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Archive for October, 2011

Tapas day at The Havens

A while ago I was in Costa Rica and our niece Alex came down almost every weekend to hang out and cook with Jim.   One fine afternoon, they both created dishes that are served with thinly sliced baguettes.   Alex made  tomato with goat cheese and Jim made a garlic and bleu cheese thing.   They started reminiscing about when we went out to have tapas at La Bodega in Kansas City.

From that they went on to opine that they could probably do a creditable afternoon of tapas right here in our own kitchen.  It didn’t take long for them to set a date, and after a certain amount of talking back and forth, a menu was planned, a shopping list made, and anticipation began.

Yesterday, the actual event occurred, with (pardon my very subjective opinion) wonderful results.   We only had to go to the store about three or four times for things we forgot to acquire, one of which was beer (shocking, I know)(that we would forget to buy it, not that we would drink it).

Actually, one of the most egregious omissions was powdered sugar for the frosting for the carrot cake.   We were laboring under the delusion that the pantry would supply us with all the powdered sugar our hearts could desire, based on the existence of several pounds of brown sugar, about 20 pounds of white sugar, a pound of super fine sugar, not to mention crystallized sugar from Germany for one’s tea.  Alas, none of those were what were required for the frosting, and a trip to the market was made before the cake got frosted.   But this was a minor glitch in the days proceedings.

So.  The Menu:

  1. Spicy baked tomatoes with goat cheese, served with french bread
  2. Dungeness crab cakes with wasabi cream
  3. Caprese salad with balsamic pesto vinaigrette,  King crab cocktail
  4. Nachos with fresh jalapeños, mexican cheese and black beans
  5. Skewered kosher sausage bits in jalapeño corn batter
  6. Sesame crusted salmon with orange dipping sauce
  7. Carrot cake

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First course:   Spicy tomato with goat cheese.    The tomatoes, garlic and serranos in this came out of our garden.  This is how it looked coming out from under the broiler.

And this is how it looked when on the french bread (which was made in house, by the way).

And yes, it was delicious.   It was very hard to limit consumption of that little tidbit, but the immediate preparation of the crab cakes began.  It helped distract us from the succulent tomato/goat cheese spread.

Here is my serving, complete with the wasabi cream, which was just piquant enough.

After a suitable amount of oohing and aahing, the caprese salad and the crab cocktail made their appearance.   Once again, the tomato was from our garden and the pesto was some that I made not that long ago.

After that course, we took a little break while the nachos were put together.   These were not the sort of nachos you find at the ball park, all canned “cheese” sauce and bagged chips, nor were they the piled up overloaded things you find at most restaurants nowadays.   These were like the nachos we were served in Mazatlan about 25 years ago, so impressive that Jim has never forgotten them.   First, he made the chips from fresh corn tortillas.  Then he made the refried black beans.

Sorry, these jalapeños did not come from our garden.   If pickled pepper rings would have been deemed correct, they would have been.   Instead, these were acquired at the market.

Still awfully pretty.  Here are the nachos in preparation.

It was during this process that Mallory began to haunt the kitchen area.   Everything was SO interesting, and it smelled SO good, surely a cat should get to have something.   Shouldn’t it?

That used to be Mike’s favorite post also.   You can monitor everything that is going on from that particular spot.  It has an unimpeded view of the living room, the dining room, and the utility room.   It also has the advantage that it is right in the middle of everything which gives you the maximum possibility of being stepped on.  However, we managed to avoid making that particular faux pas.

That is me in the background, doing my best to keep up with the impressive manufacture of dirty dishes that accompanied this event.

These are the nachos, fresh out of the oven, right before we gobbled them up.

Next the corn dogs skewered kosher sausage pieces in jalapeño corn batter.

They really were quite tasty.  We had a choice of dijon or honey mustard.   Both were excellent.

We took a break for a while after those two courses.   After a while, Jim got up and started production on the sesame dipped salmon.  We sort of caved on this dish:  the sesame seeds were supposed to be black sesame, but what we had were white sesame seeds.  They worked just fine.

And yes, Mallory’s patience was finally rewarded.   She got to have tapas too:  fresh raw salmon, her first ever taste of such a thing.   It required quite a lot of chewing, and she did not scarf it down at all, but I would say it was much appreciated.  One has to wonder about the appropriateness of providing one’s cat with line-caught wild salmon at some astronomical price pre pound, but there it is.  it is what we had, so it is what Mallory had.

