Posts Tagged ‘Alyssa’

Well, yesterday was a glorious day.  Yim and I had Prantl’s burnt almond torte for breakfast with coffee.  It was left over from Yim‘s birthday celebration on Tuesday.  After breakfast we ran a couple of errands together.  We went to Home Depot for anchors and to Market District for lunch meat, rolls, Gerolsteiner and . . . Kennywood tickets!  (Yimmy loves it when I refer to Giant Eagle as Market District!  But, hey, my friend Alyssa calls it Hot Man Mecca!)

While I made a picnic lunch for us, Yimmy re-mounted my mailbox on the front of the house.  I’d given the mailbox a shiny new coat of black paint.  Incidentally, the mail has already come today, and the mailman opened the screen door and dropped the mail inside again, without any notice whatsoever of my newly painted and mounted box.

Once the chores were done and the picnic lunch was packed, Yim and I headed out to Kennywood.  The weather was phenomenal; clear, bright blue sky, dry warmth under the sun with wispy high clouds up above and a cool air circulating just enough so that one never felt uncomfortably hot.  The occasion was Yim‘s boy’s school Kennywood day and all three of his boys went there with their mother.  We shared the responsibility with her, trading off between the older and the younger so that everyone had the opportunity to ride.

Throughout the day Yim and I were prone to our own memories of childhood days spent running the park, from ride to ride, with our friends.  We didn’t leave until the park closed at 10pm and when we got home I collapsed on my bed, feeling the same satisfied exhaustion as I did at the end of a day back when I was 9 years old and had spent the hours running, laughing, riding and eating funnel cakes with Elisabeth.  I fell to sleep fast, with physical heaviness but mental levity, dreaming of all good things.

And so it was a great day, but there is more!

Yesterday marked the last day in the house of the Earth sign Taurus, which, other than my own Capricornian sign, I love the most.  It seems that so many of my favorite people have been born under the sign of the Bull:  Zia, Lord Mycol, Yim, and my brother, Rock.  If you follow the philosophy of the stars, it’s no wonder why.  Consider the following:

The Taurus and Capricorn combination is considered to be one of the best astrological combinations. When they unite there is a union of similar and positive creative forces and a subtle but powerful physical attraction. They understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths perfectly and act accordingly. Since both require a certain amount of acknowledgment of their positive qualities they do the same for each other. They fulfill each other emotionally, physically, intellectually and financially. Saturn and Venus the ruling planet of Capricorn and Taurus respectively complement each other. Taurus loves money and Capricorn wants security and sees financial stability as a way of security. Both are practical, sensual and calculative. They believe in hard work and success. So nothing can be better than this!!

Also, yesterday was, indeed, Rock’s birthday.

Before I get into wishing Rock a belated birthday I’d like to point out that I seem to have developed a habit of birthday posting, which puts a new kind of pressure on a person.  I no longer merely have to remember to check the calendar and get a card off in the mail, but now I must come up with some sort of brilliant tribute to the ones I love, lest any of them feel jilted.  This all started with a ridiculously fun post I wrote, a roast post, if you will, for the birthday of Elisabeth’s husband Dag.  It was one of the easiest and most fun things I’ve written to date.  On that day my blog stats reached their highest rating.  This created a two-fold reason to continue writing birthday blogs: 1) so as not to offend the others, hahaha, and 2) to strive towards beating my personal best where my stats are concerned (I’m talking about daily readership, folks).  This week I won some and lost some.  Let me put it to you this way; I beat my personal best on Tuesday, May 18th with “Feelin’ Good”.  That’s right, Dag, my post for Yim surpassed my post for you!  If I were a statistician I’d tell you by what percent.  On the other hand, I failed to put up a post for one of my most cherished Taureans, my brother Rock.  And so, short and late as it may be, without further adieu . . .

I’d like to tell you all the truth about how I feel about my brother.  I used to wish he was a sister!  I remember telling my mother that I wanted a playmate.  In my recollection of the past, like she’d waved a magic wand to grant my wish, the next thing I knew was that she’d gotten herself pregnant with a playmate exclusively for my sake.  Imagine my utter horror when, after months of giddy anticipation, she came home from the hospital with a boy-child!  What had gone wrong?  It went down like this:

One day my mother was so swollen with pregnancy that she could not find the energy to play with me.  I had no one else to play with at all.  I played imaginary games all by myself with my wooden farm set on the coffee table while she lie big on the sofa with heavy eyelids.  Then, in the dark of night in the middle of a spring rain, we had to leave the house.  There was a mild urgency – do you understand that? From the back seat on the way to my grandparents’ house I peered at blurry street lights through the rain drops on the windshield, glowing white, red, yellow, green, intermittently through the slash of the wipers.

