Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Crayfish, Two Crayfish

  "Crayfish is Here" - the marquis on a local restaurant read. I had to think about that one. Now, I was familiar with a mess of collards, batch of chicken, pot of grits, heap'n of BBQ, slab of ribs, and a hunk of corn bread. However, down here, Crayfish generally don't travel alone. They're kinda small. And, as Daddy would say, one crayfish is just enough to make you mad.

Our education system had once again failed us. And, no, "Crayfish" was not the name of a local musician. This place of questionable culinary fare was not one for any type of entertainment (with the exception of people watching, mainly of their clientele).Given the food establishment in question, it was a menu item. And, as much as I love crayfish, this is not the place I would choose to enjoy them (or it as the case maybe - only if I got there first.)

Don't get me wrong, I know that looks can be deceiving when it comes to the quality of food versus the curb appeal of an epicurean institution. In this case however, the curb appeal (or lack thereof) told the story.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Provincial Cooking

I'm thankful Thanksgiving only comes once a year. Twice a year would kill me. Of course there was the "little" wrinkle of the incident with the circular saw, but hey that just added to sport of it all. And, I am a big proponent of the holiday, trying to save it from being lost between Halloween and Christmas.

However, a frustrating twenty four hours of trying to prepare four fairly simple dishes made me question if it was really worth it. Yes, Cindy Lou, I may be the Grinch of Thanksgiving. After sampling my brownies, cranberry relish, and banana pudding my appetite was shot by the time we sat down for the big meal. 

I always pride myself on being a good cook, ok a damn good cook. I always try to go a little better than the everyday. Not crossing the line of "what the hell did you do to mess up this traditional dish" (example currents, raisins, and rosemary in the dressing), but I have set a pretty high standard for myself. If I bring a dish it is not going to be ordinary but still meet the traditional requisites while pushing the boundaries. For example, my collards that are extremely spicy (add three whole dried chilies), or my home made rolls (Sister Shubert's own recipe -thank you). 

Not that I'm the only good cook in the family. Trust me, no one walks away from the Thanksgiving table hungry. If they do, it's their own damn fault. This year we were all in the kitchen uncovering our dishes, finding trivets, and the appropriate serving utensils. It was almost a Norman Rockwell moment. Everything smelled so good. I had remembered to bring everything (I am famous for leaving one dish in my refrigerator when I leave the house.) My nephew said he hoped I had brought my "hot" collards he loved so. His wife was thrilled when she saw I brought banana pudding and my rolls are always a hit. Suddenly, the past twenty four hours may have been worth it.

Then my sister-in-law walked in the kitchen and there was a hush. I turned around to see her unwrapping a large platter with two huge colorful turkeys made out of fruit and chocolate. It looked like something a professional chef would have prepared as the centerpiece for the buffet at a big city hotel. She had used everything from apples to oranges to melon, grapes, blackberries, strawberries, and  white and dark chocolate to carefully pierce, intricately carve, and magically dip each piece to create this masterpiece. It was akin to a fruit version of an entry in the Rose Parade. Game, Set, Match.

I was in awe of the detail of this work of art and could only imagine the time it took. It was truly a thing of beauty and she deserved every accolade she got. Suddenly throwing together some homemade  brownies, cranberry relish, banana pudding, collards, and homemade rolls seemed so provincial. Thank God, I am old, slow, tired and no longer competitive. It would take me a while to come up with something to top that. And the best thing was, she made it because she enjoyed doing it and she wasn't trying to impress anyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parting is Such Sorrow

They bought the dog crate!” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Given I was sitting on the sofa looking at two crates and two pups who are very much attached to their crates, I was clueless – God forbid we were upgrading. “You knew I listed it on Amazon months ago and I had forgotten about it.  I figured no one would buy it.”  “And, which pup gets the news she no longer has a home?” “No, this is the crate Abby out grew. I was cleaning things out and getting rid of some clutter.”  There is a God.

