinner (the vintage that won the Gold Medal at a big competition) to celebrate. Not me, yet. I still have about 120 hours before I can enjoy my celebratory Salud! Fortunately about a third of the time I'll be asleep.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Tomorrow is the big day for the Patient. He gets the feeding tube removed. Recovery has gone on for over 8 months and it's finally time. I think the procedure is pretty simple but will know more tomorrow. It has been a long, slow process, getting this far. There will probably be a small, tasteful celebration of some sort. Since it is July and I am always dry during this month ~ just to be sure I can still do it ~ perhaps we will wait until just after midnight on August 1 to toast a long and healthy life!

We have been watching the 1976 PBS series I, Claudius. Last installment tonight. Derek Jacoby is a genius. Patrick Stewart before he shot himself into space plays the treacherous Sejanus, the doer of many bad deeds on behalf of the Emperor Tiberius. Livia, Tiberius' mother and the Emperor Augustus' wife, is the incarnation of evil ambition. Siân Phillips is the actress who plays her. Absolutely delish! Tonight we get to see Caligula come to a bad end. Then stumbling, bumbling, shrewd Claudius becomes emperor and has his own downfall. So it goes.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

it's summer

This morning's Farmers' Market was chock full 'o goodies. The tomatoes, squash, melons, peaches and corn have all come in at once. The problem is how to eat all the luscious things I want to buy. There were five varieties of squash, red and yellow watermelons, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, glossy eggplant, tart lemon cucumbers. And flowers galore. We grilled the corn for dinner tonight; like little morsels of sugar.

Travel tip: For those of you lining up your theatre tickets for the opening of the New York season, check this article about "where to stay without breaking the bank." It was in the NYT on Friday in the Escapes section. Have you ever thought of staying in a B&B in Manhattan? Read all about it here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

harry f. potter

I went up town this morning to do a couple of errands and happened by the Borders big box. What did I see? A long, long line of Potterites, waiting for the store to open so they could rush in and fork over their saved allowances to by the ultimate book. Average age of the line-up? About 7. Lots of moms, very few dads. Even the venerable News Hour with Jim Leher devoted a generous portion of time to discuss this phenom.

Max and his merry band of painters have departed for the weekend. The bedroom walls and trim are all done and it looks absolutely stunning. I put the new duvet on the bed to give it all a test run and I am completely pleased. The wall color is warm and restful, the ceilings are white and make the room look even larger and lighter.

Then I put the duvet cover on the bed to see how it all "flows." It does. Where, you might well ask, are the pillows in this scene? They aren't here yet. In fact, this fabric does not come with euro pillow covers, so I bought a twin cover and will have covers made. Spare no expense, right? In truth, I haven't done a thing to this room in almost 20 years, so let's go for broke and hang the expense!

The color in the bathroom is half of the depth of the bedroom tone and it looks very good. Goes with the tiles already there. Thank God I don't have to rip them out and start all over.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

happy birthday to the patient Patient

Today is the Patient's birthday. And he has been most patient during this redecorating dislocation. As long as he doesn't have to make any decisions about what gets done he's happy. Well, as happy as a man can be who has been booted out of his bedroom and made to take all his belongings out of the closet. But if he is left alone to putter in the garden and sit on the deck and read he doesn't complain. Too much. We'll probably go to a movie at the weekend to celebrate.

Here's the new color Max had mixed. It's called Kitchen Twine. Who thinks up these names anyway? It doesn't look quite right in this picture; it's really very warm without being too yellow. He hasn't gotten the dilute color yet; tomorrow.

And the new bed linens came today, too. Here's the stripe of the duvet cover. It's the dark stripe I'm trying to match, or at least compliment. Max assures me that Kitchen Twine is a good go-with. The whole look of the room will change. It will be much more polished. You know, for grown-ups! I think it will work just fine. Max has painted the built-in headboard white. The lightest part of this cover is actually white.

Here's the paint sample with the duvet cover. All the trouble I had getting this thing in the first place, I'm going to MAKE it work. You can see better in this photo the white in the fabric, but the paint color is quite a bit darker. Max is going to start painting the walls tomorrow. Perhaps I can get a more realistic sample of the true color.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

the color dilemma

I was set on the shade "Calm Air" (bottom) that I saw at Caitlin's. But it doesn't look good with the new carpet or the light in the bedroom. Max mixed up a dilution of that color for the bathroom but it looks terrible with the existing tile in the shower. It is too mustard-y. So it's back to the drawing board - or color wheel, in this instance - for a richer and deeper color. I found a wonderful (to my poor color-blind eyes) warm toast color that looks good with the carpet AND will look good with the tile in dilute. Max the Painter will get some new paint mixed up tomorrow and we'll try again. He has finished the ceiling in a slight off-white and it opens up this already spacious room. So much white will balance a deeper, richer color without having the whole room close up on me.

