Savannah~ One Flowerpot at a Time

A weekend visit to Savannah, Georgia had us enjoying a city chock full of history. . .

 Live Oaks with Spanish Moss. . .

 decorative Wrought Iron. . .

Churches. . .



 River Views. . .

and Great Food.



 What we consumed in calories, we expended in sweat, walking around the squares, with temps around 98 and a heat index of 110 !

It also allowed us sneak peaks into courtyard gardens.

And of course, I couldn’t leave without purchasing a book as a keepsake for my trip.

Small Gardens of Savannah

“Nurture the Earth and be nurtured, even if it’s only one flowerpot at a time.” ~ Elvin McDonald, Small Gardens of Savannah

Stop by A Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday inspiration.

Flowers for the Home

Flowers for the Home *****

Inspirations from the World Over by Prudence Designs
Written by Grayson Handy and Tracey Zabar, Photographed by Ellen Silverman

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.

 “Flowers for the Home presents over 100 simple and stylish floral arrangements for both everyday and special occasions that have been shaped by Handy’s worldwide travels. Showcased are floral designs inspired by cultures and traditions from such far-flung places as China, the tropical rain forest, the English countryside, and the American South. Handy discusses the basic design principles we can learn from in each locale, from color palettes to indigenous materials, and provides step-by-step instructions and tips for assembling many of these joyful displays.”


Grayson Handy is the creative director of New York’s Prudence Designs and Events. Handy and Arturo Quintero’s renowned flower shop, specializes in event planning, and caters to magazines and celebrity clients. Prudence Designs is named after the owners’ beloved dachsund.

From the foreword by Paulette Cole:

  “Flowers are our miraculous tools from the heavens, entities of light and magic the we can feel and touch in this dimension. Flowers channel the essence of the fairy realm into our world, offering themselves as the ultimate design in creation, grace, and fancy.”

 This beautiful book is divided into nine locales of floral inspiration:  China, England, France, India,  Japan, Mexico, Morocco, the tropical Rain Forest, and from his childhood home, the American South. Within each section are colors, inspiration for decorating from the region and food recommendations for entertaining, so I thought this would be a great book to share for Food for Thought!

I’m travelling to England, China, Morocco, and sort of cheating by visiting the American South :-) with this edible review, but the other countries are definitely worth your visit! The photography in this book is spectacular with each photo and chapter more lavish than the previous one~ you’ll be hard pressed to choose your favorite!  This book would make a beautiful gift or great coffee table book for a flower lover, gardener or quintessential hostess.

The  inspirations for England are London with all the trappings~ black cabs & red double-decker buses, Westminster Abbey & Buckingham Palace. Victorian storefronts and the English countryside with thatched roofs and crumbling estates.

I decided to go the tea sandwich route for England as opposed to Welsh rarebit, Yorkshire pudding and steak-and kidney pie :-)

I found this great little cucumber tea sandwich, with a twist, from a fun blog, The Hungry Housewife.


Philly Strawberry Tea Sandwiches with a Twist, recipe courtesy The Hungry Housewife


  The color palette of Morocco is distinctive ranging from saffron, pink & crimson to contrast with the dry, sandy desert. Cobalt Blue is the color most commonly associated with Morocco inspired by the Mediterranean coastline and deep-blue sky. Metallic accents, plums, aubergines, reds, as well as the colors of spices – burnt sienna, terra-cotta, and chocolate all embody this culture.


 A Moroccan cocktail, an “Omar Sharif”, recipe courtesy Coastal Living

other Moroccan recipes can be found here.

I served my Omar Sharif in a martini glass instead of over ice~ the sprinkling a cinnamon is an interesting twist.





Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Peaches and Cream, recipe courtesy Food & Wine




Almond-Vanilla Iced Tea

(this recipe serves 4)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice*
1/2 cup sugar*
1 quart strong tea (any black or green variety)

*You can substitute 1~16 oz bottle of crystal light lemonade for the sugar & lemon to save some calories. To my taste buds, it is a little more thirst-quenching without the sugar~ I know, I know… Sweet Tea without sugar is sacrilege :-)




An old Chinese proverb says:

 “When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.”

The love of flowers is evident in China~ among the favorites are orchids, chrysanthemums, lotus, azaleas, and cherry blossoms. Additional inspiration is found in butterflies & dragonflies, exotic birds, carp for abundance and the imperial dragon for rain & a plentiful harvest. The most predominant color is red, although golden-yellow, pastel pink, purple, jade green and black also figure prominently.



Hot and Sour Chicken Soup recipe here.

  Visit Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday Favorites &  Food for Thought to see what everyone is reading and eating.








