Ups and Downs, Time Lost and Found

Monday Morning Musings:

“That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

–Walt Whitman, “Oh Me! Oh Life!”

“There is regret, almost remorse,

For Time long past.”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Time Long Past”

 

 

Months ago, in summer weather,

when temperatures were up,

I walked down,

and saw a watch

left on the stairway

of the parking garage,

black band

(digital, no hands)

encircling the red railing, like a wrist.

Was it an object lost, then found?

Or a statement perhaps—we are time bound?

A metaphor, let me expound–

the passing of time

or of us passing while time stands still—

make of this what you will,

but I think of it still.

 

This has been a strange week

of ups and downs

in life and weather,

one day snow and one day spring

not knowing what the next will bring

the stock market rises and falls

the calls hidden behind the White House walls

(well, what isn’t Twittered

from a president who needs a babysitter!)

life seems so unstable

inconstant,

things I once took for granted,

now it’s arguments and views slanted.

 

On a cold morning,

I take the train into Philadelphia

the day after The Big Game

and though to me, sports are all the same

still, it’s good to see people happy

sharing, caring,

instead of being mean and snappy.

Walking in the cold

looking at the new and old

I’m anxious about a meeting,

but I feel joy in my heart,

as I suddenly notice, then stop—

to take photos of public art.

 

 

During this week of ups and downs

we look for papers to document my mother

(to prove she is not some other)

her existence in black and white upon a page

to prove—at this stage—

she is who she is.

She needs them for government services,

and we are filled with anxiety, nervousness

that we will not be able to prove she is who she is—

till we find them in a box

events dated, time stopped

on this day born

on this date married

documents of a life lived and varied,

while time is carried

through ninety-five years

of laughter and tears–

the ups and downs of joy and fears.

 

We go to a movie about verbal abuse and life,

men insulted, but they’ve lived in strife

and though one claims he does what he does

not for himself, but for his child and wife,

it is all about him

(as it always is,

women learn to live with this

the catcalls, the taunts, even physical abuse

now suddenly, in the news).

We learn that both men are more than who they seem

at first

(as are we all)

both have nursed

fears and sorrows,

have wanted better tomorrows,

and though the film takes place in Lebanon

there are universal feelings and issues that we understand

and may or may not agree upon–

house repairs, urban renewal, and immigrants—

the costs of war—

there is more,

as up and down,

the movie becomes a courtroom drama—

with family issues—and if not karma,

then resolution, of a sort.

 

From there we go to taste wine

paired with chocolate

anticipating Valentine’s

we sip, and smile, and feel fine

(understand, it’s not just the wine).

All who pour

smile, as if it’s not a chore,

a woman says her mother knows my husband

her brother is at the other table,

We leave them tips

because we’re able

and life goes up and down, unstable.

Then we buy chocolate and wine to have later,

perhaps we’ll debate, which is greater—

but only after taken, do I see the watch in the photo—

time’s message of  then or when,

And I wonder again. . .

 

In the night, I dream

of finding blue glass and paintings,

in a post-apocalyptic world,

beauty and art–

the message there,

time passes on

through ups and downs–

I take them to share–

contributing my verse.

 

We saw the movie, The Insult, which is nominated for best foreign film.

We went to William Heritage Winery.

I’m having an issue with WP. It won’t save unless I use the old format editing, so everything seems a bit off. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February Hearts and Lions

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together,

You stopped and pointed and you said, ‘That’s a crocus,’

And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”

I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”

You said, “I still love you.”

–Dar Williams, “February”

 

“This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?”

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

February grayness brightens with a flower

teasing us before the snow.

The snow moon haunts and taunts

the wind blows,

wild wolves howling in the night,

winter darkness,

and yet dawn comes,

and so will spring.

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First Crocus, National Park, NJ

 

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Watching the February snow. National Park, NJ

 

My daughters and I,

in separate locations,

celebrate our snow day

(though the inch or two in New Jersey

does not compare to Boston’s blizzard)

we share our thoughts,

in text messages

(technology that did not exist when I young)

throughout the day,

as if we were wondering in and out of rooms—

separated by space,

but instantly connected in time,

what we are cooking and baking–

meatballs, lentil soup, artisan bread, sweet potato nachos–

deciding banana bread with added chocolate chips

makes it both bread and cake,

suitable for breakfast or dessert,

one daughter says she just watched, Finding Dory,

and cried,

but then we cry over everything,

TV shows, books, commercials,

other daughter says, “I cried when I burnt toast the other day,

but the point is that you should watch the movie.”

