Thursday, December 13, 2012

No Idea What to Wear? A Little Black Dress of Course.

Silliness was in the air last week while 2 friends and I spent a week on the Georgia Coast together, laughing hysterically and wreaking havoc wherever we went. One of the highlights of the week was attending the Little Black Dress Show at the SCAD Museum of Art. If you can't make it there before it ends in January here are some pics: 

One wicked queen gown for wearing to run the world. Yes, please.

The only way I'd get married again. In black Oscar DeLaRenta.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Soul Mate Reunion 2012: Settling In

The cure for whatever ails you is probably large doses of time with people who love and care about you. Your tribe of friends is actually much better for helping you find your way than even the best compass. I'm in Savannah Georgia at the home of my friend, The Food Maven for a week of relaxing, reconnecting, re-energizing. This year we are joined by our other dear friend. Our hostess has deemed this week, Soul Mate Reunion 2012.

I bought my travel companion and I matching compasses to wear around our necks as pendants. On the flight from ATL to JAX I decided to photograph mine against a backdrop of clouds out the window.

Can we all just take a moment out of life to breathe deep and orient ourselves?

 There's nothing like arriving at your temporary home to find that your hostess has left a collection of little welcome gifts by your bedside. how well does she know me? Chocolate and hand sanitizer? Burt's Bees and Starbucks?

Soul Mate.

Here are a few other pics from the first 3 days:

 A couple of months ago when we were in Estonia we bought these slippers. Felted wool, hand made, they were just about the cutest things I'd ever seen. I'm wearing mine on the right, one of her daughter's is on the left.

Everyone thinks they look like the evil Nutcracker mice.

The breakfast of champions.

Off to the church to cook dinner for a hundred people or so.

How I'm getting my beagle fix this week.
View from the back porch in coastal Georgia.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Eastern Wisdom Meets Western Science

Turmeric, ginger, peppercorns
I'm feeling under the weather this weekend so my foggy brain is digging around in the archives. I've been drinking my favorite cold remedy and thought I'd share the recipe with you. You aren't guaranteed not to get sick no matter how healthy you are, but you can take steps to shorten the length of your suffering.

Western medicine sends us off to the cold/flu aisle at the drugstore for something full of ingredients we can't pronounce when we don't feel well. Eastern tradition tells us we might be better off in the spice aisle at the grocery. 

 Right before my daughter's wedding she came down with a dreadful cold. My friend, and fellow blogger The Food Maven sent me a recipe for a cure. It seems her mother was traveling in Ireland and was in a pub with a cold (her, not the pub). The owner, a man from India, suggested a spoonful of turmeric and honey. Mommy Maven followed the advice and was all better the next day! My daughter got better so I never did make it. Earlier this week I was feeling a bit under the weather myself and decided to try it out, but you know I had to do some research first.

I came across many variations on several websites, they all seem to differ slightly. I liked one posted by blogger Arun Shanbhag, who remembers his grandmother making this for him.

I prefer to cook it on the stove
Here is the link to his blog post: Turmeric Milk: Soothing Elixir, in which he explains the history and science behind this potion. I changed a couple of things. I'm a firm believer in the power of green tea (Read about the health benefits here) so I made power packed infusion (1 family size tea bag to 1/4 C. water) to mix the turmeric in instead of water. I didn't have fresh ginger on hand but I did have some of the dried/candied sort, and I used coconut milk because dairy products are known to increase mucus production, something we are trying to lessen, and have other negative side effects for many. In an update on his site Arun added this comment: "Scientists have demonstrated that when curcumin is ingested along with a peppercorn extract, the ability of our body to absorb and utilize curcumin increases dramatically, up to 2000%. "

I made a cup complete with peppercorns and took it at bedtime. I woke up feeling much better, and yes--energized! So I'm a convert. The dried ingredients premixed would make a great gift for a friend who's suffering from a cold. The fact that it's home made and wasn't concocted by a pharmaceutical company is comforting in its own way. Here's my version but the internet is full of ways to tweak it; find one that you like.

The Housewife's Recipe:

1/4 C of very strong green tea
1/2 ts turmeric
Power it up with peppercorns! Delicious!

1 ts candied ginger
1 ts honey
a few peppercorns, whole
a mug of coconut milk

Dissolve turmeric in hot green tea, add to milk with ginger, honey, and peppercorns and stir over medium heat until hot. Let sit for 5 minutes before drinking.

Cheers to your health!

*Of course if you have a fever or cough that doesn't go away you should see a doctor.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My First Honey Harvest

 If you've been paying attention then you will know that over the course of the spring and summer, and into the fall a little miracle has taken place.

Miracles take place all the time of course, but in our busy lives we often forget how miraculous the world is.

