Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Honestly! It feels like the closing line of winter’s drawn-out narrative is hundreds of pages away. Up here, more than a landscape, it’s a snowscape. Storybook scenes better left for snow globes have yet to melt into history and unearth the spring panorama that signals planting season. The moon’s struggle for space is over and the sun has risen to the occasion, but still, there’s little I can do but turn to reflection for warmth and comfort.
The fireplace and a cup of tea help keep these cold days cozy. I suppose I’ll cuddle up to my daydreams and ponder this year's garden theme…The Garden of Memories.

My heart pounds for its rich earth and the bounty it will bear. The bees, butterflies and lacewings call. I’ll be there soon, and one by one, I’ll sow the seeds of recollection. I'll dwell on the past in my metaphor for memories and recall while I till the days of insolence and innocence. I’ll remember yesteryear, and long before I taste what I reap, I'll harvest thoughts of times long ago. A flood of memories will water it as a reunion of friends takes me back to my roots.
The little details have faded, but the gists play back in surreal time... Starfires and great escapes. Sports nights, Steam Heat and Wooden Soldiers On Parade. A clock out the window and corsage-decked blazers. White lies, white suits and red wine stains. Good dirt and great gossip. Who knew that moments like these and so many more would mean everything to me?
Like the countless memories of way back when, I welcome them back into my life… my friends from then, my best friends forever. The line between the seasons might be blurred, but one thing remains clear. They were always dear, but again, they're near, and I mark the occasion with a recipe.


Bernadette’s Olive Sandwich
From a traditional standpoint, the olive branch symbolizes a warm welcome, but with none readily available, I’m bringing to the table something equally welcoming. Bernadette’s Olive Sandwich. For sure this delicacy has a bit of teen dare and defiance to it that will confuse your taste buds. Is it good or not? A favorite midnight snack when sleepovers kept us up all night, the sandwich has an unexpected yuminess that leaves you wanting just one more (and I don’t even like olives). Open wide for this one. Come with me to my treasured days.

A coupla besties
A dash of dare
A dollop of defiance
2 slices of white bread
Halved Spanish olives stuffed with minced pimientos
Salt (maybe not) & Pepper

I can’t help but think back to the time we thought we were so cool. A license to drive meant a license to do whatever we wanted (pray tell!! this is not cool anymore!). On one particular day, it translated to sneaking off into a forbidden place… The City. We had our sin planned to perfection. Our parents would never find out. We'd drive to the train station. Park the car where it would never be spotted. Board the westbound iron horse. And that’s it! Devil-may-care as we were, our deception came to a screeching halt when a certain parent standing on the opposite platform called out, “Girls! If you want to go to the City, you’d better come to this side.” So we did what every rulebreaking, troublemaking teen would do. We hauled ass from the wrong side of the tracks to the right side and rode in with Bernadette’s dad. To this day, I laugh till I cry at that silly memory and I take two pieces of bread. I channel the dare and stir in the defiance. I spread the mayonnaise and line up the olives. I sprinkle the pepper (and salt, if you’re so inclined), and chase every bite with a memory. It tastes best at the stroke of midnight, but anytime will do. 
For now, the flames in the fireplace have dwindled and the cup of tea has a left a stain on the end table. In my parting thoughts, I contemplate May’s full moon... my cue to plant The Garden of Memories. Honestly! God only knows where the time went, but I know that I never again want to see it fly. And on that note, I think I’ll have an olive sandwich.

In memory and honor of the parents who loved and love us no matter what.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


It was only yesterday that I saw her gamboling in the woods in an almost wingless flight, mane bouncing in rhythm with the wind and her flagged tail assuring me that her spirits were high. A sparkle encircled her as she navigated the massive trees and their fallen limbs without so much as a horsehair skimming the bark. I could feel her, but I couldn't touch her. I could sense the motion, but I couldn't ride her. In reality, it must have been in the dark hours of the breaking dawn when her beauty, once again, left me awestruck, but in my dream it was a sunlit day. Meadow, always by my side, was also there. I could feel her, but I couldn't touch her.

In memory. Sabrina, Christmas Eve, 2011. Meadow, February 3, 2012.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


No sooner than a winter ambush in mid-autumn is forecast that my thoughts meander to my mom's chicken soup. A bowl-full is what I crave for most when the promise of polar conditions brings memories of a mother's warmth to the forefront.

I liken stirring up a batch to time traveling as the blend of scents and reminiscence takes me back to her Cuban kitchen. Visions play out vividly with my mom at the stove and six children -- smaller ones in the family room, teens scattered about -- inside, outside, on the phone, at the piano, on the drums -- whatever! I get tired just recalling what she must have gone through raising six unique personalities.