My husband chimes in with a message that he is saving this conversation,

“It is SO my family.”

 

A few days later my husband and I see the movie, Lion,

and my tears flow,

I think it is good I’m not watching it with my daughters,

all three of us sobbing in the theater,

though I notice my husband discreetly wiping his eyes.

I think again about technology,

the nineteenth-century invention, the train,

that separates the five-year-old boy from his family,

that little boy with the heart and spirit of a lion,

a twentieth-century plane separates them ever father

across bodies of water to Tasmania

how a twenty-first-century invention, Google Earth,

brings them back together

It turns out that we see the movie in February,

and it was in February that Saroo Briefley reunited with his family.

 

On a February night I gave birth to one daughter,

and on a February night three years later, I gave birth to her sister,

and so, we celebrate birthdays

with wine and chocolate

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around the holiday of love

hearts and love

chocolate and wine

 

I think of the brilliant February moon,

its light shining through the kitchen window

making me stop and stare,

and gaze at the sky–

technology leads us out to the stars,

to our moon’s craters

and to Saturn’s rings,

Valentine’s love from Cassini

 

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“Splendid Saturn,”NASA Image, PIA06594/ NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

 

I wake during the night to hear

February’s winds,

wild horse gods,

stallions that gallop in

and seed the ground,

for spring

will come again–

until then, there is chocolate, wine,

and memories.

 

A number of New  Jersey wineries have special wine and chocolate events close the weekend before Valentine’s Day. This year we went to one at Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Trailer for Lion.

Following and Leading with Family and Fish

Monday Morning Musings:

“Where you lead, I will follow

Anywhere that you tell me to

If you need, you need me to be with you

I will follow where you lead.”

–Carole King, “Where You Lead “(Gilmore Girls Theme Song)

 

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

–The final message of dolphins to humans, as they leave Earth before it’s destroyed. Also, the title of the fourth book of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.

 

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”

–Maya Angelou (Tweet, on 23 May 2013)

 

After a long, long week,

a very long week

when we are in shock over the leader

many of our fellow citizens want to follow,

my younger daughter suggests we watch The Gilmore Girls*

while we eat Chinese food and chocolate,

so we sit, comfy in PJs and sweatshirts

while my husband goes for the Chinese food

(General Tso’s chicken for him,

the mock version for us)–

followed by chocolate.

Of course.

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No one can eat like the Gilmore Girls,

but we try to get in the spirit,

choosing an episode from Season Two,

we hear this:

Paris: “That’s crazy. People would rather vote for a moronic twink who they liked over someone who could actually do the job?”

“We can’t get away from it,” sighs my daughter.

“Oy with the poodles already,” I reply.

 

The next day we go to my sister’s house.

meant to be a combination birthday-victory celebration

with a fish tray and bagels.

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It is instead, a much needed gathering of family,

the love of family to sustain us.

 

Son-in-law has never eaten lox–or any of the fish on the platter,

he is forced to try them all.

(“It’s my heritage,” his wife says, though she is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish.)

He thinks the whitefish is too oily,

the lox too salty,

but the kippered salmon is tolerable—with lots of onion.

Daughter says, “He would have gotten along well with Grandpop.”

We remember my dad’s love of onions–

onion sandwiches

onion and sardine sandwiches

onion and sardine sandwiches on onion rolls

( with extra onions).

Did I mention he liked onions?

My father liked food,

and gatherings,

and gathering over food.

We sustain ourselves with family and family memories.

 

My mother wants coffee,

demands coffee

I want it now she says

with my meal.

She would fit right in with the Gilmore Girls.

 

You don’t argue with a 94-year old woman who wants coffee.

My sister gets her some coffee.

Remembering how we are sustained by family, love, and annoyance.

 

We discuss the current political situation,

daughter worried about how her students will react.

(She has not seen them since the election.)

I say I think she is a good leader,

and hope they will follow her lead.

Her husband, a veteran, deployed three times,

and not happy with the elected leader,

talks to my sister about getting involved in politics.

Sustained, and upheld by family.

 

My mom says she’s lived through many scary times.