Men and Dogs




Men and Dogs  *** by Katie Crouch




I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where “pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.”





I really wanted to like this book, but this one was marginal for me. I was totally pulled in by the cover art & title~ water, girl, boat, dogs and praise on the back cover. Also the fact that most of story takes place in Charleston, SC. I even googled before purchasing and found this from People“Prepare to have your heart broken while laughing out loud at this breathtaking, scathingly sardonic novel.”  It was a quick read that I pictured myself enjoying on a boat, at the lake and with my dogs. Instead, I found myself disappointed, with characters I found tiresome and not particularly likeable (except for the one dog remaining in this story and the comic stepfather figure.) I also thought the title of this book was misleading~ possibly an effort to follow in the catchy-title-footsteps of Girls in Trucks, the author’s first novel. Yes, there were men, but the two dogs in this book had minor parts in this story.






 Hannah is eleven in the spring of 1985 when her father leaves on an ordinary fishing trip in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor, taking the family dog with him. A shrimp-boat captain finds the dog later, floating alone in the small aluminum boat, anxious and hungry. The boat, near some rocks four miles outside Charleston Harbor, was out of gas~ the engine, still in its lowest gear, with the typical supplies of water, Coke, beer, sunscreen, a net & pole, and unused life vest onboard.


Two decades later, Hannah is thirty-five with a successful business and a dedicated husband, in San Francisco. She’s left Charleston behind, but as a Daddy’s Girl, not the conviction that her father is alive somewhere and simply missing. Her path of self-destruction culminates one night when she finds herself drunkenly climbing up her own fire escape—with as one might guess, disastrous results.

 Hannah finds herself returning home to her strong-willed mother, Daisy, and reluctantly greeted by her responsible, older brother Palmer. There, with her marriage, business, and life in shambles, she focuses on trying to piece together what really happened to her father. 





Hannah believes her father is alive due to all her unanswered questions about her father’s disappearance: 


 “For instance, how does one fall off a boat on a calm spring evening? And why did no one see her father in the harbor? And why was he fishing on a Monday at twilight? And if he drowned, why was no body ever found? And finally, why, why was the dog still there?”




Hannah manages to estrange herself from her family with her relentless questions to her mother and stepfather and has only been home four times in almost twenty years, but says of Charleston:


“Who wouldn’t adore the beaches and a local accent so complex it allows a woman to simultaneously seduce and reprimand in one single word?”





The difference between Hannah and her older brother Palmer is obvious in their reactions to the police department’s findings on their dad’s disappearance: 


“Palmer saw the police report as a gift. It was terrible, knowing his father was dead. Even now it gives Palmer a bruised feeling to think of it. Still, it was better than the waiting, and at least now the Legares could get on with their lives. But Hannah didn’t  want to. Indeed, this is precisely what cause the ever-widening rift between them. Rather than viewing the evidence as the key to a door out of the nightmare of their father’s disappearance, Palmer’s sister saw it as an excuse to remain trapped there.”








Hannah’s stepfather, Will Dewitt is a comic figure who provides some funny moments in this story.


“There is but one word to describe Hannah’s stepfather:  ‘loud.’ Loud voice, loud golf shirts and pants, loud stories, loud boiled-crab skin. When he enters a room, Hanna cannot stop herself from picturing a Kool-Aid commercial circa 1986–the large, wobbling pitcher of pink liquid breaking walls and wreaking havoc.”


 Hannah, who still faults her mother for remarrying a year after her father’s disappearance has never fully accepted him: 


 “It would be hard for anyone to fill Buzz Legare’s shoes, but Will DeWitt stretches and soils them with his bunioned, swollen feet.”






DeWitt, from one of the oldest Charleston-society families and Hannah’s mother, Daisy, have certain ideas about new-money Charleston and old-money Charleston:


“Will studied period antiques for a few years in Europe and is therefore truly obsessed with keeping the house ‘authentic,’ while Daisy, if not as wealthy as Will, is as Old Charleston enough to have known not to refinish or overdecorate upon her arrival twenty-odd years ago. New curtains here, a velvet pillow there. That was it. Which, in the DeWitts’ opinion, is what separates the new people from decent non-Frogmore-stew-serving locals like themselves. For this reason, the ballroom, though grand, is adorned with tarnished mirrors. The piano in the music room is a bit out of tune.”







So with that for inspiration, I prepared Frogmore Stew, or Low Country Boil. We’ll pretend that it was prepared from leftovers from the boat. . . contrary to what DeWitt and Daisy believe, it is appropriate for an outdoor gathering or party :-)  It’s easy to prepare~  a recipe is not really required, buy you can find one from Southern Living here for reference.










