Friday, November 30, 2012

Baby, you're a firework!

photo, Diane Carnevale

These late autumn plumes of ornamental grasses remind me of fireworks! 
It's the grand finale of the garden season, the very last thing to bloom. 

Have a listen to Katy Perry singing her song Firework.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gorgeous portrait—Katharine Hepburn

With so many beautiful portraits of Katharine Hepburn, it was difficult to choose just one, but this photo is unusual with its chiaroscuro—an Italian term for dramatic lights and darks--and I couldn't resist it. The woman had amazing bones and a powerful presence behind the camera to be sure. Loved her.

It's difficult to choose a favorite film role of hers. I loved her in her younger roles: she played a rich socialite in The Philadelphia Story, and a wacky and eccentric pet leopard-owning heiress in Bringing Up Baby. Those are fun films. She holds her own against a constantly bellowing Peter O'Toole as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter... there was some seriously sharp, witty dialogue in that dysfunctional family flick. In Eugene O'neill's  Long Day's Journey Into Night, another Dysfunction Junction film, she portrayed a morphone addicted mother. Then there was the delusional and son-obsessed wealthy widow Mrs. Violet Venable role that she played in Suddenly, Last Summer with Elizabeth TaylorShe was a lonely woman traveling in Venice in Summertime, and a graceful and gutsy wife who challenges unwritten social racial rules of the time in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner starring with her long-time love, Spencer TracyShe portrayed a spunky strait-laced missionary alongside Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, royalty in Mary of Scotland, and in one of her later films, she played a lovely old New England Yank in On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda. All of these films, plus many more, are my favorite—I couldn't possibly choose just one. She dressed well, always looked statuesque, and commanded the screen. Love that Miss Hepburn.

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Frosty cabbage

Photo, Diane Carnevale

This looks similar to underwater coral, but it's actually
 an early morning frost on the edges of a purple cabbage.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Orange marmalade

There's a classic scene in the movie Gosford Park where Maggie Smith's snobbish aristocratic character criticizes the orange marmalade she is given on her breakfast tray as... Quelle horeur!..."store bought." I've never actually even thought of making homemade marmalade, though this recipe from Saveur does look good, so I may give it a try. My favorite store bought orange marmalade is Bonne Maman, and it's especially yummy on a warm, homemade popover. The sweet and slightly tart marmalade perfectly compliments salted butter, whether it's homemade or not.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Everyone seems to fuss so much over that Thanksgiving Day turkey, but isn't it really all about the mashed potatoes...? And the stuffing...? And pumpkin pie? I think I like the turkey best the next day, cold, in a turkey sandwich. My husband makes the best mashed potatoes. Since he has the most Irish blood in him it's fitting that he's in charge of making a big batch of them for the family gathering. They come out perfect every year.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fox trot

Today is the annual Myopia Hunt Club fox hunt at Appleton farms. There's nothing like a brisk walk in open fields on Thanksgiving morning with the thunder of galloping horses underfoot, the hounds barking, and men and women all dressed in their bright coats. A thermos of hot chocolate and Bailey's Irish creme is a nice tradition too! FYI—these days they don't really use a fox, just a scented bag to lure the hounds.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spectrum of leaves

Red... orange... yellow... green

Sunday, November 18, 2012


photos, Dan Ryan + Diane Carnevale

This classic Italian lemon digestive is delicious on a hot summer day, and super easy to make. Just add lemon peels to grain alcohol, let it sit for a few weeks, strain out lemon peels, add sugared water and let it sit some more. In a few weeks, I'll bottle the golden syrup to give away at Christmas. For this batch I used this limoncello recipe, the family recipe of "Extra Virgin's" Gabriele Corcos.

Peeling the lemons...

Six weeks later...
bottling up the lemoncello.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Parisian backdrop

I'm not a huge fan of musicals, but I really love watching Gene Kelly hoofing it in An American in Paris, and I especially love this backdrop sketch, with two stately columns, wispy clouds, and an avenue leading to the arc de triomphe. This sketch would be fun to add depth and dimension to a room.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A dip in Piazza San Marco

photos from National Geographic

We all know Venice is sinking... and this month the aqua alta in la serenesima , a city that I have visited often and is near and dear to my heart, is really high- like 5 feet deep. So what to do when there's a flood in Piazza San Marco?... just go for a swim! Flooding is common in Venice this time of year and last week's  high tide marked the sixth-highest level since 1872, according to the ANSA news agency. Read more about the flooding flooding January of this year here. Now, where's that chappy with the drinks? 