Warning: my reproduction of her chicken soup falls a couple of ladles short of authentic, thus, any pretenses of me cooking up a perfect pot are left outside my own kitchen entrance. Life doles out its regrets in the later years... I had never asked her for her recipe. Nonetheless, I learned from observing enough to make a mixture that doesn't hold a candle to hers, but guaranteed... comes deliciously close.
I remember secretly laughing when she expressed disdain for cooking and the kitchen, because to me, no one could turn out a "sopa de pollo" or any meal, for that matter, like my mom. It's a soup that, to this day, I reach for when a heart needs warmth and a soul needs comfort. No measuring cups here -- or even tablespoons or pinches. I was never good at math, so forget amounts of any kind. I just wing it, knowing that all's well that blends well. So here you have it! The Mercedes of all chicken soups...



6 cucufates (translation: my cousin, Lucia's, term of endearment for a brat pack of 6)
Autumn on ice
Reflections of a Cuban kitchen
Pot(s) full of water
Chicken pieces (boneless, skinless to make it healthier/everything on to make it tastier)
Potatoes, golden or red
Sweet Potatoes (I love sweet potatoes; my dad used to call me Sweet Potato)
Quimbobo (okra, prohibitively priced out of season, best when plucked from your own plants)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Any other spice you want

Scrub the potatoes clean and half or quarter. Leave the skin on. Wash the okra and peel the plantains then half or quarter. Husk the corn and half. Rinse the chicken pieces clean. Toss all the ingredients into the pot(s) of water. Add the olive oil, sea salt and spices. Bring to a roaring boil and let it roar till the chicken is cooked, potatoes are soft, and the quimbobo (okra) has frayed. Once cooked, remove the chicken and let the pieces cool. With (washed) hands, remove the chicken from the bones, throw away the skin and toss the pieces back into the soup. Let the mixture sit. Serve hot enough to sip, but not enough to burn.

The Magic:
Temperamental as I was as a child under two digits old, the slightest disagreement would send me packing. The cliché kerchief tied to the end of a stick and filled with stones to mimic my belongings, a favorite doll, and a secret hiding place within my mom's eye-view and earshot, was all I needed in my life as an escapee. To me, it was more than a revolt; it was a statement... a declaration of independence touted prophetically by mom as "She was born with a suitcase in her hand." In the later years as an adult, just as in my childhood years, two things always lured me home: a serving of white rice topped with a fried egg and her amazing chicken soup poured into a blender (minus the corn) and puréed to a smooth, creamy potage:

UPDATE: Since this posting on Saturday, I traveled down memory lane with my family who took me back even deeper into our Cuban kitchen and our mom making the soup. The vivid details of their memories are now included in the "Thought(s)" below. It all came back to me and, I swear, I was there if only for a precious moment.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Summer's heavy rains washed out the colors of Autumn, but nonetheless, there is no shortage of beauty.
Family dogs are honored with headstones.
My true love. We've been together now for what seems like a lifetime. Good ol' Joe. Always there for me when I need him most. Never fails to jump-start my days and make life's difficulties just a little easier to swallow. Call me shallow, but I love that he's rich. While my husband sleeps... a walk in the morning... wind chills and wonder... tranquility... inspiration and contemplation... reality on hold... just me, my best friends, sweater weather and Joe. He may not be everyone's cuppa tea, but he's my cuppa Joe. I confess. My endless love is for my morning Joe. Smooth as can be. Light. Sweet. Warming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The garden's sudden surprise of strawberry blossoms raised spirits and placed hope for just a taste at an all-time high. In reality, the first frost is just around the corner, so while the hope lingers, the fact is that these tiny gems of the garden will come back in the Spring. Still, I'm on red alert! Bejeweled with morning dew, their runners have transformed three little plants into a prolific patch that is racing to the finish to grow its berries. No encouragement needed; they'll just keep running like crazy.



Wildflower Honey
Strawberries (preferably Farmers Market or Homegrown)
Couple of Cups of Hope
Salt Dishes

Confession: I broke my own Cardinal Rule and bought supermarket strawberries just to satisfy my craving. The garden or farm-grown variety is far superior, so my taste buds will simply have to wait till Spring. Nonetheless, I'm sure you'll take a shine to these rubescent little garden jewels made even more lustrous with a coating of bee-manufactured wildflower honey. Thus, if you're lucky enough to live in a place that has Fragaria, rinse your berries, pat dry and set aside. Pour the honey into each salt dish and set the strawberry atop. Place one at each table setting as a pre-dinner palate cleanser or serve as a treat anytime.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


If you ever wonder from where cartoonists draw inspiration, spend some time around animals. As such, weekends on a farm can be a bit Looney as Meadow continues her endless hunt for the elusive groundhog. On the rare occasion that she does make a catch, she is asked to drop her quarry, a command she reluctantly obeys. Truth is, she discovered a tunnel entrance (outside the pasture) which was later covered -- but post the thrill of the hunt. Truth also is, another hole will pop up elsewhere. Because the holes are so dangerous, we don't discourage hunting, but we don't encourage it either.

