Category Archives: Fine Dining

Little Ears

 

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Photo Credit:  Sally Calligan

Stumped by what to cook last night, I opened the gift book curated and compiled by by sister’s friend,  Michelle Walcott, of Sally’s blog.   My mother probably had a good idea for dinner that was cheap, quick, and easy, right?

Mind blown.  Winner winner, pasta dinner!  Do not ask why I had not consulted Sally before.  DO NOT ASK.

If you do not eat gluten or dairy, it sucks to be you.  Modify!

Click here for a delicious mid week bowl of scrump-dilli-ishous.  I just had to share a kitchen victory!

 

 

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Glorify

On Friday I had the pleasure of dining with Mr. Herman Mehling, with members of his family and mine, at the St. Augustine restaurant The Ice Plant.   Unbeknownst to me, it was his 94th birthday.  I have never shared a birthday with a 94 year old before so this was quite special.  I had been wanting to meet him for a long time.

Herman, a.k.a. “The Jesus Man” is the father-in-law of my former Nordstrom Menswear salesman Bruce from Columbus, Ohio.  How, you ask, are you having lunch with your former Nordstrom salesman, his wife, and her father?  That is a story for another day.    Before our “tribulations” he and his wife Judi stayed at our Florida cottage when they visited Herman on several occasions.   During the last few years of my crazy life, Bruce called to check in every few months, even after he left Nordstrom.   Sometimes I could not return his calls as I was in the throes of a crisis; no matter, he did not stop trying.  Now that I am living in the Florida cottage with four animals and a teenager, hosting Bruce and Judi was not an option, so lunch it was.

A few years ago, as a gift for sharing our home, Bruce and Judi gave me one of Herman’s Jesus signs.  This is what the sign looks like up close:

 

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This is what the sign looks like from a distance:

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Bruce and Judi, who also visited with my parents and in-laws, also gave each family one of these signs.  It was this sign that greeted me at the dermatologist’s office on Valentine’s Day, the one month anniversary of my mother’s passing.   When my mother died, my youngest sister, MCV asked how she could get her hands on one of those signs.  My parents’ sign sits on a roll top desk by the front door, monitoring the comings and goings of all.  I called Bruce and he personally delivered two (one for each sister) to my snowy back porch in Ohio.  (Polly Positive whisked them inside and I eventually mailed them on).

Back to Herman.  You can watch an interview of him here.

As mentioned in the interview, Herman had several careers:  Police officer in the Bronx, firefighter, sheet metal machinist.  As a police officer, Herman delivered two babies.  It is evident that Herman is good with his hands.  At age 92, Herman developed “the tremors” in his right hand.  This has not stopped him from producing four signs a day, the production of which is a story in itself.

Today, since it is Memorial Day, we honor the part of Herman’s life path that was a sheet metal repairman in the U.S. Navy during World War Two in the Pacific Theater.  Assigned to a repair ship, he and his fellow sailors stayed behind the lines and repaired ships damaged in battle, preparing them to go back in.   One day, as Herman was on the deck of his ship, the small ship next to him exploded, killing all fifty US sailors aboard.  The Navy does not know what caused the explosion:  A mini Japanese submarine, an internal situation, who knows?  A mystery in the line of combat.  Herman did not die in combat but he watched others who did and it those young men on that ship that we honor today.

Bruce, Judi, and Herman brought me two more Jesus signs on Friday.  One is sitting in our  Florida cottage – our original one is either in Arkansas or in storage in Ohio.  The other is being sent to a former policeman in Washington who is suffering from cancer.   I had the temerity to ask for more and they gave me three more from the stash in the trunk of their car.   Even Urban Meyer has one in his home.  I had not yet seen the interview wherein Herman states he would like his children to pass them out to those who attend his funeral.  If that is the case, Herman cannot stop making Jesus signs for a long time.  It will be a big party.  His 95th is already inked in on my calendar.  If you NEED one of Herman’s signs, I will inquire however, as to their availability.  They are not for sale – they are freely given.

In closing, I leave you with the words from verse 2 of hymn 719 in the Book of Common Prayer.  Written by Katherine Lee Bates, O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, the music is set to Materna by Samuel Augustus Ward:

“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife

who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!

America! America! God mend thine every flaw,

confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!”

