Saturday, July 31, 2010

Celebrating ~ Giving Back

Calligraphy by Kay Johnson, 1985

In the spring of last year, my good friend Maggie @ Normandy Life and also the blog mistress for Quimper Club International recruited me to be guest blogger on the QCI blog for the month of September. At the time, I honestly didn't know what a blog was, so I went about cruising blogs to see what Blogville was all about. It wasn't long before I discovered Between Naps on the Porch and Susan's weekly Tablescape Thursday. That in turn led to Confessions of a Plate Addict. With Susan's irresistible porch settings and Debbie's Quimper tablescapes (and other French inspired posts), I was totally hooked. I had spent months visiting what was becoming a long list of favorites. So with the encouragement and guidance of Maggie, Susan, and Debbie, Hyacinths for the Soul became a reality, and I took the leap and jumped in with my very first post on August 2, 2009.

~Twelve Months ~

~More than 120 Posts ~

~Almost 300 Followers~

It's been an amazing year. I had no idea how much pleasure this thing called blogging would offer. HFTS has provided a creative outlet that has led to hours of fun and a whole new circle of friendships, not to mention that I've become much more tech savvy along the way. I follow and read your blogs with great admiration. The amazing number of individuals who generously and graciously share their talents and creativity continually amazes me. I learn from each of you every day. So thank you to all who visit, comment, encourage, correspond, and share your individual talents and creative spirits. You, to me, are unique in all the world.

Detail of Original, Signed By Ange, 2010

Recently, a very special blogging friend sent me a piece of her original art. Earlier in the year Ange of Signed by Ange had invited her readers to leave a comment with their favorite quote. I was the incredibly lucky individual whose name was drawn for a special gift.
Ange took my favorite quote, worked her calligraphic magic, and created a uniquely charming piece of art . . .

Which traveled across the Atlantic from Ange's home in Toulouse, France . . .

And now has a place of prominence in my little office, where I can see it as I work on creating posts for HFTS. (Please excuse the odd color variations in the above photos. Not sure why the same wall looks two different colors.)

Of course, Ange, being the dear that she is also sent along a delightful assortment of bits and pieces for me to use in my own art projects ~ all little jewels of French ephemera from the countryside in Toulouse, France.

Included in the package was this delightful little card.

And this very thoughtful note.

Meet Ange ~ wife, mom, long-distance runner (across glaciers, deserts, & oceans), educator, calligrapher, artist, blogger, wordsmith, friend ~ I hope you'll stop by to visit Signed by Ange. Her blog posts this summer are few as she is taking a bit of a holiday, but look for her to be back soon. I think you will be charmed by her talent, her sense of humor, her joie de vivre.

Ange, I treasure this unique piece of your work with its cool shades of blue, beautiful calligraphy, and the special 1996 French stamp with Madame de Sévigne and her quill pen.

I've been the recipient of several wonderful gifts from friends in Blogville, so in celebration of the first anniversary of HFTS and in appreciation of each of you who give me inspiration and encouragement daily there will be a drawing for a give-back gift at the end of the August.

~Just follow the usual routine ~
To be entered leave a comment on this post.
For a second chance, leave a separate
comment telling me you are a follower .
If you post the celebration button
on your sidebar or share it in a post,
leave another comment for a third opportunity.

~The gift ~

a package containing

something old,

something new,

something French,

and most certainly, something blue.

Visit often in the coming weeks for more clues. Winner will be announced September 1, 2010. I hope you'll like the gift package I'm putting together.

Feel free to grab the button below and link it back to this post to help me get the word out.

Thank you to the ladies hosting the following weekly memes.
A click on the link will take you to others participating this week.
More information about each of these events on my sidebar.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits


by Ayelet Waldman is available here on Amazon.

I give this book *****

It's been awhile since I've participated in Food for Thought, the bimonthly book review blog hosted by the talented Jain of Once in a Blue Moon and Food With Style. I'm pleased to join in this week to share a book I'd recommend. I read Waldman's book totally unaware of the controversy about this author. My husband, an avid reader of Michael Chabon's works, had picked it up out of curiosity because he noted that Ayelet Waldman was the wife of Michael Chabon. He enjoyed the read, thought I would as well, and passed it along to me.

With the setting in New York City, that fact alone led me to take hold of this novel and jump right in. Once I did, I couldn't put it down. LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS proved to be an interesting read about the all too common drama of contemporary marriages: an office affair which led to a broken family that resulted in shared custody and propelled said guilty party into the role of new wife and stepmom.

I'm not a mom nor a stepmom, and this novel's protagonist was difficult to like in many respects, but the book does offer the reader huge helpings of descriptive passages of Central Park. Considering that Central Park is one of my all time favorite places to spend time, that fact alone won this book five stars from me!

Well written, this interesting story is actually very compelling. Complicated relationships, a second marriage, a precocious know-it-all 5 year old, and the tragic loss of a new born all merge to fill the pages of this book. Emilia, a complex character not easy to like, actually won me over early on. Ayelet Waldman skillfully balances it all with wit, satire, and compassion as she leads the reader down a path of mixed emotions.

Five year old William is as much a devotee of Central Park as Emilia. So I admit again, much of the pleasure of this read for me was that a good part of the story revolves around various ventures into Central Park.

Jack, William's dad and Emilia's now husband, first introduced William to Emilia at the Central Park Zoo, one of William's favorite destinations.

Unlike William, the Central Park Zoo isn't the main attraction of this area of the park in my opinion. For me, it is the Delacorte Clock with its dancing menagerie of whimsical animals. The elephant with his accordion . . .

