Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hurry, the light is going...

It's not often that you get that evening light that let's you snap pictures that don't need any photo editing, but RH captured it last night.

We had just finished supper and indulged in slices of Molly Wizenberg's fabulous dairy free chocolate cake that only had one tablespoon of flour.

Here's a link to her recipe from her blog Orangette.

I discovered her just recently after reading her food memoir, A Homemade Life, a book I highly recommend.

I was cleaning up in the kitchen when I noticed the unusual golden glow on our garden outside our big kitchen window.

I called for RH to hurry and grab the camera. Thankfully, he doesn't stop to ask questions when I say this but went right outside to race against the fleeting minutes.

Words just don't matter in a time like this.



It's gone.....

But it was glorious while it lasted.

After that it seemed like a perfect idea to turn the television off, snuggle with BreeBree and James Mason on the sofa, tuck them in bed and go to bed early ourselves.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg(s)

Even though RH and I don't travel much anymore, the world comes to us, outside our windows.

The seven natural wonders of the world could not be more thrilling to us than what happened here this weekend.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the two Canada geese who call the pond home, successfully hatched out goslings Sunday morning.

Five sweet yellow fluff balls!

And mama had them in the pond swimming within hours,
something that amazed me.

Every time we can't immediately spot them we worry whether turtles in the pond have got them--I'm ready to make turtle soup if that happens.

But then they sail into a sunny spot of water or waddle into the sunshine and we breathe a sigh of relief.

Yesterday I watched the babies sunning on the bank a yard or so in front of Mama. One little one decided to go to her and she lifted her wing, then another and another. Two braver ones held out for a minute or two then looked around to see where everyone was. They popped up and rushed to her.

And there she sat, sheltering wings fluffed up around them.

Papa stood guard a few yards away.

Please stay. We're good neighbors here.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Best

When your firstborn

has a playdate

with his firstborn's


Friday, May 25, 2018

Bedazzled by 3 fishes

I cannot help it.

          The colors in these 3 fishes bedazzle me.

I want to dress in them,

          paint with them,

                    garden with them.

Those silvery greens, pinks and grays have bewitched me

          for years since I tore them out of House Beautiful.

It is a fine thing to be in love with colors.

          If only I could be more in love with colors than I am

                    with real whipped cream on May strawberries.

Later: Oops, is it fishes or fish? Where is my mind? Maybe on whipped cream, berries and homemade buttermilk biscuits. After googling it I found that it could be either although fish is both singular and plural. I'm going to stick with 3 fishes. I think it sounds friendlier. I promise not to say 3 deers.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Potatoes -- they complement!

I've had this old photograph in my collection for decades, marveling at how striking they are together, the tall brunette and the petite blonde.

They complement each other, I believe.

complement: combining in such a way as to
enhance or emphasize the qualities of
each other or another

And here's where I blatantly segue to the plebeian potato because nothing, absolutely nothing--not rice or cauliflower or couscous--complements as many entrees as a potato does.

Take ham, for instance.

[my current favorite ham recipe is from Billy Allin,
chef-owner of Cakes and Ale,
from Garden & Gun]

What goes perfectly with ham? Potato Salad!

"There is no such thing as really bad potato salad.
So long as the potatoes are not undercooked,
it all tastes pretty good to me."
Laurie Colwin

Potato salad is my hands down favorite pairing with ham--but only if it's homemade. I don't know what they put in store-bought potato salads to make them so awful but it's a crying shame.

My favorite potato salad recipe is based on a recipe from Southern Memories by Nathalie Dupree where the difference is in the technique--do not add mayonnaise until the next day! Pour equal amounts of olive oil and the best apple cider vinegar you can find over the cooked, cut potatoes while they're still hot, combined with chopped celery and onions, salt, pepper and celery salt and chill in the fridge overnight. The next day you add the mayonnaise and a couple tablespoons of sour cream if you want. Nathalie didn't call for this but I add a dozen chopped hardboiled eggs the next day too (to 5 pounds of cooked potatoes), along with sliced olives. 

With lots of chopped celery and onions and the eggs, I believe you cover all the basic food groups and so it becomes a healthy dish--that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

What's easier with fish than a baked potato?

I am a fish lover, especially wild caught Alaskan salmon and halibut, and fresh caught flounder, but I do love, even crave, fresh rainbow trout. It's a food memory that goes back to childhood where I always ordered it when Daddy took us out to eat at a nice (starched white tablecloth nice) restaurant, at first because he ordered it but then because I loved it.

Daddy liked it because he first tasted it cooked over a wood fire by a Carolina trout stream with his new grandfather-in-law. My great-grandfather didn't believe in sleeping in tents. Instead you slept on pine needles pushed together under the trees.

