Monday, December 30, 2013


So there I was with one soon to be past-it Bartlett pear and an idea for a dessert.  I had a box of frozen puff pastry that I’d not used over the holidays, so I looked up what might go with a pear tart. O.K.: lemon, cinnamon, ginger, sugar – it sounded good. Here’s what I did –

First I thawed one sheet of puff pastry. When I was ready to start the prep I turned the oven on to 450°.  I rolled the pastry out a bit to even out the fold lines, buttered the whole thing, and placed the pastry on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  I do wish I’d taken prep pictures – maybe next time.

Then, without peeling it (peeling an over-ripe pear is slimy), I quartered and cored the pear, sliced up each quarter into about 8 slices.  In a bowl I mixed

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
A dash of salt
A packet of True Lemon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. cinnamon

Next – with “impeccably clean hands” I tossed the pear slices in the sugar mix and arranged them down the center of the pastry. I folded the two long sides over to meet the edge of the pears.

Into the oven it went for 15 minutes. A thing of beauty if I do say so myself – and a culinary delight to the taste. We could have pigged out and eaten a half each, but sanity prevailed and I cut half into two servings. This would be great with ice cream – ooo la la – or with whipped cream. We had it just by itself.

I can’t call this a quick recipe because you have to have the forethought to thaw the pastry, but once that’s done it really is a breeze.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I think the simplicity of the Japanese life – at least as it was when I was reading about it – is very appealing. Very little in the way of possessions, just one or two special things to be showcased in a special place in the home. The beauty of life lay not in things, but in art and nature and traditional ceremony. (I’ve never been to a Japanese tea ceremony, but I hope that from my readings I’d know some of the proper etiquette for the occasion.)

Not everyone can have or even needs things, but beauty and ceremony are always needed, and are ours to see and enjoy for (usually!) free. In the ages where the Roman Catholic Church would impose an interdict on a country, the people there mourned the loss of the ceremony of the sacraments. Religious ceremony, even a funeral, was one of the few things that enlivened otherwise mundane lives. Today many people separate themselves from any religious ceremony, but that may be part and parcel of the abundant availability of other things to do on a Sunday morning.

In this era the television brings us most of the ceremonies we see. Royal weddings, inaugurations, this New Year’s Eve in Times Square, major sporting events – even the Daytona 500 – involve not only the moment itself, but the ceremony surrounding it. We think we’ve come a long way since the days of the interdicts, but really we’re quite the same.  We don’t need stuff but we do need and love ceremony.
Let’s all go see a parade! Rose Bowl anyone?



Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Merry Christmas morning. Christmas is really for the children. We had a marvelous Christmas Eve enjoying a fine meal and the antics of our three youngest granddaughters and their cousin. Spirits were very high. The oldest, age 7, read, as is a long-standing tradition, A Visit From St. Nicholas. Actually - 'actually' being one of her favorite words - threatening her younger sister that next year she would have to read it, she ran right through it. She wanted to get to making up the snack for Santa and the reindeer - Santa's 'snack' included a good belt of good bourbon provided by the adults - and then get on up to bed.  They all knew that the faster they got to bed the faster would come Christmas morning - right now!  I can't wait to see what Santa brought for them.
I hope your day is merry and bright and brimming with love.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Time to repost a quick recipe for the busy days ahead. Just think of what you might do with Christmas leftovers, some cheese, and an egg or two for each serving.  Be creative!

  Eureka! A new quickie supper! We were watching an old edition of one of Rick Steves’ trips, this one to Switzerland. In passing he mentioned a hearty supper of rosti, a mostly potatoes dish but his was served with eggs and cheese. I hadn’t yet decided what to make for our own supper, but that rosti gave me an idea: home fries, cheddar and eggs. Simple! So…
…I took the last of the red potatoes, four small ones, nuked them (Ha! I’d thought I’d already cooked and then refrigerated them, but nooooo – so I had to do a quick nuke and then – oo, ah, ah, hot! – dice them. Why didn’t I dice them first? Senior moment, of course) Onward: I also diced up a small onion and sautéed it with the potatoes, salted and peppered, in some oil and butter. Meanwhile, I grated up a few ounces of extra sharp cheddar.
When the sautéing was done, everything nicely, nicely browned, I spread them over the bottom of a glass dish I’d oiled, and sprinkled on some of the cheese. Then I cracked two eggs for each of us over that. To top it all off I put the rest of the cheese on top, popped it in a 400° oven for 15 minutes, and voila! Easy, delicious – sometimes I surprise myself.