Read more here:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Princess treatment

Ever want to peek into someone's bathroom cabinet? I know you do. Well here's a peek into one section of mine, which holds just some of my Princess Borghese spa products. Okay, I admit, I am obsessed with PB. It reminds me of the spa resort town of Montecatini that Dan and I stumbled upon on our honeymoon in Italy back in 1993. There, one can "take the waters" (either drink them or soak in them), and the whole town has a very Fellini-esque vibe. So a date with the Princess means a mini home spa day that brings me back to that beautiful town. A nice volcanic mud and a glass of prosecco makes everything right, si? Tuscan salt scrubs on my dry calves and heels, spritzing toners, hand creams, facial wrinkle and vitamin C creams.... they're all delicious Italian indulgences. I have visited the inspiring art filled villa Borghese and Borghese gardens in Rome, filled with amazing architecture and art, and can only imagine the hedonistic indulgences there way back in the day. I am sure many servants were involved. So what's your idea of a home spa day?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Parsley, sage, rosemary + thyme

I always think of that song when I make my chicken stock because I use those particular herbs for it. Save those chicken bones from those rotisserie chickens (!) and honor the chicken by using every bit of it. I toss chicken bones into a big Zip Lock baggie in the freezer, and when I have a few I make a big batch of stock for soups. I made this batch over the weekend, which made 7 containers of stock. It's a snap to whip up , warms the house on a cool day, and is heaps and bounds better than any stock you could ever buy in a can or box. Click here for my chicken stock recipe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Woolly mammoth plant

This dwarf weeping larch tree always reminds me of a big shaggy, woolly mammoth. Its needles emerge each spring as plush and fluffy, and eventually turn this gorgeous golden shade each November before shedding them. It's one of only a handful of conifers that are deciduous, most of them being larches. The other notable deciduous conifer (a cone bearing annual leaf dropper) being Metasequoia, or Dawn Redwood.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A twist on tuna

photo, Diane Carnevale

Sometimes you've just gotta jazz up that plain old tuna wrap. One of my favorite ways to put a twist on tuna is to add some crunchy elements. Chickpeas, purple onions and red peppers do just that.

Friday, November 9, 2012

LL Bean Boot mobile

photo, Diane Carnevale

Spotted in Boston!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Critters foraging

photos, Diane Carnevale

Nice to see little critters and birds foraging for nibbles in and around the yard. This chipmunk was looking for sunflower seeds in a patch of green ivy, and this downy woodpecker was enjoying the seeds of a mullein flower. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Digging up tubers

Remember the colorful dahlias that I mentioned a few weeks ago? Well, these ugly fellas are the tubers that make the gorgeous dahlias. It's a bit of a chore to dig them all up, wash the dirt off, let them dry, and store them away in a box (newspapers will do, but a mix of vermiculite and perlite is better). My mom just puts them into old pantyhose and hangs them in her basement over the winter, but my basement is too cold for that trick. Most years I also I label them by color with twist ties, but I never got to that this year because a mid-week hard frost caught me off guard, and the leaves and flowers turned black before I got to them on the following weekend. But my dahlia patch is a mixed jumble of colors anyhow, so it doesn't matter what colors go where. The main thing is to keep the tubers free of moisture so they don't get any sort of fungus over the winter. They shrivel and shrink in size, but once I stick them into the ground in the spring the magic begins all over again!

Monday, November 5, 2012

No more reservations

graphic by Sam Morrison

Tonight is the very last time that the adventurous and irreverent NYC chef Anthony Bordain will entertain us with his No Reservations travel / food show. Yup, he's hanging up his backpack. Waaah! No more global meals with him (I'd pass on the snake heart, BTW), no more witticisms and bons mots. Double waaah!  I'll miss you Mr. Bordain. (Love that you speak French). Tune in in tonight at 9PM for his last Reservations show, ever, after eight seasons. So where's he gonna be on his last show?... Brooklyn! And what's he gonna do next? Well, he's going to CNN ... of course, to do another food and travel show.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Beyond the rainbow

This one's for you, EFH...

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Crane Estate art show & sale—2012

This coming weekend is the Trustees of Reservations' annual Crane Estate art show & sale! The theme for this year is An Alternate View, and it's a chance to "View more than 150 pieces of art highlighting the beauty of North Shore landscapes and landmarks." I have 2 landscape paintings in the show, including this one named "Autumn Marsh," which is of Fox Creek in Ipswich.

Even without the awesome art show, the Crane Estate is beautiful to visit this time of year, magically perched on a hillside that overlooks the Atlantic ocean. The kids can run wild and the adults can pop inside to see the paintings, then you can stop into Russell Orchards on the way home for some apples or cider donuts. Show hours are Saturday and Sunday, November 3th and 4th from 10-4, and there is a preview party Friday night (tonight!) from 7 to 10 PM with an open bar, catered hors d'oeuvres, and music. Hope you can make it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Split personality

This is no Halloween trick ... this 2-toned black and orange lobster was discovered this week in the waters of nearby Beverly, MA by Salem lobsterman Dana Duhaime. Scientists believe this rare split coloring—which only happens 1 in every 50 to 100 million lobsters—develops during a cellular division when the lobster egg is first fertilized. It's now living at the New England Aquarium. What a catch!