I say I remember being terrified during the Cold War–

duck and cover drills and the Cuban Missile Crisis–

“But there were more sane people in control then,” my niece says.

Sigh.

Oy with the poodles already.

Sustained by love of family.

 

My sister and niece say, if we’re going to discuss this

we need to drink–and chocolate.

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drink, drink, drink

 

In truth, we really do not drink,

and then my niece accidentally knocks coffee onto my mom’s lap.

We’re clumsy, but lovable.

And sustained by the love of family.

 

Time for dessert!

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The cake is placed strategically in front of my daughter, so she can pick at it,

and “clean up” the icing.

(Love of family and food sustains us.)

 

My niece, who lives in a divided household

(in a red part of the state)

says she has needed this gathering,

though we’re not celebrating the election,

we are celebrating family.

We’re sustained by family—

and food.

 

We move to other subjects—

Thanksgiving (and food).

I have safely delivered the squirrel mold

(encased in bubble wrap)

to my niece,

the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce tradition

can continue.

We talk of social media

and kids,

and gender identity

and sex education,

a teenage boy taking lotion,

“I don’t understand—why does he want lotion?”

asks my mom.

(She’s so innocent.)

We hear cheers from the next room,

my sister-in-law and husband are watching football.

It is time to go.

We leave, sustained by family,

full from all the food we’ve eaten,

carrying packages of fish and bagels,

bits of love,

like life, delicious and a bit smelly,

So long, and thanks for all the fish,

and all the memories, too.

And though wishing my other daughter was also with us,

I am sustained by love of family,

as we head off into the darkness

where a super moon is rising.

We need light in the darkness

and love always.

 

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*Gilmore Girls was a TV series about single mother Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory. The series opened as Rory was in high school and ended when she graduated from Yale. In between, mother and daughter had many adventures, drank millions of cups of coffee, and eat enormous amounts of take-out food in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. A four-episode follow-up will be on Netflix in about two weeks.

Bridges and Puzzles

Monday Morning Musings:

“Then we got into a labyrinth, and, when we thought we were at the end,
came out again at the beginning, having still to see as much as ever.”
–Plato

“From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain, and nourish all the world.”
—William Shakespeare,  Love’s Labor’s Lost, Act V, scene iii

 

There are bridges that carry us across rivers

And there are bridges that close gaps in time or understanding

But life is a labyrinth

There are no direct routes

It twists and turns

Until it finally ends

Unsolved

 

We took a bridge to my sister’s house,

Our annual Mother’s Day ritual,

Lunch prepared by my sister and her wife

Stuffed shells, meatballs and sausage for the meat eaters,

A great salad brought by my niece

(ten minutes of agonizing about it over

the phone the day before)

because that’s what we do

The women in my family can make

Not simply mountains out of mole hills,

We can make Mt. Everest out of speck on the ground

But oh, we can spin stories, too–

Best done with food and wine,

Enough food for twice the number at the table

Also part of the tradition–

So we sit at my sister’s table

We talk about our pets

The size of our cats

(big and small)

The time my daughter’s dog

“sprint peed” around her apartment

We talk about family

The “art genes” we carry

The ability to write and a love of chocolate

(Must be carried on dominant genes)

Perhaps a love of spicy food, too,

As no one thought the “hot” salsa was particularly hot

And daughter and I had

a little pizza with our hot peppers the night before

My niece discussing family craziness

“If our husbands die do you want to live together

 and we can drink and be crazy together?”

She might have said this to my daughter

That’s perfectly normal, right?

And then it was off to Macy’s

How many women does it take to shop with my mom?

We have our assigned roles,

Dresser

Assistant dressers

Clothing hangers

Hunter and Gatherer of new items

But sometimes it takes a village

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And this year, we also have

The bra hunter

And dressing room bouncer

Do you wonder what it must be like

Or why we laugh?

You hook the bra, and I’ll put the boobs in

And later a whispered aside:

Just put the pillow over my head if I start wearing bras like that

She has great boobs– you have good boob genes

(Is this carried along with the writing and chocolate gene?)

To the dressing room bouncer,

How about if you close the door– I’m sitting here in all my glory.

Finally, the shopping is complete

My mom has quite a haul– dress, pants, shirts—no new bra

What $40? Forget it?

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

We head back to my sister’s,

where my husband, brother, and sister’s wife

have been watching the Phillies

They won!