It's not too elegant looking - no picture plate presentation -
but boy was it good!

Friday, December 20, 2013


No pencils please, we do it in ink!

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the modern crossword puzzle. I was made aware of this last year when Slate made spoof predictions on which other publications would do articles on the anniversaries coming up in 2013.

I’ve been doing the Sunday crossword for untold years – well, ever since I could buy my own Sunday Times.  Before that time the Sunday crossword was always ‘owned’ by my mother. She and her brother were great fans.

We got the Times only on Sunday. If there were crosswords in our daily paper I don’t recall Mom doing them. She was strictly a Sunday Times fan. On serendipitous occasions I would come upon a daily Times, perhaps left behind in a Long Island Rail Road car, and over the years I came to ignore them if they were the Monday to Wednesday variety – usually too easy.

And what’s too hard? Any day’s puzzle from The Times of London – those folks went off on a tangent that my mind could never follow.

Some people would call it cheating, but when I don’t know the answer to the clue I look it up. I’d be cheating myself if I passed up an opportunity to learn something. “When in doubt check it out” is my motto.  A neighbor and I, from where we once lived, agreed that this was a good way to way to learn something new. I still keep an atlas and dictionary right by my chair – but there’s a laptop there too, so Google and Wikipedia have become my best resources.  I’m pretty well read, but I know absolutely nothing about
“Gyllenhall of Brokeback Mountain” or a “New Mexico State athlete.” So if I can’t get them by filling in the answers I do know, I consult my handy-dandy online references. 

To me, one of the great benefits of the internet is having access to the New York Times crossword puzzle.  Now I print out the Thursday through Sunday puzzles. The service costs about $40 a year, and it is well worth it to me, especially since delivery of just the Sunday paper here in South Carolina would cost over $200. Saves on paper too. Another new motto of mine: “Save a tree, read the news on line.”

My uncle did the puzzle in ink.  I remember him peering over his eye glasses at me and commenting that it was the only fair way to do it.  So, to be fair, I do it in ink too – red ink, so that I really see those mistakes. When I do finish one with no errors it’s like I’ve given myself a Christmas present.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I’ve mentioned that we don’t do the festive light show outside for Christmas – nary a light. We are minimalists when it comes to an outdoor show for the holidays. I’ve got a simple wreath on the front door and our porch light and inside lights shining out will have to suffice. We’ve been discussing this again this year, and we both think back to the times when the only Christmas décor in our parent’s mid-century homes was the Christmas tree, presents underneath, and perhaps a decoration on the front door.  We like to keep that tradition. 

My mother did like to do up a new decoration each year for the front door. One year, when we’d moved from a New York City apartment out to a house in the Long Island suburbs, she created a memorable display. The door was sheathed in shiny aluminum foil and she glued up a great cluster of small, wrapped gift boxes for the center.  Thinking to light this display properly, she went to the hardware store and purchased a special bulb for the porch light.  The next day one of the neighbors stopped by and, knowing my father was in the hospital, advised her to change the bulb. He told her the significance of the color: it was red. My mother, in her thirties, had had no idea. Needless to say, that night the bulb was green, and we had a green bulb at Christmas – and a great family story once we kids were old enough to appreciate it – from then on.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Not in a million years would I call myself chic. I’ve written about things like Good Grooming and Clothes Keeping, but knowing about such things does not make me chic. I Yam What I Yam. Just this morning while reading Vicki Archer’s blog French Essence I had to do a fist punch and exclaim “Yes!” I may have a wee bit of chic in me after all. 

Vicki, an author whose books and blog I enjoy, had a conversation/interview with Tish Jett, author or the new book Forever Chic, whose blog A Femme d’Un Certain Age is also one of my favorites. Vicki asked questions about Tish’s life in France, how the book came about, the blog, and just what makes a French woman so chic. (They are, you know. Never in my travels in France did I see a woman of any age who wasn’t thoughtfully turned out when she left her home.)  Vicki asked Tish about her beauty routines, products she couldn’t live without, and what she carries in her handbag. Ah! One of the things she carries is “a tiny bottle of my perfume Aromatics Elixir.” Voila! Aromatics Elixir. That’s my perfume too – when I remember to wear it.

But just that one little connection, one thing in common with a woman I admire, makes me think that maybe somehow I’m on the right track, and just might have just a soupçon of chic.  Ooo la la!