It was likely 4 days later when Mummy returned from the hospital.  It was a sunny spring afternoon.  My grandparents lived in a 3 story large Victorian house and my mother came in through the back door to the sun-lit kitchen carrying the swaddled babe.  The excitement and joy expressed by those around me could not befog the circumstance.  There’d been a dirty trick played and this was not my requested playmate.  As I ran up the dramatic staircase in the entry hall, I stopped two-thirds of the way up, stuck my little head over the banister and screamed past the chandelier, “Why didn’t you tell the doctor we wanted a girl?!”

Oh, the follies of youth.  I’d like to tell you now that I would have it no other way than to have my playmate be my brother Rock.  Despite a fight here and there we got along marvelously.  I love him so much.

In the winter time when we were confined to playing indoors a lot, we used to take his crib mattress and prop it against the bedroom wall.  We mimicked Muhammed Ali and Leon Spinks, sparring with the mattress, fancy-footing around the room and sticking our faces in the mist from the humidifier for the dramatic effect of profuse sweating.

We have been playing together since he could walk and talk and the fun has never come to an end.  There is only one person in the world who really understands what my childhood experience was all about and that is him.  And vice versa.

Still, I did dress him up as a girl and call him Rebecca for about 4 years, until Mummy made me stop.  There is photographic evidence to support this claim.  I suppose you’re wondering which years, as from 12 to 16 would be rather strange, huh?  Don’t worry, he was hardly big enough to defend himself.

I called my brother yesterday and wished him a Happy Birthday and he told me it was his second best to date, the first best being the day he was actually born.  I am so glad his wishes came true.  He met one of his idols, Dave Matthews, who, ironically, shares his birthday with mine.  You see how Taureans and Capricorns love each other?  Rock and his wife, Luvy, were granted a backstage audience (with photos) with Dave, Tim Reynolds and Jane Goodall before enjoying the show up close.  An ecstatic experience for my brother and I am happy for him.

Happy Birthday, Rock!  I love you, brother!

Read Full Post »

You Look Radishing

Blum’s Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac suggested that April 6th would be one of April’s best days for planting root crops.  I have gleaned a lot of advice from this Almanac, but I find it sometime conflicts with advice offered to me from Zia & UB, real-life seasoned and trusted gardeners.  In particular, Zia says she just can’t stand someone who does everything by the book.  For instance, I have been chomping at the bit to get my peppers started indoors; the Almanac recommended I get them started in March, as they take 6 to 8 weeks to be strong enough to transplant outdoors.  However, when it comes to peppers, a seriously hot-weather crop, Zia says she prefers to simply buy the plant, while my gardening friend Alyssa insists that March is just way too early to start indoor seeds, as the climate here is slow to warm to a pepper’s preferred temperature.  As for the peppers, I finally started the indoor seeds yesterday.  Along with a succession crop of lettuces, plus indoor starter pots of chives, rosemary, basil and broccoli seeds.

Getting back to April 6th and root crops, I did follow the Almanac’s guideline on this one, albeit serendipitously.  As I mentioned before, Yim and I garden on Tuesdays.  Last Tuesday was April 6th and I was glad to see the date marked as one of the best for sowing root crops.  I roused myself out of bed early in the morning, brewed a pot of coffee and hit the long road to Yim‘s.  You see, I govern the town Estate, while Yim governs the country estate.  Our plan coincided with the Almanac’s; we would sow our first seeds that day.  But before we sowed, we had to fertilize.  Our soil needed just a little boost.  We incorporated 8 bags of black, rich soil into our garden plot. 

We folded this in, over and over again, until it was evenly mixed.  When we broke for brunch – dippy eggs and toast with orange juice – I went through our bag of seeds and researched which ones should go in first.  Then, I mapped out in my mind where each crop should be planted, according to the varying conditions within our small plot.

All along the fence line I planted our peas.  We have 2 types of peas; sugar snaps and sweet peas.

In front of the peas, I planted garlic, shallots, and onions.  My grandparents always grew garlic and now Zia grows it.  There is enough garlic at harvest time to last the entire family a year.  I love making garlic braids to hang in the kitchen.  Whenever you need a clove, you just break it off.  I use more garlic and onions in my cooking than anything else, as they go into nearly every dish I make.  I would like to have a garden this size solely meant for those two crops.  I estimate I use at least 120 pounds of onions a year.  I would like to grow my own and store the bulbs in a cold cellar.

Another note on the garlic.  As a cold-weather crop, garlic can either be planted in the early spring for a fall harvest, or in the fall for a late spring harvest.  My family has traditionally planted in the fall.  Zia and Tata both agreed that garlic planted in early spring yields a smaller, less desirable harvest.  Our summers must just be too  hot for the cloves to mature nicely underground.  Nevertheless, I wanted to try to grow some for the first time and there is no doubt that I don’t have the patience to wait until fall to put my first garlic in the ground.  Not to worry, though.  When Zia gets her harvest this June I will be there to clean and braid, thereby earning another year’s worth of garlic for myself.  And nearly just in time.

