Those Special Evenings

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him.  The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are few things I like better than spending time with friends, especially those evenings when we gather around the table to share a meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the laughter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the sometimes energetic discussions, most of which seem to evolve around politics. These days that subject can evoke a lot of emotion as well as some pretty funny comments.

Foodie Adventure Spain/fishDinner is always a treat,  and most of the time it is a meal to which we’ve all contributed.  That way no one has to spend all day in the kitchen, and everyone is comfortable having played a part in the preparation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I particularly get a kick out of is the effort made to set a lovely table.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain and again I see how that is opportunity for one to express their unique creativity.  Too, an inviting table always makes the food taste even better!

So, what is your favorite way to spend an evening?

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Tablescape Thursday

Favorite Things Thursday

Reentry

I am very lucky to live in two places: Houston, Texas and Rockport, Maine.  We have just returned to Houston and, oh, what a difference.  Many of those differences make reentry something of a challenge.

Office View HoustonHouston is big and with that comes lots of traffic.  

HoustonRight now I drive the freeways with my heart in my mouth, fearful of changing lanes and intimidated by 18 wheelers closing in urging me to speed up or waiting to pass me by.  

img_7502That is quite a contrast to Maine where most of the roads are two lanes with 50 MPH speed limit which makes driving a bit more leisurely to say nothing of being more scenic.

img_8259As different as it is, there are things I like about being in Houston.  High on the list is Costco where I always come out with much more than  I meant to purchase.  That was especially true on this first visit when having access to so much was overwhelming!

img_8314I like that Houston winter is green with lots of blooming things, the way Maine is in summer.  By the time we leave Maine, most of the color is gone and the landscape takes a break until spring when it reawakens.

img_8332Returning to Houston means going to St. Paul’s UMC, a church I’ve loved for many years.  I appreciate its timeless Gothic architecture, the peacefulness I feel there, the way it provides opportunity for discovering your own faith walk and that it is open to all people.

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The best part of reentry is returning to my house in the area that has been home to the hubby and me since we’ve been married.  (One of these days I will have to tell you the story of how this house got me elected to office or at least how I think it helped.)

Rockport Pano 6X18

As different as it is, I enjoy the time we spend in Houston, but I must confess that I do miss waking up in the morning, turning my head and looking out on Rockport Harbor.

Rockport Harbor

No matter the season, no matter whether it’s sunny or foggy, I love the view, the activity 

winter/lobster boatsand the sight and sound of lobster boats going out for the day’s work.  The most I see upon waking in Houston is the fence that separates our and the neighbor’s property.

Despite their differences, I am lucky to live in Houston and Rockport, and each helps me appreciate the other a little more.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Wow Us Wednesday

What’s It Wednesday

A Quick Stop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen my daughter moved to Franklin, Tennessee, several years ago, the hubby thought that good enough reason to drive the long road from Houston to Maine and back again.  It’s a long way for a quick twice a year stop, but I always enjoy the time we have there not only because of the visit with the daughter’s family but because Franklin is part of my earliest memories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWould you believe I was born there right in this building that at one time was a hospital? My first view of this unimposing structure stopped me in my tracks as it triggered a distant memory of a photograph of my mother standing on those steps holding an infant that was me, otherwise I would have walked by it with no thought.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow the spot is identified with a historical marker that names Dr. Tandy Rice as one of the hospital’s founders.  It was he who brought me into this world and got me started on life’s journey.

Most of my Franklin memories revolve around my great grandmother’s house.  What a wonderful place it was to play hide and seek, and she had an old out of tune pump organ that kept me entertained for hours.  The house is still there, and not too long ago I knocked on the door, explained to the current owners my history there and they were kind enough to let me in.  The old place has been updated, but the wonderful crown molding and stair railings are still there.

My memories are of a very sleepy small town, but that is not the case today.  Franklin is a very hip place with trendy shops and eateries.

One that many of you may know is the City Farmhouse that in addition to the shop hosts popup shows that draw visitors from all over the southeast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADowntown doesn’t claim all the changes. The area around Franklin, including some of my family’s former property,  has become home to large estates and horse farms.  Many belong to country music stars and a few Hollywood types.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne thing that hasn’t changed in Franklin is its southern pride.  Right in the middle of town is this towering sculpture honoring the fighting men of the Confederacy. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALook real close and you’ll notice part of the soldier’s hat brim is missing.  It is said to have broken during the shipping/installation process, and it was deemed appropriate to leave it.

FranklinIf memory serves me, Franklin was the unintended site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. That battle transformed Carnton Plantation into a hospital and a burial ground for the men who died there.