And when Grandpa told you to sleep on the ground, you slept on the ground. After all, in his heyday he was once a sheriff and a revenuer. Oh, the tales he told my father back when they were fishing buddies! But that's for another time.

Most of the time I prefer trout prepared simply with butter and lemon and chopped fresh parsley on top, but I served the rainbow trout above with a special sauce that's so good I can eat it by itself, something you can tell by the amount I dipped on top of my trout. 

Basically, from a recipe in my files that was probably from Bon Appetit, you fry some bacon, remove from pan and take out most of the bacon drippings, sauté 2 cups chopped red onion in the drippings, stir in 1/2 cup of golden raisins, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and a scant tablespoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and bring to boil until reduced some, about a minute or two. Stir in bits of crumbled bacon and keep warm until serving on top of the trout you've broiled.

And who can resist a twice baked potato? Not I. 

Here's a link to the Pioneer Woman's recipe.

When we had a big group of family here a month or so ago I fixed Eugene Walter's recipe for oven-fried chicken, which is an easy way to serve chicken to a crowd when the weather's too bad to grill out.

Eugene Walter's Oven-fried Chicken from American Cooking: Southern Style, 1971.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sprinkle salt, paprika and freshly ground black pepper on all sides of chicken pieces.
Put pieces in baking pan and scatter bits of butter evenly.
Cover the pan securely with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (for a large amount of chicken I cook them covered for 30-45 minutes).
Remove foil, raise oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake undisturbed for 30 minutes longer. (I love the "undisturbed" part and would never disturb my chicken.)
Turn chicken over with tongs, sprinkle with more bits of butter and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.

With it I served Ruth Reichl's Crisp, Lemony Baby Potatoes,
recipe here. Extraordinary!

It should go without saying that almost any way of preparing beef is paired beautifully with potatoes. For our family, roast beef calls for potatoes, carrots and onions roasted in the broth with the roast. I do serve mashed potatoes when I make my Beer Braised Roast Beef but couldn't find a picture of that dish.

Speaking of mashed potatoes, cook extra for mashed potato patties the next day, pure comfort food!

[Mix 2 cups mashed potatoes with 1 cup milk, 4 beaten egg yolks, 1 cup plus a little extra of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, salt to taste and some chopped scallions and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Beat the 4 egg whites until stiff and fold in. Cook patties in melted hot butter and serve hot.]

I could go on and on about potatoes, haven't even mentioned French fries. For a really good recipe for oven fries try this
Cook's Illustrated version.

I'd better stop now and instead think about what to put with an entree and potatoes. Unlimited possibilities exist but something green always complements them. And since it's so important to cook seasonally, there's not much better in springtime than asparagus.

RH and I prefer asparagus roasted for only 5 minutes, simply in olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic and seasonings. And pencil thin if possible.

So there we have the plebeian potato, queen of tubers, that complements so many entrees, despite what M. F. K. Fisher writes:

"If, French fried, they make a grilled sirloin of beef taste richer; if, mashed and whipped with fresh cream and salty butter, they bridge the deadly gap between a ragout and a salad; if, baked and pinched open and bulging with mealy snowiness, they offset the fat spiced flavor of a pile of sausages--then and then alone should they be served."

While I adore M. F. K. Fisher, read her religiously, believe she's just as relevant today as when she wrote her unmatchable food prose, I do think she limited the poor potato with her three choices. But that's okay, I'd still rather have eaten one of her meals sitting in her kitchen than dining at any four-star restaurant.

But she really should have tasted my potato salad and ham.

"Although few realize it,
to be complementary is in itself a compliment.
It is a subtle pleasure,
like the small exaltation of a beautiful dark woman
who finds herself unexpectedly in the company
of an equally beautiful blonde."

M. F. K. Fisher from Serve It Forth

Monday, May 21, 2018

"a window-look across the way"

Across the bottom of this blog is the Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote that was my theme for this blog and inspired its name and website address:

"A score of household selves polish the floors,
replenish pantry shelves,
ticking to duties all the clock-told day,
without a window-look across the way."

While I chose Lindbergh's lines because I wanted my blog to look out into the world around me, to open up my view, to reach out to other women and see into their lives and let them see into mine, it seems as if my other blog, Dewena's Window, has become a way to do that and this one, it's mother, has become a way to record bits of my life that slip by so swiftly and my thoughts that if not recorded quickly disappear into vapor before the day is gone. 

Not that I want to become closeted off from the world but am just choosing to keep the Window open for that purpose instead of here.

