Category Archives: Body

Things I Learned This Week

It was a weather week and an insomnia week. Weather: grey skies, nearby tornadoes, humidity and temps in the sixties. The low sixties. Insomnia: Asleep by four am, though I’d been twitching in bed since midnight, then bolt upright at nine. Five hours sleep  = Margaret, Zombie Empress from Hell.

It was an unproductive week. It was too wet to garden, my mind was too fuzzy to write, yadda yadda yadda. So, I’ll try to scrape my errant brain cells together and try to sum up the things that I learned this week. Or relearned this week.

I won’t spring for cable, but these two weeks tempts me, every darned year. Why? Wimbledon. I want to see every match on the outside courts, the white tennis costumes against the green grass, the passion and brilliance. I’ll get over it in a couple of weeks. But then the US Open will commence and I’ll have to hold serve and stay tough not to call some Godawful cable company.

I admire the writing of Elizabeth Berg, and I’ll write a full Library Card post about her. She can string together a plot with poetry.











I learned that stabbing a half onion on a fork then dipping it in olive oil is a swell way to oil a grill.

I’ll never stop missing my daughter and son-in-law. Ever.

I just don’t understand people who want to retire to a rustic farmette. I love the ‘Ville and all, but I want to walk out my front door and stroll to a street scattered with shops, restaurants and businesses run by folks I’ll get to know.

My archaeologist next-door-neighbor, “Little” Dale Simpson, (honorary nephew) was climbing Machu Picchu two days ago. I reel with jealousy, and salute Dale for his passion, and, as we say, following his dream.

I might not ever be a Jeopardy champ, but I could come home with a few thousand bucks.

Basil is always, always, reliable grown from seed.

No news here, but let me tell you, editing another writer’s work isn’t a clinical affair.

Friday night cheeseburgers with grilled onions and a beer is Friday night comfort.

I need insomnia advice.

And NBC is broadcasting Wimbledon tomorrow!



Filed under Body, Books, Free, History, Into the Mystic, Library Card, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville

From My Sole

I hate my feet. Anyone who’s seen my bare feet hate my feet. Pedicurists hate me, because , much as as John Singer Sargent or Ingres might have felt when they had to make a sitter look better-looking, they know it’s demeaning to their abilities.

Can I mention my ginormous bunions?  Pythagoras could have used them to demonstrate the right angle triangle. I had budding bunions when I was thirteen, thanks to a sublime pair of red Brevett loafers. Do you have any idea how hard and expensive it is to buy  a comfortable and chic pair of shoes when your feet are double-wide? I’ve given mucho money to Munro, and I’m still wearing their footwear, pretty well in tatters, fifteen years after I spent four weeks grocery money at Bloomingdales.

(Speaking of Bloomies, I got the one unsolicited compliment I cherish most there. A saleslady ran up behind me and yelled “Ma’am! Ma’am! You have the most perfect nose I’ve ever seen!” If you’ve heard me tell this story, forgive me. I cherish that memory on a bad feet day . That would be every day.)

My daughter gave me the best Mother’s Day ever this year — a flight to LA, a trip up the coast to Cambria and Hearst Castle. She had to work a few days while we were there, so we spent some time afoot. Anyone who thinks that Los Angeles is all about the car is misinformed. We walked her hood in Los Feliz Village, tramped through a few museums, and her tour of deep downtown LA. She took us up the coast to Solvang (hello, “Sideways” fans) and Cambria.  And then Hearst Castle — a walking tour.

My friend Dave had warned me: “Beware all enterprises that require new shoes.” I should have listened. I dropped a bundle on two pairs of cute shoes that felt good in the store. You know what happened: blood and blisters. My daughter lent me her better-traveled-than-I Birkie  sandals. They’d stomped through rice paddies in  Vietnam, and strolled Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong. The support was great, but they raised new blisters in different places.

I was wincing and considering going barefoot on Sunset, when I said: “Sorry. I don’t care that you hate resale stores . I’m buying a pair of shoes. ”

$1.99, Baby! Silver leather. A sole as thin as a sheet of vellum –useless for walking on anything larger than a poolside patio in 90210, but they got me home, and my neighbor Char said nice things about them yesterday.


You can see that I never removed the sticky price tag stuff, but, c’mon, 1.99!  These are not Jimmy Chos. These are not Birkenstocks. These are for sure not Munros. But, they don’t actively hurt my feet and I feel a tad glam on my kitchen floor and my garden. I love silver leather.

