Thursday, December 24, 2020

Look for the merry

Like many, this year was a fiasco in terms of plans and to-do lists lining up against the reality of what was possible during a pandemic. 

My heart goes out to anyone who suffered personally by contracting this horrible virus. To anyone who lost a job. To those whose business took a direct hit from the pandemic's closures. To parents who found themselves with the additional job of teacher or classroom monitor when school went virtual -- especially those single parents who don't have a partner to share the burden.
While a daily walk outside, in the sun, or even merely within view of trees or other signs of nature, can bring a sense of calm and order in a disorderly world, it's our relationships with people that bring life to our time on this planet.

When we're able to be together under more normal circumstances, I know we'll appreciate the radiance of an in-person smile. The physical presence of others, once confined to tiny screens or beyond six feet away. The emotional connection and warmth that only a real hug can bring. 

In the meantime, we have to be patient, and tap into the stores of resilience we each have. To help others cope. To give wherever we can to those in need. To take care of ourselves and apply ingenuity in the face of these challenges. And to find the joy and merriness, however small it might be, in every day. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Grace Full

With the Fourth of July holiday last week, I took the opportunity to take a week off, take it easy and take stock.

For that, I am super, super grateful.

I had family over. Took in a few movies and went to a museum I hadn't been to before. Bought some beads (but who knows how long it will take for them to become something wearable).

Made a really great Corn Tomato and Avocado side salad that is ultra easy, was a huge hit, and I highly recommend for your next barbecue.

Toward the end, to prolong that vacation-y feel, I bought a few books.

Overall, a lot of things to be thankful for.

Thankful for the ability to take time off, to reflect and to explore.

To stay up late and wake up even later.

And spend time alone and with folks that I love.

Halfway through the year, I'm reigniting those resolutions from January to have more fun and spend more time listening to the people I like spending time with.

And to write and share a few delightful things along the way.

Wake Up Call

After a year or so of complaining that some of my favorite bloggers have given up the regular posting of their usual level of amusing content, I was hit by the realization that I'm guilty of the same thing.

The difference being, they've ostensibly got a collection of followers who are impacted - like I was - by their absence.

Here, not so much.

But I've missed blogging, so here we are, once again.

Pardon the mess as I dust things off, remove the cobwebs, and generally get back into the swing of things.

It's been a while, but I think it's good to be back.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Initial Review of Belkin iPad2 Keyboard Folio

Having had an iPad for a few months now, I've started to use it to take notes, but have become frustrated by the screen keyboard when typing, so I decided to buy an external keyboard. But I wanted to keep it looking nice and new, too.

At first, I had the Apple Smart cover, but that does nothing to protect the rest of the machine's body, so I ended up buying a Timbuk2 quilted cover (at such a good sale price, as Homer has said, "I couldn't afford *not* to buy it!"). I can be clumsy in general, so this seemed a wise investment and has served me well in terms of protection.

However, I needed to do something about that keyboard.

Really, I don't want to lug around a whole lot of extra stuff, so a wrap-around case that incorporated a keyboard really seemed like the best option. I'd looked at a couple, talked to some people and read some reviews, but each seemed to have its problems. Zagg looks fabulous, but I can't flip the whole thing behind the iPad if i'm just reading.

Plus, as a writer who takes way too many notes, I'm a sucker for a decent keyboard.

So when on August 5, Belkin announced its iPad2 Keyboard Folio, I knew I had to give this a shot. Couldn't find anywhere to buy it online immediately, but found it at a local Target.

Although I'm curious that there were no real reviews--only product announcements. Maybe there's a reason for that?

The Good
After an exercise in origami, I ended up abandoning the wordless graphic directions, and just wrestled the iPad into the case, paired up the iPad with the easy Settings directions in the booklet, and went to town.

First off, the keyboard feel is really superb. The TruType keyboard rocks. It really is comfortable to type, and although I don't have man hands, I have long fingers and some keyboards feel too cramped for me. Not this one.

I touch-type around 100 WPM, and get immensely frustrated by keyboards that can't keep up. But these keys have just enough give, there's no clicking, they're not too wobbly or mushy. Overall, it makes typing longer entries on the iPad easy.

It's editing where I'm stymied.

The Bad
OK, the Belkin's Quick Install Guide is really just that: the absolute bare-minimum basics when it comes to this device, some Bluetooth info, legal mumbo-jumbo, and service, safety and warranty blurbs. A loose little piece of paper added to the guide tells you that the Command key activates alternate keys, including Delete.