Yes, Franklin causes me to wax nostalgic, and I am glad that it is part of my history.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

To You with Thanks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many blessings in my life, and today I will give thanks for all, including you who are such faithful followers of Lulu’s Musings.  Some of you I’ve been lucky enough to meet face to face, but most of you are unknown except for what I learn about you through your blogs.  It’s amazing what connections are made online.

As I gather with my family around the table today, I lift my glass to you with the hope that you have a wonderful day no matter where you are.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Tips for a Stress Free Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-sentiment-appetizer-plate-set-of-4-o

Thanksgiving need not be stressful, and to keep that from happening here’s what I’m thinking will be helpful.

Set your table several days in advance.  That’s a fun job that could help you get in the right frame of mind.

Plan your menu and make a shopping list.

Don’t wait until the last minute to go to the grocery store.  Go early morning or late evening to avoid some of the craziness.

Prepare as many dishes as possible in advance so that on Thanksgiving day they only have to be baked or warmed.  If guests are coming, don’t be shy about asking them to bring a favorite dish.  They are probably happy not to be preparing the entire meal!

In the days preceding, put aside any anxiety, uneasiness or distress you have and focus on that for which you are grateful.  There’s probably much more than you think.

At the Thanksgiving table, avoid any conversation about politics or the outcome of the election.  Enough is enough!

Most of all don’t worry about everything being perfect but focus on the privilege of spending time with family and friends who mean so much.

AND don’t forget to take the turkey out to thaw!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving all of you.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Getting Ready

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the hubby and me, Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday.  Maybe that’s because it’s the only one where the family still gathers at our house, and each year we hope that all of our small brood will be at the table.

img_8283Most things stay the same from the table setting to the menu. Out come the dryer hose pumpkins that have been a centerpiece mainstay for oh so many years.  

img_8280The trick is to create a little different look each time they appear.  At some point, I may have to start repeating!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No question the Della Robbia ironstone will come out of the cabinet for its annual appearance.  It is the first set of dishes I bought so they have real sentimental value, and given that only one piece has been broken they are indestructible.  For sure the color way is reminiscent of the 70’s, but for Thanksgiving it is perfect.

Like with the pumpkins, the challenge is to change things up each year, and that is getting harder.  It’s likely that that no one notices whether anything is different,  but for me its’s  what makes setting the table fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost years a little something new is added.  It may be a placemat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAor glasses or napkin rings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome months ago I purchased this inexpensive flatware thinking the colors and shape were fun.  It never occurred to me that it would be a great match for the Thanksgiving dishes, but here it is. Carson of Downton Abbey probably wouldn’t approve of the arrangement, but it adds a bit of jauntiness.

The something new this year are the place holders that I recently found in a cute shop in Franklin, Tennessee.  You can bet they will be part of tables to come.

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With the table ready, I’d best get thinking about a grocery store list!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Tablescape Thursday

In the Kitchen

pb032656After a full day of seeing the sights and tasting food, wine and cheese, we return “home” to don our aprons and head to the kitchen to prepare the evening’s meal under the watchful eye of Chef Michael. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s no mystery about what we are going to fix as in our welcoming folder the menus and recipes for the week are included.  Can you tell that each dinner is a whole lot of food?

img_8110-1Funny how cooking is much more fun with a group, and it took all of us to prepare the evening’s vittles.

We laugh and joke as we mix, stir, slice and dice

 

pb032650and discover that for some things it takes two!

Everyone has a job,

img_8198 some more tedious than others. I have to confess to being nothing more than a cheerleader when it came to making this dessert!

Everywhere in the kitchen is evidence of our effort,

img_8232-1and when all is said and done we turn out some pretty good eats!  Since I have mentioned cannoli more than once in recent posts, you might guess it was my very favorite dessert, one that will be made at home though I might cheat and use purchased shells as making them from scratch requires quite an effort. 

Now that your appetite is whetted, here is a recipe from the kitchen for you to try.  

Sicilian Caponata

2 medium eggplants

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 celery stalks, peeled and diced

1/2 c. green olives, pitted and halved

1/4 c. capers

1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped

1/3 c. red wine vinegar

2 T. sugar

1 c. tomato sauce

1/4 c. basil, chopped

kosher salt and black pepper

Cut the eggplants into 1/2″ cubes and place them in a bowl.  Toss with 3 T. of salt and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Rinse the eggplant in cold water and drain well.  Squeeze to release excess water, then place on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Fry the eggplant until it’s well browned.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Return the pan to medium heat and add the sliced onion.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.  Add celery and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring well.  Last, add the capers and sundried tomatoes and and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato sauce and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is cooked down.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.  Season to taste.

The caponata may be used in a variety of ways such as a sauce for fish or pasta or as a spread for crostini.

So, there you have the experience of a Foodie Adventure.  If going to interesting places, staying in a wonderful villa and having opportunity for  hands on cooking appeals to you, you just might want to join in the fun.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind