Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The color emerald!

Inspired by... the color emerald.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pipilo erythrophthalmus

photo, Dan Ryan

This fine feathered fellah is a Pipilo erythrophthalmus, or a male Eastern towhee, and one that we've never seen in our backyard ... until now. It's exciting to see a new bird! He was hopping around a few weeks back, picking on some seeds we'd left out. They generally hang out in low brush areas, thickets, and along forest edges where there’s plump bugs under leaf litter, but in the dead of winter when there's snow on the ground, they'll take any scraps they can get. Don't forget to feed the birds!

Monday, February 25, 2013

That's a croc!

What's Henry the VIII wearing on his feet? 
I would swear it was the inspiration for the modern day Crocs™ shoes. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red carpet spa day!

It's all about the Oscars tonight—the crescendo of the film industry award season, and therefore, it's all about the Red Carpet! And... since a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do... time for my home spa day to begin! Here's what's on tap; a mani, pedi, cucumbers on the eyes, kale lemonade, all my fun Borghese products (like the mud mask, Tuscan salt scrubs,  spritzes and lotions)... Phew! Then... there's hair, makeup, opera gloves, tiara, Valentino dress (reality check; probably a floral kimono robe), and Christian Louboutin shoes (reality check: probably my Dansko clogs—I couldn't walk in heels that high anyhow), and best of all... bubbles! Be honest though, is the tiara too much?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Serendipity in the city

photos, Diane Carnevale

Walking to work in the city is always an adventure for me. Although I am a country girl at heart, I do enjoy a bit of city life, and delight in the most ordinary and mundane things. I seek out beauty, whether it be in soft faces, hard concrete, obvious objects and monuments or randomly obscure nooks and crannies. Each of these elements are enchanting in their own special ways-- even rusty old twisted steel has a sort of sex appeal to me. I've come upon achingly long autumn shadows, snow angels in the park, the behemoth Zakim Bridge reflecting on glassy stretches of the Charles River, and I've seen the explosive and infectious joy of mad dogs as they ran wild and played together at the Charlestown dog park. And occasionally, when I was very lucky, I've even had eye-to-eye contact or  exchanged a warm smile with a human being (sadly, all too rare in the city). Today I came across this patch of ornamental grasses amidst their long winter's slumber. To me they look like a hillside of hairy wild beasts! I like the contrast of the natural plant material against the man-made fire hydrant in the foreground. What was amazing though, is that to the left of this vignette I noticed the green tips of jonquils popping out of the soil. It's only February 22nd—how can that be so?! My freelance job in the city will end soon, and I'll miss serendipitous moments such as these. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Striking oil

Those who know me are probably amused at how obsessed I am with kitchen pantry items, both common and rare. Sometimes these ingredients are the subtle backbone of a recipes—that je ne sais quois that can take a recipe from drab to fab. Over the holidays I treated myself—and my kitchen pantry—to a panoply of cooking oils from La Tourangelle. Some were just replacement oils for the ones I always have on hand, such as walnut, peanut, canola and sesame oils. Some were more adventurous, such as pistachio, hazelnut, avocado, pecan, pumpkin seed, acorn squash seed and Thai wok oils (the latter is seasoned with lemongrass and kaffir lime). I also got some virgin coconut oil because its such a hot culinary item these days. Time to go play in the kitchen!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rubens' St. George and the Dragon

Inspired by... Peter Paul Rubens' St. George and the Dragon

The theme of Saint George battling the dragon has a long history in art, and has been painted by many. It is said to be a metaphor for the victory of the Christian spirit over the forces of evil, but I just love the movement, the colors, and the drama.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Golden beet, avocado + blood orange

Here is one more salad using those roasted golden beets. This time I paired them with segments of blood oranges, avocado, and feta cheese. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Golden beet, orange, goat cheese + walnut salad

Here's another fun salad  using those gorgeous golden beets. This time I paired the earthy delights with blood oranges, mint leaves, goat cheese, roasted walnuts, and a blood orange vinaigrette. The flavor combinations had me swooning—sweet, earthy, creamy, salty, crunchy, and delicious.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Golden beets and blueberries

I was playing around with ideas for beet based salads the other day and came up with this unusual combo; roasted golden beets, blueberries, Gorgonzola cheese, onions, arugula. It would have been nice with some nuts for a crunchy factor, but in any case, the sweet beets and blueberries are a nice counterpoint to the salty creamy Gorgonzola. I anointed it all with a light honey orange vinaigrette. This salad is colorful and packed with nutrients. photos, Diane Carnevale

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wild about Wilde, #5

I can resist everything but temptation.
—Oscar Wilde

+ + + 

This is another in my series of Oscar Wilde witticisms. In my humble opinion, O.W. was one of the cleverest men in literature. Loved him! Click on the red Wild about Wilde label below to read more Wilde witticisms.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

You should be kissed, and often...

Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don't think I will kiss you. 
Although you need kissing badly. That's what's wrong with you. 
You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.

—Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'hara 
in Gone with the Wind

(showing tonight @ 8pm on Turner Classic Movies!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pomegranate dressing

How about a special salad for your Valentine's day dinner tomorrow? Luscious ruby red pomegranate seeds make a lovely pop in a salad of mixed greens. Make a dressing with a juice from pomegranate (smoosh those seeds, baby) pom champagne vinegar (or plain champagne or rice wine vinegar vinegar—just choose a mild one), grapeseed oil, minced shallots, salt and pepper. It's a saucy little minx of a dressing! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tyler's pear tree

Photo by Liz Birkemose

Looks like a coffee klatch for these robins.
Bet they're discussing the recent blizzard!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tea time!

photo, Diane Carnevale

A cup of tea is nice on a raw winter day. 
This particular tea is made with lemon, honey and ginger.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The year of the snake!

It's the year of the snake!

Happy Chinese New Year! 
In homage to the Chinese New Year, artist Kathy Barbro made this 
beautiful cut-out mural. Yellow and red are a great color combination.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bouquet garni

There's nothing like a snowy winter day to make a chicken stock! Here is a nice bouquet garni—a mélange of fresh herbs—that's all ready to tie up and drop into the pot. Click here to see my chicken stock recipe.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The snow storm

The Snow Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The steed and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

  Come see the north wind's masonry
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structure, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Snow angel

This morning as I walked from North Station in Boston to my office in Charlestown, I came across this adorable snow angel. Doesn't it make you smile? Me too. Childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded in my head. A woman was walking past as I snapped this photo, so I smiled at her and pointed to the angel and said "Look, a snow angel!" She looked at me as if I was a crazy lady, and just kept walking. Worse, she never even glanced at the snow angel! I mean, weren't we all kids once?  Take time to enjoy the simple things in life, will ya?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gorgeous portrait—Elizabeth Taylor

Classic Elizabeth Taylor. Wasn't she the loveliest film ingénue? In those early roles, after National Velvet and Jane Eyre of course, she often played a vixen or a sex siren, but I loved that she had that underlying innocence that always surfaced in each of her characters. Okay, maybe not in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?where surely she could rip your jugular vein out with a venomous look. Liz was a dark-haired goddess with sizzling violet eyes. She was voluptuous, scandalous, and absolutely amorous. During her long career on the silver screen, she made over 50 films, of which I've seen about half. Each time I watched her I fall in love with her all over again. Some of my favorite of the films she's starred in are A Place in the Sun, Elephant Walk, Rhapsody, The Taming of the Shrew, Little Women, Butterfield 8, Suddenly Last Summer, and Boom!, She won two Oscars for Best Actress in two other favorite films: as Maggie, a sultry southern belle in Cat On A Hot Tin Roofand as Martha, a boozy and verbally abusive wife in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? In this role she starred along with her longtime love Richard BurtonLiz and Dick, what passion! And of course I can't forget Cleopatra, in which she was luscious and powerful all at once...and all those gorgeous costume changes! Yup, Liz was a classic.

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chicken massaman curry

My food pantry is never without a can of Thai massaman curry paste. From that little can, I can bring the flavors of Thailand to my kitchen in a snap. Muslim in origin, this curry is sweet and only mildly spicy. All recipes vary of course, but massaman curries generally contain tons of spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, palm sugar, fish sauce, chili, tamarind, turmeric, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, peanuts.

To make the base sauce, I combine a can of massaman curry and a can of coconut milk in a stew pot.  To that I add diced, cooked sweet potatoes, diced carrots, sautéed onions, browned chicken (1 inch pieces) and a kaffir lime leaf or two (which I keep frozen). After the stew has simmered for 5-10 minutes, I place in bowls over a bed of jasmine rice, then top with roasted peanuts, cilantro, and green onions. Prepare your taste buds for an explosion of flavors.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Peach and lime

photo, Diane Carnevale

A friend from work forced this beautiful peach and white amaryllis bulb, which is striking against a lime green wall in the office. Don't you wish your office had a wall that was lime green?!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The winter garden

Is there anything prettier in the quiet dead of winter than a snowy public park? All those incredible bones of the garden—the trees, hedges, grasses, benches, sculpture, fountains, fences etc.— all look particularly lovely with a monochromatic canvas of alabaster snowflakes. Even the metal work of the trash bin (above, right) looks intriguing.  (all photos, Diane Carnevale)

I like this photo (above) of City Square park in Charlestown because the winding road leads your eyes past filigree trees, left and right, to three prominent spires; the Zakim Bridge in the far back, the center of a huge fountain with a gold weathervane on top, and a classic Charlestown gas light.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Six more weeks

Am I the only one who thinks groundhogs are adorable? They torment me in my garden by decapitating flowers overnight, and still, I chuckle when I see them sneaking away with a mouth full of flower petals. They have to make a living too, right?

Friday, February 1, 2013


Tangled branches near the Ipswich river look like 
an abstract sculpture that belongs in MOMA.