Forever Chic is billed as being “for any woman who last saw forty on her speedometer” and that certainly would be me. The book is on my Christmas Wish List, as is another bottle of the delicious Aromatics Elixir. Can’t have too much of a good thing.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Lazy lump that I am, I’ve decided to take a stress-free Friday the Thirteenth this year and repost this piece from the first week of December 2010. 
National Stress-Free Holiday Month - is there such a thing as a stress-free December?   Many families have begun to simplify the whole process in several ways, some of which might work for your own family.  
First category on our lists: Gifts!  I’m sure that if you are at the base of a very large family tree you are having a hard time just thinking of suitable gifts for everyone on those branches and twigs, much less going out to buy, and then wrap and, perhaps, mail the gifts.  It’s no longer fun when it becomes a chore or when the monetary end of it gets out of hand. 
 Some families stop giving gifts to those married or over twenty-one, those no longer children.  In other families they do a grab bag swap, in others the adult exchange gifts under a certain dollar amount. In many families they’ve eliminated gifts for all but those in their own households - after all, is it great fun to open them - and make instead a nice charitable contribution in the name of the family.
Next: holiday cards. Many folks streamline the card process by having them printed with their names, and then use printed labels for the addresses.  Good for them!  Good for me!  I then can streamline my own list by eliminating them from it.  When you care to send the very least, without even a hand-written “Hi, how are you?”, it says to me that we must not mean too much to each other.  Cards are one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  I make, write and address them all by hand, so I am less than appreciative of the shortcuts.   

Then there are those almost ubiquitous holiday letters.  I read this recently: “Holiday letters are a lot like fruitcake.  People either love them or hate them.”   Too true!  I can love ‘em or hate ‘em, depending on how well they’re done.   I’ve retired friends who are great travelers and who send letters filled with wonderful pictures and highlights of their experiences.  I’ve other retired friends who regale their readers with pages of the minutiae of their own, their children’s, and grandchildren’s daily lives - boring, to be truthful.  Can you guess which ones I keep and which I toss right out?

Cards or letters, you can make life easier for yourself by tackling the job early - everything begins in January.   Update your card list early in the new year (be ruthless!), then save money by buying your cards at the January sales.  Begin working on your holiday letter as the newsworthy events occur.   Start writing the cards and wrapping up the holiday letter just after Thanksgiving.  Sounds easy and, when you start early and stick to it, it is.
Here’s a good topic: decorations.  To do or over-do, that is up to you.  When we moved to Sun City, though our house here is bigger, it was the perfect opportunity to cut down on the ornamentation.  I passed on their favorite ornaments to our children, and gave away a lot of the extraneous décor. What I kept, for indoors and out, now fits in three 14-gallon totes.  This year I may decide to pare down even further, using more fresh flowers because they don’t require future storage!   It can be counterproductive to use all your decorative pieces just because you always have.  Pass most of them down, cull out a lot, and cherish the very best of the rest.  It’s always fun to pull out the decorations, saying hello to old favorites.  It’s less fun to have to take everything down, dust it all off, find the right boxes, and pack it up again.  Revel in the simplicity of minimal décor and less to store!  Oh - that rhymes!
Last, but not least in our hearts: food!!  Are you still cooking the whole meal from soup to nuts?  You are either a glutton for punishment or a control freak.  Let some of the younger generation start to hone their culinary skills.   Pass the torch, and then promise to bring along your specialty - the family favorite appetizer, zesty carrots, or praline pumpkin pie.  How’s that for stress-free!?

Many families are choosing to have their major holiday feast cooked by others.  Some have it catered and brought to the house - a great idea, but there is still the clean-up to be done.  Others go all out and go out.  Many like to have a festive restaurant meal on the night before, then rest and recuperate and open some presents the next day.  Many must have the main meal on the main day.  Either way, you can use Google to search for restaurants in our area that will be open on the various holidays. This is the least work, the least worry all ‘round.
December is a month for all - enjoy all thirty-one days!  You can do it!        


