Monday, May 31, 2010

Honor to Our Soldiers & Veterans...

We set aside Memorial Day
Each and every year
To honor those who gave their lives
Defending what we hold dear.
In all the dark and deadly wars,
Their graves prove and remind us,
Our brave Americans gave their all
To put danger far behind us.
They made the ultimate sacrifice
Fighting for the American way; We admire them and respect them on every Memorial Day.

~ Joanna Fuchs

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Magnificent Peacocks

While most children’s grandparents have pet cats, dogs, or even a horse or two, my paternal grandparents had a pet peacock ~ “Prince”. Despite Grandpa’s best efforts at building a weasel/fox-proof cage in their sheep pasture, Prince was destined to consort with at least two “Princesses”! How delighted my sister and I were when Prince would strut around with his beautiful fan tale for Princess!

Here he is, in all his magnificence! (Note sheep in the back right...)

I have always considered peacocks the most magnificent of birds and feel blessed to have had such early and close access to such unique and beautiful pets. Nearly half a century later, my sisters and I delight in decorating our homes with a gift from Prince - his lovely feathers.

...and, of course, some lovely antiquarian books featuring peacocks and their feathers...

Favorite ♥ Places: “Indian Pass Antiques”

Located in an Adirondack Mountain forest on Stewart Dam Road near Corinth, New York, is a charming little emporium filled with wonderful antiques and collectibles.

During our annual August vacation at our family’s Sacandaga Lake “camp,” my sisters, sisters-in-law and I always look forward with much anticipation to the short drive down West Mountain Road - destination: Indian Pass. When we arrive we always “ooh and ah” as we slowly drive down a lane edged by tall pines, ferns and wildflowers.

Finally, we scramble out of the SUV; walk by the moss-covered rock on which is perched the sweet little statue of the Indian brave and his squaw in a canoe; open the wooden screen door to this tiny shop – always warmly greeted by its friendly proprietress, Janice – and begin our enthusiastic hunt for wonderful antique and vintage items.

Invariably, each of us leaves with a paper shopping bag, embellished by Janice with ribbon and a sticker, filled with treasures such as vintage jewelry; silver spoons or butter knives; framed prints, needlework or silhouettes; china cups; old books; “camp” décor items; vintage kitchen utensils; little figurines; old sewing items; etc., etc.

…Only two more months...and thank you, Janice, for many years of wonderful memories!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Picnic Time!

The other thing is quality of life; if you have a place where you can go and have a picnic with your family, it doesn't matter if it's a recession or not, you can include that in your quality of life.
~ Jim Fowler

Picnic is a word that evokes a wide range of memories - of lazy Sunday afternoons, of trips to the country, to the park, to the beach, to an outdoor concert, or only as far as the backyard; of sandwiches, cold meats and lemonade or of wine, bread, cheese and patés; of special baskets (I recently located a vintage '50s basket like that of my childhood!) and blankets (old, wool Indian blankets were popular in my childhood, although now I love plaid ones); of hide-and-seek in the woods or flying kites and blowing bubbles; (of flies, bees, and ants, also!); and finally of exhaustion and a sleep in the car on the way home.

The origin of the word is clouded in mystery. It first appears in France in the late 16th century as "pique-nique" but was not adopted in England until after 1800. At first, the idea of a picnic meant a social event for which each guest provided a share of the food. Later this became an outdoor excursion to a place in the country where again friends could meet and provisions be shared. Around the middle of the 18th century, picnics were arranged by the English and French aristocracy. Servants, chairs, fine china and crystal along with baskets of wonderful delicacies were loaded into carriages for a trip to the lush woods where the festivities took place.

The Great American Picnic springs from European foods and cooking techniques introduced by the founding fathers (and mothers!) in combination with the rich native methods of the American Indians. The first Thanksgiving was actually a picnic. Hidden deep in the history books are descriptions of other memorable early American picnics. Pioneers held such celebrations, such as Fourth of July picnics, on the banks of many lakes or rivers under canopies of tent cloths supported by Conestoga wagons or of virgin forest leaves, serenading themselves with "The Star Spangled Banner" while consuming bread, boiled beans and salt pork, bacon, pies, and peaches.

During the 19th century, my Indiana ancestors held large annual family reunion picnics, of which a few now-faded photos exist:

My mother and mother-in-law, both in their late eighties, still speak fondly of the foods prepared for these annual extravaganzas: Aunt Edna's banana cake, Aunt Tash's Wellesley fudge sheet cake, Grandma Flora Belle's lattice-topped cherry pies, Babcia's "special dressing" on fresh sliced tomatoes, Aunt Commie's ice-cold, fresh lemonade...

Below are a couple of my own favorite picnic recipes - would love to hear about your picnic memories and special recipes!

Old Bay Seasoned Maryland Fried Chicken

1 cup flour
1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning or more to taste
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. water
2 cups cooking oil
2-3 lbs. chicken parts

In a large plastic bag, combine flour and 1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning. In a shallow dish combine egg and water. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then place a few pieces in plastic bag and shake to coat. Fry about 20 minutes per side turning frequently. If desired, sprinkle with additional Old Bay before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Maryland Cucumber & Sour Cream Salad

1 cucumber
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. vinegar
chopped pimento optional

Pare and slice cucumber. Add salt and chill. Press out as much water as possible with a paper towel. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add cucumbers and toss gently. Chill. Arrange in salad bowls lined with lettuce. Sprinkle chopped pimento on top if desired.

I've liked lots of people 'til I went on a picnic jaunt with them.
~ Bess Truman

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Favorite Fairy Tale...

The fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, has always been one of my favorites - perhaps because she is bringing goodies to her beloved Grandmama…perhaps because the story has a happy ending with the demise of the “big bad wolf”!

Dr. Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at England’s Durham University, has studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world. The European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother. In the Chinese version a tiger is featured; and in Iran, where it would be considered odd for a young girl to roam alone, the story’s main character is a little boy.

For years it was thought that this fairy tale originated in France in the 17th century, the site of the first written version. Dr. Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years: “Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations…We don’t know very much about the processes of transmission of these stories from culture to culture, but it is possible that they may have been passed along trade routes or with the movement of people.” Another professor, Dr. Jack Zipes, of the University of Minnesota - an expert on fairy tales and their origins - believes folk tales may have helped people to pass on tips for survival to new generations.

As you can see, above and below, many lovely renderings of "Little Red" in her riding hood have been created through the years...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May Wildflowers in Texas

We are obligated to leave the country looking as good if not better than we found it… ~ Lady Bird Johnson

I can understand why Lady Bird Johnson was an ardent fan of wildflowers! The hills of Austin are alive in April and May with wonderful colorful and varied blossoms. Although too late for the famous bluebonnets, I have been surprised this week during my Austin visit at the variety of beautiful wildflowers...and what fun names they have – in addition to blue bonnets, there’s horsemint, Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, firewheel, branched broom rape, white prickly poppy and scarlet guara. With camera in hand yesterday morning during my walk around the southeastern part of Lake Travis, I captured the lovely fleeting blossoms below. You might also want to check out the website for Lady Bird’s Wildflower Center located near Austin. Thank you, Lady Bird!

Beatrix & Friends...

Frolicking Lambs

Cassandra Follows...