Wondrous and sometimes magical even. That was the main lesson I learned from the hive this year. 

I was hoping for a little honey. I hoped it would taste okay. I hoped I didn't ruin it somehow....

Such a lot of worry for something designed to make life sweeter.
In the end the bees and I kept our agreement. I tended them and they tended the honey. I was surprised to get 2 1/2 gallons which (aside from what I ate right off the frame) came to 24 half pint jars, 2 quart jars, and an extra pint for us to eat right away. I'd say for my first beekeeping season, my girls and I did alright. Looking forward to another hive and more honey next year...SWEET.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Honey Season

Fall has arrived and I'm getting excited about collecting honey soon. I gave the colony two brood/honey chambers to fill up and get them through the winter.The first week in August I added a shallow super from which I will collect (a very nice term for what the bees see as stealing) honey from this compartment. This week I checked in on them to see how they are doing and fill up the inside feeder. Here's a peek:

This is the hive with the telescoping cover and screened inner cover removed.

I remove a couple of frames so I can see what I've got. This is a frame of capped honey near the center of the box.

You can see the wire "queen exlcuder" beneath the frames. We can't have her up here laying eggs where we want only honey. 

Here is a frame where they are busy capping the honey cells for storage.

Every place you see white is a cell full of honey they have capped 

Here's a closer look. You can see the honey in the cells and some of the bees still working...

They fill the cell with honey (which by the way is regurgitated nectar that the bees store in a special "honey stomach" which is separate from their real stomach). They then fan the honey to evaporate excess water. They do this until the water content is about 18%.  When it's just right (how do they know?) then they cap it with wax for safe keeping.

This is the end frame that you can see they have just started to work on. The embossed plastic gives them a foundation to work on, but you could actually hang empty frames in the hive and they would fill them out. The frames help keep things orderly for the beekeeper.

In this shot you can see that even in late September the bees are still bringing bright orange pollen (and some that is nearly white) into the hive from their foraging ventures.

One of my favorite shots from this inspection. A frame full of honey that they are just beginning to cap. I'm giving them a couple more weeks and then I'll check to see if they've capped all the frames. Then it will be extraction time. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Humiliation: The New Travel Perk

Wrote this in my head while trying to get home a couple of weeks ago, to keep from having a melt down. Traveling with a man when things don't go according to plan, generally means that I'm required to be a calming force to protect others within ear shot...Can I just say-- being the "calming force" when you want to sit down in the floor and cry, is exhausting?

I try to prepare him ahead of time. "Customs and immigration will probably be long lines." I then proceed to tell him my most horrific experiences in an effort to make whatever is about to happen tolerable by comparison. I tell this story:

When I came back from Athens last year with pneumonia I had a 103 degree fever, in Newark the line for re-entry was SO long. I was delirious. I had packed my suitcase in a brain melted stupor that made me look like a refugee. Upon entry to the country, I handed my passport to the immigration agent and it had a panty liner stuck on it.

Your brain tends to process things slowly when it's overheating...he looked at my passport and it's accidental attachment.  He looked at me. I looked at my passport/panty liner combination.


I snatched the panty liner back. It made that detaching adhesive noise which drew the attention of people who hadn't been paying attention. Humiliating sound effects. Perfect.

"You probably don't need that." I said.

My daughter stood by mortified.

(Oh, please feel free to tell me YOUR embarrassing travel story that beats that.)

Copenhagen to Chicago. Customs. Immigration. Baggage claim. Baggage re-check in. Security. Check in. Security. Airport restaurant. Gate.

It is finally the last leg of a long journey home. 26 hours without sleep. I'm dirty. I'm tired. The last pat down at security left a lot to be desired. Why is it always the best looking TSA guys who don't think I look dangerous? Am I the only person over thinking my underwear choices for that new scanner and wondering if they ever sanitize the mats we walk over barefooted? How long before we all have something called traveler's foot?

The Shoe Bomber should be made to clean those mats on his hands and knees -- forever and ever, Amen.

The flight in front of ours doesn't have a first officer. Our plane is on the ground and our crew is here. But we are waiting for the guy holding up the show. Eventually he shows up and that flight departs. We board our flight, stow our luggage, and breath a sigh of relief as the plane is pushed back.


We taxi for a couple of minutes and then the pilot announces that due to bad weather at our destination we'll be sitting on the ground for about a quarter of an hour awaiting clearance for take off. The business man in the seat across the aisle fell asleep as soon as he got on board and now has awakened to collect his luggage because he thinks we landed. In a few more minutes a new announcement: The weather is worse and we will be returning to the gate to step off the plane if we want, thanks to the new Passengers Bill of Rights that ensures airlines cannot hold passengers captive on tarmacs anymore.

