Slice of Life Friday: Rites of Passage

MP900384718Happy Summer, everyone!

I’m currently working in my summer office…on my patio, my laptop attached to an extension cord, and a nice cup of coffee by my side…and my dog on my lap. (My dog is VERY happy.)  Birds are tweeting, gentle wind is blowing, and the skeeters aren’t hungry at all. THIS is what summer is all about.

And you can’t help but be in a relaxed and wondrous summery mood when you start off the day with a long lazy walk, and there are even teeny rabbits watching you as you pass. Sigh.

This summer I’m looking forward to catching fireflies, discovering more original recipes to test out on our ancient charcoal grill, being dreamy and diving into writing a novel I’ve got swarming around my head, and daytripping to the Jersey shore, too.

Summers seem to buzz by so fast, and I fear this summer will absolutely fly – cuz, drum roll please, my youngest child is going off to college in August. Zowie, how did that happen so quickly?  (Break into the chorus of Sunrise/Sunset everyone…)

Two days ago, she graduated from high school, and I sat on the bleachers with the sun blazing in my eyes (not complaining…are you kidding? Those reflective sunglasses meant no one could see any tearful moments).  And like any rite of passage in life, it felt surreal.  You can’t help but say to yourself, am I really watching my baby graduate? Add it to the list… Did I really graduate from college? Just get married? Am I really holding my own child in my arms? Did this dear person really just pass away? Is that really my book on the shelf?

Rites of passage force you to stop and take notice. To reflect on what happened up to that point, and how things will be different in the future. To appreciate things. To be grateful. I’m one of those people who try to do these things on a daily basis anyway, but even for me, it can still hit home pretty strongly.  Even when you think you’ve got it all sorted in your brain.

A few days before graduation, I was in the basement cleaning out a ton of stuff. Sleeves rolled up, I was excited to get rid of crap and tidy things up. Totally ready to tackles those piles on all those basement shelves. A smashed box of Twister. A bunch of moldy Halloween costumes. A humongous stash of crayons. I was on a true roll.  The dumpster was filling up.  Barbie clothes. My little pony gear. More games. A nasty old baby doll.  Then I found a tiny little art smock, and I stopped. My throat closed and it really hit me.

Beach Chairs Watching OceanThe palpable end of childhood and my job as the mom of youngsters.  I’ll always be a mom, of course, but it’ll never be the same.  And the weight of promise ahead is overwhelming in its own way.  The wonderfulness my daughters now have ahead of them, the exciting opportunities and the pure fun. Wow, what a flood of emotion.

I decided to keep the little art smock.

And I’ve vowed to continue to treasure every moment.

Summer is fleeting, so be sure to make your own time slow down and to savor every bit of it.

Slice of Life Friday: High Tea Anyone?

MP900387878Ever do high tea? Proper high tea? It’s truly a brilliant and civilized invention, and I’m fortunate that with my husband’s Indian background he “gets” it too. The British Raj and their 200 plus years in India ingrained the wisdom of high tea pretty solidly into the Indian culture. This means that 1: my husband makes THE perfect cup of tea, including heating the cups ahead of time, and 2: sometimes our tea is accompanied by cucumber sandwiches.

And I’ve been fortunate to have visited India many times. Sitting on the shady veranda of the Ram Bagh Palace in Jaipur sipping tea and overlooking the maharaja’s garden through marble pillars truly feels like a frozen moment in time… Then there’s tea at the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur…a floating palace,  mind you. If you don’t feel like royalty there, what the heck’s wrong with you? (Dude, click on all the links in this article if you want to truly fall in love with tea places!)

Usually I have high tea fantasies on those cold rainy days, days that remind me of when I lived in England for half a year. Perfect time for a cuppa strong Earl Gray, and a plate of dense scones with clotted cream and jam. Yum! Two of the fancier more atmospheric teas I’ve enjoyed were in London.

The first was at the Orangery on the edge of Hyde Park. Gorgeous structure with sweeping high ceilings and vast windows looking out on formal knot gardens…plus it’s part of the Kensington Palace layout. Sipping tea and having scones and mini sandwiches amid the beautiful surroundings and with Greek sculptures staring down at you as if envious for a bite = heaven.

Tea Sandwiches and PastriesThe second really fine tea I had was in Fortnum and Mason’s department store (department store to the Queen, thank you very much). It’s the same place that the snotty brat in  The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson is taken for his coveted “Knickerbocker Glory”…which is still on the menu.  High tea here is delightfully stuffy. All fine china, the usual tea fixins displayed in a beautiful manner, and, honestly, the most shockingly good lox I’ve ever had in my life.