Time for dessert,

My brownies and daughter’s cannoli dip

We like our chocolate

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Not much left here!

And coffee

What? You don’t make coffee at home?

Back in the car, driving my mom home

We talk of family history

We learn that some of her family lived in a refugee tent city

In England

Caught there between Belarus and the U.S.

Early in the twentieth century

Perhaps during WWI?

My mom doesn’t know

She said her cousin, then a young child

Thought it was fun—the children got to run around and play–

Their mothers probably did not enjoy it as much–

We arrive at my mom’s, but

Just before she gets out of the car

She leaves us with one more family puzzle

Her father left family in Russia who vanished during

“the war,”

That would be WWII.

I have no idea what to make of this.

What people?

How did they vanish?

Life is full of such puzzles

We can never solve all of them

But there’s a quest to try

To work our way through the labyrinth

Not right now though

It’s late

And so we head back over the bridge,

East with the sun at our backs

To home

Where there is more chocolate waiting for me.

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Mother’s Day: Celebrating as a Mother and as a Daughter

 I had eight birds hatcht in one nest,

Four cocks were there, and Hens the rest.

I nurst them up with pain and care,

No cost nor labour did I spare

Till a the last they felt their wing,

Mounted the Trees and learned to sing.

–Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612-1672), “In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659,” Full text here.

 Monday Morning Musings

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, at least here in the US. The holiday began as efforts to help poor mothers, fight injustice, and oppose war. Anna Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia fought to bring sanitation facilities and clean water to people in parts of Appalachia. In 1858, she organized Mother’s Work Days. After the Civil War she gathered mothers and soldiers from both sides of the conflict in a Mother’s Friendship Day. Her daughter–also Anna–wanted to continue her mother’s fight. After Anna Jarvis, the mother, died in 1905, her daughter wanted to organize a Mother’s Day celebration to honor all mothers and the sacrifices they make for their children. She lobbied politicians and wrote letters to newspapers, and finally President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914 that established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Jarvis became outraged by the flowers, candy, and greeting card commercialism that the holiday assumed. She ultimately disowned the holiday entirely. (Historian Ruth Rosen discusses the activism and antiwar origins of the Mother’s Day here.)

I certainly understand those who decry the artificiality and commercialism of the holiday. At the same time, I like it. I recently thought about my very first mother’s day as a mother. On my way to my mother’s, my husband and I stopped at a friend’s house to show off our new daughter, who was about 3 months old. I, of course, was madly in love with my little girl, and I thought she was the most beautiful creature in existence, bald head and all. Our friend’s mother, made a big fuss, told me to sit down and waited on me. She said to me, “This is your first mother’s day, and you should feel special.” All these years later, I still remember that. And I did feel special.

Over the past few years, our mother’s day tradition has been to gather at my sister’s house. We have brunch or lunch, and then take my mom clothes shopping. Last Mother’s Day, she wanted to buy an outfit to wear for my older daughter’s wedding; this year, she wanted to buy an outfit to wear for my younger’s daughter wedding. It is a bit of an ordeal to take my mom shopping—she can’t move or see very well—but with four of us, my younger daughter, my sister-niece, and my sister—we got the job done. We had to help dress her in the dressing room, which actually led to many laughs. When I think about it, it seems only fair that we help her dress. After all, how many times did she do it for all of us? Happily, she did find an outfit to wear.

My mom and me. I'm about 3 years old.

My mom and me. I’m about 3 years old.

Before we left for the mall, my sister and sister-in-law fortified us with pasta, salad, and bread—all delicious. My sister-in-law, “the men,” and children remained behind at the house. After we returned from our long shopping expedition, we had dessert—a chocolate extravaganza. Did you doubt this? I get my love of chocolate from my mom—so I baked a flourless chocolate cake topped with chocolate glaze and sea salt and my Mandelbrot cookies, which are called “Mommy Cookies” at my house. (I have several posts dedicated to this, my favorite cookie. Just do a search.) I kind of had to bake those, didn’t I? My sister added 2 boxes of chocolate to the dessert feast, just in case we didn’t have enough. We sat outside on my sister and sister-in-law’s deck and enjoyed the warm weather and evening breeze.

