Birthday Reflections

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed and I’m deeper into aging and retirement.

Yet it’s also such an overwhelming feeling of grace and gratitude with which I face this day and the inevitable.

GotMyReservations Happy Birthday Centerpiece 2

Birthday present — Nora Fleming design

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If you love Liz like I love Liz

I’ll bet you thought we were going to talk about the upcoming Lifetime movie starring Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor.

 

While this movie looks intriguing just for its notoriety, it’s the real Elizabeth that I’m talking about today. Elizabeth II, that is.

A family member who knows I love all things British sent me this montage of Queen Elizabeth. It’s well done, but unfortunately sends home the message that even the richest and most well cared for of us eventually age. At least I’m aging in the quietude of my retirement, not on a world stage. Anyway, enjoy!

 

Photo Stories: DSLR 101 Fail

I put another notch in my retirement bedpost today.

No, not that kind of notch. I actually turned my new DSLR camera off of the automatic setting and tried to take some pictures on manual. I thought that before I go to camera club with the other retirees, I should actually learn how to use my camera. 🙂  I was inspired by Nan’s post on Silver Magpies — and she photographed some cherry tomatoes in a silver bowl for Facebook, so I thought I would try it too.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as successful on my first try, so I tried again.

And again.

I was still unhappy with what I was getting, so I took it in the “flower” mode on the pre-programmed settings. It may have even flashed, but I don’t think so.

According to the book I got from the library, an ISO of 2000 is crazy, even in the low light of my dining room. I’d appreciate any suggestions from my readers… clearly I haven’t figured out this manual setting thing at all. If you click into the photos, I’ve put the settings I used on each photo.

I do love the juxtaposition of the simple cherry tomatoes against the silver compote and the lace tablecloth, though. Thanks, Nan!

One step at a time, baby. That’s what I keep telling myself.

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Ironing My Pillowcases

I received David Lebovitz’s lovely memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, for my birthday. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years, and my son’s darling Curly Girlfriend gave it to me. I gave a little shriek of delight when I opened the Amazon package; I’ll admit it. I love Lebovitz’s blog — I’ve talked about it here and here and here! If you like the blog, you’ll also love the wry humor and great recipes in his book.

The book is a series of essays about an American learning how to live in Paris, and is full of juicy tidbits and advice. This one just hit home.

If anyone had told me ten years ago that I’d be standing over an ironing board, pressing the wrinkles out of pajamas and kitchen towels, I would have told them they were insane. What kind of idiot irons his pajamas, let alone kitchen towels?

Lebovitz goes on to describe his discovery of vintage French linen, which he bought by the armful whenever he saw it at tag sales and stockpiled it, thinking that he might never see such fine linen again. It turns out he was wrong, by the way; he says that fine linen is common in France and he didn’t need to become a bedsheet hoarder. 🙂

Then he realized that he had a problem laundering  those gorgeous high-thread-count cotton sheets and cases. 

I … realized that [the beautiful linens] would come out of my mini washing machine a wrinkly ball, looking like one of those Danish modern white paper lamps; a tight, wadded-up sphere of sharp pleats and folds. So unless you’re a masochist and enjoy waking up after a rough night with bruises and abrasions on your arms and legs — which I don’t — those sheets need to be starched, ironed, and pressed into submission.

David Lebovitz solved his problem by sending them to the laundry to be washed and ironed, because he doesn’t have a dryer in his apartment and sheets have to hang up to dry. If you’ve ever stayed in a Paris hotel room, you know that space is at a premium, and there’s no room in a Parisian apartment to hang sheets to dry.

Being a servantless American, I have a lovely large washer and dryer, and my beautiful high-thread-count linens come out of the dryer pretty well, if I catch them quickly enough after the dryer stops. But I’ve always hated wrinkly pillowcases. Now that I’m a stay-at-home-wife, I’ve started ironing my pillowcases and the top trim on the sheets.

Which leads me to some recent responses to a post I made about ironing pillowcases on my other blog, Retirement 365.

I am blessed to have friends and relatives who take trains, planes, and automobiles to come to visit us, and we’re thrilled to host them in our home. We recently had a visit from college friends and spent two wonderful days running around Chicago eating, taking photos, listening to music, and drinking good wine. My husband’s brother and his family travel every summer from the West Coast, spending a fortune to fly five family members to Chicago, so that we can all attend the family reunion together. And they’ve been doing this for thirty years, never missing a summer. It’s hard to even put in words how much this annual opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our family means to me.

I think they are worth ironing my pillowcases for.

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Sh-t Happens

Sorry to be so graphic, but it’s true.

You’ve all experienced it. You plan and plan and something still goes wrong.

I’ve been watching the Next Food Network Star program on DVR about a week behind and it really hit me that entertaining is a crap shoot. Sometimes things go as planned, and sometimes the universe disconnects your microphone. And I went on the Food Network site to give you a link and found out that my favorite had been eliminated. Shuckey darns.

We can all be Food Stars if we want to be.

The other night we had some people over to celebrate my birthday. It’s part of the ongoing feast that I hope to continue for the next 30 years. I was blessed with gifts of food and drink from friends who contributed from their hearts, and the support of my husband and daughter.

But stuff happens.

After weeks of drought, between 5:00 and 7:00 there were spurts of rain. Why??? Because I planned an outside party. That’s why.

While waiting in the garage for the rain to stop, I tripped over a stack of portable chairs in bags and grabbed the garage door frame, which is lubricated with lithium grease. To get it off, I had to use nail polish remover, ruining my manicure. I had to leave the arriving guests to make repairs.