 

So today, fly your flag in honor of the fallen, cherish your liberty, enjoy a meal with your family, friend, or stranger, and give thanks that although flawed, America is still beautiful thanks to those who gave their lives for us.

HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MOODRINGMOMMA, FAVORITE CHILD OF THE RADISH, AND HER SON-IN-LAW, UNCA DUNC.  REJOICE!  On her first birthday, I saw MoodRingMomma take her first steps.  XOXOXO

 

 

 

 

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Mother’s Day – Good Gifts #3

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The above painting is one I had commissioned by Charleston, SC artist Joyce Harvey as a gift to myself.  I was not expecting it to be finished in time for Mother’s Day!  (More on Joyce in a future post).  It represents me and my sisters.  It was inspired by a painting called “The Happy Tomato” done by my sister in law, Dr. Skin.

I know you are all thinking that today will be hard for me.  It will be.  Today is my first motherless Mother’s Day.  It is also the 4 month anniversary of my mother’s passing.

In spite of that, today I choose to REJOICE! that I had such a fine mother, who gave me, along with my father, two wonderful sisters.  They have sustained me mightily during this period.  It is a shared grief and that makes it more tolerable.  I also have a wonderful mother-in-law, Winnie, who gave me by ever-patient husband Mr. Understanding (he lives up to his name) and whose gentle presence has helped me heal.   When I go to church today with my father Big Mike, I will REJOICE in his excellent taste in women; without him, there would be no mother.   He too has been instrumental in my healing.

Finally, I give thanks today for the lumpy, bumpy, large and mugwumpy body that gave me three beautiful Things.  They are glorious.  Without a whole lot of loving Understanding, I would not be a mother.

The grieving for today was done earlier in the week and I am looking forward to homemade lemon blueberry buttermilk ricotta pancakes  and an afternoon reading on the beach.  It is a beautiful day and this is exactly what I want to do.  May yours be equally satisfying, joyful, and glorious.

 

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Good Gifts #2

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It would be nice if the grief journey were over, wouldn’t it?  Sadly, this is not the case.  In many ways, it is just getting going.  We all survived the Easter holiday but it was not the same without our Radish.  MCVWasHere and I managed to grill a butterflied leg of lamb, thereby making our mother proud from her heavenly perch.  I am pretty sure we screwed it up but it was tasty nonetheless.  Severe holiday let down set in on Monday  with family returning to The Other Coast.   After the shock has worn off, the active MISSING phase begins ninety days in.  Man, would Grandmere have delighted in the peas, carrots, and Easter Egg hunt …

Perhaps to prep me for this, a galaxy of friends sent me a gift every day.  EVERY DAY OF HOLY WEEK I RECEIVED A GIFT.  Surprise!  It was not Christmas but it sure felt like it.  And to think that this was not coordinated by friends, only two of whom know each other.

On Monday, a box arrived with four wrapped gifts and a note from one of my DF Chicks, MLD, a needlepointing and reading maven.  She was also my Heart Surgery Coach.  Thinking I would need these gifts later, I hoarded them for Sunday.  I confess to feeling through the paper – they felt like books.

On Tuesday, a flat package arrived from Martita, another DF Chick, and Thing 3’s godmother.  This I ripped open, thinking it was an Easter card.  Instead, it was gorgeous watercolor painting of a bunch of radishes, an article on them, and a long lovely letter of a personal nature on what grief for one’s mother looks like after twenty years.  I never met Martita’s mother but I still quote her:  “If they [gossips] are talking about you, that means they are giving some other poor soul a rest.” Although Martita and MLD are good friends, I do not think these gifts were a coordinated effort.  My sister MCVWasHere also gave me a Glassybaby, a pink “goodness” votive for my burgeoning Radish altar.  This was not actually a gift – it was for winning a round of the High Stakes License Plate Game – but since I’d forgotten about it, it still counts!

When Wednesday rolled around, I opened a package from Amazon, thinking Mr. Understanding had ordered yet another guitar instruction video.  But lo and behold, it was another book, this one a gift from Ms. Broccoli.  Called Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Loved, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, it is a Stanford University design class on how to create a life you actually enjoy living, the perfect gift for a family in flux.  Think “encore career”, or for me, middle aged starter career.

After three amazing gifts in three consecutive days, it dawned on me that the Universe was sending me a big fat message of LOVE.

