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Monday, April 29, 2013

A Capitol Time

{ The Capitol by twilight }

I've missed a few posts the past couple weeks because I've been working hard on an event for my day job that took place last Wednesday in Washington, DC {Insert a big frown and an I'm sorry:)}. It went really well and frankly I deserve to be laying on a beach somewhere but since that's not happening a fruity drink with an umbrella will have to suffice. Here's some fun pics from last week.

{ Getting ready for some of our meetings on The Hill }

{ Outside the Speaker's office }

{ The fabulous Mr. Larry LaMotte who's been a huge supporter of Austen Hill from day 1, his lovely wife is a huge Austen fan! }

{ As hard as I tried not to, Eric Cantor and I still ended up in a photo together }

{ Jay and I weren't exactly camera ready in this one but I promised him I'd post it }

{ A beautiful fountain }

{ Remnants, still beautiful }

{ A beautiful painting I saw in The University Club }

{ Tom, the sommelier at The Capitol Grille took wonderful care of us }

{ A well-deserved treat at the end of a very long day }

{ Katie, Jim and I in the wine cellar at The Capitol Grille, 3 seconds before this I almost broke a $700 bottle of wine because I'm smooth like that }

{ The garden behind the Old Stone House in Georgetown }

{ A beautiful bloom }

{ An iron bench I'd like to steal for my garden }

{ I'm not exactly dressed for a garden but oh well }

{ A bit of lunch at Dean and Deluca }

{ Baguette....yes please! }

{ Can't wait to try this at home }

{ Yeah Sprinkles!!!!!!! }

{ Why choose just one? }

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bubbe's Kugel

My neighborhood book club recently read a great book called Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander. Here's some info and a great review by The New York Times. Somehow it manages to be funny and poignant at the same time and the group really enjoyed it. 

We like to make food that goes along with the book so I pretty much had no choice but to guessed it.....Kugel! I reached out to a friend of mine who is the best cook I know in this space and requested her Bubbe's (Grandmother's) recipe. In order to obtain the recipe I was blindfolded, taken to a secret underground bunker, and sworn to secrecy. 

If you've never heard of Kugel let me elaborate so you can be jealous. Buttery egg noodles give the dish a delicious framework while cheesy custard fills in the gaps with a dense, subtle sweetness. Golden raisins give it a bit of cheer and cinnamon a touch of the unexpected. 

I'd love to give you the recipe but unfortunately then I'd have to kill you. Don't worry Bubbe, your secret is safe with me. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Young Garden

When I moved into my house the backyard to put this politely? A shell, yes we'll call it a shell. There were two dogwoods near the deck, the odd tulip, and a walkway back to the shed. I immediately envisioned a lush English garden where I would sip coffee in the morning and read the newspaper. This was four years ago, people still read newspapers.

Unfortunately, the backyard was pretty much last on the list so I just got around to tackling it about a year and a half ago. Knowing that my utter lack of agricultural knowledge would end up making the project even more expensive because I'd have to re-plant everything I killed, I had someone help me pick things out and do the planting. Well, basically I showed him a picture and said this is what I want. I came home the day it was finished and was amazed by the transformation. There was mulch! There were plants and bushes! There were flowers! But they were all pretty tiny. Huh? Where was the lush English garden I'd asked for? Why wasn't everything luxuriously full like in the picture? My landscaper reminded me that everything would grow. Gardens take time.

Sure, sure.... time blah, blah, blah......surely we can speed this up. You should have seen me. I would walk out back and just stare at the plants; certain that by shear mental energy, bribery, or grovelling I could make them transform. Please?! Pretty please with cherries on top?! GROW! But you, dear reader (who are far more perceptive than I), already know he was right. Little by little things actually did grow. I wanted too much too soon you see, and though I still have quite a way to go, my garden has taught me the power of patience. I realized that like all great relationships, we had to get to know each other first.

The purple droopy flowers (I told you I don't know anything about plants) where happy as clams where they were. They laughed in sheer jest at the rest of the garden as they grew robust and full. The azaleas were independent and self-sufficient, best left alone to their own devices. The boxwoods wanted to break up pure and simple. I said let's go to couples therapy....take a great date night??? Finally I came to the realization that they just weren't that into me and we parted ways amicably.

Is every square inch the way I want it? No. But it will be. The garden and I have found a compromise between what I wanted and what the space would allow. We're still a few years away from full maturity but this spring I can finally see what it will look like in the end. I won't lie, mornings out back with my coffee and book in hand are pretty awesome. What happened to the newspaper you ask? The garden literally repels technology so my newspaper-reading dream will never materialize because I caved and do check the news mostly on my computer or phone. I absolutely refuse to read a book on an electronic device though so the garden accepts them gladly. But check back in a few years I'll probably have caved in that area too:).

Here's some fun pics as well from a previous post of my beloved second-hand chiminea on the patio.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Moment After

Whenever anything terrible has happened in my life I have invariably played out that moment many times in my head. The second the phone call came, the second I knew something to be a lie instead of the truth, or the second someone was alive and then they weren't. I think this is a natural response to any level of trauma. What I find I dwell on just as much though is the moment before.