And the goat with his pan pipes

Both join in with the bear on tambourine, the kangaroo tooting a horn, the hippopotamus with violin, and the penguin on drums. It is here where they all perform a repertoire of nursery rhyme tunes as they glide around the clock each hour and half-hour.

Besides the exquisite and familiar images of Central Park that Waldman conjured up in my mind's eye, there were also plenty of opportunities for Food for Thought. First up there is the reference to Emilia's law school habit of Diet Coke and Raisinettes while studying for exams.

William, the five year old step son, is not only a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, but also suffers from lactose intolerance, or at least his mother (most popular OBGYN in NYC) has convinced him that he does. Waldman offers up comical passages throughout related to this perceived illness. I could easily have gone with any number of references that would appeal to my sweet tooth: strawberry cupcakes or dairy free cupcakes; chocolate sundaes or lactose free ice cream; chocolate cheese cake or rainbow sherbet. Oh, and did I mention little William is also a fan of Bernard Waber's Lyle the Crocodile series? LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE is his favorite book.

Amelia, a Harvard Law grad and an accomplished cook, prizes her time worn copies of ELIZABETH DAVID'S FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING and ITALIAN FOOD, which her mom had given her when Amelia left for college. Meals of coq au vin de Bourgogne, or saltimbocca alla Romana were mentioned, and the first meal Amelia cooked for Jack was chilled soup of yellow tomatoes, veal meatballs with artichokes and green olives, and an arugula and fig salad. Dessert was a Meyer lemon cake.

But Amelia, frozen in the fuzzy haze of grief after the death of her infant daughter, hasn't cooked a meal in months. She shops for groceries as if she plans to, but the "plump vegetables, soft ripe cheeses, deep-red wild salmon, organic roasting hens" languish in the refrigerator only to be thrown out by the cleaning service at the end of each week. Chinese take-out substitutes for the nightly fare.

Growing up in a Jewish home is another thread that runs through the pages, and one evening Jack, tired of coming home to take-out dinners, returns home with two bags of groceries intent on preparing his mother's recipe for kibbe. Jack, with his limited cooking experience, begins to forge ahead, a conversation ensues, and Amelia takes over.

So kibbe it is!

Kibbe is a simple dish of ground lamb, bulgur, and spices of cinnamon, allspice, and fresh mint. The meat mixture is formed into torpedo shaped meatballs and baked with olive oil. When served, it is topped with caramelized onions and a mix of pine nuts and dried fruit.

A drizzle of pomegranate molasses tops off the spicy flavors.

Add a side of simple slaw

And another of wild rice with a bit more of the caramelized onions and dried fruit mixture.

Pop the cork on a bottle of red wine . . .

Pour yourself a glass of Merlot . . .

And bite into the savory delight of kibbe.

Though Amelia faces many impossible pursuits along the way, I predict that LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS will warm your heart . . .

And leave you feeling as if you have spent a magical afternoon sailing a little remote controlled boat across the pond in Central Park.

For those of you here for Pink Saturday, this post is dedicated to Isabel, a sweet baby girl angel. I'm also joining Laurie's A Few of My Favorite Things as Central Park, Lyle the Crocodile, and cupcakes are definitely on my favorite things list.
Since LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS is the perfect choice if you are spending a day reading at the beach, poolside, or just curled up in your favorite chair with the AC blasting, this post will link to The Tablescaper's Summer Sundays.

You can click here to see a list of others participating in Food for Thought this week. All credit goes to my personal live in chef for the food prepared in this post.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Red is for Poppy

Red is for poppies growing 

wild in the breeze of a Texas spring day.

Here in central Texas red poppies 

can grow naturally along highways, in vacant lots, 

parks, and the gardens or yards of individuals.

In 1995 the US Post Office commemorated the founding of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, with a postage stamp featuring Georgia O'Keeffe's famous painting, Red Poppy, 1927. My talented friend, Kay, sent me the above little work of art that year for my birthday. It is a set of the stamps framed by a quote from O'Keeffe that Kay uniquely penned and embellished:

Nobody sees a flower
It is so small.
We haven't time,
And to see takes time.
Like to have a friend
Takes time.
~Georgia O'Keeffe~

In 1927 Georgia O'Keefee, being a pioneer in the Modernist Movement, used a unique approach to paint flowers. She wanted to paint what was in her mind's eye and in her heart. Her series of flower paintings are much like photographs that have been cropped to show close up details.

If you take a flower in your hand
and really look at it,
It's your world for the moment.
~ Georgia O'Keeffe~

The Georgia O'Keefee Museum opened to the public in 1997. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to an internationally known American woman artist. With a collection of over 3,000 of O'Keefee's works, this jewel of a museum is a must see for those who appreciate this legendary artist. Currently one can view a special exhibit entitled, Georgia O'Keefee: Abstraction. This exhibit runs May 28 - September 12, 2010. After seeing the exhibit, I picked this little bouquet of poppies in the museum gift shop. They are actually writing pens.

One stayed behind with my hostess 

for the guest book in her Santa Fe casa.

The others came home with me

 to be given as party favors sometime in the future. 

 I'm thinking ~ perhaps a poppy themed tablescape?

I'm linking this post to the following weekly memes:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pink Summer Sunsets

Summer sunsets are some of my favorite things.

Especially when they fill the sky with brilliant shades of pink.

During a recent trip to Santa Fe, NM, I was treated to spectacular sunsets each evening. Join me for an alfresco sunset dinner here.

Before the sun completely sets, stop by Laurie's A Few of My Favorite Things
and Beverly's Pink Saturday. On Sunday join The Tablescaper's Summer Sundays where you'll find more summer inspiration.