During dessert we attempted to FaceTime chat with my older daughter, but it didn’t work too well. Still, I did get to talk to her a bit. My younger daughter made me a wonderful Super Momma card that made me feel special—and some baking pans. Chocolate and baking genes run through the generations in my family!

When my mom is no longer with us, Mother’s Day will certainly be different. My siblings and I will no longer have a reason to get together for it, just as we no longer get together on Father’s Day. Although we might grumble about taking my mom shopping, I will miss that tradition and the crazy dressing room antics.

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and Daughters

The Play’s The Thing

Monday Morning Musings

“The play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Matzah is probably the most recognized symbol of Passover. Before commercialized matzah became available, members of Jewish communities sometimes baked it themselves—under close supervision, of course.

In Colonial America, congregations often had to produce their own matzah, although not all colonies grew wheat or had adequate supplies, so the grain sometimes had to be imported. Matzah, and other Jewish/kosher food items, were also imported. It was helpful that many prominent Jewish families were merchants with contacts throughout the transatlantic mercantile community. Here is the board used for preparing matzah at the eighteenth-century Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island.

In the nineteenth-century, machines became available to make matzah. There was some controversy, however, over baking commercially baked matzah and matzah machines and whether the matzah produced by them was kosher for Passover. Something I had never before thought about–most of the hand-produced matzah was round, but the matzah produced by Manischewitz  and other mass-producers was square, and of course, each piece was the same.  In 1942, however, the company produced V-shaped matzah as part of the WWII war effort, “V for Victory.”

Aron Steits founded a matzah bakery in 1915. This matzah factory, the last major one that is still family-owned in the US, is set to close.

 “Though matzo is a simple mixture of wheat flour and water, producing it is an intricate affair. During Passover, observant Jews are forbidden to eat grain products that have been allowed to leaven, or ferment and rise, so the flour and water must be placed in an oven within 18 minutes after they are mixed. The entire process is supervised by what are known as mashgichim — Orthodox people trained in the fine points of kosher law. Streit’s employs seven of them.”

–Joseph Berger, New York Times, January 6, 2015

In some places kosher for Passover matzah is still handmade. Joan Nathan describes one such bakery in Brooklyn, where the men and women work quickly to produce the matzah within eighteen minutes. Under Jewish law, it must be mixed, rolled, pricked, and baked in that time—from when water first touches the flour–so that there is no danger it will sprout. If the work is not finished within eighteen minutes, the matzah is not considered kosher for Passover. The flour is carefully produced and ground under supervision, as well, and even the water used in the baking is examined. Nathan mentions one of the workers, Reuven Sirota, who baked matzah in secret in Uzbekistan because celebrating Passover was forbidden there. (Joan Nathan, Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook (New York: Knopf, 2004), 339.)

On Saturday night, we celebrated Passover at my house with a dinner and a modified Seder—and commercially made Streit’s matzah. There were seventeen people around our table–tables, actually—the dining room table, the kitchen table, and a card table all placed in one long line with three separate tablecloths. Our group included family and friends, and my older daughter and her wife joined us by SKYPE.

A few years ago, I created a sort of family Haggadah, cobbled together from various sources, and including family jokes, such as a line about celebrating “the spirit of roast beef.” Seder means order, and there are fourteen steps to the Seder. We never get through the whole thing. In true scholarly fashion, however, the Haggadah I put together has appendices with further reading and lists the sources and documentation I used—you know, just in case anyone has additional questions. I always think we might debate and discuss, but we never do. This year, we totally forgot to open the door for Elijah. Ooops. Once we get to the eating part, the Seder pretty much disappears. This year, my niece’s children were not even interested in hiding and finding the Affikomen, the middle piece of matzah broken and wrapped in a napkin during the Seder. There will have to be a new twist on that tradition next year.

Our Seder always includes a play. My husband and I recently saw a production of Hamlet in Philadelphia. During the play, there is a play within the play. Hamlet wants a group of traveling players to perform a show with a storyline that is similar to how he believes his uncle, now the king of Denmark, murdered his father. He thinks that when his uncle sees the play, his reaction to it will reveal his guilt. In a soliloquy in which he describes the plan, Hamlet says, “the play’s the thing.”  During our Passover Seder, the play is also “the thing.” We’re not out to catch murderers though. The play began as a fun way to tell—or reveal–the Passover story. Telling the story is one of the steps of the Seder.  Over the years, it has become THE highlight of our Seder, our family’s thing. Our daughters have written it for the past few years. They have given notice that they will write it for two more years, and then they will hand-off the play-writing torch.