And so Across the Way has become a way of enlarging my world within my world, the world of my family, my pets, my home and garden, and my community. And my soul.

But Across the Way was also meant to literally give anyone who visited a look into my life and I guess both my blogs do that, the same way that every blog does. And it was meant to literally give me a look out of my windows and into my windows, something that gave me so much pleasure at Valley View.

I truly believe I grow more appreciative with each passing year of what I see both outside my home and inside my home. RH understands the importance of this to me and worked creatively at Valley View to give me those beautiful looks out the windows, something pretty to look at outside every window and door. And he's working towards that very purpose here at Home Hill. 

Some things RH doesn't have to improve, God and nature have already taken care of that, along with homeowners who have lived here since 1935. The large tree in our back yard is an example of that. While I might have chosen to plant a sugar maple instead of this American tulip tree, a tulip tree is what I have and I bless it every day. 

After heavy storms during the night, I pulled up my bedroom shades and looked out.

Looking back in at me were dozens of yellow tulips studding large green leaves that still held teardrops of rain.

These are the moments that stop me in my tracks, 
          mesmerize me, 

                    feed my soul, 

                              remind me of who I am and what I need.

My mind needs times like this,
          and so I climbed back into my rumpled bed

                    and propped up on pillows. 

                             Then I just looked.

Through the window and across the way.

And I gave thanks for the American tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipi fera) that is the Tennessee state tree. It provides us with beauty, shade, a bouquet of yellow tulips in May, rustling sounds from the wind all summer and clapping sounds in autumn before the leaves turn yellow and carpet the ground beneath.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Float until you can row.

Everything good takes time, more's the pity.

I want instant progress.

I want to make hay while the sun shines.

I get frustrated because it's such slow going.

I see pretty, but what's that ugly thing lurking?

I want all ugliness gone, I want things finished, 
         magazine-worthy. Done and something new started.

The decades don't stretch ahead of me as they once did.

That doesn't stop me from wanting to create,
          whether it's new recipes, new books, new gardens.

I have a partner in crime, thank God. 

RH supports me in everything I want to create,
          although he'd just as soon I stick to old recipes,
                    not try new ones.

This is our fifth home to create a garden in. 
            Think he's too old to make another garden?
                      Bah, think again!

He even picks tiny Japanese maples to plant,
          two last spring that made it through the winter.

And a baby this spring, knee high to a tadpole.

He envisions a garden full of rare Japanese maples someday 
          and maybe being on the Tennessee Gardener show.

Will we live to see them reach shoulder high? 

Will I ever learn to cook a masterpiece, without burning it?

          Finish four more books and rewrite three?
                     Find the energy to investigate self-publishing?

                     Will our garden ever be the way we want it?
                               Our house?

There will be obstacles along the way,
          this last year proved that.

Bree-Bree will insist on trampling our flowers.
          How could eleven pounds of dachshund hurt anything?

Mason will someday catch that pesky chipmunk
          even if it means trampling a plant or two, or a dozen.

But a garden will grow, recipes will be mastered,
           books will get written, a kitchen floor be replaced. 

It won't happen in a day, but gradually, a day at a time.

" gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship."

So says my friend C. S. Lewis.

Until then, Dewena, on the days when it seems as if you're
          walking in molasses and sinking in quicksand....
                        remember to float until the tide lifts you.

Then row for all your might!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse Visit

Any time we eat out I order fish of some kind. 

But when we go to a great steak place, I've gotta have a steak.

Last weekend Zack and Courtney treated us to dinner out for Mother's Day and my birthday at their favorite steak place, Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse. It was a memorable meal!

We drove to The Farmhouse to meet them and walk around Courtney's beautiful garden.

Then was a first for me and RH, an Uber ride downtown.

I know, we're so old-school, but I liked it.

Everything at Jeff Ruby's was amazing, from the ice-cold Gulf shrimp...

to the cheesecake with salted caramel sauce.

And between them came the best steak of my life and a garden pea risotto for me that I'm still dreaming of.

We were entertained all evening by the piano man who played so many of my favorites.

The service at Jeff Ruby's was, in one word, perfection!

But of course the best part of the whole evening  was the conversation and laughter with these three, RH, Courtney and Zack.

We had much more fun than these people...

So much fun and such good steak that I checked to see if RH's earlobes were turning pink, I knew mine had to be...

"As the steak disappeared,
I watched her long old earlobes pinken.

I remembered what an endocrinologist had told me once,
that after rare beef and wine,
when the lobes turned red,
was the time to ask favors or tell bad news."

M. F. K. Fisher

No bad news to tell so I just asked for a favor.