Wednesday, December 11, 2013


You can call me uber-organized, you can call me anal, you can call me whatever you want – but I call me lazy. I just can not wrap my mind around not being “ready” for Christmas. I’m not on a month-long marathon to decorate my house and grounds. My minimalistic décor – carried over from year to year, will suffice. There is no last minute frenzy to buy gifts: I’ve had them ready for months. I wouldn’t go near a mall at all, and all the shopping I’ll do will be at the grocery. There is no last minute frenzy to plan meals and Christmas baking: the lists are made and I’ve stocked up on the non-perishables. Christmas baking will commence this weekend – regular baking goes on all the time. There is no last minute frenzy to do much at all. I absolutely adore Christmas, but, as I said, I’m lazy. The thought of any really concerted effort just makes me cringe right now.  Being retired is, of course, a great help.  I’m past the age of raising children, I’m past the age of gainful employment, and I’m now in the age of relaxing.  I’m relaxing and siting back to watch all the frenzy around me.  It’s quite a show.


Monday, December 9, 2013


This meal takes about 20 minutes - the time it takes to get water to a boil and cook up some pasta.  We like shells for something like this. The onions and bacon get caught in the shells so you have some with every bite.

Start sautéing 6 slices of bacon cut into 1 inch pieces.  Coarsely chop one medium onion. Sauté these for a while until the bacon begins to brown and the onions soften. Add about a teaspoon of chopped garlic.  Add some fresh ground pepper.
Continue to cook this until the pasta is done.  Take a half a cup or so of the pasta water and add it to the pan.  Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Mix it all up and serve it with parmesan cheese on top.

Friday, December 6, 2013


My minimalist Christmas Tree
I’ve been bogging for a few years now, and, as you may know if you read my entries with any regularity, I’ve several blogs I really love.  Lately, some of my own favorites have led me to other great sites.  Many of them are what I call “shelter” sites – decorating, design, home hints and such, along with the ins and outs, the ups and downs of daily living.  I tell you, some of these blogger gals are overachievers.  They must also have huge storerooms to keep all those decorations over the other non-holiday months.  (I’m wondering and can’t wait to learn what they’ll do for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and holidays through each year. My collection of a year’s worth of holiday décor is contained in six big totes: three for Christmas, two for fall, and one for spring and summer. Isn’t it nice that spring and summer provide their own décor in the way of garden things?) Last year I wrote about my own minimalistic Christmas.

On these shelter blogs the gals have decorated almost every available horizontal surface, and all the doors, windows and mirrors with decorations. Greens, ribbons, ornaments, candles, lights – you name it!  The displays are just beautiful, but I’m wondering about the time it takes to arrange them, how they maintain them for over six or seven weeks, how they dust them, and how, after all is said and done and they begin to put it all away, they don’t just chuck it all out in January and saying: “Next year we simplify!”

(I do know there are those with deep pockets and little room who decorate to the teeth each winter with all new purchases.  Keeps the economy rolling along, doncha know!)

Many, many memories on this tree.

If you are one of the gals who love to decorate to the nth degree, I’m sure you really love all that goes into the effort – and, of course, the results. More power to you, as they say, but, lazy lump that I am, I think I’ll pass.





Wednesday, December 4, 2013


It seems like I’ve noticed fiftieth anniversaries are coming thick and fast these last few weeks: the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination; the fiftieth anniversary of good old WNET Channel 13, New York’s public television station; fiftieth anniversary of Pavarotti’s debut – we watched the PBS special last night; and the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC’s Dr. Who.

My favourite doctors? – Tom Baker, of course (I once knit for my nephew a scarf similar to his – it went on, as this Doctor did, forever!); Peter Davidson because I loved him in All Creatures Great and Small; and the ninth, short-lived Dr. Who, the gorgeous Christopher Eccleston. There are all manner of Dr. Who video clips out there to be seen again. So many clips – so little time.

Above all others, it was the fiftieth anniversary of my arriving at the age of 21. Ah, to be that age again and to know what I know now.  Time sure flies when you’re havin’ fun.


Monday, December 2, 2013


Who doesn't have leftover mashed potatoes at one time or another? I've got a few one-cup bagsful in the freezer, ready to make potato pancakes for a Sunday breakfast, or a dinner where I’m stuck for a starch.  This happened the other night.  We were on the last servings of a boneless pork roast, with a dollop each of turnip (or, as they call them down here: rutabaga) and only a wee bit of gravy, so I took out a bag of frozen mashed and whipped some up as follows:

1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg
1 Tbsp. dried onion (I’ve used fresh chives and scallions too)
3 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper

Mix it all up, let it sit for a bit so that the dried onions soak up some liquid, and drop four portions into a frying pan in which you’ve heated

1 or 2 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Let them brown on their bottoms – you’ll see the edges start to get brown – flip them over, brown the other sides and Voila!  Good schtuff!