I’ve also had tea in countless bakeshops throughout the Cotswolds. Those upstairs rooms are a fragrant delight with their fussy flowered curtains and little trolley carts wheeled past the table. Every single tea = yum.

Why all this tea nostalgia? Today, I’m heading out to tea with my wonderful daughter. It’s an annual tradition, and yes, there is a wonderful place right here in PA: The Talking Teacup.  I’ve been basically not eating all week so that I’ll have room for this feast. It’s mysterious how those teeny tiny sandwiches and a delightful little cookie shaped like a teapot expand in your stomach.  Then again, it could be all those scones with clotted cream I wolf down first.

But I’m ready!  Bring on the tea.

Have any great high tea spots to recommend across the globe? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Slice of Life Friday: We Made it to March!

Girl Sitting in ChairAm I the ONLY one in the world giddy to flip that calendar and see February is over?  I think not. I bow to the wise one who made February the shortest month of the year. Dark, cold, and what does it have? Valentine’s Day? Psh. Not a happy day for those lonely hearts in the world (though the chocolate’s not bad). President’s Day? Blah. Just an excuse for ad execs to put Lincoln and Washington costumes on actors and make them hawk car sales and furniture deals.

NO! Go the F away February!

It’s March!!!  And, yeah, I know it can snow in March, bladdy bladdy blah. But when I woke up this morning, it was lighter out and I could hear birdies tweeting. It won’t be long before I can shed that dreaded winter coat like a snake skin and ditch the boots for my black and white checkered sneakers (not kidding).

So here is Marie’s list of what is FAB about the up-coming spring:

1. Birdies tweeting in the morning
2. Longer, sunnier, WARMER days
3. Being able to take my coffee outside in the morning onto my patio
4. Working outside on my laptop
5. Taking walks with my pooch in the evening
6. Shedding the heavy winter clothes I’m really sick of
7. Wearing light cheerful stuff instead!!! (And those checkered sneaks)
8. Working in the yard…
9. Seeing those flowers pop up from the ground and the buds on the trees, and, sigh…

So what’s on your list?  Please share what you are looking forward to by leaving me a comment…and join in the springy celebration! :)

Happy WARM March wishes to you all,

Marie

Slice of Life Friday: Sending You Warm Wishes!

SnowflakeThe most wonderful part of our holidays is not in a wrapped box but all around us. Beauty in the world, and beauty in every act of kindness no matter how small.  Nothing is more important than letting the wonderful people in our lives know how much they mean to us. So in these busy days, I hope you’ll take a moment to pause and reflect on all the goodness that touches your life. And to pay it forward today, and every day.

I send out my love and appreciation to each of you who have so enriched my life. Thank you so very much.

I wish you a new year full of joy and peace.

Happy holidays!

Marie

 

Slice of Life Friday: Let there be Light!

Glowing Christmas Tree in SnowDuring Hurricane Sandy, we lost power for 5 days.  Really can’t complain. It was awful not having heat, not being able to cook and of course living in darkness daily from around 4 p.m. on, but that’s nothing compared to what people on the coast went through. What many of them are still going through. It tears at the heart to think of the loss and the helplessness. And the darkness.

Light is such a powerful force. Of hope and optimism and possibility. Sitting huddled around the fireplace at night, trying to get some warmth, it really got me thinking about just how very revolutionary electricity must have been. Without light in the house, why stay up late into the evening? Reading by fire or candlelight is difficult, and it’s damned spooky beyond that glow.

What it must have been like for man centuries ago, as the days grew shorter and shorter when winter approached… And how clever it was to have a celebration around the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.

It’s still clever.

You know, normally I kinda roll my eyes when people put up all that holiday stuff in their yards too early, and plug in those lights. But this year feels different. This year I’m thinking bring on the light and the color and the flashing brilliance. Even bring on that tacky glowing plastic snowman (but maybe put a hold on those giant blowup ornaments…shiver).  We even strung up our looping white lights along the property fence and a line of electric icicles across the porch the day after Thanksgiving.

This year it feels like: hi yah! Take that darkness and cold!  It’s extra cheerful when at 4:30 darkness tries to descend, sending along with it a depressing chill to my very bones. But then wink, zap, pow! House after house flares with glowing bushes, sparkling eaves, multicolored conifers. And I can’t help but feel like I’m walking in daylight.

In whimsy.

In hope.

So bring on the holidays! Make em tacky and bright, garish and brash. We laugh at the darkness. We feel like going out instead of huddling alone inside wrapped in a blanket.

This holiday season, step out, catch the sparkle and whimsy. Clasp hands with each other and laugh often. The longer days will come again, but in the meantime, let there be light in your life.

Happy almost December to all.