Thing is, they’re the best pair of knock around the house shoes ever. I’d never take them farther than a walk to the mailbox, but on doubtful kitchen floors or on grass, they are sooooo perfect. When I slip them on I feel glammer than flip flop aficionados. They are, in these restricted circumstances, the best 1.99 I’ve ever spent. I’ve almost broken in those two pairs of cute Spanish expensive shoes I bought for the trip, but as God is my witness, I’ll never pack new shoes again.


Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day

Must Bake:Savory Cheese and Chive Bread From Dorie Greenspan

I bought Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table a few weeks after it was published, but I hadn’t cooked much from it, what with geographical discombobulation and other culinary distractions. Gee, was I a folle! I read it all way through this afternoon and found it, jaded cook that I am, inspiring.

Nothing’s too hard, nothing’s too pricey, it’s written in Dorie’s pal-to-pal style, and every recipe just sounds good. I rarely write rarely about food here on my blog, preferring to do it elsewhere, but kids — this is too good not share right now: Savory Cheese and Chive Bread. Here’s the recipe:

You see, it just happened that I had all the ingredients within reach, including spring chives. I had odds and ends of cheese in the fridge, and a few sprigs of new thyme, and — this is what made me smile: it’s a baking powder based quick bread, not a yeast bread, and is easier to assemble than zucchini bread.

My well-traveled and well-heeled cousin Cort confided, over dinner at Tru, that he likes tastes that pop, that explode. I cut off the first slice and it was a flavor grenade.

I took one bite and craved a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It was a little early in the day , so I abstained until later in the day.




I was right: it goes with white wine like Fred did with Ginger. Dorie says she cuts it into cubes to serve with aperitifs, which is such a swell idea.

While we were sipping and nibbling, we got another swell idea. We’re always thinking about next night’s dinner before we eat tonight’s dinner, and onion soup is on for tomorrow. We almost talked over each other: this would be an awesome, awesome crouton floating above the soup, perhaps topped with more cheese.

Chill that crisp white, and bake this bread.



Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Body, Food, How Cool is That?

Frozen Pancakes:Cheap and Cheerful, Fab Fab and Fatal

My father was the breakfast cook when we were kids, and we loved the sight of that red box with the picture of the cheery black lady. Pancakes for breakfast! (Daddy’s still the breakfast cook, and come to think of it, Aunt Jemima was my first clue that everyone in the world didn’t look like me.)

My father taught me that you have to wait until big bubbles  form before you turn the pancake, or it won’t hold together. But you can’t wait too long, because pancakes burn easily. I learned early that there’s no such thing as too much butter on pancakes, and that the syrup had to originate in a tree.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pancakes, whether from a box or scratched up from a favorite recipe. (My favorite is Scott Peacock’s buttermilk pancake recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking.) The shameful truth is that I’ve rarely made pancakes more than six times a year, and here’s why.

We’re only two pancake mouths, and no matter how I cut the recipe down, I always glugged half the batter down the Insinkerator. Second: pancakes trash my kitchen, or rather, I dribble the batter all over the range top, counter and ceiling — what’s up with that? By the time I’ve licked my fingers, the batter’s concrete.

A couple of months ago, we decided to cook off all the batter. That left us a dozen pancakes sitting on the griddle, stovetop trashed. We remembered laughing at an item in the frozen food case  — frozen pancakes. WTF, thought we — how lame! It’s still lame to buy four frozen pancakes for a buck, but it’s brilliant to freeze your own. He spread them on a  sheet pan in the freezer until they were hard, then we stacked them in a baggie.

Let me tell you, frozen pancakes are a beautiful thing. You can heat them up in a toaster, if your butter’s soft. But here’s the thing: put them on a plate, sliver some hard butter atop, and drizzle with syrup. Nuke for a minute and you’ve got groovy cakes with no effort.

Here’s the naughty part: If you know you have pancakes in the freezer, avoirdupois can happen. Sure they’re great for a quick lunch or breakfast, but you know, they’re even better for late night dessert . I eat sensibly and that means mostly no sweets, because I prefer protein to cupcakes. But just before bedtime last night, I had an urge to the sweet side, and buttered a couple of frozen pancakes. Then I spread them with  dabs of apricot jam, blasted it , topped it with some TJ’s Greek Yogurt and achieved midnight snack Nirvana. In forty seconds.