That's all folks!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


A silent prayer for the souls and survivors of 091101.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


After feeling "near as faded as my jeans", I entered the garden to start the clean-up only to discover a sign of Spring... strawberry fields forever! As an "Everbearing" variety, these will rest all winter only to rise and shine in the Spring. Yum! Maybe I'll get to taste one or two.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Like clockwork, Saturday's ritual begins at the Farmers Market in town... tiny in size, but grand in spirit. Early to rise, the farmers set up their stands, unload and arrange their precious produce on their market tables. Everybody knows everybody, and you can always count on a song to inspire a smile. A complete tour would take all of 10 minutes, but hours are spent conferring with the growers, conversing with the kings. Over the past few seasons, they've all become my friends, my teachers... "The first frost is coming next week. Pick all your tomatoes even if they're green." "Plant deep. It strengthens the roots so that the energy rises to the fruit." They've become, in a way, providers of food and meals as with a small investment in plants, I can satisfy my need to feed from harvest time to first frost and beyond.

September 3rd, a week after the storm, the spirit was grand as ever. In the wake of Irene... amidst loss and devastation,
in communities left powerless and power-less, the mood was dampened but fraught with hope.

This is the face of Irene... her eye weakened to a tropical storm yet fixated on upstate New York and points north... her rage turning trickles into rivers... her ambush leaving a path of destruction.

Hurricane Irene. 08.28.11. Picture is borrowed from Carol Laskos and friends.
This is the face of loss, the face of a praiseworthy hero... a farmer whose market table, rich with nature's colorful gifts, was emptied by the storm... a human being whose market season (this year and possibly next) has come to an early end because of the river's rage. This is one face representing many whose account of the storm riveted... who used his pick-up to rescue, to deliver food, water, batteries... his own generator to those in need... whose new neighbor received her keys on Friday, moved in on Saturday, lost everything on Sunday... a neighbor whom he helped hang family pictures on fallen tree limbs in an attempt to salvage the treasures. Crops... acres and acres taken out by rapids. Top soil was washed away. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments taken by storm. Corn fields that reached for the skies were leveled. Suffocating dust from the dried mud and stench of fuel from boilers in the deluge filled the air.
Dialogue with the growers on this day... "Their won't be anymore corn after today. Onions and garlic, too. No zucchini or squash." "Heirlooms? Not sure. Maybe next week."

This is the mid-summer lushness of my little patch. All of 50'x6' gives me a window to their lives and livelihoods... the blood, sweat, tears and labor that go into growing the healthful foods that end up on our tables. It is through this window that I feel their glories and I feel their pains.

Further north news from a close friend cut off by Irene brought relief that she was safe. Her revelations of the ruins in the Catskills were startling. "Entire towns have disappeared -- gone. There's no way in, no way out," she recounted. "A voice on the radio has been our best friend... 'Carli and her children are on their roof waiting to be rescued. John has extra batteries if anybody needs them. Courtney has found a dog and can be reached at 555-1212.'" Her own voice coming from the depths of a truth that only comes from witnessing the worst, "Black Hawks have been flying overhead in search. The Sheriff's boat couldn't get to the people."
Dreams were obliterated on August 28th. An inconsolable Leland Neff watched his stallion struggle across the rapids to get to his mares -- all 22 horses remain on the missing list. He's walked 40 miles a day in search of his "NY22". I link his story to mine. I keep a lookout for his horses. I pray for him and feel his loss. It's the only way I know to help.

This week's deluge from Lee has made matters worse. In the aftermath, the promise of hope is more powerful than any raging river. "We'll be OK," they say, "We'll recover. A smile and sense of humor will see you through anything." Tomorrow can't come fast enough. The Saturday ritual will continue. Blue skies will prevail.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


"Be bold. Be graphic. Be free. Set the table and set the mood."
- Diane von Furstenberg
There's an added beauty to her signature style... whether it's the wrap dress, a duvet cover or dinner plate, anything DVF creates comes with the vibe, "I am woman!".  

Who knew that a salad and a fashion plate could turn a meal into a seduction!

And it all starts so innocently...

Engage your senses... pluck the fleshiest, juiciest tomatoes in your heirloom garden. Lush and luscious, let its wonders inspire you. Inhale. Exhale. Enjoy the scents and sensuality. Clip some peppers and pick a flower or two. Feel the rush of touch. Snip the basil and lotus-like leaves. Place your gatherings in a pretty basket and feast your eyes. Rinse your harvest clean, slice, and let the juices flow.



The Fashion Plate 
DVF Floral Batik Decal Charger (www.dvf.com or www.bloomingdales.com)

Cherokee Purple Tomato
Black Prince Tomato
Lime Green Salad Tomato
Brandywine Red Tomato
Hot Jalapeño & Serrano Peppers
Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper
Fresh Basil Leaves
Nasturtium Leaves & Flowers (Red & Yellow)

Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt

Forget making a salad... design a decadence. Place accessories on fashion plate. Drizzle and sprinkle bling for a salad that is dressed to impress. Light a candle and serve the seduction.
Very haute... and very hot, on so many levels.