As a daily PC user who types to get the ideas out fast enough, the Delete key is an important tool--no, the most important tool--in my editing arsenal. I type and correct on the fly, using Delete as needed. Only now I have no Delete.

Although the little loose paper of additional instructions says Command activates Delete, maybe it technically does, but not in the way I'd expect. If I used Macs all day, it might be a non-issue for me. But using Command + Backspace/Delete deletes to the beginning of the line, not just the following character as a PC's delete button does.

Surprise! (Grr...)

I just keep Command+Z at the ready for these situations.

Also, the Belkin iPad2 Keyboard Folio would be really good if they'd incorporated Apple Smart Cover technology into the cover. That would have made it at least a bit more functional.

The absence of a magnetized cover also means that the cover just flaps open at will. I keep wishing for a Moleskine-type band to keep the cover closed, but I guess it would get int the way of the cover when it's opened up and positioned to type.

The Ugly
OK, I have to say it, this case is just plain ugly. Ugly, industrial grey pseudo-suede. But I get that they need to make a limited number of colors to appeal to the broadest number of people.

But I would have preferred black. And you can't really tell from the photos on the packaging that it's not black.

So that was something of a disappointment.

More Later
This has been just a few days with this keyboard, so I'll see how things go. I need to use it more to figure out how to use the function keys and do more research online to see if what I've experienced is just inexperienced-user syndrome, or if they're real deficiencies.

For now, I'm keeping my iPad2 enveloped in the Belkin Keyboard Folio.

But it's got me wondering if another product might take these small annoyances into account. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Revisiting Grace

Too often, I fall into the habit of just chugging along, not really paying close attention, until something makes me sit up with a start. It's occurred to me that I could stand to look up, take stock and see more of the bright side of things. And to do it more often than I've been, too. So, here are a few things I'm grateful for...

1. Mr Spandrel is keeping us rolling forward with painting our bedroom and the painstaking prep involved. There is so much to be done that I tend to get overwhelmed by the thought of massive disruption... but the end result will be beautiful and serene, I know.

2. This holiday weekend was full of connecting with family and friends, without the stress of entertaining. This is a long weekend that I've largely been able to savor, whereas recent ones have been a flurry of preparation followed by recuperation. This is more fun.

3. A two-day business trip in New York recently that, although it was super busy and left little time for exploring, gave me a jolt of that city energy that I crave once in a while. Awakens the creative spirit, too.

4. Hammocks swaying in summer breezes.

5. A short work week awaits, and who wouldn't be grateful for that?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Filofax Chameleon Planner

As someone who readily embraces technology, it has been hard for me to come to terms with one simple fact about the way I work: After many years of managing my schedule either on a computer or on a handheld device, 6 years ago I switched back to a paper planner to manage my tasks and my schedule.

This is the Filofax Chameleon Personal planner that I bought a few weeks ago after hobbling along with another planner for 2011 that didn't suit my big, sloppy writing and jam-packed work schedule.

My workday is spent either in meetings or in front of a computer getting things done. It's a good thing I'm a fairly accurate touch-typist, because I do let my gaze drift away to the artwork on my wall or to whatever notes I'm working from, just to give my eyes a break every once in a while.

Otherwise, the more hours I log in front of a PC, the more eyestrain I suffer. And because I still use an iPhone with its teensy screen it gets even worse.

So, about the paper planner.

There's just something about putting pen to paper that I really like. It's easier for me to just jot down an idea for a project as it comes to me, rather than add something to Outlook's task list, hunt down a task management app, or even open the simple Notepad file I once kept on my desktop to manage my tasks.

When someone is standing in my office talking about a request, it's faster -- and more polite? -- to write it down in my planner as we talk than it is to turn away from them to tap away on a keyboard.

For the first few years after I returned to a paper planner, I used the Julie Morgenstern model by a planner company that has fallen out of favor with me (for publishing her format only up to the middle of a year, mind you... Who does that? Grr!). I write pretty large, so the format was perfect: there was a page opposite each day's schedule where I could write down my projects, tasks and priorities.

Too many page-a-day planners seem built for people who don't have that much to track, whether it be tasks or meetings.
And did I mention I don't write very small or neatly?

As for the Chameleon style Personal Filofax, it is working quite nicely, although I'm a bit disappointed with the binder cover itself. The leather cover was gorgeous out of the box, it is still rather stiff after a few weeks of use and doesn't lie flat yet. The edges of the tab closure and the binding are showing some wear, graying a bit already.

Since I'm all about texture, one of the smooth leather covers might be on the list, next.