Here's the bedroom all shrouded in plastic. The place looks as though we have moved out and it has been taken over by huge webs. Like Miss Havisham at table, waiting, waiting, waiting. Tomorrow Max and his mozo will tackle the ceiling in the bathroom and prime all the woodwork and the walls. I am going to dash off to look for a new bathroom light fixture. The one that's there is only semi-functional. Half of the light sockets have shorted out. Really tacky. As for the carpet, here's a look at it but as I said, looking at beige carpet is not terribly interesting. You decide.Through the sliders you can make out our assembled possessions. And early this morning it sprinkled. We had to tear out and cover everything. Then it rained a bit more later this morning. Actually quite refreshing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

back to jackson

After our ill-fated trip to Jackson a month ago, I had the wit to wait until I knew the tile place was open. And what a place! It is the most unlikely of stores in a most unlikely place. In the back room are shelves and shelves of Mexican tiles; I would guess about 300 different patterns. Dizzying. If you have brain lesions don't go there; you're sure of have a seizure. I am (still) working on the design for my Mexican kitchen. Although I found lots of great stuff there, that's no guarantee I can find the same tiles in Mexico. And I am NOT going to haul those coals to Newcastle! So I must have several alternate designs. No pictures yet. But soon.

On our way home we stopped at a daily farmers' market in Sloughhouse to buy corn, melons, Japanese eggplant, lemon cucumbers, and the biggest (and what turned out to be the toughest) artichoke I've ever seen. But the corn was sweet and very tender and the eggplant creamy and delicious.

The painter comes tomorrow with, I hope, several samples I can slap on the walls to see how they look in various lighting. The room is very large, with a high ceiling and many windows. Again, pictures soon.

Rafa loaned the Patient his chain saw to cut down the huge zylosma along the driveway. His only warning: Don't cut the extension cord. Right. That's on his agenda tomorrow, while I am trying to decide on paint color.

Today is Joseph Edmund Costantini's birthday. He is 9 years old. Happy Birthday Eddie!

Monday, July 16, 2007

the magic carpet

It looks bee-yoo-ti-ful! Clean, mainly. And new. The carpet folks called this morning to tell me that the Grade B padding was not available so they were going to substitute Grade A and was that OK? After a bit of fussing I said, "Well, I guess so." I didn't want them to think they could just substitute anything without a little to-do. I took a couple of pictures but it's just carpet and doesn't look very interesting.

What will be more interesting is the new paint. Max the Painter came over this morning with all his color wheels and charts and chips. We opted for Calm Air - a fine choice for a bedroom, don't you think? This is the shade I saw at Cait's house; a sort of pale honey. Then he will lighten that up a bit to go in the adjoining bathroom. It's going to be calm and serenity all over this place. That will be a nice change.

So between now and at least a week from now our furniture stays out on the front terrace, covered by sheets. And when the paint smell gets too strong we'll move into the guest room. Now what am I going to do with all the stuff from our bedroom that I have piled on those beds in anticipation of the new carpet? Perhaps move it all into the garage? Ah the problems of affluence.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

raising the dust

Today we spent doing my least favorite chore: housework. Dusting, vacuuming, generally tidying up. Why would I spend a beautiful Sunday doing these terrible duties? Because tomorrow we get new carpet in our bedroom. Last year, due to the water disaster in the living room and guest room, we recarpeted. This year, the big bedroom. But really, after all this cleaning and dusting, I frankly think it's a waste of money. Looks pretty good to me. The Patient disagrees. Besides, it's already been ordered so I guess it's a closed topic. The next step is going to be painting the bedroom and bath. That starts on Wednesday. Before then I have to decide on paint colors. I have a whole handful of paint chips, each about one degree of difference from the next. Decisions.

Another delicious movie tonight. Jules and Jim. Jeanne Moreau was so wonderful to watch again. And I think this is the film that introduced me to Oskar Werner. God! They were all so young and beautiful! A ménage a trois to dream of. I have long thought this was Truffaut's best film, even better than The 400 Blows.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

another oldie

This afternoon I watched Splendor in the Grass, one of my favorite oldies. It holds up. Every so often I need to be reminded how lovely Natalie Woods was. Warren Beaty, too. This was Sandy Dennis's first film. Besides, I love the poem, Intimations of Immortality, from which the title comes.

Current read: Augustus by John Williams. Having read I Claudius for one description of Caesar Augustus, I thought I'd try for another point of view. I usually avoid two sides of an arguement; too confusing! This time I'm glad I did.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trees in Bozeman

From the kitchen window of Cait and Mike's house you see a beautiful, dark green pine forest. From the living room you look out on aspens, a couple of apple trees, and lilac bushes almost as big as trees. Down the street are smokey-blue firs and graceful birch. At the end of the gondola ride in Big Sky you are above the tree line. Trees everywhere.

by W. S. Merwin

I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things
I will miss most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

home again

We are back home after a lovely interlude in the mountains of Montana. Yesterday we drove over to Big Sky, a ski resort about 30 miles from Bozeman. There is massive development going on; cushy condos perched on the side of the mountain, restaurants, mini-malls. In the middle of the town is the Huntley Lodge, named after Chet Huntley, he of the Huntley-Brinkley team. Actually, his family home is around the corner from Mike and Cait's house.

We took the gondola ride up the side of Lone Mountain, elevation 11,000 ft., but the gondola stops at 9067 ft., just at the edge of the tree line, which is plenty high for my taste. From the observation deck you can see all across the valley, down into the little town of Big Sky. When we got home I logged on to VRBO to see what might be available for rental. There are about 200 listings for condos, homes, chalets, cabins, just about anything you could imagine for both summer and ski-season rentals. It would be a beautiful spot for a week's vacation any time of the year.

Last night we saw another beautiful Bozeman sunset before turning in early in anticipation of an early departure this morning.
We got out of Bozeman without any trouble, but we were the very last passengers seated on the flight to Sacramento out of Salt Lake. The only reason we made it was that two passengers were no-shows. Ah, the excitement of flying standby!

We made it home before noon. First chore: mail. Then laundry. Then a nice long nap. Weather here lovely, too. Bozeman put on her best show for us; warm, breezy, clear. Salt Lake was very hazy since the entire state is on fire. But right now the central valley is having perfect summer weather.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Jurassic Park's home

Big Mike

The Museum of the Rockies is a real gem, not to be missed if you are visiting this area. We saw three really good shows, beautifully curated, in a museum of a manageable size.

The first was the Tut show, most of the items being on loan from the Cairo Museum. I made me wonder two things: the first, WHY Bozeman? After that, I wondered what the cost of mounting and insuring such a show might be. The artifacts were very carefully chosen; just enough to give you a real overview, not cluttered with too much extraneous stuff. There were old black and white photos, taken at the time the tomb was opened, mounted on the walls with the genuine articles right there. Very effective. There is also a planetarium auditorium where we saw a star show, showing how the Egyptians used the stars to among other things, guide the construction of the pyramids. Lots of very well-behaved kids there on a day-camp outing. The Patient dozed from time to time.

The second display we saw was the permanent collection of dinosaur bones for which this particular museum is famous. In fact, Jack Horner, the dinasaur curator and field director of the MOR digs, was a big contributor to and consultant on the film Jurassic Park . Because of his work on the film it had it world premier right here in Bozeman. The collection is truly amazing. I took a couple of pictures but they did not come out well, so I direct you to the Museum of the Rockies so you can see for yourselves. Their biggest find was Big Mike whose original skeleton is on display inside. Outside, (see above) is a metal sculpture of him with the plaque, shown below, near his frame.

The final show (before visiting the Museum Shop, of course) was a glorious collection of ceramics by Picasso. These were plates, platters and pitchers from a private collection. Each one was more fanciful than the one before.

It made me want to rush home and toss out everything I have and start over. All Picasso all the time.

Tomorrow we bid Caitlin farewell in the morning as she has to go to Salt Lake for a few days for a Delta training session. So the Patient and I will take the little yellow Beetle and tool off to Big Sky for the day. More pictures, I hope. We leave on Thursday morning. Weather here has be absolutely perfect; low 70's, clear skies, light breezes. I can see why she loves it here. It's just a small college town in an idyllic setting offering much to see and do.

Now it's out to dinner to a local Italian place where the Patient can carb up on something other than the sourdough waffles he is making every morning.

CAVEAT: I am a Mac person using a PC. I have NO idea what this is going to look like.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Once I found out about reading I was all in favor of it."

Great quote from Robert Heinlein.