Criminal. I know I’m in trouble, because my bedtime’s going to be haunted by the possibility of sneaking my hands into the freezer and floating off to Dreamworld , my tummy filled with carbs and butter and something sweet — like maple syrup, raspberry jam, honey or apricot jam. It’s sooooo easy, God help me.

To take my mind off the fattening flat-out simple possibilities, I’ll post a gratuitous kitty picture. Willow always, always finds the warmest spot, though Ajax has a patch too.


Filed under Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Five bucks or fewer, Food, How Cool is That?, Uncategorized

Shine on, Bright and Mysterious Objects

Laurie Colwin, wherever you’re lounging in Literary Valhalla — forgive me for bastardizing one of your best titles.

I’d planned to rent some skates today and ask Daddy to take some pix of me falling on my can as I attempted to glide along the beautiful Rideau Canal. Again God said “Hah! Not so fast, sister! ” and encouraged me to run a shopping cart over my left pinky toe. It resembles a baby eggplant and I can barely get my shoes on, let alone a skate. Perhaps it was Her way to remind me that I haven’t done the Hans Brinker thing for thirty years, and that a swollen toe heals faster than a broken leg.

So much for today’s plans, skate-wise and blog-wise — time to move the photography inside.I thought I’d share some of the objects from my parents’ silver collection and run a small contest. Some of them you’ll recognize and some may be mysterious. I’ll send a prize, made by moi, to anyone who achieves 100% identification of the mystery objects. None of today’s shiny things are the oldest or most valuable in the collection — they’re mostly Edwardian — but I love them. They’re mad cheerful, and for me they’re free;I get to use them and I didn’t pay a single pound sterling.

Here’s a snap of most of them to give you an idea of the scale:






I love engraving. Here I’m an Anglo Indian military bride:








I want to run out and buy Jordan almonds, licorice allsorts and wine gums to fill the little pans! The hallmarks indicate that it was made in Chester in 1908. The inscription reads:

Presented To

Capt. and Mrs. Farley


The NCOs & Men Of

“E” Company

2nd North Stafford Rgmt.

Peshawar India 1910

On the Occasion of Their Wedding

I can’t provide the date and provenance of this basket of beauty because I’d have to root around to find Daddy’s copy of Tardy’s. It continental and clever– each cup sits on a little peg so that the maid can’t jiggle the soft-boiled eggs about on the way to your breakfast table.










I’ve never seen such a pretty piece of tea strainer engineering as this: The baskets turn to the horizontal when it’s time to strain a new cup, so that you can dump the leaves efficiently. Again, I’d have to find Tardy to check out the German marks. (I’ve hooked it over an epergne handle to give the general effect.)









Now I’ll move into the Mystery Item round. Number One, from Birks, a Canadian silversmith. It’s about seven inches long.




Number Two (Chester 1904)may be my favorite of the group because it’s just so plain weird. I’m sorry about the crappy picture ; when I decided to reshoot I found my battery was dead. You might want to consult the group shot above.











Number Three, Birmingham, 1902.










So, as they say, enter to win a Valuable Prize! And pray for me — I’ve been so accident prone I’m afraid I’ll fracture a finger flossing my teeth!


Filed under Art, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, Giveaway, History, Home, Incredible Edible Egg, Worth it anyway

Freaky Father, Fitted Sheets

I told my father that he’s a freak. I suspect the words stung a bit, but I ask you…  and I will ask you . I’ll add a poll and the people can decide.

My father’s recovering from recent hip replacement surgery– left hip. He’s been doing an hour and a half of rehab exercise at home every day, and is a star , according to his physiotherapist. Medicine struck again this Monday — he spent a day in the hospital  for an angiogram, that wire threaded through a blood vessel in the same left leg. The cardiologists’s order’s? “Do nothing for two days.” No driving, no exercising, rest that leg.

Har. I would have taken the cardiologist’s advice to indicate that I should sprawl on the long, accommodating living room sofa and catch up on Daddy’s stack of Vanity Fairs, assuming the upright position only when concerned family members  tottered in bearing trays. My father is genetically or spiritually incapable of such sybaritic behavior, and after noticing an absence of a half hour I tracked him down and busted him. He’d been standing on the tile floor of the laundry room, ironing sheets!