Ruby was not left out.   Jim tried to make crispy salmon skin, but it didn’t crisp particularly nicely, and so we gave the skin pieces to Ruby.   I would have taken a picture of her enjoying them, but she ate them so fast I didn’t have a chance.

This is how the dish looked right before I ate it.   I did not accomplish this quite as fast as Ruby ate her skins, but it didn’t take the four of us long to consume the whole amount Jim prepared.

Last but not least, the carrot cake.

We had leftover cake for breakfast this morning.

I will close with a shot of the kitchen, taken shortly after we enjoyed the cake, while the cooks were resting on their well deserved laurels.

The stock pot on the stove still had very hot oil in it, which is why it wasn’t scrubbed and put away.  Not to be a braggart or anything, but I submit that my talents as scullery maid are a valuable addition to this sort of affair.

And I did make the frosting for the cake….

Plans are already in the works for the next extravaganza!   We can hardly wait.

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I have alluded to an upcoming vacation a few times on The Havens.  This morning as I was making coffee and putting Jim’s lunch together, he came up to me and put his arms around me and pulled me close, and said gleefully “Three weeks from today is Mike Hahn’s birthday party.”

This makes no sense unless you understand that Mike Hahn’s “Birthday” Party is an EVENT, held annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  It involves large quantities of blues musicians getting together out in the woods with a similarly large quantity of blues fans, food, alcohol, and  includes a bonfire.  This is an event much anticipated by our community, and this year it also marks the official beginning of our vacation, because we are going straight from the party (an all night event) to the airport from whence we fly to Spain.

We are going on another Seabourne Cruise.   This time we are starting from the Spanish coast on the Mediterranean, sailing through the Straights of  Gibraltar, and across the Atlantic to Florida.   Since the cruise actually begins the day before Thanksgiving, we decided we were not interested in flying to Europe, or anywhere for that matter, during that particular holiday, so we decided to leave for the cruise early and spend a few days at the port where we are meeting our ship.

We have been planning this for over a year, saving for it, paying for it.  Jim has been surfing the web and finding good places to eat.  We already have our plane tickets to Spain and home from Florida, hotel reservations, we already have our train tickets from Madrid to the coastal city where we meet our ship, and we already have it all paid for plus a substantial amount of spending money set aside.   Needless to say, we also have credit cards with rather large (unused) credit limits for emergencies, but we don’t anticipate having to use them.   So, when we get home, we won’t be spending the next year paying for our vacation.   Instead, we can start planning the next one.

Anyway, there has been quite a great deal of excitement around the Havens surrounding this event.   The tuxedo had to be altered, as the gentleman who wears it has lost quite a lot of weight since it was originally acquired.  I can testify that schlepping boxes of produce around for several hours each day will encourage weight loss as well as nice development of pectorals and biceps.

I have had a secret desire for strappy silver sandals ever since I was in my early twenties, and I finally succumbed to the blandishments of Zappo’s website and ordered up a pair.  They are all that anyone could desire, and they fit too.   Personally, I think they are darned cute, and they satisfy some atavistic desire that I have been harboring for several decades.

Yep, them’s my feet they are on, you can tell by the dragon tattoo.  I don’t want to hear any guff about heels ruining my knees, hips, and ankles either.   They aren’t much of a heel and I don’t intend to do much walking in them.   I figure that they should last me the rest of my life, given how often I wear dress shoes.

I moved the plants into the house, and as per its usual custom, the Christmas Cactus got religion and proceeded to bloom like crazy.  It is ornamenting the dining room plant shelves quite spectacularly.

I’ve been doing so well with the pink african violet my friend Sharon gave me several years ago when she moved to Nevada, that one of my clients showed up with a new one for me.   This one is a gorgeous royal purple.  I love it.  Hope it loves me.

Out in the front garden the fall blooming crocuses are putting on a show.

Look at all the shoots at the base of that cluster.   There will be blossoms for several days, especially since the nights have turned cool.   They really are lovely things, especially when you get up close and personal.

Well, I’d rattle on, but we are going on a DATE tonight, out to a place up on the Lake where one of our friends’ bands is playing a gig this evening.  We are going up early to eat, and will probably even Dance….

Gotta go take a shower and think about what to wear!

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Just a short post. Our fabulous kids, namely our niece Alex and son Jesse went together and purchased an iPad for Jim.