Well, it will be difficult to top this year’s play. It was an interactive experience called “Whose Passover Is It Anyway?” based on Drew Carey’s comedy show. There were different scenes, in which we were assigned parts and told to improvise using props on the table or by acting out in the emotions called out by one of our daughters. In other scenes there were scripted lines, but the scenes had to be acted out in a particular way—using only three words, as an action movie, etc. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, and everyone had a chance to participate.

I suppose the only thing that might have topped the play was the food—because everyone was VERY hungry by the time we were finally ready to eat.

Chicken Soup simmering on the stove.

Chicken Soup simmering on the stove.

Did I also mention that we went through many bottles of wine? We had red and white, including a tasty, Australian shiraz, and wines from Spain and the United States, too.  I know I didn’t drink the four glasses required by the Seder, but others may have. I’m not naming names. We had all the standard food—chicken soup (and vegetarian)–both with knaidlach, or matzah balls, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, brisket, turkey breast, roasted sweet potatoes, and some delicious roasted carrots brought by guests. By the time we got to dessert, my sister literally groaned while tasting the flourless chocolate cake (my brilliant idea was to top it with a chocolate drizzle and sea salt)—“Oh my god! This is so good.” The cake also conveniently doubled as a birthday cake for my brother, whose birthday is today.

After dessert, our guests, bellies full, slowly crawled out the door. The cats wandered back downstairs. Time to cleanup.

The empty tables seem lonely.

The empty tables seem lonely.

Hope all of you had a pleasant weekend, whether you celebrated a holiday or not!

Valentine’s Day Wine and Chocolate: Heritage Vineyards

My husband and I usually don’t do anything special on Valentine’s Day because of all the February birthdays in our family. This year, however, since Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday, we decided to attend a wine and chocolate event at Heritage Vineyards. (This was a New Jersey Wine Trail event, and wineries throughout the state had wine and chocolate events.)

The obligatory Selfie

The obligatory Selfie

We’ve been to Heritage Vineyards before, and we like many of the wines they produce. The vineyard is located in Mullica Hill, NJ. There were three ticketed time slots for the event (also held on the 15th), and we went to the last one, which began at 4 PM. I really know very little about wine, so these are simply my impressions and not a review. After checking-in, we received our glasses, and a woman, who poured us a Moscato Spritz, greeted us with a “Happy Valentine’s Day”. The drink was light and refreshing. We then moved to the Wine and Chocolate Pairing, held in the heated tent.

Wine and Chocolate Pairing

Wine and Chocolate Pairing

The woman who poured for us (I believe her name tag said Kim) was great. She was knowledgeable and friendly, despite having been there since 9 AM. The pairings all worked very well, even though some of the wines were not wines we’d choose to buy. I really enjoyed the Late Harvest Chambourcin, a port-like dessert wine. I’m not a fan of sweet wines, but this was a great dessert wine that worked with the dark chocolate drizzled Oreo. (I’m also not really a fan of Oreos, but it was delicious with the wine.)

I like wine.

I like wine.

We then did the Dry Wine Flight. I don’t know the young man’s name who poured our wine, but he was also very helpful and knowledgeable. I don’t always like Chardonnay. Sometimes I think it has a weird grapefruit taste, but maybe that’s just me. I do like this 2013 Estate Reserve. My husband and I both enjoyed the 2011 Merlot, which to me has sort of a silky feel. The 2011 Malbec was interesting. I thought it had a bit of pepper in the finish. Each wine sample was more than a usual “tasting,” so I have to admit I was a bit buzzed by the time we finished. Fortunately, my husband is not such a lightweight!

Here are the wines in the Dry Wine Flight:

Dry Wine Flight

Dry Wine Flight

After the Dry Wine Flight, we wandered around the Tasting Room/Gift Shop. Although there was a musician, Dave Kelly, who provided live acoustic music, there was no seating available to make the event into a linger-around sort of thing. We purchased a bottle of Merlot to take home with us, and then wandered over to The Truffle Tree chocolate store next door.

When we got home, I made some sweet potato nachos (note to self, slicing potatoes after visiting a winery might not be the best idea). I’m not certain that the sweet potato nachos and the Merlot made the best pairing, but it was great with the Italian Espresso Truffle I ate afterwards.

Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos

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Italian Espresso Truffle From The Truffle Tree

I hope all of you experienced something sweet on Valentine’s, too!

The Nourishment of Friends

“Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.”

–Anonymous

I used to sing this song when I was a Girl Scout—a million years ago, or so it seems. At that time, the words meant little to me. After all, at age 8 or 10 how old can your friends possibly be? But I understood the intent, that we were supposed to welcome everyone, new and old, to our Girl Scout troop, and I did enjoy singing the song as a round.

         Truthfully, at that time I did not have real friends, other than my younger sister—my first and my always and forever friend. I was the shy, nerdy girl who always had her nose in a book. My family was from Philadelphia, and I did not readily embrace Texas culture. The girls in my 1960s Dallas, Texas classes and troop were not mean to me, and I was not bullied, but we had little in common, and I did not know how to make friends with them.

         I’m still not the most outgoing person around, but I do have friends. One of my friends (see?) and I used to joke that since we don’t like to mingle at parties—we should sit and let people come to us. (This works best if you abscond with the spinach dip–and perhaps the wine and best chocolate dessert, too.)

As most people do, I have different types of friends. My very best friends are my sisters. But others are friends of specific time and place—gym buddies, blog friends, and people I connect with and talk to on Facebook but seldom see. They are all real, and I enjoy the interaction. And sometimes, such casual friends “crossover” to become “real” friends.

I met one of my good friends years ago when she sent me an email asking about submitting an article for a book I was working on. For over a decade, we’ve written long—sometimes very long–email “letters”—about history, our children, husbands, houses, books, and of course, food. “Have you read this?” “What are you making for dinner tonight? I’ve made hummus with mint from our garden.” We’ve had long catch-up phone conversations, and a few chances to get together in person, too–most recently in Philadelphia when her husband attended a conference and she came with him.

Long before telephones or the Internet, Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814),the political playwright, essayist, and pamphleteer, kept up an extensive, transatlantic correspondence network that included both intimate friends and valued political leaders—Abigail Adams, Catherine Sawbridge Macaulay, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, among them. In June 24, 1793, she wrote to her friend Sarah Cary, “No my dear Mrs Cary I have not forgotten you. I am not one of those who ever forget their friends.”

         I think it’s important to have friends who do not forget you.

         I have a group of friends who have been my friends since college or shortly after. We went through what one of my friends calls “the lost years” when our children were young and our lives were wrapped—bubble wrapped–around their school and extra-curricular events, leaving us little time to get together. Yet, while we may have gained a few pounds, wrinkles, and gray hair during the “lost years,” whenever we’re together it’s like no time has passed. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

Emerson is correct. I’m certain I’ve been stupid with mine, but they are forgiving. Old friends are tolerant of your flaws. They are also supportive of your successes. They share your joys and your sorrows. We’ve shared life events—the births of children—and grandchildren. We’ve mourned the death of parents. We lived through (literally) serious illnesses together. We’ve seen our children succeed and fail. We’ve laughed and cried together. We’ve eaten fabulous meals and enjoyed fabulous—OK, sometimes totally stupid–conversations. And we’ve laughed and cried—sometimes at the same time—and we’ve ranted.

         I understand equating friends with gold and silver because they are valuable. But the value of gold and silver is artificial. The metals are precious because they are rare and people have decided that they are beautiful—and so we attach value to them. I think friendship is better expressed as bread and chocolate. (Yes, I do relate everything to food, and if you’re my friend, you will go along with that. What’s more, you’ll even expect it.) Food is more valuable than gold or silver, isn’t it? Beautiful jewelry may adorn our bodies, but food—and friendship—sustains our bodies and souls. Like bread dough, when we carefully nurture it and treat it correctly, good friends rise to help us. They supply us with strength and nourishment as bread does, but they should not be neglected. We speak of “breaking bread” together. Bread is fundamental. Friends bring sweetness and pleasure, too, like chocolate—and sometimes it’s bittersweet.

         So here’s to my friends—the old, the new, and the yet to be found. You are my bread and chocolate. And while we’re at it, let’s say you’re my wine and cheese, too! L’chaim!

 

        

 

Colors of Love

 When we were little

You took us to the library,

our nearby Dallas branch.