Palmer becomes a vet because of Tucker, the dog his father left behind.






 “When Buzz disappeared, Tucker became Palmer’s dog. It was not a smooth transition; Tucker was highly distraught by the loss of his owner, and a year of horrible behavior followed, resulting in the destruction of upward of twenty-five shoes. After losing a pair of hand-me-down Ferragamos, Daisy even threatened to put the dog down, but seeing the expression on Palmer’s face, she silenced herself on the subject. Palmer patiently trained Tucker, taking him everywhere he could, including to football games and school.”





 “Charleston is a dog town. There are dogs in cars, dogs tied up outside bars, dogs leashed to the legs of strollers. Dogs pace the backs of trucks, dogs surf the bows of boats, dogs roam the beaches, their college-student owners too distracted by beer and skin to notice their animals knocking over small children. No apologies necessary when this happens. In a dog town, the dogs win.”






Palmer’s vet tech/assistant, Jenny, has a tie to Hannah, thru her marriage to Hannah’s former high school boyfriend. Palmer is struggling Jenny’s office crying jags lately: 


“She cries on birthdays, when she can’t find her keys, when it’s too cold out. It would be worth firing her over, but fortunately the one thing she doesn’t cry over is animal euthanasia. When it comes to pet killing, she’s a battle-ax.”





“When Palmer announced, at perhaps the most awkward DeWitt-Legare dinner to date, that he was a homosexual, it made her brother more human somehow. For no matter how loudly Daisy and DeWitt might voice their support of Palmer, proclaiming over and over and over– to Palmer, to other DeWitts, to friends at the Boat Club and at dinner parties– that there is nothing wrong with it, Palmer’s being gay finally brought him down to Hannah’s own flawed level.”


Palmer  and Tom have Hannah over for dinner. Hannah observes:


“Palmer may not be into women, Hannah muses, but he definitely found Charleston’s best wife.”






Tom serves a Peach Crumble for dessert. I made Ina Garten’s Peach & Blueberry Crumble, recipe here.












“She had followed her instincts, and they had protected her. They still do. She feels almost lucky that she had a father who disappeared when she was eleven, because now, she can always sense when someone is going to take off. This has been an invaluable skill.”



“But things are almost always better anyway when there are fewer words, aren’t they? No words, and you can make what you want from it. Like when you tell someone you love them. If they say nothing, it might mean, I don’t love you. Or, I like you all right. But it could also mean something else. For example, I love you more than I can explain. That’s what Hannah’s always squeezed from it. That’s the nothing she’s listened for.”





“But what Hannah knows now is that she is gloriously and terminally faithful. She is someone who believes, even when others do not. If you’re a dog, that means waiting for days in a boat for your owner to come back out of the ocean. If you’re a woman, it might mean scaling a building to tell your husband you still love him whether he’s ready to hear you or not.”




All in all I wasn’t totally in the drink with this book. I got my patient husband/boat captain to help me find lake dogs willing to pose for a photo. I also got reacquainted with Frogmore Stew~ remembering how quick, satisfying, and what an easy clean-up it is for a party~ along with a new recipe that I can vary with different fruit this summer. I have read a lot of good books lately. Reading something that is average, only makes your 4 & 5 star books more exceptional by comparison.




Be sure to visit Food for Thought and see what everyone is reading & eating!


Vintage Garden





V is for Vintage, as in Vintage Garden.




This week’s letter assignment is the letter V.





 I thought I’d share some of my Vintage Garden treasures and ephemera, that I have collected and unearthed at antique malls, flea markets, and on eBay. . . this Armour’s Farmer’s Almanac from 1921 has some beautiful graphics.



Poisonous Plant Chart





A label on a seed box that have recently run across, but yet to do anything with. I think I’ll line it and plant it like the one at the top of this post. I’m waiting for the right spot to place it and inspiration :-)



A collection of John Baer’s Sons Agricultural Almanac from the 20’s – 40’s, full of tips such as:


  •   “Loosen your window frames with a teaspoon of lard, works like magic!”

  • “Don’t lose your head if bitten by a dog  suspected of rabies!”

  • “Gasoline is dangerous!”

  • How to clean an oven–I’m thankful mine is self-cleaning :-)



 The June 1946 issue has these words of wisdom: 


“From the standpoint of both the bee-keeper and the fruit grower it is desirable that every precaution be taken in  the spraying of the trees to prevent injury to bees.”




“The blades of your kitchen knives should be used only for food purposes. If you insist on cutting paper and string, metal or bone with them, you will dull them quickly.”






An old tin of Cheerio bird food that reads:  “Cheerio is surely true to its name, There’s energy and pep in every grain.”