We also planted Swiss chard, both red and white.  I cannot wait to have Swiss chard all summer long.  This is a hardy crop that withstands overcrowding as well as poor soil conditions.  I planted it in the rockiest part of the garden.  Also, Swiss chard can be planted once and provide an abundance for the table the rest of the season.  I will mostly eat this favorite vegetable sauteed with olive oil and garlic and salt.

To the left of the chard we planted a row of cabbage, a square plot of beets, and two rows of radishes.  We marked off the crops with sticks, put stones where we can walk, and drew a map of what is where in case we forget and end up eating cabbage when we think we are eating peas.

In front of the chard we put in four types of lettuce: romaine, butterhead, looseleaf, and bibb.  To the left of our lettuces, we planted radishes.  We are going to have the best salads this year.  If you read yesterday’s post you’ll know that this Tuesday I was unable to make it out to the garden.  Ever since we put the seeds in last week I’ve been jokingly asking Yim whether or not anything had grown yet.  “Did you see any cabbages yet?”  “Did we grow any peas today?”  Of course I didn’t expect to see anything for another week yet, so when Yimmy called me to share the good news I was shocked and thrilled at the same time.  Like parents of a newborn, we are kind of gushing over our baby.  Yim took a picture of our first lettuce sprout:


Just a wee thing, it is.  But we can really boast over our radishes:


They look radishing!

God Almighty first planned a garden; and indeed it is the purest of human pleasures.Francis Bacon

Read Full Post »

Last night, after a long and glorious day in the garden, Alyssa hosted another fantastic “Italian Ladies Social Club” dinner party. 

Alyssa is always the hostess with the mostess.  She is fail-proof in choosing simple, yet simply delicious, dishes to feed the masses.  Keeping to our theme of cultural heritage, she served eggplant parmigiana – a simple meal – which she personalized with her homemade sauce.  This is part of what makes her a great hostess.  The main dish was accompanied by salad tossed with olive oil and vinegar and a Tuscan loaf of bread.  Before gathering “a la tavola” (like Mary Ann Esposito always says), Alyssa served special Italian cocktails made with prosecco and amaretto with an orange zest and sugar rim.  She knows I like amaretto!  This is another part of what makes her a great host.  The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis . . . appropriate, no?

The “Italian Ladies Social Club” was conceived of about 2 1/2 years ago.  Many of us see each other often, so it’s not always necessary to make special arrangements to socialize.  But it is always fun.  The original “Ladies” are card carrying members.

However, new Italian Ladies are welcome.  Alyssa invited her cousin Natalie to join us.  We had lots to talk about as Natalie is a writer with the online magazine  twodaymag.com.  Also, she’s a vegan and healthy food nut, so I told her about Yimmy and everything that he and I are always saying about food.

Some of the Italian Ladies were missing at this gathering, so there were seats to be filled.  Alyssa broke from tradition and invited some fellas to join us.  Not to worry, we had a grand old time, traditional or not.  I wish I’d taken more pictures, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Read Full Post »

Knit Picker

Growing up, I’d seen my grandmother knit or crochet a few Afghan blankets and footies, but I didn’t learn to crochet myself until I went to boarding school and I housed with girls who would sit around making blankets when they weren’t doing chores or homework.  They taught me how to crochet a granny square, and I soon made my first baby blanket.  Next, I made a throw for my mother, and then I quit making anything with yarn for, oh, 20 years.

Four years ago I found out my brother and his wife were expecting their first baby and the first thing I thought to do was to make a baby blanket for this child.  I like the idea of crafting something from your own hands and heart to give to those you love most.  I visited a local yarn shop, Knit One, that carries really unique (and expensive) yarns and carefully selected my material.

The yarns in the shop were so varied and beautiful, I was inspired to learn how to knit just so I could work with them.  A friend and I signed up to take a 2 hour knitting class offered at the store.  I purchased this wonderfully soft Malabrigo kettle-dyed Uruguayan yarn and knitted my very first piece.

Isn’t it amazing what you can turn a simple string into?

This is my friend Alyssa, who took the class with me:

Alyssa and I started a virtual trend, and soon others were crocheting and knitting, too.  We got requests, we searched new patterns, we collected books on yarn crafts.  We also agreed that the knitting class we took was not worth the cost and I have since learned all of my advanced stitches either online or from a book.

Alison saw this interesting pattern in an Etsy shop and asked if I could replicate it for her.

Baby blankets are always in demand:

And I saw a girl wearing a hat I really liked, so I went online and searched for a pattern.  Now I get compliments on this hat almost every time I wear it and I love to say, “I made it myself!”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: