Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dinner for Jacquie

Once a hostess gets north of 40, I think an equal amount of time can be allocated to dinner preparations as dinner recovery time. Saturday night I hosted our family for dinner, including my sister Jacquie and her family from Minneapolis. I’ll admit it, Sunday I was tired!


We started with Brie en croute, which Eddie Ross reminded me makes a great cold-weather appetizer. I don’t have any leaf cookie cutters like Eddie’s, so I used hearts instead; big hit with my little niece Lauren~


For main course, we had a large platter of veal chops, with a medley of potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, caramelized pearl onions and bacon; from Patricia Wells’ Simply French cookbook~


Because my family are chow hounds, I also made twin roast ducks with delicious sauteed apples and a citrus sauce of orange, lime and grapefruit, with a little vinegar and honey; I will be making this sauce again soon, but for chicken. Email me if I can send you the recipe, also from Simply French, it’s too long to retype here! These are the apples, sauteed in a little butter~

IMG_3951 I had the table set with what flowers I found at the market in the morning; simple and fragrant sweet peas in a rich mix of pinks & purples~


With deep pink 12” tapers from Point a la Ligne; it made a very pretty table, unfussy but perfect for a cool late-winter evening~


I finished the last presentation plate and sat down; it seemed like I was in my chair for 10 minutes when everyone finished their plates and said they were now ready for dessert, twin apple tartes on puff pastry~


The slices of tarte were topped with homemade cinnamon ice cream, also from Patricia Wells, and a very simple caramel sauce (sugar, butter & cream) that everyone loved so much they put it on their brie and bread before dinner.


The next thing I knew, Jacquie was blowing out the candles on the dinner table (!) and Dad was opening the door to the patio “to let the smoke out” though with the smoke went the two little dogs. Good thing they know the command “inside!”


I had thought to have coffee or tea in the living room and play Bach’s simple minuet on my harp, but everyone seemed to be in an “eat and run” mode and was busy jockeying for leftovers or fussing with the kids. No matter, I sent them all on their way, then relit the candles, and played the minuet and some other melodies by myself. IMG_3968

I spent most of the next morning cleaning up and for a few minutes wondered why I felt dissatisfied with dinner. Or was I? In the end, perhaps I like to host dinner as much for myself as for my guests…While it was work, didn’t I love the dinner preparation, and didn’t we enjoy the leftovers at the same pretty table on Sunday as well? And won’t we be smelling the sweet peas all week? Is there some reason, the challenge perhaps, that I like to prove to myself that I can cook “good” food and host a pretty party? Some inner drive to flex my creative & culinary muscles?

Yes, I think so. Jacquie offered to make dinner of tri-tip roast in a crock pot. Um, I don’t own a crock pot I told her, slightly embarrassed. She may have been happy to have had a tri-tip for dinner, but I would not. Family dinners (especially when we have out of town guests) are special occasions and as such I like to prepare food that we wouldn't eat during the usual week. So...Dinner for my family, dinner for Jacquie but also for myself….What do you think, am I silly? Do you entertain for yourself as much as for your family and guests? IMG_3962

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cupid’s Instrument of Choice?

Well, of course I think we’d all respond “arrows” to this question….gold-tipped for love, please…


{the amazingly-executed Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss,
Musee du Louvre,
by Antonio Canova 1757-1822}

Perhaps if you discount his unerring arrows, or if I specified musical instrument, you might respond that Cupid carries a harp, or at least many of his little assistants do ~

harps angels

The harp first appeared around 2500 BC in Egypt. Here is a slightly “later” version around 800 BC~

harp ad 800

While I could write an extensive post on the history of the harp, with tales of troubadours, Celts and courtly love, today I am zooming in like Cupid’s Arrow on a lifelong desire,
a full-sized French Pedal Harp~

erard grecian 2

The Celts believed that the harp was the bridge of love, between Heaven & Earth. In Norway, it was a “ladder” symbolizing the ascent to higher states of love. Universally, the harp is a symbol of love…a representation of lyrical art, poetry and music. Tell me, doesn’t the sound of a harp put you in a lovey-mood? Or if you are like me, does it also make you drool…?


Via the Musee de La Musique in Paris,
just look at the workmanship~

harpe paris 5

The modern harp was developed in Paris by Sebastien Erard in the late 18C; he devised a complex mechanism in collaboration with a watchmaker that allowed the harp to play naturals, flats & sharps with the movement of foot pedals…musical genius!

harpe paris 3 Erard made similar advances in the mechanisms of pianos,
but oh that’s another post…

harpe paris

Coming from a family of ebenistes and gilders, Erard conceived fantastically technical yet unbelievably beautiful instruments in his atelier, creating harps and pianos for the likes of Beethoven, Chopin, Marie Antoinette and the royal court~

harpe paris 4

But why am I telling you all of this? Well, because I have wanted to play the harp since I was five, and with the only harp teacher being 1.5 hours away, I had one lesson, and then instead of the harp I got piano and violin lessons down the street.

harpe paris 2

Fast forward many years, this last Christmas I decided that gosh darn it, I’m going to do it, I am going to play the harp! With the guide of a teacher but largely self-teaching and playing by ear, I am on the road. Every night it is scales and fingering exercises, easy melodies and a few glissandos to the joy of my “audience,” usually Mom, Honey & Biscuit. While I aspire to play Claude Debussy’s Arabesques, right now it’s the basic stuff. I have a small rental harp of course, nothing like this beautiful Erard harp, but one can dream…

erard paris

But this leads me to my final point of this post, which is that I have asked God and the Universe to please send me an antique French Harp…for a reasonable price. Here is one that was on Antique Roadshow, a late 18C harp that the harp teacher snagged after a student’s mom asked her to evaluate it at an estate sale~

roadshow harp

“Not a harp for a student,” the teacher said, as she instead bought it for herself for about $2,500. Roadshow’s estimate of worth: $60,000. Nothing online says what the student’s Mom thought about being snaked out of this harp, but I suppose it is proof that antique harps can be found in unlikely places. So, all of you estate sale and antique store shoppers out there, if you see one of these locally, you know who to call! In the meantime, I’m going to continue practicing and hope to one day soon put up a little music here.

Wishing you a lovely Valentine’s day, with your loved ones and your passions~

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Being Eco

I am pleased to be quoted in the Los Angeles Times re the Santa Monica Bag Ban.    Though I do not rant about it on my blog, I remain a staunch advocate of no-plastic and anything-reusable.  “Nuff said.”   If you are a follower of my blog and you still accept plastic bags, please email me immediately and I will set you up!!!!   Secretly, I wish I were in a locale where I could shop markets daily and bike to work, oh yes, with a basket on the front please~    

chcle ch cop

Or here, in Estonia.  I have a Moroccan tray just like this, and I am happier about it than she is here~

cycle chic estonia

I follow the Cycle Chic Blogs as they give me a whiff of Europe…..would you, could you, cycle to work…?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rich & Full

As with each New Year, I feel a good fresh energy in January. This year is no different, except that the new energy is lasting all month. I have so much going on, and many new possibilities. Rather than repeat the last years, as if by rote, each year is new. I am not going to the New York Gift this year, for example, but that will not hold me back. Quite to the contrary.IMG_3803

My lab, my living room. My faithful listeners; “but Mommy, what are you doing on that side of the table?”


Rich, full, complex. Such is the new year.

IMG_3792I long for my trips this spring, to Italy in March and Paris in May~


I am addicted to my camera. And I am trying to find a pic of me in Paris that I had my hands on three days ago that has been swallowed up by the house, so that I can answer Karena’s questions properly illustrated….more soon.


Til then, hope your lives are rich & full as well….please click on each of the pics for full view. I love the soothing nature of this set.

Oh, and be sure to stop by the Metis Blog for a creme puff tutorial this morning!