But wait!  There’s more!  It’s almost embarrassing.  Almost.  I am just trying to make a point here.  Wait for it.

On Thursday, MCV handed me and my father each a gift from her college friend, Michelle.  This one makes me cry when writing about it – a beautiful compilation of Sally’s musings, photos, and recipes from her blog CookSallyCook.com.  Curated and organized with a table of contents, I was awestruck  by this gift.  Michelle and Sally had bonded over the ancient grain einkorn.   Who knew???  An heirloom, both the grain and the book.  Earlier in the day a Jackson & Perkins bulb garden arrived from Dr. Skin.  Bloom where you are planted.

Moving on to Good Friday:  a hand knitted, lacy, rainbow pastel prayer shawl from MoodRingMomma.  I do not know how my sister had the mental band width to create such an intricate gift.  I had been using a prayer shawl of Sally’s given to her by the women of the church.  It was toasty warm but I confess to finding the colors not to my liking, even thoughI did get in the habit of putting it on.  Another heart wrenching heirloom, imbued with tears.

On Saturday, MCV gave me a blue Glassybaby cocktail drinker (“splash”), another premio for winning a second round of The High Stakes License Plate game.  My in-laws sent a bento box tower of nuts, which I put in Mr. Understanding’s Easter Basket.  Mine, as you can see, was full.

On Easter Sunday, MCV returned to my Children’s Bible Stories,  given to me and inscribed by my Grandmarie on Easter, 1971.  She also gave me Anne Lamott’s latest and greatest book Hallelujah Anyway.

On Monday, feeling bereft (which is just pitiful), I opened all of MLD’s gifts:  semi-cerebral brain candy* and a Mexican angel ornament that doubles as a nativity scene which went directly to the makeshift altar.   In the middle of my pity party, I took a nap and while I was dozing, the postman delivered a box of gifts from KT:  a key chain with Phillippians 4:4 on it (REJOICE!), a new CD by Olivia Newton John and friends called Liv On,  some paper goods from Magnolia,  and a favorite hymn printed on pink paper.  I actually knew the words.

I still cannot believe it.  Can you?

And then today:  a signed contract for the sale of our house in Ohio.  Cranky me, it seemed like another loss, the closing of yet another chapter.  Punto final.  Until Thing 2 said to me, “What if it’s an Easter gift?”  Indeed.  He did not know about all of the other ones …

So what do you think the cosmic message is, sent by a phalanx of Easter angels?  Here is my best guess:  READ.  FEED YOUR SOUL.  High brow, low brow, non-fiction, fiction, the Bible in adult and children’s versions.  Go to the beach and design your life.  Plant seeds.  Eat ancient grains and nuts.  Drink a cocktail out of a handcrafted colored glass and savor it.  Light a candle.  Say a prayer for your friends and for the world; wear an heirloom made with love while you do it.  SING!  OUT LOUD!    Frame all those extraordinary radishes and hang them where you can see them every day.  Have mercy on dear Anne Lamott and make your peace with her she’d meet you at the beach and chat with you about Jesus.  Miss your mother fiercely but remember she is in The Best Place, hanging out with the Mother of all Mothers, REJOICING.  She sent a cadre of love language speaking friends and family to remind you of the power of Resurrection, the unlikely gift of an empty tomb.

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*MLD’s book choices to lighten the heart of the Expat Princess:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen

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Self Portrait of an Artist #2

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Tonight I am fixing “easy grilled chicken” from Naomi Duguid‘s beautiful book Burma.  This is NOT The Atonement Dinner. My last post before my mother died was about her being a Food Diva.  Regret.   I am not sure I can face The Atonement Dinner just yet.

This meal is a repeat, however, of the last meal I remember Sally fixing for me.  I even made the tangy red chili dipping sauce (of course she had dried ancho chiles in the cupboard).  I can only hope it is half as delicious.

Happy Friday.

 

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Possible Heart Nutrients

lord-stood-by-meThis is from Sally’s 2016 archives.   What are you doing for your heart?

This is what I am doing for mine:

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OK, I am not actively reading cook books.  Yet.  But my father is.  He had to go buy Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, ironically the one book that my mother didn’t currently own because she knew how to cook everything.  She gave it to everyone in the family – I have gone through several copies because the binding is terrible.   Dad’s  Mardi Gras waffles were stupendous.

Suggested reading:  Grit by Angela Duckworth.  Am only a chapter in but it is fascinating.  More on this topic later, but needless to say, SALLY HAD GRIT.

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Here, a recipe from Food52.com for grits.  You can add shrimp.  Or not.  You know what I would do, even though it is a Lenten Friday.  XOXO

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My Cross to Bear

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I began what is called a “grief journey”.  My parents’ pastor said to start one about six weeks after the death of a loved one.  By this I think he meant to start going to a support group, once the shock had worn off.  But for me, a support group is not the answer at the moment.  Writing about my mother is.  For I have come to the realization that my mother and I communicated through writing as much as through speaking, and perhaps more meaningfully so.  To wit, I have found some of my childhood and teenage notes to my mother which are at once painful, hilarious, truthful.  Mortifying.  Oddly, honoring Sally this way dovetails nicely with the Lenten season.  Planned?

New readers to the blog should note that we all use “love handles”.  Please feel free to pick your own should you leave a comment.  Otherwise, I might do it for you.

If you are joining me on this “grief journey”, we are packing lightly.    Jesus advised to only take “bag, belt, and sandals”*, relying on the goodness of others’ and the Holy Spirit to provide the rest.  As this was one of the central messages of my petite Camino de Santiago, it has never been more apparent to me, both materially and spiritually.  But for now, sweet readers, please remember that between the Radish and me there was no baggage.  Our hearts were are peace with one another.  Does it get better than this?

So, when I write about broccoli I am not writing from a place of condemnation but of genuine love.

I am the child that does not like cruciferous vegetables.  You would think a Jesus lover would.   Per Wikipedia, “The family takes its alternate name (Cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing”) from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross.”  But no, the smell of them is so noxious to me that I become nauseous, swooning with the vapors.  I could never convince my mother, who ate everything, that this was a biological reaction, one induced by a complicated set of factors stemming from my lack of a certain enzyme (her fault or my father’s?).  I even provided her with a scientific article** detailing this deficiency, one that afflicts enough of a percentage of the population that it needed to be studied.

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Above is a photo by The Radish featuring a cabbage and a freshly baked loaf of bread.

I am also the child who nearly passes out at a fish market.  Growing up, one of my worst fears was to have to sit in the main dining room of Lazio’s, a combined fish processing plant and restaurant.  It was where all the travelers passing through Eureka ate seafood.  (Eureka was never a destination, just a passing through kind of town – this was in the days before TripAdvisor!)

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I would beg my parents to eat in the bar, where the smell of fish would not annihilate the smell of my hamburger.  The Shirley Temple with the cunning little plastic mermaid draped over the side was the sole*** reason I survived these visits to Lazio’s.  That I lived in four foreign countries wherein salted cod was a primary staple is an irony not lost on me.

Yet my mother never gave up on me.  Hope sprang eternal for her vis a vis her daughters, her husband, her friends and family.

Just as my mother didn’t give up on my tastebuds she never gave up on her quest for my sisters’ to cut their hair.  My mother liked short hair on women and my father long.  Ever the mother pleaser, I have mostly worn my hair in a chin length bob, which seemed to be a happy compromise [please refer to my post of nearly a decade ago here].Each of us sisters has a childhood photo with us sporting a bowl type haircut.  Again,  mortifying.

Shortly after my mother’s funeral, I said to my sister MCV Was Here, “Just think, now you never ever have to worry about how short to cut your hair!  Mother is forever pleased!”

To which she responded, “You know, I was just thinking I should cut off all my hair.”

“@#$%^&* NO!!!!,” I said, “It was not your best look!”

This is what grief does to one, wanting to go to great or short lengths to please one’s mother even after she has passed on.   Say what?  Yes.  Irrational thoughts seize one’s mind.  As colloquial wisdom says, one should not make any big decisions for after a year of a loved one’s passing.  This includes cutting off one’s hair, even if it would arguably make one travel lighter, and readdressing the issue of cruciferous vegetables.

I leave you with my mother’s recipe for brussel sprouts, a.k.a. gag balls, which she lifted from the food website Food52.com and a recent photo of Sally at the hairdresser’s.   Peace on your journey today.

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*Matthew  10:10; Mark 6:9; Luke 10:4 [Synoptic Gospels].

**ironically, provided by my friend Broccolibooksandbed.  Click here to read for yourself.

***superbad pun, couldn’t help myself.

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