That’s when I lost my daughterly cool and yelled: “Daddy, you’re a freak!”

Am I wrong? Sure, I iron the occasional pillowcase when the planets are aligned just so. But Queen sheets, both flat and fitted? A couple of pairs? I aim low: I grab the bed linens out of the dryer and get them onto the bed still warm, so they don’t acquire the peaks and crevasses that result from a week piled in the laundry basket as they wait to be toted upstairs.

We had a Sheet Summit, right there in the basement. Daddy can barely slide onto an unpressed sheet — icks! Nor does he favor the thread counts preferred by Mideastern royalty: ‘The really high thread counts make it hard to make the bed, because they don’t slide across each other. I find them itchy, too.” He took up percale after his retirement. “As your mother said, ‘Ian, you haven’t retired, I’ve retired. You’re just taking on new responsibilities.’ Fine by me: I didn’t marry your mother to bury her in the basement ironing sheets!” (NOTE: I doubt my mother ironed sheet one, ever.)

As he unplugged the iron he said: “I think I’ve bought my last fitted sheet. They’re such a pain to fold.” (Hmm, is he really a freak, or only an engineer? Engineers care about such things.) But this was my opening for daughterly redemption — I booted up his laptop and showed him Martha’s method for dealing with those pesky elasticized corners.

It’s cool: check out the laundry origami : I printed out the instructions and stuck them in the basket where he keeps his car keys, reading glasses and financial statements. Maybe we’ll have a folding fest before I leave Ottawa!

So, Dear Readers, please take this poll: perhaps I’m the one who needs a reality check!


Filed under Body, Free, History, Home, How Cool is That?, Polls

Crafting Christmas — Mostly Martha.

I bow to everyone who looks to Martha Stewart for a new Christmas decor every year, for glam new table settings, for using Martha Stewart brand glitter on everything from Christmas cards to felt Advent calendars. From Her Greatness, I’ve learned to twist rickrack into a creditable-looking candy cane, how to make homemade soap, crochet Christmas ornaments , and shake my head at the brilliance of her staffers who crank out ideas like this:

I mean, some gumdrops, sprinkles and powdered sugar? Brilliant.

Or this felt stocking — so chic, and a kid could make it.


As a matter of fact a kid, my daughter whipped up an earlier MSL felt stocking when she was fourteen:

My lousy photography doesn’t do it justice — it’s the fabbest stocking I’ve ever seen.

But all these Martha offerings aren’t helping me this November; I can’t figure out what the heck presents I’m going to make for Christmas. My family and friends are aproned-out.  But I’ll take this opportunity to show you one I find particularly fetching: “Lady in Blue.” It was a commission from my Apron Patron Patty, for a friend who’s decor is wall-to-wall blue. (Note: Blue is a beautiful color — skies, forget-me-nots, Blue Willow, Lake Huron, sapphires, and my daughter’s eyes. But I can’t wear it — it makes my skin look as if I should be sporting a toe tag. And blue rooms make me feel, well, blue.)

The old-timey calico print:

The dark side: blue cornflowers:

Speaking of blue , I have a top drawer stuffed with Tiffany boxes, the remnants of wealthier times. Believe me, I have no quarrel with giving or receiving store-bought prezzies. Sure, I can sew, but if I’m giving a gent a dress shirt I’ll spring the bucks at Brooks Brothers; they do it so much better. I love giving and getting books, and receiving a top-up to my Guerlain perfume stash. But even when I had disposable income I made Christmas presents, just because I like to.

Last Christmas my sister-in-law Hilary baked us a huge tin of delectable cookies and squares. We didn’t open it until we returned home and I remember thinking: “Thanks, Hil! January is so much better because of you!”  Maybe I should be thinking about food gifts? Or maybe whip up a batch of our world-class limoncello? Nah — our Christmases involve crossing borders and carryons.

Here’s what I have in-house: Dead Sea Salts, from the real Dead Sea. Slabs of wax. Dried rosebuds. Fabric. Meltable soap slabs and an assortment of exquisite essential oils. Pipe cleaners. A pantry and a bar. Piles and piles and piles of paper. How to combine them (I ask myself) into different prezzie guises than they appeared at previous Christmases?

Any ideas? What are you making this Christmas?

I’m signing out to head back to



Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Body, Books, Food, Holidays, Home, Paper, Scent, Worth it anyway