Tag Archives: #CookSallyCook

Mother’s Day – Good Gifts #3


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.




Filed under #Art, Family, Fine Dining, Folkart, Friends, Life, Parenting, Reading

Good Gifts #2


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.


*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


Filed under Family, Fine Dining, Friends, Life, People, Princessdom, Religion

Self Portrait of an Artist #2


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.



Filed under Family, Fine Dining, Life, Reading, Sightseeing, Travel



Photo Credit:  Sally Calligan


Thirty + years ago:

Sally:  Expat Princess, you’d rather be right than happy.

EPP:  Right.


Now, I’d rather be happy.

Purple is the color of royalty, Lent, mystery, pride, and mourning.  The name Sarah means princess.

Tomorrow, I will be wearing GREEN.  The name Patrick means nobleman.



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Filed under Family, Life, Princessdom, Religion

Self Portrait of an Artist



The following are redacted and grammatically corrected portions of my mother Sally’s 1989 Christmas letter, a fictional interview of Sally by Jane Pauley.  Not all readers will remember NBC’s Jane Pauley but she was one of the most authentic, civil, and just plain nice journalists in her day.  Fake newsies, Foxbots, and otherwise general idealogues, please review her tapes and take note.   An envelope, with the interview folded inside, magically appeared as if never opened while I was sorting through papers in my own house.  The glue from the envelope was so persistent I had to rip it open. I share it with you to show you a) that Sally was a fine writer b) insight into her general frame of mind and c) her family relationships.   In general, my parents did not like to brag about their children – this was about as close at it got.  Interestingly, the Christmas letter is signed by my father.

The scene of the interview:  Sally’s art studio located at the south end of Arcata, California.

JP:  Sally, the press has treated you very well this year, are you basking in the moment?

SC:  Yes, the  Arcata Union did recognize my blue ribbon at the county fair in the amateur division of painting.  I loved receiving phone calls and notes from friends.

JP:    Did you have a formal art education?  Just what is your background?

SC:  As you know my formal education was in Apparel Merchandising; I have enrolled in some art classes, but mainly my art education has been limited to the Madonna and Child of the U.S. Christmas postage stamps.

JP:  How did you feel about your picture at the fair?

SC: Honestly I liked the one that didn’t win.  It was a painting of my daughter The Expat Princess giving me a good-bye kiss at the end of the summer as she leaves for her second year of law school.  I am a romantic sucker.  I like my daughter telling me that I am the most wonderful mother in the world.  After 25 years it is great to have someone notice.

JP: … Do you have other children?

SC:  Actually, I have two other daughters.  MoodRingMomma is studying at UCSB and I’m so proud of her.  She is a wonderful student; plus she works.  Is that terrific?  She works at the Biltmore Swim Club.  It could have a fancier name than that, but she has given John Travolta his towel.  When MoodRingMomma’s boyfriend gave her a diamond ring, I asked her if she was engaged and she screamed at me, “Mother of course not!  I just told him that my parents never buy me jewelry.”

My daughter MCVWasHere is a senior in high school.  … Just this week the San Francisco Chronicle horoscope said that I would be making decisions that could influence the rest of my life.  Frankly, if MCV would clean up the floor of her room, that might influence the rest of my life.  MCV, so accomplished, so delightful, for not only has she earned the reigning sweet baby princess award, her accomplishments would bore even the most ardent of Christmas letter readers, but she in unqualifiedly the most fantastic cleaning woman I have ever had.  [Readers, note the self-contradiction in the same paragraph!]  I cried when I saw her in the chorus of the school play.  Tears ran down my cheeks thinking how much she looked like my mother, may God rest her soul.  What a wonderful exit to Motherhood.  Hello my real adult life.

JP:  Can I offer you my hanky?  This must be emotional for you.

SC:  No, I’m fine.  … I think I will plant my garden in case we have a wedding.

JP:  What is your commitment to art?

SC: … All I do is slap paint on canvas.  I sometimes finger paint.  Like cooking, it is the doing, the giving, the participation, the stirring of the pot, the patience of finding the right recipe for the right person.  It is a dialogue.  And it is a great excuse to wear hideous clothes.

JP:  Where do you get your support?  Artists usually have some great trauma or love of their life, what is yours?

SC:  Michael, my Michael … today he paid my studio rent, vacuumed the whole house, ignored my blatant checkbook errors and there are a few other things that are not for publication.  Can you imagine, all in the same day?

JP: You really have very wonderful skin for your age.  Do you have anything else to say to your public?

SC:  Yes, please return all of my books especially Pasta, Pizza and Calzone. [OH, THE IRONY].




















Filed under Family, Life, Princessdom

George the Third


Geo birthday card.jpg

Today is the 13th birthday of my nephew and godson George the Third.  George was born in Sicily, weighing in at nearly 10 lbs.  Although his first name is not the same as his father’s, the Sicilians interpreted the III after his father’s surname as part of the name package and included it on his birth certificate.  The Sicilians, apparently, did not understand the American use of Roman numerals.   No amount of convincing could get the Italian government to correct this error.  Thus, he remains George the Third.

In Sicily, when my sister MCV went to the hospital to have her baby, she had to bring everything:  Sheets, diapers, baby outfits, wipes, diaper cream, blankets, her mother.  All the medical staff did was wrangle the baby out, which in the case of a bowling ball was no picnic, for anyone.  But by then, Sally was rather an expert doula and this was not her first Third World Birthing Rodeo (hats off to the ABC Hospital in Mexico City, which provided everything, even a delicious steak dinner).

