Friday, August 31, 2012

Fifteen MORE minutes!

Campbell's Soup is offering Andy Warhol another 15 minutes of fame! In homage to the the 50th anniversary of the artist's 1962 signature work "32 Campbell's Soup Cans," the soup manufacturer is launching colorful, limited edition soups designed in Warhol's pop-art style. The cans will be available for ¢.75  in Target stores starting on Sunday (September 2). Mmmm, Mmmm clever!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

My talented frog

Photos, Diane Carnevale

Okay, maybe I've already shared too many frog photos with you all already, but this isn't just any frog; it's my frog—and I grew him from a pollywog (a buck fifty from the pollywog store). And look at the talent! Here's Jeremiah perched atop of one of my green glass balls our pond. How did the ball not roll around, like a gerbil running on one of those wheels? If you think that's good you should see him jump. And forget about having a staring contest with him, because he'll win every time. Today I was delighted to discover that now we have three Jeremiahs in the pond. I only bought two pollywogs so the word must be out that this is the pond to float in, and now we have migrating frog imports. There's some sort of joke in there about a green card, isn't there?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Resistance is futile

Summer tomatoes. Annual indulgence is necessary. Resistance is futile. Those rich, juicy tomatoes you grow in your backyard—tethered to ancient wooden stakes, slumping heavy fruits hoisted with stretchy nylons that are long ruined with runs—are a wondrous annual indulgence, and yes, impossibly irresistible.

Every winter I dream of that scent that wafts through the air after I rub against the green tomato vines, and lust for the flavor of each bite, saturated with the tastes summer. I grow all sorts in my humble little potager, from little yellow pear ones, to beefy colorful heirlooms. The Brandywine variety is my current favorite, in case you were wondering, but that might change next week when the San Marzanos ripen. So many tomatoes—all at once, it often seems—and so many different way to enjoy them, from a spicy gazpacho, to a plate of them with mozzarella and basil, and a hundred other ways in between.

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For me, the perfect way to showcase these colorful treasures is with a good old BLT sandwich. Top notch ingredients are paramount. First, find a gorgeous piece of bread—not too wimpy, and not too crusty. Lightly toast two thin slices of it, slather both sides in Hellman's mayo, then add a few slices of a cobb smoked bacon, some crunchy romaine lettuce, and of course, thick slices of backyard tomatoes, salted and peppered first. A BLT seems to cover most of those taste bud senses...sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. You know it's a good sandwich when the juices start dripping down your hand and arms. Oh yeah, summertime!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stone fruit salad

This was such a simple salad, but so summery. You could make it with any combo of stone fruits you have on hand... peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, or plums. Here I used apricots, cherries, mint leaves, and borage blossoms. Stone fruits are delicious grilled too!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A blaze of glory!

A blaze of glorious sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) at 
Canaan Farms, Wenham. Summer just isn't summer without them.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ode to the Ninth!

Graphic, Diane Carnevale

Tanglewood ends each summer season with Beethoven's 9th symphony, and its euphoric choral music choral music set to Schiller's "Ode to Joy." We have an annual tradition of lying outside on a blanket in the the grass, (a la Tanglewood, but without the crowds!), cranking up the outside speakers, and listening to the live radio broadcast of Tanglewood's season-ending Ninth concert. Nothing like a little Ludwig Van to mark the seasons.

Ending lyrics from the fourth (choral) movement in German and English.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gorgeous portrait—Bette Davis

I have a feeling most people remember the older, more eccentric Bette Davis—you know bright red lipstick with a droopy cig in her mouth and a funky hat—but in her youth she was quite a knockout. She had those sultry, bedroom eyes, a mean swagger, and a potent line delivery style. I've seen most of her older films more times than I should admit (Thank you Turner Classic Movies!), and I hope you have too. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order: The Letter, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Now Voyager, All About Eve, Dark Victory, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Jezebel, The Little Foxes, Old Acquaintance, Of Human Bondage, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Mr. Skeffington, The Corn Is Green, A Stolen Life, The Catered Affair, Pocketful of Miracles, and The Virgin Queen. She plays quite a range of characters in these films all with her own style. And of course, she's got Bette Davis eyes...

"Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
From All about Eve

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"Y'arnt ever gonna get out of that wheelchair Blanche." 
From Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

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"Don't let's ask for the moon, we have the stars." 
From Now Voyager

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"There comes a time in every woman's life when the only 
thing that helps is a glass of champagne."
From Old Acquaintance

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Always summer...

If it could only be like this always – 
always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe 
and Aloysius in a good temper... 

—from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited
(spoken by Sebastian Flyte)

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As I watched the 2008 version of Brideshead Revisited (again, for the millionth time) I realized that I get an ache of melancholy during this "always summer" segment. The entire film is heavyhearted of course, and makes me pensive and woeful, but this bit, in particular, does. It's a gorgeous film, with sentimental vignettes that tug at your heart, and amazing cinematography; the kind that moves and wraps around the characters in each scene. It's quite beautiful. And so is the music, composed by Adrian Johnston. I am convinced that Waugh can't write a bad sentence, and the quote above from the book is such a lovely  example... A metaphor—a longing for simpler times and endless, languid summer days.

Please click here to watch and listen to these amazing scenes 

Now have a watch of the older 1981 film version
with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. any rate, believed myself very near heaven, 
during thoselanguid days at Brideshead.
It is thus I like to remember Sebastian, 

as he was that summer, when we wandered 
alone together through that enchanted palace; 
Sebastian in his wheel-chair spinning down 
the box-edged walks of the kitchen gardens 
in search of alpine strawberries and warm figs, 
propelling himself through the succession of hothouses,
from scent to scent and climate to climate, 
to cut the muscat grapes and 
choose orchids for our buttonholes...

—from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited
(spoken by Charles Ryder)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Proud as a peacock

Graphic, Diane Carnevale

I really like these fun papier-mâché peacocks from Stray Dog designs, via Zinc DoorThey're fairly large so they'd make a dramatic impact somewhere in my home, and they come come in all sorts of snazzy colors!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Betwixt & between

Photo, Dan Ryan

A sliver of sunshine illuminates a lily blossom, tucked betwixt and between lily pads in a quiet section of the Ipswich River. This photo was taken last summer at Bradley Palmer State Park in nearby Topsfield, MA, during a delightful morning hike.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The color chartreuse!

Inspired by... the color chartreuse.

To see more colors, click on the "color blocks" label below.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Berry madness!

Berries are wildly abundant this time of year so get your berry groove going and make this British style berry pudding recipe. My mom used to make one like this when she was younger. Serve with sweet whipped cream. It easy to make and crazy good!

2 pints strawberries, hulled, quartered
2 pints blueberries
2 pints blackberries
2 pints raspberries
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1-pound loaf brioche or challah bread, cut crosswise into 1 inch slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Line rounded pan or bowl (8 –10 inches in diameter) with plastic wrap. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Combine all berries, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a large pot. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set berry sauce aside.

Spread bread slices with butter. Mix remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle over bread slices.

Drizzle 1/2 cup warm berry sauce over bottom of pan. Line pan with a single layer of bread, cutting to fit as needed. Pour 1 1/2 cups berry sauce over. Repeat layering 2 more times. Pour any remaining sauce over. Cover with plastic. Set a plate slightly smaller than pan on top of pudding to weigh down, keeping bread submerged. Chill for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Remove plate and plastic from top of pudding. Invert onto a plate. Release pan sides; remove pan and plastic. Indulge, and prepare to Ooooh and aaaaahh!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Yellow Scale

The entire canvas of this delicious self portrait is completely swathed in a zillion shades of yellow. It's called The Yellow Scale, and was painted by Czech artist Franz Kupka (1871–1957). Kupka was an eccentric avant-garde painter who lived in Paris... and what a time to be an artist living in Paris!