Next I hear this cursing from his office. “Do you know how much it is going to cost to send this to California?” “No, but I would think a lot.” “$45 by Fed-Ex, $43 by the post office. But if I send it media mail it would only cost $18.” (I’d like to see him justify that.  Mr. Postman, why yes, this is media, uhm,  what kind you ask? It is a 42 lb presentation board that is 42 by 24 inches – very substantial.) “I don’t think you are going to find a box for that to fit in.” “Well, that’s another issue.

Later on I walk into the den and find him on the floor with four random pieces of card board, duct tape, and scissors fashioning a “custom” box for the crate. Meanwhile Abby and Ellie sit by most entertained by it all. “Well there is a lesson to be learned here.” “Remember what you list on Amazon?” “No, never throw away a box,  you never know what you may need in the future. And, the more I mess with this crate packing it up, I realize what a fine crate it is.” "Well, that was why we bought it." "So, why should we get rid of it?" "Because we don't need it any more." "But we may in the future.

"Just like those replacement blades we still have for those floor fans we got rid of three years ago." "But you never know when those parts will come in handy? and, I am still mad at you for throwing away those fans."  "The fans were worn slap out and I think we can part with the replacement blades since they no longer make those fans." "You never know." "I'll take my chances."

Monday, November 21, 2011

All We Want is a Happy Christmas

It is time to solicit the annual "Christmas List" from our youngest daughter (complete with url links to ensure we 'get it right').  God forbid we deviate and give a gift of love or joy. You know something thoughtful we saw, and thought "that really looks like something special she would enjoy." And why's that you ask? Because according to her (1) we don't have a clue what she wants, (2) we would never get it right, and (3) even if we tried, we don't have the sophisticated taste to select something she would appreciate. So there.

And, oh the ramifications should we try. It is not pretty. The peace and joy of our family Christmas morning lies alone with her. History bares this out, trust me. Every Christmas morning we all sit, with bated breath watching her chair, as if she were some kind of oracle. If she were to smile (God forbid) then the heavens would open and angels would sing "Hallelujah". Joy and happiness would spread throughout our den and there may be a chance for peace on earth. More likely, we hear a gruff, "I hope you kept the receipts."

When will we finally learn that we cannot make her happy? After all she is "special" and the rest of us peons have no appreciation of how life should be. She is a dream for Madison  Avenue. Personally, I can do without Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Chanel. Personally, I'd settle for peace in our den on Christmas morning and a happy child without our having to participate in commercial pandering.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Framed - Again

Today and tomorrow Five Rivers is having their Holiday Open House. Wanting to make the most of it, I did a quick inventory, produced some additional prints, and framed them. One thing I have noticed is that people are very interested in black and white photos - go figure. I always assumed that black and white would do better with modern subjects like buildings and statutes, not historic places and lush landscapes. Desert yes - South Carolina Low Country not so much. But don't shoot me, I'm just the photographer. So I added a few more black and whites.

One (color) photo that has proved to be an issue with me is an incredibly lovely, if I must say so myself, shot of sailboats moored at dawn off Lady's Island. 

For some reason, I have been unable to get an 11x14 print successfully framed in an 16x20 frame. I found a perfect rough wood frame and mat with just a touch of pink in it to bring out one of many hues of the sky. 

Any who, the first time I attempted to frame the print, after I had the photo mounted behind the mat, in the frame, and the backing sealed, I stepped back to admire my work. It was lovely - until the light hit it from the side and I noticed the photo itself was rumpled and far from flat. Rats, since the photos are glued "flat", this one was trashed.

Second try - same frame, same mat, and as I got ready to put it in the frame I realized that I had a misplaced the photo when I glued it and it did not match the mat. In other words it was so crooked that only part of the photo showed behind the mat. Failure again. This photo was jinxed. I just put the photo, mat, and frame aside in total frustration.

A week or so ago when I was doing an inventory of the gallery, I noticed the  8x10 print (in an 11x14 frame) of this same print had sold. I needed to replace this one. As I was framing prints last night, I saw the jinxed photo against the wall. Gathering my strength, I decided I would attempt to frame it one more time. Maybe third time was the charm. And indeed it was. Success ! Finally! But alas, there is a crack in the glass. &*(% it! 

At least, I needed to replace the smaller version. I had the mat and frame ready. When I went to get the print off the printer, the fates hit again. The print had faint lines through it. Like our dear Scarlet, I'll deal with this tomorrow, or next week, or never.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lost and Found Thanksgiving Day

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But once again, I ask – What happened to poor Thanksgiving? The pilgrims need a voice, without some animated spokesperson I fear it doesn’t have a chance. No one really wants an inflated fleet of three small ships in their yard (ie the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria in case you forgot your second grade history). Or perhaps a friendly pilgrim couple waving by the drive is not what you had in mind.

But, alas come to think of it, Thanksgiving has taken on its own identity, or should I say got lost in it. It has become the biggest shopping eve day of the year. And, for the first time, even here in the south (where you still cannot buy batteries for your camera on Sunday), some stores will open on Thanksgiving Day to jump start the big day. Thank goodness Macys still has their Thanksgiving Day parade.

What happened to the days of Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving day  dinner, where we can gather our dysfunctional families around the dining room table (for those of us who still have dining rooms) and share those special moments – ooh a scary thought. In our case, it will be a case of avoiding those “sticky subjects” one best not to bring up or throw them in the conversation just to stir up more than the giblet gravy. 

My favorite part is the ride home when we can be catty. “Can you believe what she wore?” “Did you hear how much they paid for their house. So that’s where the inheritance went?”Well, it’s kind of obvious she hasn’t kicked her little “habit”, she couldn’t answer a question I asked her in a complete sentence.

But even though, as with many, our family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional, we are lucky in that we still gather on Thanksgiving day with our combined families and share a wonderful meal. Even our youngest daughter will join us. That is unless she follows through on one of her many threats not to.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Necropolis Cristobal Colon

I thought down here we took death pretty seriously. And, after spending the better part of a day wondering around in the Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, I realized some folks take it a lot more seriously than the rest of us. Those folks down there made an art (no pun intended) out of one upping their neighbor on who had the grandest tombstone. Actually, they were long past tombstones. They got into statutes, then they got into mausoleums (one with a Tiffany window). But they went from competitive to eccentric when them one of them built a pyramid to honor and store the family's remains. That was hard to beat.

While we were in Cuba we had the chance to visit Necropolis Cristobal Colon, Havana's main cemetery.  It covers 140 acres, has 500 major mausoleums, family chapels, and vaults.

There are 800,000 people buried  and over a million people interred.

Click here for a panoramic view of Necropolis Colon.

There is such a lack of space that the bodies (of the common people) are buried then dug up after three years and the bones put in an osssuary and stored in a storage facility to make room for more. (And, it cost the loved one's family 10 pesos a year for the storage.)

It is located in the Vedado area of Havana, was named for Christopher Columbus, and dates back to 1876.

Notables buried there (whose remains get to lay in peace with grand memorials to their lives) include the pianist from the Buena Vista Social Club, baseball players, national heroes, a United States Congressman, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, the sailors killed on the US Maine (who were later disinterred and brought back to be buried at Arlington), poets, film makers, photographers, military heroes and patriots who struggled for Cuba's independence from Spain, and distraught lovers, to name a few.

The memorials are so grand and the graves so close together is hard to walk among the individual graves. 

The only way to navigate your way through is to follow the lanes that are built and divide the cemetery into small blocks. Here is an old plat of the lanes.

The landscaping of grass, royal palms, and hedges is kept very neat, all by hand labor. The memorials vary from Art Deco to classical to Greek like temples to grand statutes. 

We only just rode through the center and down a lane or two. But it was enough to get a sense of it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Holiday Season is Upon Us

I forgot it was Halloween last night until the elevator opened in the hotel and Jeanie (as in from "I Dream of . . . ) in full regalia stepped out. Being totally sober, I realized that, yes, it was the night of ghosts and goblins when adults lose all sense of decorum and will wear anything that someone thought was great at the time.

The best thing about today, All Saints Day (see there are some remnants of Episcopalian in me) is that finally the Christmas carols being played (in Lowes and Home Depot) do not have to compete with the witches and haunted houses. Now, we just wait for the Christmas trees to show up out front of the Piggly Wiggly, Siruis to open their Holiday Music channels, and the big tree to arrive at Rockefeller Center. Then the stress can begin.