But the two-pages-per day personal size suits me well so far. And, I'm proud to admit, although the sheer number of tasks I have to complete on any given day can sometimes give me agita, no projects have fallen through the cracks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fashion Week

During my first job out of college, I traveled quite a bit to conferences and industry meetings, covering new technologies for a trade magazine.

It was the perfect job for me -- satisfy my curiosity, change up the routine a bit, and go to cities I'd never visited before.

My first business trip was to Manhattan, and to make it in time for an early-morning conference start, I'd arrived a day earlier, a Sunday. Leaving my bags at the hotel, I ventured out.

But I was prepared.

This was the days before the Internet, but I'd done some reconnaissance on shopping in New York, and it was research that paid off handsomely.

Beyond window-shopping, I wasn't too interested in high-end shopping, mind you, which is easy to come by in New York. I needed stuff I could actually afford on a journalism graduate's salary.

And I proceeded to have a mind-boggling shopping experience at Shulie's, a plain-Jane store on the Lower East Side, supposedly run by the sister of designer Elie Tahari. It promised discounted Tahari fashions from "last season," which I'd long ogled from afar.

After discussing my budget, the two saleswomen brought me loads and loads of clothes. Dresses. Jackets. Trousers. They patiently helped me piece together a 5-piece purchase that was more than I'd ever spent on clothes, but that served me well for at least 10 years, including a dress that made me feel fantastic each and every time I wore it.

So I have a special place in my heart for Elie Tahari. I still have to watch my budget, and buy anything made by the label on steep discount or deep markdown.

But I love to watch the Fashion Week shows online, and his line this year is just gorgeous. Shulie's is long gone, but I'm sure there's a deal to be found out there, somewhere.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grace in Relationships

A few months ago, my grandmother passed away.

She was her own person through and through, and you always knew where she stood and what she thought about a particular food, fashion trend, or person's character.

She did not mince words, my grandmother.

During the last months of her life, I admit I visited her more often than ever, if only to burn the memories of her into my mind. Often, my sister and I went together to see her together.

Among the things my grandmother told us was that she regretted was not having spent more time with the two of us. And that hit me, hard.

It's cliche to say that our time here is so finite, and precious. But it's true.

And I'm still amazed at how much we -- really, I -- let it slip by. Even with the best of intentions to spend more time doing things we enjoy for and with people we care about.

So I've adapted my resolution to have more fun this year to have more fun with the people I love.

And I intend to make that a theme that remains in my life forever.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Out Having Fun

In keeping with this year's resolution to have more fun, the past week has been a barrelful.

Organized a dinner out with my girlfriends before an impending snowstorm. The company and conversation kept us enthralled for two hours on a cold, rainy night.

Went to see A Single Man - beautifully shot and acted, with set design that just dropped you into 1962 and let you swim around in it a while. I hope that Tom Ford's maiden voyage in cinema isn't his last.

Met a new artist during a bead show that reminded me you have to do those things you love. So often, we do what we should do, nd not necessarily the things that bring us joy.

Finished a friend's necklace which I hope the new owner enjoys.

Struck up a conversation with a shop owner this weekend who mentioned she hasn't seen television in three years, that instead, she spends time her time only in the present moment, engaged in conversation with people in real life that she knows and cares about. Such a simple thing, but really, sensible.

And then, ate way too much during ravioli night with my family, enjoying the antics of my niece and nephew, and sleeping through the night for the first time in months.

I love when days are jammed full of moments like that.

Monday, February 8, 2010

You Are What You Do

The things you spend the most time doing are what make you you.

I keep this front-and-center this time of year, when I find myself slipping into complaint mode...

What about? You name it.

About wearing wool again.

About the wretched weather.

The lack of sun, the overabundance of root vegetables in wintertime recipes, the absence of inspiration and celebration.

Surprisingly, I've been doing pretty well with my New Year's Resolution.

Already I've seen more movies with friends in the past month than during the previous six.

Enjoyed more impromptu get-togethers, moments of herbal tea appreciation, good reads, great music and funny people.

The winter storm warnings hang over my head like a storm cloud, ready to rain on my parade. But I'm pushing them aside.

By tomorrow, I want to devise a list of 5 fun things I can do each work- or snow-day that involve zero calories.

Any ideas? Share 'em in the comments!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Resolution

Last year it was a list of To-Dos that didn't get done, so this year I've boiled down all that I want to accomplish into a single resolution. One that's elegant in its simplicity and chock-full of reward. And here it is:

Have More Fun.