My sister and I chose books

in the children’s section,

then wandered through the library,

where we stood over the air vents

and let our skirts fly up as we twirled,

simply because we were young

and it was fun.

I sometimes sat on your bed

and read my books aloud to you,

while you put on your makeup

or brushed your hair—

it was coffee brown then.

You stood in the attached bathroom.

We called it “the pink bathroom.”

But I never realized until just now

how important color was in our lives–

that we labeled rooms by color.

 

You, an artist in your soul,

see color everywhere.

You would liked to have gone to art school,

but your parents thought that was impractical.

And so you chose colors where you could

for your walls,

for your furnishings,

for our clothing.

I remember the blue and gray suede shoes

you saw for me when you worked

at Lord and Taylor’s.

And how fun you thought orange woodwork would be

in the room my sister and I shared

in Havertown.

You collected Chinese ceramics,

the beautiful turquoise hue

adding more color

to your surroundings,

but you didn’t have the time to paint

flowers or landscapes

while we were young.

You were busy working

and driving us to lessons

and taking care of us when we were sick.

But you made certain we knew colors–

and had art—crayons, paper, and homemade clay,

a special treat for rainy days.

And your color-knowledge passed to my daughters.

Our first-born gray-eyed daughter

still a toddler telling her father

she wanted to go to the restaurant

with the green door.

(We had never noticed the door.)

But she always remembered colors,

and taught color names and knowledge to her sister,

before I even had a chance.

What is the opposite of color blindness?

Is it marked on our genes?

 

You and my father,

though you disagreed and parted,

did agree about many things.

You agreed on the importance of art, music,

and books.

I read nearly all of the books

in the built-in bookcase in our family room.

Rows of long shelves filled with books

their spines in shades of brown, blue, red,

green, and white,

bringing random color to the wall.

It didn’t matter what they were,

history, art, the classics—

I read them.

And I found the jumbo-sized

Hershey’s chocolate bar hidden there, too.

I broke off squares for my sister and me–

and then neatly shelved the bar

back into the bookcase,

where it appeared to be just another book.

 

Now your hair is white,

and my tangled brown curls

are gone.

The colors of my childhood have vanished,

but the memories remain.

I didn’t realize that not all households held such treasures—

books, art, and music, I mean.

I didn’t realize

that all families don’t visit museums

or play “the dictionary game” at the dinner table.

I didn’t realize–

how fortunate we were.

There was always love for us.

And books,

And color,

And, chocolate, of course.

 ©Merril D. Smith, May 2014

Image

At Valley Green, along the Wishahickon.

 

Valentine’s Day at Our House

Valentine’s Day has never been a big holiday in our family.  Since both our daughters and my husband have February birthdays, we’ve always concentrated on celebrating their special days. (In the past that meant, three totally different cakes, along with a “party cake,” and some type of Valentine’s Day dessert, too.)

 

Even though our daughters are grown and no longer living with us, my husband and I will not be doing much to mark Valentine’s Day. We have a date with Netflix and House of Cards—along with homemade pizza and a bottle of wine.  Cozy, if not romantic, right?

 

To make the day even more exciting, we might have the heater looked at. . .again. Sigh.

 

Romance is great (and I’m a fan!), but it’s the day-to-day things that truly matter. This morning, my husband went out in the ice and snow (that’s a whole other story) to check the tires on my car for me. Then, after a problem with one of the tires, he took it to be repaired.

 

So, perhaps this is not what you think of when you hear “romance,” but to me, it says, “love.” Thank you, Sweetheart.

 

However, since it IS Valentine’s Day, I think we should have chocolate, don’t you?

So I made Chocolate Covered Strawberries. I can pretend it’s healthy, too. It’s a win-win situation! Yay.

 

It’s too simple for a recipe, but they look great, if I do say so myself.  So you know, if you want to impress someone today—just sayin’.

 Image

 I used half a package of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, mixed with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Melt in the microwave. You can use semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate (but seriously, why?).  This made enough for about a dozen strawberries plus some blueberries. I rolled some of them in ground almonds (extra healthy!), but you could use other nuts, sprinkles, etc.

 

Of course, then I had to eat some of the extra melted chocolate. . . Enjoy!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

***Yeah, I got a little exclamation point crazy in this post. I’m giddy from chocolate. I mean chocolate!