Armour’s Bird & Insect Chart from the Alamanac~



A Rose Catalog fom The Conard & Jones Co. from West Grove, Penn.~ “Your Rose Specialist with 50 years experience.” That was in 1912. 





More views from my seed box ~Reliable Seeds, Sioux City Nursery & Seed Co.





A three-pack of Triogen Rose Spray in the box~





 Cardboard “Hothouses”



 So I thought I would set a table in my kitchen using some of my vintage items. With fantasy over function in mind~



 The surface of the table is covered with photo-copied pages from old seed catalogs. Since this is a fantasy tablescape the overlapping pages are not secured. You could easily do this with a glass top over your pages or photographs, to protect them and keep them from shifting.




I used my non-vintage Portmeirion plates for their botanical images~ to mix with old garden tools, birdhouses, and vintage salt & pepper shakers.








An old yellow sprinkler serves as a pedestal for a plate :-)





  No markings on these Bird S & P’s~ just  “Japan”.










The frog pepper shaker normally perches on top of the flower salt ~









Ads from Schell’s Quality Seeds Gardeners Catalog 1932










Thanks to my hostesses to this week’s parties I’m linking to:


 Jenny Matlock’s Aphabe-Thursday for Alphabet Fun 

 Susan ~ Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday

Suzanne ~ Colorado Lady ~ Vintage Thingie Thursday for more vintage treasures.


Uwharrie Chair

U  is for Uwharrie

This week’s letter assignment is the letter U.

Uwharrie Chairs  (pronounced you-WAH-ree) are named after the Uwharrie Mountains of the central North Carolina Piedmont region. The Uwharries are some of the oldest in North America and were created from an ancient chain of volcanoes. The 1,000-foot hills of today were  believed to have been once 20,000-foot peaks. Today they comprise the Uwharrie National Forest that stretches across some 51,000 acres of mixed pine and hardwoods. Though small, the Uwharrie provides a variety of natural resources, including clean rivers and streams, diverse vegetation for scenery, and wildlife habitat.

The forest holds one of the largest concentrations of archeological sites in the Southeast. It is where the country’s first gold rush occurred in 1799, at the nearby Reed Gold Mine. Gold turned up again in the Uwharries in the early 1800s, and another rush occurred during the Depression of the 1930s. The forest may be rich with history, but it is among the newest of the national forest system. The federal government purchased the land in 1931 but didn’t proclaim it a national forest until 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.

Manufactured in High Point, NC~ Uwharrie Chair’s unique outdoor furniture collections combine classic American styling with extraordinary comfort and character. These heavy, generously scaled products are hand crafted from thick, kiln-dried pressure treated southern yellow pine, an American renewable resource. A distressed finish treatment provides an antique, weathered appearance. With their rugged good looks and solid construction, these chairs and their companion pieces will provide comfort and character for years to come.

Unlike its country cousin Adirondack, the Uwharrie Chair features four legs and offers a more natural — and more comfortable — sitting posture. Its premium, kiln-dried treated lumber construction ensures years of performance; its distressed finish treatment provides a careworn, antique appearance.

 I invite you to pull up a chair, have a seat, see which style is more to your liking, here.

The Original Uwharrie Chair Collection was created to offer not only eco-friendly all-weather seating, but classically styled, comfortably designed outdoor accents. With their rugged good looks and solid construction, the chairs and their companion pieces provide a balance of aesthetic charm and lifestyle integrity.

The Veranda Collection expertly merges fine cast aluminum with American yellow pine blending traditional and Victorian.

The Plantation Series combines the graceful elegance of wing chair styling with the rustic charm of outdoor folk craft. Heavy construction and generous scaling places this seating in a category by itself.

The Wave Collection is a whimsical enough to daydream in for those looking for contemporary patio furniture, but need a touch of the traditional.

The Hatteras Collection with its spindled back, just brings to mind the old-fashioned American porch and a glass of lemonade.

The Bridgehampton Collection turns your backyard or patio into a traditional American-style retreat.

The Fanback Collection is reminiscent of the American frontier with classic American styling.

 Imagine my surprise traveling to California from North Carolina to find Uwharrie Chairs at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay~

 But this my personal favorite, the Nantucket Collection.

The islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod have a rich history of shipbuilding, whaling, and New England sensibility. The Nantucket Collection from Uwharrie Chair shares that same feeling of sensible, comfortable construction with just the right amount of added design embellishments.

So in planning my tablescape this week, I had in mind a porch tablescape would have been Nantucket-inspired~ in keeping with the styling of my settee. . . complete with ship models, oars, baskets, accented by cranberry-bog reds, seagrass greens, gray blues and sunny yellows.