That's all. In some ways, it's sad, isn't it? That I'd let life veer off into a groove that had worn itself so deep as to become a rut.

A rut I revisited over and over again this year.

Wake up.


Eat at various times.



As Gretchen Rubin points out in her book The Happiness Project, the days are long but the years are short.

In 2009, various things occurred, many of them not-fun. So that by the end of December, it felt like I shook myself out of the little fog I'd been in, and realized, another Christmas was here.

I'd like the next year to be different from the last one. Sure, there were good things that happened, but overall, Mr. Spandrel and I agreed that 2009 could be shown the door and never come back again, thank you very much.

So far, aside from already having much more fun in just the first few weeks of January, my little resolution has had a beautiful side benefit.

It's been a blast to watch the faces of the few people I've told this to in person, because a lightbulb goes off and they smile... and they agree that it will join their already-crowded lists of resolutions.

And that is just so much fun.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Grace: Issue 57

  1. Vacation days during the week, while the rest of the world goes about its business.
  2. Spending more time than usual with someone whose company I really enjoy.
  3. Meeting a friend's family, admiring how much fun and joy they all have when they're together.
  4. Enjoying a delicious dinner with the one I love, at a restaurant we both enjoy, capped off by a dessert that was out. of. this. world. (I'm talking about you, lightly heated nutella-laced sticky bun ice cream sandwich with salted caramel ice cream!)
  5. The anticipatory smells of Hanukkah dinner - latkes all around!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whither, Gravy?

Over the past week, in preparation for the big food day, I've made 4 or 5 grocery store trips.

Never in all the years that I've been cooking Thanksgiving have I had as much trouble getting my hands on a few jars of Heinz Turkey Gravy. (There's chicken flavor, sure, but just because it's poultry doesn't mean it's the same.)

And before you start, yes, I use gravy from a jar, I admit it. And yes, and I know how easy it is to make gravy, but with so many people under foot on that day, with many things cooking at the last minute at the same time, a very few gravy fans, I've found it's best to just pop the top and plop it into a dish to zap in the microwave so everything is piping hot and ready to go.

Seems like everyone else has been scarfing up the gravy in my neighborhood, thinking the same thing.

So if you need me, I'll be at store number 6, looking for turkey gravy (or maybe even store #7, but let's hope it doesn't come to that).

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's It For?

F is for fabulous. Which is what a very kind coworker of mine is. Fresh from a trip to Italy, she stopped by my office to give me a really lovely package of Venetian beads she picked out in Venice! It was such a lovely thoughtful gesture, that I was just stunned. I will be making something with them for sure this weekend, so I'm thinking about what to make.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Yesterday, our entire yard was blanketed with leaves. The chilly November air causing more to tumble down with each passing minute, the leaves click-clacking like ticks and tocks of a clock.

Raking took hours, sweeping into piles, then lugging tarpfuls to the curb. Back and forth, back and forth. By the end, my back ached, but not too badly. Just enough to know it was time to stop.

Went to bed early (9:30, on a Saturday!?), exhausted, arms and legs jittery from overuse.

Slept a solid 9 hours, restorative and deep.

This morning, I tackled indoor chores. It was hard to keep going, but thanks to Mr. Spandrel's help, we got through it.

By lunchtime, we were ready for a break and ventured outside. It was beautiful; 65 degrees that felt like 75 compared with yesterday's cooler temps.

We headed to a new place nearby for lunch, thrilled - and surprised - to see that their outdoor seating area was fairly empty.

After lunch, languidly enjoying the last of a black currant iced tea, I shuddered at what a wonderful weekend it had been.

Tons accomplished:

1. A solid night's sleep.

2. A gorgeous day.

3. Yard work plowed through.

4. A bit of household organization.

5. Time spent with my favorite person.

They say each day is a gift. Some days, I'd rather return in the box it came in, get my money back - especially lately.

But this one? Priceless.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grace issue 56

During a long slog of a day, you get something done right and well, you get credit for bringing a solid idea to fruition, and a hearty
thank you to top it all off - the trifecta of project management.

Too often, we move too fast to appreciate our own daily accomplishments, however small. Gotta savor those moments as they happen!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Grace: Issue 55

  1. Full moon light through the leafless trees.

  2. Cool fall air, unmarred by the snap of winter's chill.

  3. Roasted chicken picked up on the way home.

  4. The key turning in the lock, arriving home after a long day.

  5. Going to sleep early.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Unexpected Elegance

The Diana Exhibit at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center is really a surprisingly sweet look back on the former princess's life and fashion.