Sally was present at the births of six of her seven grandchildren.  She was in attendance for four of them and outside the operating room for two.  This is a pretty good track record and says as much about the sons-in-laws as it does the daughters.  Sally was always helpful, easily entertained, and a gracious guest. She REJOICED at the births of all of these children and wanted to be on the front lines, traveling to two foreign countries for the experience.  Prior to the birth of her first grandchild, she had never witnessed childbirth, not even the births of her own daughters.  (At a later date we will explore Lamaze class and martinis.)

Sally’s “grandma name” was the French word for grandmother: Grandmere. She picked it herself.  We used an American accent.

If Sally were here, she would have called George yesterday and reminded him that it was his last day of being twelve, indeed, the last day of being a child in Jewish tradition, that tomorrow he would be a teenager.  I thought it but did not pick up the phone.  Fortunately, his mother gave him the Sally speech.

George the Third’s birthday is also Thing 2’s half birthday.  Sally always semi-celebrated half birthdays.  As time has progressed, my parents celebrated each month anniversary of their birth.  In fact, Sally passed away at exactly age 78 and a quarter, a fact she would have you know.  She did not take birthdays and anniversaries for granted.  As luck would have it, Sally had to share her birthday with me.  She never complained (at least not that I know of) and thought it was kind of a fun party trick.

It is on days like today that we sisters really grieve over our mother’s loss even as we REJOICE and celebrate the birth of each child.  Happy Birthday, George,  you are now a man.  Hug your mother for me and blow out all the candles on your cake.  You are a wonderful testimony to Grandmere.

P.S.  Gabe, if you are reading this, your birth was no less miraculous.  I just hadn’t started my 40 days yet.


Filed under Birthdays, Family, Life

Pop It Like It’s Hot



My maternal grandmother Susie had about 3 aphorisms that have stuck with me throughout the years and which I attempt to pass on to my own children.  They are also excellent subjects on which to ponder during Lent.

  1. “Pretty is as pretty does.”
  2. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
  3. “Don’t fritter it all away.”

Point #1 is pretty self-explanatory but, as a general rule, nobody in America seems to be engaging in any self-reflecting of their own behavior.   That was an across the board, across the aisle, across party, state, racial, gender, transgender and religious lines statement.   (Ask yourself:  Am I always right?  Is there perhaps some room for error?  Could my self-deceptive little heart possibly not have interpreted the situation correctly?  Or,  AM I SELF-RIGHTEOUS?)  Check your privilege.

I could really write wild about #2 – my husband’s employer started his departure process from the company on the third business day after my mother died, two days before the funeral – but I will remain silent on this point and move on to point #3, frittering.

“Frittering” is not a term with much currency today.  It means wasting, but slowly, trickling, leaking, like air from a tire with a bent rim.  Even when you pump it back up it happens all over again.

My grandmother grew up in Indiana so I believe this to be a midwestern turn of phrase; I recently read the term used by Indiana author Erin Loechner in her new book published by Zondervan entitled Chasing Slow.   Maybe Ms. Loechner and I are third cousins or something because I felt that I actually live in her head.  (Please read this book and save yourselves.)

In 1980, before I went to France with my paternal grandmother Marie, Grandma Susie handed me $30 and said to me, “Buy something nice.  Don’t fritter it all away.”  She was sitting up in bed wearing a white eyelet bed jacket, bald, her signature Estee Lauder coral lipstick masterfully applied.  We had just gone through her jewelry to find the fancy stuff with which to accessorize.

These were, in retrospect, perhaps the last words she ever spoke to me.  I did not ever see her again after that visit.  During that trip to France, though, her words rolled around in my head.   I knew Susie was dying.  How to honor both her and her words?

Why, a gold fleur de lys charm, of course!

Susie had beautiful charm bracelets which she wore regularly.  I spent all the money on the charm, knowing my grandmother would approve.  It had not been spent on postcards, chocolate, Eiffel tower statues.  As I grew up, I would forgot this lesson, frittering away my (our) money on postcards, chocolate, Eiffel tower statues, and these absolutely beautiful French jacquard dishtowels.

Sally, however, was not a fritterer.  Not of time, not of money.   Cookbooks were her one vice – does that even count?  As I survey just the files on her laptop, Sally had concrete objectives.  What 78 year old is working really hard before heart surgery to participate in Ali Edwards’ Daily December online project?  To find recipes for her cooking website that are easy for families to make in a busy busy busy world?  Sally had recently bought an Insta Pot and was eager to experiment.

More than money, Sally did not want you to fritter away your time.  There is simply not enough of it.   Delete, delete, delete.  Have you noticed that the more you slow down, the more time becomes available and expands?

My eye “accidentally”  caught this scripture this morning from Isaiah 30:15:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

I deleted the last phrase of the verse which said, “but you would have none of it” because that is just not how Sally rolled.   She repented, she rested, she was quiet, and she trusted.  She listened and she spoke the truth in love.  Her spirit told me very clearly to plant my behind for 40 days, to rest and to write, but not to fritter.  Especially not to fritter my relationships.

I leave you with an entry from CookSallyCook.com – see if you can find the word fritter.  It’s in there.


Filed under Life