I love Kupka’s confident gaze, the subtle tinges of green—similar to those used in Lucien Freud's portraits—and I especially love the hand gesture with the ciggy. His quirky personality comes through, don't you think? Veering from the wave, and from his customary naturalistic representation, Kupka was one of the pioneers in developing abstract painting early in the 20th century. He truly explored the use and range of colors, which resulted in luminous paintings such as this one, filled with the kind of spirituality he was fascinated by.

"Atmosphere in a painting is achieved through bathing the canvas in a single scale of colors, thus one achieves an état d'âme (state of being) exteriorized in luminous form."
                                — Franz Kupka 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ketel 1 vodka

Makes a damned fine vodka and tonic.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Puff pastry tomato tart

Photo, Diane Carnevale

A tomato tart is a breeze to make using frozen puff pastry, any kind of cheese that suits you, and of course, those vine ripened tomatoes from your back yard! I used a mix of gruyere and cheddar cheeses for this particular tart, served with a little frisee lettuce. Spread a very thin layer of mustard on the puff pastry, add the cheese, the sliced tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, and maybe a teeny bit of garlic. Bake, slice, devour.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Entranced and enchanted

I am utterly entranced and enchanted by the surreal works of Dutch photographic artist Ruud van Empel, especially the green one shown above. His theatrical portraits of innocent children, eyes transfixed on you the viewer, are staged vignettes set in dreamy, lush forests and lagoons.This must be what it's like to walk into a Henri Rousseau painting! Van Empel’s painterly method is a complex process of digital manipulation. He photographs the models in his studio, separately photographs leaves, flowers, plants and animals, and even separately photographs clothing on a tailor's dummy. Then, through endless hours of work and the using Adobe Photoshop as a tool, he creates these ethereal masterpieces that are ultimately a modern day kind of collage. When I first saw these works I wondered, were they paintings? Photographs? They are certainly beautiful! Scroll down to see more of his work below.

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“The fact that many of the children in his compositions have a dark skin is a facet that cannot remain without comment. Although it is self-evident that a child’s skin colour is not important, the iconography of the innocent child was traditionally represented by ‘white’ children. The earliest examples of this date from the early seventeenth century. These are portraits in which children are captured in an idealized, pastoral setting. It is a genre to which the children’s portraits of the German artist Otto Dix, a source of inspiration to van Empel, refer. In deviating from the standard iconography by giving the child a dark skin, Van Empel inadvertently assumes a political stance. After all, this child is still the focus of discrimination and its innocence is not recognized by everyone as being self-evident.”
                 —Art historian Jan Baptist Bedaux 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th Julia!

Bon Appétit!

Julia Child would have been 100 years old today! What is it about Julia that we all love? Was it her sense of adventure? Her spirit, warmth and wit? Maybe it was the fact that she changed the landscape of the American table by introducing us to, and educating us about, new foods and cooking techniques at a time when we really needed to bust out of the Swanson Frozen Dinner and Campbell's Soup mold. Or maybe it's that Julia always let us know that it's okay if what we create in the kitchen doesn't come out perfectly. Thanks for everything you taught us Julia!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ivy league

Photo, Diane Carnevale

Tucked in an area of our yard, perched on a tree stump, a stone bust of Michelangelo's David is tangled up in a mass of green ivy. It looks as though he has an ivy wreath on his head.

Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012

 Photo: AP Photo/Martin Meissner

So that was that then. It's been quite a run for England with the wedding, then the Jubilee, and now the Olympic games. I have to admit that I watched more of the games than I usually do, being that I don't care for watching team sports (Too much spitting... what's up with that?!), but I really enjoyed watching individuals competing for their lifelong goals. I don't even want to admit how many times I teared up with all of those Olympic dreams stories. C’mon, you did too. Opening ceremonies aside (I cringed a lot during those), and although I thought it had a the worst Olympic font ever (looked like slanted masking tape) the worst logo (that pink thing), and the most bizarre mascots (creepy even), overall I thought it was well done London! The royals are always fab and Boris is the coolest Mayor I've seen in a long time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Young Girl in Profile, by Jan Lievens

If the dog days of summer are too hot for you, chill out at the Peabody Essex Museum for an encore showing of Dutch and Flemish masterpieces called Golden: Dutch and Flemish masters. The impressive exhibit of paintings, furniture and decorative arts are from the private collection of Rose-Marie and Eijk Otterloo (of Marblehead!), and includes nearly 70 paintings from those rock stars of light, such as the Bruegals, Franz Hals, Rembrandt, and yes, even Vermeer. The show is only there until the end of August, so hurry up and visit!

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Suddenly I have the song Waterloo, by Abba, playing in my head!

Otterloo!... Promise to love you for ever more...
Otterloo!...  Couldn't escape if I wanted to...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cinnamon swirl French toast

Photo, Diane Carnevale

I used slices of cinnamon swirl bread from a local bakery 
to make this French toast. So good.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Endless summer

photo, Diane Carnevale

Big fluffy hydrangea blossoms scream summertime! I have these Endless Summer hydrangeas in my garden, which blossom on both old wood and new wood. This essentially means that there is never a danger of those early spring frosts (that we are prone to here in Zone 5) which kill off the flower buds that were set the previous year. I add acid to the soil to make the blossoms blue, and my goal is to add even more acid so the flowers become a super saturated dark blue color—almost a purple. In another area of my garden I make my hydrangea blooms pink by adding lime to the soil (to make it more alkaline). I feel like a bit of a mad scientist with the power to change the color of my hydrangeas like this! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Farro & grilled summer squash

Grilled summer squash pairs well with chewy grains of Italian farro.
It's been simply dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Appleton Farms alleé of trees

Appleton Farms Alleé... I've painted this tree lined path several times and in all seasons. Both of these paintings (oil on canvas) are still available for sale.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Swizzle + sizzle

It's still ridiculously hot, so last night we grilled up a batch of Vietnamese shrimp on sugarcane swizzle sticks, which just happened to pair perfectly with a Szechuan noodle salad and cool papaya.

You may also like this other Vietnamese food post.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Blue nude

Recently painted, blue nude...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mass plantings

My neighbors Mark and Maggie have an enormous yard, and recently, while they were down on the Cape frolicking in the sun and surf with their family, I sauntered around their back yard 'ooo-hing and aah-ing. I noticed this lovely mass planting of purple coneflowers on the edge of an area where they have allowed to go a little wild. Thet have planted several purple coneflower plants there, which in the next few years will grow and knit together to form a beautiful drift of pink. I like it when a tamed and manicured lawn meets a grassy area that's allowed to go to seed (see the bottom photo). Nice juxtaposition. Dutch garden master Piet Oudolf spearheaded this concept, and is well known for planting mass drifts of grasses and indigenous flowers on a very gigantic scale. Check out Piet's website for some amazing garden inspiration. Oh, and thanks for the local inspiration M & M!

photos, Diane Carnevale

Friday, August 3, 2012

Watercress & cucumber soup

This watercress and cucumber soup is one of those no cook soups—great for a hot summer day. I used mint instead of dill, and added in some parsley as well, then garnished with Greek yogurt, olive oil and a purple pansy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No dressing required

photo, Diane Carnevale

Here is a simple salad of luscious ripe apricots, Roquefort cheese, arugula, onions, and tiny purple loosestrife blossoms. No dressing required...but I suppose you can wear clothes if you wish. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inspired by—moody blues

Moroccan straw slippers on my worn blue porch floor
always remind me of the Greek islands. Shown below 
is Santorini, where the roofs match 
endlessly beautiful blue beyond.