The piece de resistance, her iconic wedding dress, was there in all its glory, flanked by video of the wedding day. I remember as a teenager, watching this wedding unfold like a fairy tale on television, enthralled by all the pomp and the yards and yards of silk. Today, more than 25 years later, the dress seems fussy and a little too-cute in parts, embellished with puffs and bows and volume. But it was still a thrill to see it up close.

Diana's later fashion choices, from the beaded evening gowns to the boxy day dresses that were all the rage in the 80s -- my God, why did anyone think all that shoulder paddage was necessary? -- evolved into the fluidly draped silk dresses with intricate beading that caught the light as she made her entrance on every red carpet, elegantly exiting the limousine ever-ready to shake the hand of whomever was greeting her.

It is impossible to imagine living life enduring such scrutiny.

I'm no Anglophile, but it was still interesting to view some of the dresses that have appeared in photos over the years -- in all, a lovely way to spend a fall Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Step 2: Decide What You Want

When you spend all day, every day, focused on getting things done as part of a team where one person is relying on you to toss something their way at a specified time, it's hard to get out of that mindset.

Paralyzed by indecision, with wide-open space of unscheduled time, I sometimes find that answering the question, "What do I want to do now?" can be challenging.

There are the default, dreamy, pie-in-the-sky answers that always lurk in my back pocket: Go to Paris. Take up residence at the beach. And on some days, find a way to become queen of the world where everything I say, goes. (OK, we've entered the realm of fantasy with that one, but everyone needs one, right?)

But then there are the smaller ones, infinitely more achievable. And maybe? More fun in the end...

Like, dance with someone I love.
Crunch through a perfect Gala apple.
Turn off all the gadgetry and page through an engrossing book.
Impose a little order on this one-square-foot area of my desk. (I don't want to add to the frustration!)
Have cereal for dinner.
Call a friend who always makes me laugh.
Cross off something from my personal to-do list, the list that nobody pays me to complete.
Take a walk.
Decide to tackle things differently.
Make a list of experiences that have enriched my life.
Ah, that's the one... see you later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Step 1: Slow the Pace

Things have been really fast and furious at work as of late. To-do lists have been jammed to overflowing. Each day is maximized until I trudge back to my car, exhausted and unable to focus on a computer screen.

As Marcus Buckingham says, you need to find the joy in the hard work you do. Getting through the work so you can go home and relish a little joy is no way to get through a work life. The passion and joy needs to be present for you to feel fulfilled. And they need to be finely woven into your day.

(Ideally, that is.)

Every workday has its drudgery - I agree with that, too. But much is in the attitude, so change is a-coming.

On Monday, I'm going to make some changes.

First task is to calm things down by slowing the pace enough so think rather than simply react. I will face the day, determined to find the bits of joy that can be had with a few small steps.

Really devote some thought to the projects I'm especially keen to contribute to and to make my own.

Appreciate the humor of the many people I work with each day.

Hang up a piece of artwork I really cherish so I see it 8 hours a day instead of hiding it behind a door.

What things can you do to make your workday more enjoyable?

Grace: Issue Whatever the Hell We're Up To

  1. Easing into fall.
  2. Falling (all over again) in love.
  3. Loving someone's smile.
  4. Smiling at unexpected creativity.
  5. Creating something you're proud of.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The September Issue

When I got out of college, I landed at a magazine that covered the graphic arts industry.

Specifically, how all manner of printed products actually were produced and printed. The technologies used, the innovative papers and foils and hits of glosses that banded together to bring a printed piece to life, whether it was an annual report, a car brochure, a direct mail piece, an art book or a magazine.

I was in heaven--as an obsessive reader, I came to appreciate the heft of books and particularly magazines. How the pages gleamed and the images sprang from the pages in a visual marathon. While in college, I interned at a magazine and learned how the editorial side built an issue piece by piece, fact by fact, racing against the deadline that awaited every month.

So getting a documentarian's view of the production of Vogue's annual masterpiece of a September issue--the requisite shenanigans that play out behind the scenes, the fluttering of assistants and the rolling of racks and the racing of heartbeats as blood pressure boils over and defeat sets in amongst some of the most creative minds in the industry--was a startlingly good time.

When it ended, just like my friend seated beside me, I wanted more, more, more. We saw flickers of The Devil Wears Prada personality peeking out, but largely that kind of behavior was tamped down or largely kept from view and instead a carefully constructed Anna Wintour veneer was on display. For the sake of reality, I suppose, we saw her from time to time with her lipstick gnawed-off, or tired eyes caught on film for all to see.