I am sitting in the comfort of our living room typing away at the virtual keyboard with WordPress on the screen.

As I began this little exercise, my poor husband said, “I’ve lost it…”

All he did was show me how to put a direct link on the screen, and I asked whether I could put my bog on there ….. And the rest is history.

I guess I’d better give it back now. It really is his new toy….

It really is a very cool thing though.

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The tradition continues

We have a new military member in our family.   Jesse’s wife Lynette recently completed her basic training.

We are extremely proud of her!

I may be prejudiced, but I think this may be one of the cutest, prettiest and nicest soldiers I have ever seen.   Well, except for the pretty, Jesse is right up there too.

I really want to see a shot of the the two of them together for comparison’s sake!

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Lately life around The Havens has felt a little like this picture:

In case you can’t tell what that is a photo of, our resident Cooper’s hawk was perched on the fence outside the bathroom window, being harrassed by no fewer than five blue jays.   At the point I took this shot, she was hunkered down in the gap which someday will have a gate, with three jays on the fence near her and another couple in the red bud tree on the other side of the fence, all squawking what amounts to “We don’t like your kind around here,” or words to that effect.

Too bad all you can see is the window screen and blur.

I’m not feeling quite so beleaguered and confined today, however.   For one thing, a therapist has entered our lives, and even though the work has only just begun, just the fact that there is someone who can direct our efforts towards the big pile of stuff on our plates and help us be more effective in dealing with it makes a huge difference in the atmosphere.  To those who have supported us and sent cyberhugs and love during this rather difficult period, we send deep thanks and love right back.

I especially want to thank Syncopated Eyeball, who took a risk, and actively encouraged us to seek professional assistance.  I think that her message was the last grain of energy and sense that finally started the ball rolling in that direction for BOTH of us, and for that I am deeply grateful.  I just wanted her to know that she did a small thing that made a huge difference for us.

Fall has finally made its appearance, and things are cooling off around here.   We finally had the first fire of the season, and Mallory proved that she is a true feline.

It took literally no time at all for her to discover the proper place for a cat is toasting her belly in front of a fire.

I moved the plants back inside, and she also has discovered that she really is a jungle animal, and there are beasts lurking in the jungle that must be attacked and dispatched.   Too bad most of those beasts are imaginary, the hunt and kill is fairly detrimental to the jungle and we have been trying to discourage that behavior.   Unfortunately, the disciplinary device (kitchen spray bottle) only seems to add verisimilitude to the rainforest experience.

She has also discovered the flush toilet, a modern convenience which most of us may not realize is actually a cat mind-boggling entertainment device.  If anyone tries to actually USE the toilet without her in attendance, there are vociferous complaints outside the door, because she wants to Be There for the Flush!   The water goes down and THEN!! it comes Back UP!!    WOW!   As you can see in the above photograph, the cat is not lacking for play items, but there is always room for more entertainment in Mallory’s life.

We had our first frost, in preparation for which we pulled up all the basil and made the last batch of pesto.

It was late enough in the season that we didn’t find any spiders in this batch.   We wound up harvesting basil three times this summer, and have quite an excellent supply of it on hand for the winter.   Some of it wound up on the pizza Jim made the other night.

The Stroll Garden is winding down.  In this shot, you can tell that it had been dry.

I got my water bill yesterday too, and that proved it as well.

From a distance, it all looks a little sere and not very interesting, but close inspection reveals that there is actually quite a lot going on.

The clematis are doing their fall review.

On the rue plants, the caterpillars of the Missouri Woodland Swallowtail butterfly are grabbing a last meal before chrysalis.

The agastache (hummingbird mint) is going great guns.   I hope it proves to be winter hardy, I really like the way it performs.   It is a drought tolerant perennial in addition to being not palatable to rabbits.  I didn’t notice the hummingbirds cared much for it, they were way too enthralled with the canna lilies and the purple hyacinth beans.

The bittersweet vine has berries.

The native aster in the rain garden is bee heaven right now.  The frost has not tamed it.

I’m sure I have shared my fossilized spirals with you before, but I still love them, and the light is always different.

Still have a few colchicums around the place.

I’m awaiting the arrival of the fall crocuses, which have their noses up but haven’t bloomed yet.   Now that there has been a frost, perhaps they will emerge.  Not everything likes it hot.   Some thrive in the cooler times.

We survive too, to thrive again.

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