2/13/2021

If a clod falls off the continent, Europe is the lesser for it

 


One of my oldest, dearest friends has shuffled off this mortal coil.....Dirk was one of the smartest, most charming, funniest men I ever knew....a fellow lover of the arts, he and I shared many a happy moment listening to music, at an art gallery, or watching a play.....trying exotic new foods.....in our cups.....and he helped me out immeasurably at various dark points in my life. 

Dirk and I met in high school through Latin Club and various AP courses. He was not my lover but did date a girlfriend of mine. I have many happy memories of toga parties and late night shenanigans....We reconnected after college, when Dirk moved to Houston to work at Vinson / Elkins. He befriended my first husband, Greg, and dated my good friend, Gretchen. It was a natural fit and the 4 of us socialized often. When I moved to Plano, early 1990’s, he had moved back to DFW area as well. He squired me around town even as I was visibly pregnant with another man’s baby, distracting me from “my husband is divorcing me while 4 months pregnant with his child “ woes. Dirk was always there with a kind word, thoughtful advice, and a jovial kindness. I don’t think I ever saw him have a bad day.

One of my happiest memories of Dirk comes from our late 20’s : We were walking through the quad at Rice University late one night, in the moonlight, when no one else was around. All was dark and quiet. Ever so faintly, we heard a sound - music, and as we approached, saw a lone student playing “Danny Boy” on a wooden pan pipe. It was one of those strangely delightful, magical moments that happened only with Dirk.....

We continued to do fun things together throughout our lives, whenever our paths crossed.....and promised ourselves that one day, he’d take me sailing on the Bosphorus. Still in my top 10 bucket list items.....


'No Man is an Island'

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee

Too many people I have loved have passed away, and this is only the beginning, I know.....My grandmother once said to me that the worst thing about growing old was outliving all your friends. Amen to that.

Dirk : I wait to join you in the Elysian Fields, where we will raise a glass together once again. 

2/11/2021

GFT Winter lifestyle recommendations

 


Note: I receive no money for any of my recommendations or shameless plugs. Rather, think of this like an “Oprah’s Favorites” sort of list.....items I enjoy, mostly from small indie businesses, and I want to share my discoveries with you, while supporting small businesses through these hard times. 

Yes, it’s winter in Texas, and while most of our days are sunny and in the 50’s-60’s F, with cooler nights, we’re in the middle of an artic blast right now, straight from Canada, and the high’s are in the 20’s F, with lows and wind chill temps below 0. No one has the proper clothes for this.....fortunately, all we get in terms of precipitation is thin black ice on the highways, bc no one in Texas has snow shovels, boots, tire chains, snow blowers, or heavy coats. You see folk walking around in blankets, without even a hat.....

1) Portable hot tub - Approx $400-600 on amazon. /\  I really needed a muscle relaxing soak, but was unable / unwilling to spend 10k on a hot tub. (Just like my above ground pool, I am unwilling to commit....as everyone I know with an in ground pool wishes they hadn’t.) I have to say, this “portable” one is pretty sturdy and gets the job done. It easily sets up in a small space and could work on a patio balcony or even indoors. I fully expect to get my $500 worth. It’ll last me a decade or so.....at which point I’ll go into a nursing home and use theirs! 


2) Blue Fish Clothing - Prices vary, as they often have sales - get on their email list and they’ll send you discount codes. $100-$300 per item. My “go to” comfy loungewear, better than pajamas : artsy, warm, hip.  I have been wearing Blue Fish since I first discovered their Taos store back in the 1980s. Organic lagenlook cotton is the softest thing next to your skin, all winter long. BFC makes long sleeves, short sleeves, tees, dresses, sweaters, jackets, and pants - clothes for every season. I have many different pieces I mix and match all winter long, over leggings. Layer up or down as needed. 




3) Espresso / cappuccino machine - This year’s big treat, since I’m stuck at home, was an upgraded cappuccino machine. (I had a cheap one back in the ‘80s that didn’t last long.) I did some research and decided the Breville Barista Touch, approx $1000, was the best option for me - but there are plenty of others out there, at a wide variety of price points. If you don’t need an automatic touch drink button, save $300-400 right off the bat and get a model without the computer chip.

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/the-best-home-espresso-machine-article

Then I did some research on best espresso beans, and settled on Lavazzo Super Crema, which to me has the advantage of not tasting like cigarette butts, so that’s a win. I have already covered the cost of this set up in the number of cappuccinos, flat whites, espressos, and americanos I routinely make and drank at home. When the weather gets really cold, I am especially fond of artisanal hot chocolate with an espresso shot. 




4) Ugg slippers and boots - $100-$200 ish but you can find them on sale. Other brands make nice versions, too - especially LLBean. There is nothing in the world as pleasurable as coming home and slipping your feet into a pair of shearling lined shoes. I wear mine 24/7, till they fall apart, and then buy another. Aaaahhhh....total hygge.

Indoors.....

Outdoors......


5) Down comforter - Prices vary from several $100s to $1000s. Europeans have known about the bliss of snuggling under a down comforter for hundreds of years. We are coming up on the end of “the season”, so look for them on sale and stock up for next year. I see lots of new w tags “Canadian goose down” comforters on ebay......


6) Smart wool socks - $15-35 ish. Smart wool socks don’t itch, let your feet breathe while keeping them warm. They are magical. I look for them on sale and stock up.....My current faves come from an etsy store called “Foot Fetish”. Most brands you can wash and dry like any other sock. Also a fan of Maggies cotton socks. 


7) Bath and beauty products - Prices vary. I was once attacked, in a friendly way, by a beauty consultant at a Sephora, and told I needed a moisturizing facial cleanser. That whatever I was using wasn’t working. I told her about my psoriasis skin sensitivities and even though she was a rep for brand X, she began pulling brand Y off the shelves and told me that’s what I needed. She was right. I hadn’t yet transitioned from the mindset of young woman with oily skin to that of older woman with dry skin. In many ways, that moment changed my life, bc I got a total make-over, not of foundation and eyeshadow, but of cleansers and lotions. Here are some of the products that have worked for me : 

L’Occetane shea butter hand cream. The. Best. Ever. Their website says something like, “One is sold every second around the world” but the hype is true. Pricey but worth it. 
                                                           
L’Occetane Almond Shower Gel. One of the few that doesn’t make me itch. Goes on like oil but lathers up and rinses like shower gel. Divine scent.



Korres Greek Yogurt cleansing products. The brand that changed my life. 
                                                     
Korres Shower Gel. Sophisticated, natural, subtle fresh scents ..... in a lovely gentle formulation. I can’t stand the over-cloying American mass produced soap, shampoo, and gel smells. They make my eyes water like VOCs coming off Chinese drywall. 



Ahava Dead Sea Salts - For a good hot soak. I like their shower gels and lotions, too. 


                                                                               


                       Tree to Tub - Another great brand for dry winter skin. Available on amazon. 


Lord Jones Bath Salts and Gummies - My fave go to brand for CBD. There are many other brands, but this is the Lexus amongst Chevys. Also a big fan of Beboe. 


2/04/2021

What have you been pandemic cooking?

 


News stories are full of lifestyle pieces about how an extended pandemic quarantine, with food shortages in the early months of 2020 due to a disrupted supply chain, people sheltering in place at home with an inability to dine out have all combined to change the landscape of cooking. TG I remodeled my kitchen in 2018! While I always cooked for my family - and am getting pretty tired of it, as I’ve been doing it for 50 years now - my kids are grown and I can have pleasure taking it up a notch..... away from the “kid friendly” meals of yore. 


                                            Southwest veggie quiche - to be eaten with salsa


                                    Bratwurst, sauerkraut, red cabbage, German potato salad


Traditional southern Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce
                                      Greek style potatoes and gemistas (stuffed vegetables)


                                                  Shrimp pasta in vodka sauce and salad 


                                                        Potato soup and ham and Swiss 


                                                      Seafood stirfry, potstickers, salad

                                                  Grilled salmon, mac and cheese, asparagus

                                                              Breakfast sandwich

                                                                    Moussaka  

                                                                      Tacos 

                                                  Kebabs, rice pilaf, tomato  cucumber salad

                                   Fried chicken, elotes, potato salad, green beans, cornbread

                                                                          Pizza

                                                                     Thai beef salad

                                        Salmon croquette with bĂ©arnaise, mac n cheese, salad 
                                                              Grilled salmon, rice 

                                                                               

Chicken, pesto, tomato and cheese sandwich on toasted wheat-nut bread and a banana berry Greek yogurt smoothie with Manuka honey 

                                                          Maryland style crabcakes 


                                                       Hatch chile bean and beef burrito


                                                           Chicken marsala, spinach salad


                                                Ham, cheesy potatoes, broccoli, and salad


                               Lobster with truffle oil gnocchi, crabcakes, and Caesar salad


                                                                 Bulgogi meatballs 


                                                Wagyu beef steak, baked potato, asparagus


                                                   Made from scratch minestrone soup


                                                                        Fondu night


                                      Lentil soup, spanokopitas, and tomato cucumber salad


                                                  Chicken marsala with mushrooms



Covid Pandemic Remodeling Project

 

                                                                       “Before” photo

Trapped at home staring at the same four walls this past year has spurred a new wave of home remodeling, and the addition of creature comforts needed to survive the lockdown (including a pool, a hot tub, an espresso machine, new equipment in the exercise room, and more). For my birthday this year, I decided to turn a junky closet just off the kitchen (home to a 1960’s style “wet bar” that had never had running water, not in all the 25 years we’ve lived in this house) into a wine cellar. The space had become a catch-all for all sorts of junk.....none of which was useful. 

                                                                         “After” photos


The old closet was gutted- “a big thank you” to the previous house owners for laying down the original brick flooring under the custom built (but dated) cabinets, as we changed the footprint dimensions slightly. Old water pipes that never worked were capped off, ugly wallpaper was stripped, a wine refrigerator was procured, along with storage shelving. The butcher-block countertop was donated by a friend who refurbished her restaurant. An iron door with scroll design is being made.....slowly, very slowly.....by a local artisan. Voila! Now I plan to drive across the land, visiting wineries, attending tastings and learning more about it, stocking up by the case - just as soon as this damn pandemic is over.