 

Slice of Life Friday: Lentil Storm Soup

Storms coming, Harry! According to alarmist forecasters, it’s a FRANKENSTORM. Obviously there is only one logical thing to do.  No, it’s not run out to buy bread and milk.  It’s to make soup. Obvs.

Soup has always been a “thing” for me. When I was little, it was hands down my favorite food (trailed not too distantly by V-8).  In fact, I used to think the word “starving” came from Chicken and Stars soup, because when I was hungry, that’s what I wanted, and when someone said they were starving, those noodly stars danced before my eyes.

ANYWAYS, I’d thought I’d offer up the recipe for my own lentil soup…just in case you felt like adding the ingredients to your cart along with all that bread and milk… This is an Italian version of the soup devised long before I met my Indian husband and before I knew that ginger was something that could be found in foods other than ginger ale or ginger snap cookies…so don’t expect any East Asian flavors.

Marie’s Lentil “Storm” Soup

Ingredients:

One large can of low fat chicken broth (you can use veg. broth if you want to be vegetarian about it)
One cup of lentils
A few basil leaves
A chopped tomato (can used canned)
Two onions, chopped
A few cloves of garlic, chopped
3-4 carrots peeled and sliced into half-inch slices
3-4 celery stalks sliced into half-inch bits
A generous splash of wine (like a half-cup or so)
Salt and pepper to taste (add this after it’s all cooked so you get the full flavors before adding)

Take all of these things, put them into a soup pot, bring it to a slow boil then lower heat, cover and simmer it until the lentils are soft and blending into the broth.  Could take a while, depending on the lentils. Stir occasionally. Be patient.

Serve topped with some grated cheese and accompanied with hot bread, salad and a glass of wine, and you’re good to go!

Salute!

Slice of Life Friday: Got Basil?

We still have a few flourishing basil plants in our garden and it won’t be long before a fall frost blitzes them, so that means…It’s time for Uncle Steve’s Amazing Pesto Recipe. Duh!

Uncle Steve, my bro, perfected his recipe over two decades of intense gardening, taste-testing and readjusting.  Truthfully, he ate so much pesto over this time that he simply can’t even grow basil anymore. He’s done.

But his recipe lives on…

So here it is (you can thank me later):

UNCLE STEVE’S AMAZING PESTO RECIPE:

2 cups chopped basil
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or parsley)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt

Blend in blender. That’s it!  Add pesto to soups and recipes. Slather it on bread with a slice of fresh mozzarella, a slice of ripe tomato (yum!). And of course it’s a wonderful coating for pasta.  If you have a ton of basil, you can spoon pesto that you won’t be using right away into freezer bags. It freezes perfectly.

Imagine having fresh pesto in the dead of winter. The fragrance of it filling your kitchen with summertime warmth…

And as a side note, if you have so many basil leaves on hand that there are even too many to convert ‘em all into pesto, then just wash and pat dry these leaves and freeze them in bags.  I always have some on my freezer door and pull out a few to drop into a homemade soup or sauce.  A slice of summer at anytime.

Mangia! And enjoy.

Marie

Slice of Life Friday: Creating Selfish Time

Growing up, my mom was the quintessential housewife.  Married to the house more than my father, it seemed, Weezy, as we lovingly call her, spent the week cooking, cleaning, food shopping, doing laundry, etc. etc. etc. But on Friday?  Oh, on Friday Weezy made it her special day.  The kids were in school. Her hubbie at work. And the cleaning would have to pile up for a moment (actually, she cleaned the clean spots, so really, no such thing as stuff piling up anyway, but I digress…). On Friday she made it her day. A luxurious bubble bath, a facial complete with cucumber slices on the eyes.  A lovely lunch (I imagine Bloody Marys were involved). Stuff like that. Fridays were the only time things were about her.

My mom sure does know her cleaning, and it turns out she also does know a thing or two about the importance of selfish rituals. Not that I’m this selfless Mother Theresa figure, but I’m definitely guilty of getting wrapped up in life’s responsibilities and work and taking care of my fam to the point that I almost never stop and say, “Whoa, time for me, dude.”

Not on a regular basis. So I’m starting now to give this some serious thought.  What are some great things to do for just me? I don’t go in for pedis and manis (they creep me out…don’t ask). I’m not the hair salon type, more the put your hair in a ponytail and nevermind sort. A half a glass of wine gets me plowed, so Happy Hour is unwise for all involved.

So what’s left?

Okay, if I were loaded, I would totally pull out my passport and weekend in Sienna, Italy. (Cue the opera record.) Bring my sketchbook. Hang out and eat great food all weekend long, strolling through the ancient streets and soaking everything in.