Isn't Youtube a wonderful thing? 

Suddenly, the feeling of being strangers dissipates and people begin to talk about trying to get home, their other bad travel experiences, and crack jokes. Here's mine:

We taxied so long I thought he was going to drive to Memphis.

I also had a capital idea: 

I have 3 bottles of Russian vodka and several German chocolate bars in my checked luggage. If someone will get it for us we can have a party.

Our poor flight attendant looked like she might we willing to go get it for us herself.

Eventually the weather clears and we are good to go. I check the time. I should be at home in my own bed, by now. As tired as I am, I can't ever sleep on an airplane, or train. I try to avoid drooling and snoring in public. That's the worst isn't it? To doze off and be awoken by a snort...only to realize it was you.

For everyone's benefit I try to remain awake.

The plane lands and hypothetically you are "home" but there is still the walk to baggage claim, the car, and the ride home...

The going is always such fun. The coming home...well, it just always sucks.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happily Mapless in Finland Or Directions For Girls

After having every day on our tour of the Baltic capitals planned out in detail and in such a way that there was never any time left over for much shopping (okay, maybe that's a conspiracy theory I can believe in) we were ready for some girl time in Helsinki. I'd been busy selling the Suomenlinna Fortress as something the men wouldn't want to miss but that we weren't interested in. Unfortunately visiting the market at the pier was a casualty of my plan, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We'd seen enough palaces and had enough military history to last us a while and we were ready to lay siege to boutiques and storm gift shops in the city center. We were using the fortress as a brilliant diversionary tactic that would allow us to implement our campaign unhindered by questions like "Do you know how much that dress costs in DOLLARS?"

They didn't seem too keen on leaving us to our own devices. We are however battle hardened shoppers. We asked sweetly, "Can we stop in this store?"

A surprise attack. We weren't leaving. We wanted to look at every single item. I scooped up an armload from the sale rack and asked where the dressing room was. The surrender was immediate and complete:

"Excuse me" I heard a male voice say "Can you tell us where we can catch the ferry to the fortress?"

My heart leapt!

After that there were lots of instructions (what DO they think we do when we travel alone?) and pointing to things on maps.

Maps. (I know, right?)

Not that I don't like using a map, but is this a street name you'd be able to remember? You see my point. Besides, my travel ADD was in full swing...a map was not going to be helpful.

Of course our husbands wanted to know, did we want the map? They didn't need it after all, being men.

We declined. "We'll figure it out..."

They left the store wondering aloud if we'd make it back to the ship on time. I considered the fact that if I were going to abandon ship in a port Helsinki looked like a fine one to do it.

We had no goal this day except for shopping and enjoying ourselves, but I did want to mail one postcard. We inquired about where good shopping might be and were directed to the Centrum. Lots of small shops of high quality, and though there was a mall we were advised to avoid it since the weather was so nice. We strolled from shop to shop, had a long lunch, shopped some more and with a couple of hours to spare before "all aboard" we started to make our way back from whence we came.

We hadn't paid attention to a single street sign, not that the names would have been memorable anyway. With no map and no idea where we were or how far we'd walked we retraced our steps as we walked along.

"This must be the right direction, there is the place that the man who told us not to go to the mall said he bought his new glasses."

"This is that area where the couple walked with us and asked us about America."

"There is the statue with the globe, we turn right here."

We began to realize just how far we'd walked. We'd been strolling along having a lovely time and were unaware that we now seemed to be a good distance from the store where we'd started and from there it was still a mile or so to the ship...

"There's the store where we loved the dress in the window but didn't go in. We keep going straight."

"Here's the antique store with that beautiful platter in the window. Take a left."

"There's the store when we got rid of the men. Yay!"

Now I should say that I'd purchased stamps to mail my postcard early on thinking that would be the tough thing to find. I had been in several shops throughout the day and had not found ONE postcard of Finland. Here it was late in the day and this darling store only had funky little vintage cards, none of which said Finland. However, I was out of options. I picked one out and hastily wrote a pathetically short and lame message and got directions to the post box down the block.

Of course there was one more photo op.

Mission accomplished. Several missions in fact as I'd made quite a few purchases that I was ridiculously happy about. We made our way back to the ship, taking our own sweet time now, and at the last shipside souvenir shop--what did I find? A vast selection of post cards...

And what did I find in my cabin upon arrival? A man who looked at me with shock that two women had actually managed to find their way back where they were supposed to be.

We hadn't set sail yet, and I was tempted to head back to town.

Except that I had a new dress to wear to dinner...and yes, I do know how much it cost in DOLLARS. I'm just not telling.