Any significant event that occurs in your life is almost like a brand. It permeates your skin until it becomes a part of you; ever-present almost like an old friend you can't imagine your life without. It has always been this way hasn't it? No, there was that moment before it happened when you swam in a sea of concerns that seem so trivial now. At the same time that you abhor the ridiculous worries that governed your life {What do you mean you don't have this shoe in my size......He called {yeah!} but I have to wait at least 4 hours before I call him back kind of crap} you long for them.

I do not pretend to understand on any level what the people involved in the Boston bombings are going through. Frankly any horrible event in my life, while traumatic to me, pales in comparison. But I do know that once their lives settle and they allow themselves to be comforted instead of frightened by memories, they will remember the last moment of what will seem like a different life. The moment before.

Each person will view that moment differently. Some will see it as a representation of all that was taken from them. Some will use it to inspire others to appreciate what they have, because it could be lost in an instant. We have heard inspiring tales already over the past days that remind us of the capacity for selflessness I think we all hold inside us. If only we could keep that knowledge close so that small daily acts, not just isolated heroic feats, could inspire the use of it.

No doubt we will find out in some capacity who is responsible for the bombings and I'm sure we'll be notified via Twitter before the President has even been properly briefed. This is a reality, both good and bad, that we live with today.

What I hope most is that the moment before this happened can become a monument to the resilience of the moment after. I hope that on a sunny April day in Boston in the not too distant future thousands of runners will again cross the finish line and be greeted by the cheers of their loved ones. I hope that a beautiful city, so rich in history and American grandeur, can once again celebrate one of the things that makes it great. I will now hope for the moment after.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Princess and the Pea

{ Pea and Parmesan Soup with Parmesan Crisps }
When I came across this recipe for Pea and Parmesan Soup I knew it would be perfect for a warm spring afternoon. Saturday obliged and we had a really lovely time cooking with the kitchen door open and watching Miss Austen run back and forth from the garden. Here are some pictures and a short tale to brighten up your Monday.

The Princess and the Pea

by Hans Christian Andersen

There was once a prince, and he wanted a princess, but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled right around the world to find one, but there was always something wrong. There were plenty of princesses, but whether they were real princesses he had great difficulty in discovering; there was always something which was not quite right about them. So at last he had come home again, and he was very sad because he wanted a real princess so badly.

One evening there was a terrible storm; it thundered and lightninged and the rain poured down in torrents; indeed it was a fearful night.

In the middle of the storm somebody knocked at the town gate, and the old King himself sent to open it. It was a princess who stood outside, but she was in a terrible state from the rain and the storm. The water streamed out of her hair and her clothes; it ran in at the top of her shoes and out at the heel, but she said that she was a real princess.

"Well we shall soon see if that is true,' thought the old Queen, but she said nothing. She went into the bedroom, took all the bed clothes off and laid a pea on the bedstead; then she took twenty mattresses and piled them on top of the pea, and then twenty feather beds on top of the mattresses. This was where the princess was to sleep that night. In the morning they asked her how she slept.

'Oh terribly bad!' said the princess. 'I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. I seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning. It is terrible!'

They saw at once that she must be a real princess when she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. Nobody but a real princess could have such delicate skin. 

So the prince took her to be his wife, for he was sure that he has found a real princess, and the pea was put into the Museum, where it may still be seen if no one has stolen it.

Now that is a true story.

{ What you'll need }

{ The kitchen door stayed open most of the weekend }

{ Thyme makes the whole house smell wonderful }

{ Parmesan crisps that are actually really easy to make }

{ A lunch fit for a princess }

Friday, April 12, 2013

It's Friday, Love

The weather in Richmond has just been gorgeous this week so I tried to take advantage and spend as much time outside as possible. Mom and I had a great dinner at The Boathouse and Miss Austen enjoyed several trips to Libby Hill Park to play with her friends. But lest you think that this week was perfect, here are a couple fun tidbits to make you laugh...... at me....well, with, at me. 
  • I bought a new vacuum cleaner. This in itself is unremarkable. What is remarkable is how excited I was about it. There was a time when the thought of buying something domestic would have made me cringe but now a euphoric giddiness washes over me and I'm helpless against its powers. I've decided that I'm aging in home ownership years. You know how one human year is equal to about seven dog years? Well every year you own a home you age like ten years. I bought my place about four years ago so that actually makes me sixty-nine years old (thought I'd throw in some rudimentary math to make sure you're paying attention). Sixty-nine year-old me loves buying vacuum cleaners, attending early bird dinners, and is seriously considering organizing a shuffleboard tournament. 
  • My neighbors have also noticed the exciting life I lead. I was unloading the aforementioned vacuum cleaner when one of my neighbors happened to be outside. Of course I seized the opportunity and eagerly showed him my amazing new purchase to which he responded (with a definite cheek).....Livin la Vida Fitzgerald. Oh yes, there is now a phrase that describes the wild and crazy life I lead. Please feel free to use it as much as possible!
  • I've vowed to keep Pat (that's what I've named my new vacuum cleaner) in pristine working condition by emptying her out after every use. Clad in my Virginia is for Lovers t-shirt and yoga pants, I proudly marched out to the garbage can after the first cleaning to complete my mission. Unfortunately, I became very frustrated very quickly because the latch on the container didn't want to open. Just as I shouted an inappropriate expletive the latch suddenly opened, dust flew everywhere, and an extremely attractive gentleman walked right past me. Yup....that just happened.
I hope next week is blunder free.....but who am I kidding?:). Have a great weekend and enjoy the pics.