(Insert sound of record needle scratching…music stops.)

Not loaded. Nope. So this past Friday, I took my dog, a feisty apricot poodle named Ella, for a long long walk…in the middle of the day.  I know, right?  Completely off the hook.

It was selfish (well, the dog liked it too), and relaxing, and whatever. Not a revolution, certainly. But I’m hoping that by the time this post pops up today, I think of another selfish Friday thing to do.

Selfish Friday. Nice ring to it.

The key is to make it a ritual. To set aside a time when I put everything else aside and just do something for fun. Maybe I’ll catch a mid-day movie (is this a sad thing to do?). Or, or… Maybe more ideas will crop up. Maybe I just need some practice at this. Ideas, anyone?

Maybe some cucumber slices would help…

Slice of Life Friday: Fall Loves

So, since last week’s Slice of Life Friday covered my top summertime loves, it’s only fitting that this one cover my favorite things about the fall, which, I must admit, is my very favorite season.  So here goes:

1. The leaves changing.
2. Scuffing through said leaves…always adored doing this as a little kid.
3. Seeing the sunlight glint through said leaves (okay, enough with the leaves already).
4. Cooler air, which always makes me feel more energetic for some reason.
5. Wearing fall clothing cuz, let’s face it, I’m sick of the summer stuff by now.
6. Baking! Bread. Banana bread. Pumpkin pie. Apple pie.
7. Snuggling under blankets sipping hot cider… Or strong coffee.
8. Cooking up savory soups and stews.
9. The harvest moon.
10. Halloween.  I’ve always loved loved loved Halloween.  It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.  Pumpkins beside pots of mums by the front door.
11. Ghost stories on a dark night.
12. Sitting by the fireplace reading a novel.
13. Fonthill’s pumpkin carving contest.

Now I know this may not be such an original list, but so what? It’s all true.

One thing I don’t love about fall? This is when, since I’m doing all this great cooking and baking, I start adding on a few pounds.  It’s inevitable.  Sigh.

So whats your fall love list look like?

And the Winner is…

Congrats to Jessica Kennedy for winning the Valentine Blog Hop Contest!  Jessica will be receiving a signed set of my novels What I Meant…, Over My Head and Drawn, plus a box of chocolates.  And she is now entered into the grand prize drawing for a $75 Amazon gift card offered through Book Luvin’ Babes. Yeah!

To enter the contest, folks had to leave comments about their favorite romantic movie or book.  Jessica’s favorite movie is Moulin Rouge, which she called “brilliant, beautiful and heartbreakingly wonderful.”  She had too many favorite romantic books to just pick one, so she included The Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles, The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning, The Blackdagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward, and just about anything by Gena Showalter.

My own personal favorites? I have to admit that I find works by Nicholas Sparks too cloying. Sorry, Nicholas…I’m sure your sales aren’t suffering from my opinion, considering just how many contest entrants listed The Notebook as their favorite book and movie. My favorite really romantic novels are A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux (some similarities to Drawn, perhaps?), and The Time Traveler’s Wife (yes, definite Drawn connections!). And my favorite romantic movies include Ever After, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

And for those of you looking for a new romantic movie or book, here is the list of folks’ all-time favorites (in no particular order):

Escape with these Romantic Books:
Pride and Prejudice
Gone with the Wind
The Notebook
Drawn by Marie Lamba :)
The Time Traveler’s Wife
A Knight in Shining Armor
The Perfect Chemistry
 
series
by Simone Elkeles
The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
The Blackdagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward
Wolf Tales, series by Kate Douglas
Until there was You by Kristan Higgins
Persuasion
Twice Loved by LaVeryl Spencer
Jane Eyre
A Companion or Life by Cari Hislop
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
One Day
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon’s
Loving Frank
Anna Karenina
Desperate Dutchesses series by Eloisa James
Authors: Lora Leigh, Maya Banks, Diana Palmer, Gena Showalter

Fall in Love with these Romantic Movies:
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Bridget Jones’ Diary
Ever After
Gone with the Wind

A Walk to Remember
P.S. I Love You
Somewhere in Time
Excaliber
You’ve Got Mail
Sleepless in Seattle 
Breakfast at Tiffany’s 
Must Love Dogs
Moulin Rouge

The Notebook
Life as we Know It
Pride and Prejudice
Meet Joe Black
Dr. Zhivago
Ever After
A Moment to Remember (Korean movie)
Love Actually
Shakespeare in Love
Return of the Living Dead 3, and Frankenhooker (this recommendation courtesy of a horror writer!)
The Way We Were
Love Story
Casablanca
Ghost

Enjoy, with love! Marie