We had to put all of the tables, linens, flowers, and candles on the patio AFTER the guests had arrived — and the “putting” was done by the guests. The thought fills me with horror — guests aren’t supposed to have to do the work (unless you are a guest at Martha Stewart’s). One guest found my hurricane candles and put them on the tables; another filled the vases with roses. The men pitched in and put up all the tables, and tried valiantly to figure out my plan for the table coverings.

The catered main dish didn’t heat up as quickly as the caterer said it would. So we served more drinks.

Music Man (otherwise know as Saint Tom) dropped the pasta dish in the oven. Thank goodness pasta is indestructible. No real problem.

It’s better to have entertained than not to have tried.

Apparently people were having fun or were well-enough lubricated with beer, sangria and Pimms to be oblivious to the crises happening. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, even the friends who pitched in to make things happen.

I believe in the nobility of entertaining people and I take great, great pride that people are willing to give me two or three hours of their busy lives.
~~~ John Lasseter

I turned on the oven tonight to heat up the leftover Pork Normandy and it smelled like oven cleaner.

All of the oven racks were on the bottom of the oven — a reminder that I slept through the cleanup of the party. Truly, I am married to a saint, and the smell quickly was replaced by the amazing aroma of the Calvados sauce.

I am blessed that people were not only willing to come to my party, but were willing to help.  There’s room in my heart for a few more parties.

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Provence Week: Two Food Network French Menus

Anchovies. I love them but many people want to “list them.”

Apparently I’ve been watching too much HGTV while I clean my house. I can’t decide if I love or hate Love It or List It. I’ve also been watching lots of Food Network since I can’t abide the thematic approach HGTV is taking with daytime programming. I miss Joan Steffend. Remember her?

Anchovies figure large in the recipes of the Provencal region because they are fished from the Mediterranean and are commonly used in bouillabaisse, pasta dishes, salad dressings, and toppings for breads.

The Food Network loves French cooking (or what purports to be French cooking).

Just this week there were two segments showing Ina Garten and Melissa Darabian making French meals. Although I haven’t yet made the full meals, they look relatively easy and something that I might attempt.

On the Ten Dollar Dinners show, Melissa Darabian presented a Provencal meal with a pizza, salad, and grilled pineapple. With the exception of the poached egg  (I don’t do runny eggs), this menu seems doable. And the pizza has anchovies on it, but I saw several different versions of Pissaladiere online, including this one which may also be vegan. I’m hoping that some of my friends actually want to eat this with me when I make it — will they love it or list it?

I couldn’t find a photo of Darabian’s pissaladiere, but this photo (Image Credit) is part of a blog story about a young man going to culinary school. Gorgeous photos of the food!

Our favorite Barefoot Contessa also created a French Bistro lunch in a segment airing this week. Her menu seemed within my ability to recreate and includes Roasted Butternut Squash, a French apple tart, and Sole Meuniere. No anchovies in these recipes, though. What initially caught my eye was how she set the outside table in anticipation of her French-inspired party.

So this gets us back to anchovies.

One of my summer goals is to learn how to make my favorite salad dressings at home with ingredients I can control. I watched Ina make Caesar Salad with Pancetta in another episode, but it got me thinking about cooking with raw eggs. It seems like there has been an awful lot of food scares recently so I researched alternates for the raw egg in the Caesar Salad Dressing. There are a lot of opinions on this issue, including that only raw eggs are appropriate, but this one by Alton Brown looks promising. It uses tofu instead of egg for the thickening agent. And this one just flat-out subs the egg with egg substitute. Will I “love” any of these recipes or want to “list them” down the garbage disposal?

Still no anchovies.

I’ve always bought my anchovies in the tin, but Costco had anchovies in the seafood case that actually looked like fish instead of sun-dried tomatoes with fur. Has anyone tried them? Do they actually have the “anchovy flavor” or is the flavor we expect from anchovies actually coming from the salt-curing process? I’m feeling as though I’m probably going to stick with the basic tin of salty goodness — and I can get them in a six-pack from Costco practically for free. 🙂

Adventures in Home Cooking continues next week — catch up with me then to see if any of these recipes actually worked — or try them yourselves and let me know what happened!

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A NEW START

When I first started blogging in 2010, I had very little idea of how much my daily (or almost daily) connection with the world would come to mean to me. I have valued the opportunity to express myself, hone my craft, and try out new things on my friends.

Today represents the first day in a new chapter in my life — retirement. I will be keeping a daily chronicle of my experiences and reflections on this passage in my life. I hope you will join me at Retirement 365 as well as continuing to follow Got My Reservations.

There’s a link to Retirement 365 in the side bar of my Home Page — thanks for your support!

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Orchid Week: Friday

 

When I walk out of my building this morning, I’m stepping out into the unknown. At least I know there’s an orchid corsage in my fridge that I can wear just in case I want to remember that I once was a teacher.

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Orchid Week: Thursday

I’m in my last week of teaching — is that even possible? — and won’t have a lot of time to blog this week, so I’m leaving you with a series of photos of orchids that I took at the nursery. Enjoy!

 

Today’s teacher task: Cleaning my classroom and end-of-year luncheon. The party is always fun and will certainly be meaningful this year for me!

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Orchid Week: Tuesday

I’m in my last week of teaching — is that even possible? — and won’t have a lot of time to blog this week, so I’m leaving you with a series of photos of orchids that I took at the nursery. Enjoy!

Today’s teacher task: supervising cleaning out lockers and making sure my kids don’t put usable school supplies in the trash. We donate good stuff to less affluent schools. Then they will go through their portfolios from eight years of elementary school. They absolutely love seeing their stuff from when they were little and also seeing how much they have grown in their eighth grade year with me. It’s usually a feel-good activity for the last day of classes.

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