I just wasn’t able to pull that off this week *heavy sigh*~ with none of that at my disposal (except the oars!). . .

 Instead, I recycled my pillows and added a coordinating picnic basket I ran across.

This bright turquoise caddy can tote flatware, beverages, napkins, magazines, flowers, or glasses for your picnic~ everything blending with  fish glasses from Kohl’s. . .

   I spied this picnic basket at Super Target next to coordinating melamine plates and acrylic glassware.

 This fish was my mother-in-law’s that was planted with flowers in his former life.  I have plans to “plant” him with ice to chill a bottle of wine or serve my silverware & napkins.

  Flatware from World Market.

You can see a previous porch tablescape, more garden-inspired below

To see this tablescape in its entirety, here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit and found a chair, come back and sit any time :-)

Thanks for your visis, I’m joining:

 Aphabe-Thursday for Alphabet Fun

 Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday

Winery Dogs of Napa Valley

Winery Dogs of Napa Valley ***** by Elaine Riordan

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where “pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera”.

 “In this second edition of Winery Dogs of Napa Valley, the dogs are as wild, lovable, and funny as ever. They frolic in alfalfa fields, befriend the farm animals, and chase rabbits and gophers all day long. They eat grapes, large cooked chickens, fine cheeses, and whole cherry pies. They lead double lives as show dogs and magazine models. And when it comes to marketing, these dogs can sell wine like nobody else. Guests find their charms irresistable, and winery families and employees can’t imagine a day’s work without their best pals beside them.”

 This book called my name when we ran across it on a recent trip to Napa. Although I only met a couple of  winery dogs on our brief trip, this book is a great keepsake with beautiful photos of the lucky dogs who live there, featuring 96 Napa Valley wineries.

“From tiny toy poodles to rottweilers and bullmastiffs, winery dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They arrive at wineries as puppies or adults. They come from breeders, friends, shelters, or newspaper ads. They are surprises on doorsteps, in garbage cans, or under bridges. They are shy or bold, mellow or full of energy. And in no time, whatever their size and origin and temperament, they fit right in.”

“Winery dogs are greeters, tasters, entertainers, herders, healers, protectors, hunters, chasers, celebrities, and sales enhancers. Older dogs train the new ones, bigger dogs protect the smaller ones, and all of them get on remarkably well with winery cats. They ride in winery vehicles; they run beside employees in the fields; they sit nicely as visitors arrive for tastings. Better companions would be hard to find.”

“Rowdy” at Hess Collection Vineyards is apparently appropriately named since he loves to chase the tires of the ATVs. We had a nice visit enjoying the wine and the art collection but since it was a rainy day, no garden or grounds tour :-(

My reaction when I discovered we had a day of HEAVY rain ahead. . .

 So we had to drink wine to pass the time :-)

This was a recommended pairing with our Hess Viognier~Apricot and Prosciutto Thin Crust Pizza, recipe here


“Posip, a nine-year-old Australian shepherd/Border collie mix, was named for the white wine that owner and winemaker Mike Grgich makes in Croatia.”

Gruyère cheese  paired with our Grgrich Hills Estate Petite Sirah~

Tessa, Czor, and Elvis are descended from a German line of Bernese mountain dogs and serve as the winery’s most visible ambassadors. V. Sattui has a great gourmet market & deli~ with everything you could want for your wine country picnic, to be enjoyed on their picnic grounds. Tessa, the most gregarious, is happy to mix and mingle with the hundreds of visitors stopping in each day, and has been known to  occasionally snatch a salami from someone’s shopping basket :-)


The camera gods were not smiling upon me on this trip…we discovered the camera we brought had given up the ghost when we arrived, but you can see a video and get a feel for the deli and the grounds here.


 V. Sattui Madeira ~ paired with Blue Cheese

Pinta, a twelve-year-old terrier mix, Jack, a mellow four-year-old black Lab, & Rufus, a Norwich terrier~ with a bark described by some as a “supersonic weapon”~ Swanson Vineyards

During our delightful visit, which you can read more about here, we were greeted by a camera-shy Tallulah, who rested under the table for our tasting. Read more about the “resident mongrel bon vivants” here :-)

 Ally is a liver German shorthaired pointer that was rescued from a shelter in Michigan when the director of winegrowing, Rick Aldine, found her online and paid for her plane ticket, saving her from being put down. Her partner in crime these days is Gunner (also pictured on the cover of the book), a silver Lab who likes to chase deer & dig for gophers.


Fig and Goat Cheese Brushetta paired with Chandon Brut Classic~ a quick & tasty appetizer, especially if you cheat and buy fig preserves. I used chopped hazelnuts instead of walnuts. A recipe is here if you want to make your own fig jam.