But it was Grace Coddington whom I admired all the more in the end, for trying new creative approaches to telling the stories of those clothes each month. Clearly, she is the dreamer behind the visual driver's seat, assembling tableaus of models and props that take you to another world, whether Anna thinks she can charge her overpriced admission to go there or not. I understand she has a magazine to sell ads for, that it's a business that requires coverage of some and not others and that the who's in and who's out changes like the wind.

But while she clearly seems unafraid to be direct and even brusque with those beneath her, her peers bring out her insecurity. And we were treated to an example of how passive-aggressive bosses (who leave for a trip and ask an underling to deliver bad news once she's left the building) can just chip away at a team's desire to work hard.

Given the glimpses of Grace's chutzpah and keen intellect, I was hoping she'd grab the cell of one of the myriad assistants to call an unsuspecting Anna in her limo to give her what for. But she also strikes me as too shrewd to do that on camera, and probably too well-mannered, being British, after all.

If you've ever cracked open one of the heftier issues of Vogue and wondered what it takes to make it happen, or felt yourself transported to another time or simply pined over the clothes while paging through its fashion spreads, go see this movie. It is well worth your time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Achievement on a Holiday Weekend

The day's barbeque had been eaten and enjoyed, and dessert had been served (fruit tart for the grownups; cookie pie topped with M&Ms and toasted marshmallows -- courtesy of my Mom -- for the niece and nephew, although everyone else sneaked a sliver, too).

My sports-obsessed nephew had been tossing a football around all afternoon with various family members, when I -- known as the least likely football player of the group -- picked up the pigskin and asked him to show me to throw a spiral.

(Remember, it's on my list? Yeah, I'd forgotten, too.)

When he heard it had been a goal of mine, he caught my eye, not believing what he'd heard, and we headed into the yard.

My nephew's normal 13-year-old impatience gave way to a forthright, gentle coaching. Laughably, he stood the same distance he uses when throwing to his five-years-younger sister (it's been a looooong time since I'd thrown anything).

We tossed the ball back and forth as he commented on form (follow through with throwing arm down and across body, other arm flows back in same direction to help body twist for power), and made suggestions for a variety of changes and subtle adjustments.

Eventually, I threw one!

Not far, and not easily duplicated, but we even had a witness: My niece, as cheerleader, stood nearby and let out a squeal when it finally happened.

It was a relaxing, and unexpectedly fun and satisfying way to end the day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Julia Child Dinner

Spent Friday night ushering in the long Labor Day weekend with 4 girlfriends who gathered for a Julia Child-inspired dinner at the house of a friend who is a talented cook.

The hostess had prepared chicken with a white wine and mushroom sauce and a smidgen of cream. Sliced potatoes roasted in the oven with Swiss cheese and cream. Tangy ratatouille to cut the richness of the rest of the dishes.

Others had brought appetizers, wine and breads to round out the evening.

After work, I'd rushed home to finish my contribution -- a tarte tatin for dessert. While it took me 35 minutes to slice into 1/8-inch thicknesses the 9 or 10 apples I'd peeled and cored, it was a very zen experience. Counting each slice until I had eight kept me focused on maintaining even slices.

It hadn't caramelized, as Julia had predicted. (But since this was the only dessert on the menu, I opted not to follow the fix of smothering it with confectioner's sugar and broiling it, which seemed a recipe for disaster given my oven's quirky nature.) The resulting sweet and buttery, cinnamon-scented apples were delicious nonetheless.

And in the end, surrounded by apple peels and droplets of juice scattered everywhere in my kitchen, I felt I'd achieved something -- some small aspect of French cooking. I vowed to make more and I could see why Julie Powell set the goal of cooking every recipe in the book as goal.

The comfort from seeing a pile of ingredients come together into something that's satisfying and true can't be beat.

As one of my friends said when raising a toast at the start of our shared meal, Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grace: Issue 54

  1. Looking up, and realizing it's Thursday and - holy cow! - where'd the week go?

  2. Getting sucked into a surprisingly great book (Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife.)

  3. Finding a few new beads at a show, then spending the week stringing and restringing, and just staring at the pretty colors every once in a while.

  4. Making incremental progress on a big-big-big project at work.

  5. Instigating plans with my best girlfriends that will result in a Friday night Julia Child foodfest to usher in Labor Day weekend. (Considering making madeleines to accompany the tea that will inevitably end the evening - unless I dig up something more manageable and healthy [wishful thinking] in my mother-in-law's copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.)