Greetings from Bozeman. It is a gorgeous, clear, cool day. The mountains behind the house are a deep green of pine forest, the meadows are bright green, dotted with wild flowers, the sky (BIG sky) is blue and cloudless. We flew into Butte instead of Bozeman; seating on the direct flight was iffy, so Cait rerouted us. Easy trip all the way. We are about to head over to the Museum of the Rockies to see a King Tut show; Tut in Bozeman? Why not. It's got better weather than Cairo at this time of year.

Travel reading: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Who is your Jane Austen?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

dahling, you look mah - va - lous . . .

Photo by Steven Bullock

Contrary to what you might think, this not the latest fashion craze from Paris or Milan. These are Great Horned owlets, bundled against the cold in their baby feather parkas. Our neighbors recently returned from a birding expedition to Gambell on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. They brought back some gorgeous photos, one of which is this one. These fellows look warm and toasty, just on the verge of wisdom. According to the trip notes they were nesting in a tree, being watched over by a parent close by. Love their outfits.

We take off for Bozeman tomorrow morning for a few days with Cait and Mike. Photos? Of course. It will be a relief to get out of this hot valley. Actually things are much cooler here thanks to both the Delta breezes and the marine layer that has moved into the Bay Area. Cait reported that it was so hot in Bozeman yesterday pilots could not fly until the temperature dropped one degree. As we prepare to go they are expecting thundershowers. I'll do my best to keep you informed of the goings on in that part of the world. Early to bed; we have to leave at 4 AM for a 6 AM flight; it takes about two hours to get through all the hoops before even nearing the plane.

Friday, July 06, 2007

happy birthday frida

Today is the 100th birthday of Frida Kahlo.

As for the rat in the kitchen: Delicious. Everyone was there. James Beard (Remy), Julia /Alice or all women trying to make it in a (male) chef's world (Collette); every beleaguered sous chefs or pastry chef you've ever read about, every hassled waiter. I have thought about what famous chef sold out to the fast/frozen food conglomerates. I can't come up with a name but someone will know. The critic, Anton Ego is "played" by Peter O'Toole. A bit of casting genius. When you see the movie, pay particular attention to him ~ as if you could avoid doing so. Brilliant writing.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fight the Bite

Inquiring readers want to know: What's the meaning of the sign shown in the Crepe Myrtle picture posted on Tuesday? In case you missed it ~ but eagle-eyed MAS didn't ~ here it is. The Sacramento Valley is home to mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus. This sign is one of several hung around town in the spring to launch the Fight the Bite campaign. I hope that solves the mystery. Last season I found several dead birds ~ mostly crows ~ in my neighborhood and along one of my walking routes. There were infected mosquitoes in the garden across the street. We take this problem pretty seriously around here.

It's hot again today ~ 104º. I 'm off to spend the afternoon in air-conditioned comfort to watch Ratatouille. Critique to come.

O Beautiful, for spacious skies . . .

Happy Fourth.

It is now 10 PM and it has cooled off to a balmy 76º. NOAA says it's going to get all the way now to 67º tonight. Back up to 105º tomorrow. Not so good for the garden, although the Patient has been watering heavily in the early morning and things seem to be surviving.

Home-made strawberry ice cream for dessert tonight. I would have photographed it but it didn't turn out too well; too soupy. We're out of practice. We'll try again and perhaps have better luck.

I can hear the fireworks going off up at the park, but we stayed home this year. Too hot. Think I'll go take a dip before tucking in.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

raspberry sherbet

one scoop . . .

or two?

The downtown streets of my town are lined with these gorgeous Crepe Myrtle trees, most in this luscious raspberry color, but also in pale pink, white, lavender, and deep purple. We wouldn't have these beauties without some nice hot weather. Like we're going to get tomorrow ~ 104º is the predicted high. Hot and dry! So everyone into the pool, stock up on beer and lemonade and enjoy your Shandys.

Monday, July 02, 2007

young love

This morning daughter Alex sent me this photo of grandson Andrew with his adorable sweetie, Anna, taken at the senior grad party. I suspect the radiant smile on his face comes directly from the heart.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oh la la!

As I am an unapologetic Francophile I don't mind saying that I was completely charmed by this little movie. It is like having a dozen bite-sized desserts, each one so tasty, so perfect, so delicate that you want the whole thing. But no, this gives you just a tiny taste. Who need Florence, Venice, Barcelona? Give me Paris every time. Best vignette? The one with Gina Rolands and Ben Gazzara. Two old pros. Well, the one in which Oscar Wilde drops in is good too, set in Père Lachaise, the cemetary that's chock full 'o nuts. Lovely. It was all lovely.