This handsome guy is Romeo, appropriately named and our greeter at Hope & Grace in Yountville. Not featured in the book, but I included him since he was so well-mannered and introduced us to some really great wines and restaurants while we were there :-)

Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach~ paired with our Hope & Grace Pinot Noir , recipe here.

And Chloe & Gracie’s recommendation~their Sweet Potato Curry cookies. . .

Paired with their favorite Chardonnay~

Chloe says: “Nicely fresh on the nose with classic oak spice tones and a creamy mouth feel support juicy orange and peachy fruits. Refreshing acids keep this lively and engaging” :-)

“…winery dogs are inextricably connected to the culture, spirit and essence of the wineries they call home.”

Great Wine (& Dogs!) are cheaper than therapy :-)

Be sure to visit Food for Thought and see what everyone is reading & eating!

Broken for You

Broken for You ****/***** by Stephanie Kallos

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where “pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera”.

I stumbled on this book at, searching for a book by narrator, instead of by title. As a result, I came away with a book I would not have normally chosen. Knowing little about the book and based solely on the narrator~ Kate Fleming, I knew that the audio performance would enhance the story in ways I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate by simply reading the book. Kate Fleming, also known under the pseudonym of Anna Fields, (who sadly passed away in 2006) held me spell-bound with her gift for accents and voices. In Broken for You, she tackles Irish, British, French and Southern accents with an authentic and unbelievable ease and flair. She also does the voices of a 75-year-old woman and a toddler, convincingly. IMHO, Anna Fields elevated a 4 star read to a 5 star listen, conveying characters in a way that would have been lost on me otherwise.

“When Kate was in the booth, she would give herself over to the page,” says Lyssa Browne, Kate’s business partner in Cedar House Audio, the company she ran from her home in Seattle. “She could instantly convey the truthfulness of each character, she captured the essence of the story so quickly. It really took the guesswork out of the process for listeners.”

  This story begins when 75-year-old Margaret Hughes is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Alone~ in a 15,000 square foot mansion, with nothing to keep her company but shameful secrets and rooms full of European antique porcelain, she decides to take in a boarder. Wanda, age 34 moves in, and an unlikely friendship is soon cemented.

 Wanda, herself is broken~ abandoned at age six by her father, when she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle while her father searches in vain for Wanda’s runaway mother. The two women begin to rely on each other and share the burden of their secrets. As the story of Margaret’s family’s fortune slowly unfolds, Margaret begins to “collect” people rather than the valuable porcelain that has haunted her for years.  Colorful secondary characters are the missing pieces and fragments of this story~ that complete and create a mosaic that is memorable and moving.

Margaret imagines being one of her many fragile stolen things:

“the Royal Worcester jardiniere, the one signed by W. Powell, Circa 1907, thirty-four centimeters tall, valued at $10,500. Perhaps is was feeling anxious and fearful. Or Perhaps, Margaret thought, her heart doing a sudden giddy-up dance, it’s delighted. Perhaps it’s pleased that it’s going to be touched again after so long a time, in an intimate, familiar way. It’s going to interact with something bedside a feather duster. Perhaps all of them–the vases and figurines, the egg cups and inkstands and game pie tureens, the wall pockets and asparagus plate, the foot bath!–perhaps they’re grateful that finally, finally, they don’t have to wait anymore. They’re going to come out of their dark niches and off their pristine shelves, into the sunlight, into human hands, to experience something riotous and passionate. Like the breaking of glass at the end of a Jewish wedding!”

   Bruce is hired as chef and takes up residence in the mansion~he chooses Bon Bon, a small room on the third floor. Concerned, Margaret asks him if he wouldn’t prefer a larger room on the second floor~

“Ma’am, I’m a fat, single, gay, depressed Jewish boy from Alpharetta, Georgia. When I’m not cooking, I need to be as far away from a refrigerator as possible. If I do happen to get an uncontrollable urge in the wee small hours of the night to confuse food with love, at least I’ll have to carry myself down and up three flights of stairs to do it.”

Margaret divulges her secret of her family’s heirlooms to Wanda and her plan. . .

“My father was well-connected and wealthy, even before the war. When the Nazis began their work, he saw a great opportunity. He was skilled that way, really gifted– a kind of diviner when it came to money. So he began a new business: as a broker of fine antique European china and porcelain.”

Discovering this after her father’s death, at the age of 24 while running the family business, she closed shop and moved everything into her house:  “I thought that would be enough, you see. I thought that would make it right. To not sell any of it, to not profit by it. I thought that was payment enough and that I could have a life.” Trying to return everything to surviving kin was futile~ any documentation had ultimately been lost or destroyed  by the Nazis.

These things have outlived their time, it seems to me. If all they do is sit on a shelf, no one will ever know their worth. I think it’s time for them to die. They should all be broken. I want you to do it.”

“The pieces had their own music, too, brief but distinct. A porcelain soup tureen could thud hollowly, darkly, like the striding bass notes in Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’. Shattering aperitif crystal might remind her of the crisp jubilance of a bebop trumpet. The cacophony of dessert plates dropped en masse could imitate Bird’s ragedy sax.”

“She loved the random shapes. She knew early on that she wouldn’t want to manipulate them further, unless it would be to drop them more than once and/or walk on them. No nippers, certainly. she pondered the ethics of employing hammers, deciding finally that she might use them–but only occasionally, and only as a last resort if she couldn’t get pieces sized for her purpose any other way.”

Bruce remembers his Grandma Katz, his first and finest culinary arts professor and explains that when you’re Jewish, “everything that matters happens in the kitchen” :

 ‘Slow down, boychick!’ she was always saying. ‘Cooking is not to rush. It’s a prayer. A gift of love. It’s family. It’s standing in the company of your ancestors and feeling their hands, helping you.’

Bruce is always preparing drool-worthy food. Instead of angel hair with hazelnut Gorgonzola, I substituted fusilli~ to make sure the cheesy creamy goodness stuck to every nook & cranny in the noodle :-)

Pasta with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts


2 tbsp. butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 c. whipping cream
1/2 lb. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 lb. fusilli, penne, or ziti pasta
1 c. hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. freshly grated Romano or
Parmesan cheese (about 2 oz.)


Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme. Add cream and gorgonzola and stir until cheese melts and sauce thickens slightly. Season with pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Re-warm over low heat.) Cook pasta in large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Return to pot. Add sauce and stir over low heat until pasta is coated. Mix in hazelnuts. Transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle with Romano cheese and garnish with parsley if desired. Serve immediately.

 Carmelized Pear Salad

Follow the directions here to carmelize your pears. Assemble with mixed greens or arugula, blue cheese crumbles, oven-crispy prosciutto, chopped walnuts and Basalmic Vinaigrette dressing.


“Listen, y’all. I have to say this. I don’t mind what everybody else does with these things, really I don’t, but I have to say that it doesn’t exactly sit right with me. I mean, my sweet grandmother almost kicked the bucket when I came out. She’ll flat-out DIE if she finds out I’m impersonating a Nazi thug breaking dishes on Kristallnacht.”

  ‘That’s not what we’re doing,’ Wanda spoke up suddenly, her voice serious and emphatic. ‘We’re breaking things as ceremony. We’re breaking them in remembrance.”


“She began to trust when the elements fit, when the crisscrossing roads between bits of clay, paper and glass made sense in a way that couldn’t be sensibly described and weren’t necessarily what she’d had in mind. They set up a collaboration– her hands, the Holocaust, smashed clay, and bebop. An improvisation that was underpinned with structure and technique, but played out with a pure heart open to the possibility of surprise. It was crazy, but it was right. The pieces started finding her hands more frequently. She took to filling her pockets. She sounded like a walking crash box.”

The history of Pique Assiette~  literally meaning “stolen from plate” is the technique that Wanda employs with Margaret’s china. This form of art is believed to have been originally introduced by Raymond Edouard Isadore, known as the  ‘crazy plate stealer’. He discovered his bits of colored glass and pottery in the fields surrounding his house in Chartres, outside of Paris, and spent thirty years covering every surface of the inside and outside of the house and his garden area.

The idea of the Crazy Plate Academy is born~ a nonprofit teaching facility, at Margaret’s home, where classes would be offered in mosaic technique, with weekend workshops and collaborations with vocational programs and high schools.

“Mosaics also appeal to the side of us that has been reprimanded, punished, shamed. They are rescued mistakes. Vindication. Pique assiette is revenge against those who inhaled sharply when we fumbled something, lifted a hand to us in anger, called names–Idiot! Clumsy! Failure! Fool!–and said, Now look what you’ve done, what a mess you’ve made!”

“Maybe we feel such a strong kinship with pique assiette because it is the visual metaphor that best describes us; after all, we spend much of our lives hurling bits of the figurative and literal past into the world’s landfill—and then regret it. We build our identities from that detritus of regret. Every relationship worth keeping sustains, at the very least, splintered glazes, hairline fractures, cracks. And aren’t these flaws the prerequisites of intimacy?”

There were lots of decadent desserts mentioned to satisfy your sweet tooth. . .Chocolate Amaretto Espresso Torte, Creme Brulee,  Raspberry Cheesecake, Caramel Flan~ but I thought Bruce’s Chocolate Ginger Cake with Pear Glaze would be fitting, since listening to Anna Fields read was a piece of cake :-)

 Chocolate-Ginger Cake, recipe courtesy Martha Stewart

No Bourbon sauce on this cake as in Martha’s recipe. Instead I carmelized some pear and then added pear preserves to the pan for a pear glaze.

“The next time you break something, consider the action that might not immediately come to mind:  Say a prayer of thanks over what has been broken*. Then, give it a place of honor. Build it a shrine.”

*No china was deliberately broken for the purposes of this book review~ just rescued mistakes with plans to build them a shrine :-)

Be sure to visit Food for Thought and find out what everyone is reading and eating!

Tommy Bahama

T is for Tommy Bahama

This week’s letter assignment is the letter T.

The Tommy Bahama® philosophy:  “Tommy Bahama can help you escape the troubles of the modern world in favor of a place that’s relaxed and worry free. . .where life is one long weekend.”

“There is a warm westerly breeze rustling the palms, the lulling roar of crashing waves – it’s a celebration of island living, courtesy of Tony Margolis, Bob Emfield and Lucio Dalla Gasperina. In 1992, our fictional Tommy Bahama character became the inspiration behind the experience of traveling to exotic locales where the food is good, the beaches are hot and the mood is relaxed.


Tommy Bahama and his tropical adventures command the finer things in life: casual, comfortable sportswear, swimwear, footwear and accessories for men and women.  As the purveyor of island lifestyles, Tommy Bahama, has created a world where life moves at a more relaxed pace, where the enjoyment of the good life is the norm, rather than the exception.”

I’ve always loved their home furnishings, ideal for a vacation or coastal home~

“Bring the island lifestyle experience home, literally, with Tommy Bahama. Authentic island materials, color, texture, luxurious fabrics and an unerring eye toward the smallest of details, these are the elements that define the collection.

The collections encompass home furnishings, outdoor furniture, artisan quality rugs, bedding, bath, fine island linens and a new collection of ceramics along with glassware to enjoy Tommy Bahama’s new premium light and dark sipping rum. Capturing the essence of island living, Tommy Bahama Home provides a restful retreat from the stress of day-to-day life.”


 In addition to home decor, they sell towels~

And to get yourself in the “one long weekend” mindset, you must mix yourself a cocktail. . .


“Taste paradise, one sip at a time with Tommy Bahama Rums crafted in Barbados. White Sand Rum is a clear, light-bodied rum with a smooth entry and clean finish with hints of tangy, tropical fruit. Golden Sun is a full-bodied, amber rum, with a fruity nose and a taste nuanced with hints of coffee, roasted nuts, and sweet pralines. Perfect for savoring the tropics – wherever you may be.”


 In addition to Rum and Home Decor, they sell apparel. Here is my husband’s well-worn t-shirt. If the man in your life needs help to “escape the troubles of the modern world” (with father’s day around the corner)  look here.

 Inspired by the islands with a passport to paradise, I set a table to escape my own modern-day troubles :-)

Hula leaf placemats & shells. . .

Flatware resembling nautical rope~

Napkins featuring Cape Relax, Tropic of Couch Potato & Catch A Lot Island. . .

Amber palm tree etched glasses. . .

 And last but not least, my Peachy Keen Martini, recipe here.

Nothing to tempt your palate on this table, unless you consider the light brown sugar masquerading as beach sand :-)

There are several recipes to prime your taste buds for tropical dining:  SANTIAGO SEABASS, BLACKENED CABO FISH TACOS, SAN JUAN SHRIMP & SCALLOPS~

as well as KEY LIME PIE, PINA COLADA CAKE  & WHA’ JAMAICAN CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO CAKE. To feast your eyes on these and more drink recipes, click here.

If you’re inspired to do your own tropical dining, Tommy Bahama has glassware & tableware here.

Hula Leaf Placemats~ Pottery Barn, several years ago
Flatware~ World Market, recently
Tommy Bahama Napkins~ SteinMart, recently & Napkin Rings~ Bed Bath & Beyond~ a while ago
Martini Glasses~ Pottery Barn, several years ago & Etched Palm Tree Glasses~ SteinMart, several years ago
Shell Bowls & Square Plate~ Kohl’s, recently
Palm Tree Ice Bucket~ Barada~ several years ago
Green Dinner plates~ Home Goods, a while ago




Here’s wishing you a warm westerly breeze rustling the palms and the lulling roar of crashing waves :-)

Thanks to my hostesses to this week’s parties I’m linking to:

 Jenny Matlock’s Aphabe-Thursday for Alphabet Fun

 Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday