Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

It never ceases to amaze me how one thing can change the landscape of your entire planned day. Today was one of those days. Mid morning, we discovered that our little Daisy was favoring her left hind leg. In fact she couldn't even put any weight on it. Well...I won't even GO into the discovery of how that happened. Suffice to say - WTFFFFFFFFFFF!?

Anyway - so after discussing it with some dog owner friends, we decided we better take her to the vet for an exam. She needed to get a booster shot anyway so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone, meet the vet and be done with the whole deal.

So I texted my friend Karen to let her know I had decided to take Daisy to the vet - her vet - as a matter of fact. And I got this text back:

"Can you bring Tara home for me?" Tara? Home? What the hell is she talking about? Then it dawned on me that maybe she had brought her dog with her to the store she co-owns with my friend Missy and needed me to come pick up Tara from the store and bring her home for some reason. So I respond:

"???? Umm yes? Don't know who Tara is though. I'm at the vet right now." So you're probably thinking, how could I not know my own friends dog! But Karen has several pets so...And she responds:

"Ashes at vet - already paid for." OHHHHHHH - the dog is here! At the vet! Hmmmm - ok ASK at vet (obviously a text typo or correction - hate when texting does that!) and I didn't have to worry about the bill...it just seemed a bit odd that she was being so "casual" about this. Don't get me wrong, I had NO problem picking up her dog! In fact - I was thrilled to be able to do something for her as Karen does ALOT for me! ALOT! And I feel like I can never pay her back!

So I texted back, "LOL. Ohhh, I thought you wanted me to get her from the store! Ok, bring her to your house?" and she replies:

"Or store or keep her and I'll pick her up at your house later. How is Daisy?" Ummm - ok this just doesn't feel right. She is ok with me taking her dog to my house for the day? Which is FINE!!!! I am ecstatic that she trusts me with her precious Tara! But something just seems "off"...

So I said to the vet, "Ummm - I need to pick up my friend Karen's dog? Tara?"

The vet looks oddly at his assistant and I hear him say something about chemo treatment and I was like, "Yes! That's the dog. I know her dog has cancer!" So I'm thinking ok - did the dog come with a crate? Ummm - two dogs in the car? Not enough hands? No! I can do this!!!

So I head out to the front desk to pay my bill and no one seems to have communicated that I need Karen's dog. So I say to the girl, "Ummm - I'm supposed to pick up my friend's dog? Or maybe it's a cat? I honestly don't know. A bird maybe???" Agghhh, she was looking at me like I had two heads!!!!

"I got this text from Karen asking me to pick up Tara? Is Tara here?" I am feeling a bit odd right now!

Suddenly I actually SEE the light bulb go off over the girl's head and she says, "Ohhhhh the ashes!"

"No, she said to ask you..."

She tries not to giggle and all serious she interupts me, "She wants you to pick up her dogs ashes!!


I have to tell you, it's very sad that poor Tara passed away. Karen and her family were so sad and she was such a good dog! WE LOVE YOU TARA! Rest in peace my four legged friend. But this was most definitely the laugh of my day!!! And Laughing = JOY!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Food Frenzy

Did I tell you how much I love food? Seriously - I have a love affair with eating. My joy is palpable. (Perhaps the new 10 pounds showing on my scale have something to do with this affair I am having????) I also enjoy cooking great food. Love experimenting with new recipes and making my seasonal favorites throughout the year. So - right now it's summer. And aside from od'ing on fresh tomatoes and our local farmstand's corn, below are recipes of the dishes I absolutely must make at least once or five times twice each summer.


Bake a pie crust as directed. When it comes from the oven, sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded mozz. on the bottom and cool the crust. While it is cooling, food process or whatever 1 cup basil, 1 tsp. EVOO and 2 cloves garlic. When pie is cool, layer 5-6 tomatos sliced (slice and lay on paper towels for like 15-20 minutes to get rid of the juice first) and then spread the basil mixture over the tomatos. Mix up 1 cup mozz., 1/2 cup mayo., 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp or so of black pepper. Spread over the basil and bake the whole thing at 375 for 35-40 minutes. (I use a pamper chef pie crust thingy that keeps the pie crust edge from burning). OMG - DELISH!! NOT LOW CAL but so unbelievably GOOD!!!!!

FAVORITE APPETIZER (or as a side salad also!) Black Bean Salsa

2 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 (11 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained (vacuum packed)
½ container of grape tomatoes, cut into 1/8ths
1 large avocado, peeled & chopped
1 purple onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tspn salt
½ tspn pepper

Combine all ingredients, cover & chill. Serve with tortilla chips (lime are best).

FAVORITE DRINK? Watermelon Sangria ala Karen M.

1 bottle white wine - don't use an expensive kind
3/4 cup watermelon schnapps/or sometimes called Pucker
1/2 cup white cranberry juice
2 cups freshly cut (into small pieces) watermelon
2 limes, cut into half wheels

Combine all ingredients in large glass pitcher and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for atleast four hours. Serve over ice.

FAVORITE EGGPLANT DISH? Lucia's Melanzana in Padedda (no clue who Lucia is!)

3 pounds medium eggplants
About 2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2-3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if eggplant is not salted
Lucia’s Tomato Sauce, recipe below
About 1½ tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Handful of basil leaves, washed and spun dry

To salt eggplant, with a vegetable peeler, peel eggplants and slice crosswise into rounds 1/4-1/2 vinch thick. Arrange a layer in a large colander and sprinkle lightly with salt; repeat layering and salting until all rounds are salted. Weight them with a plate or inverted pot lid and set aside for 1 hour. Then rinse slices and, taking a few slices in your hand at a time, squeeze out the excess liquid like a sponge, repeating until all slices are dry. (I NEVER DO THIS SALTING PART!!!!)

To fry eggplant, heat 1 or 2 large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillets over moderate-high heat. Add about 1½ tablespoons of oil to each and swirl to coat. When oil is hot and shimmering, but not smoking, arrange a single layer of eggplant slices in each pan. Cover and cook until the underside is golden, 3-5 minutes; turn slices with a spatula, drizzle in additional oil as necessary, and continue cooking, shifting slices around occasionally until golden and tender, 3-4 minutes longer. Remove slices as they are done onto a large platter and set aside to cool. Repeat until all eggplant has been fried.

To assemble, spoon about ½ cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 11- or 12-inch flameproof casserole or skillet. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices over the sauce and spread these with about ¼ cup tomato sauce. Sprinkle lightly with Parmigiano and scatter torn basil leaves on top (roughly 2 inches apart). Repeat, building up 4 or 5 layers until all the eggplant is used. Spread top with ½ cup tomato sauce, a final sprinkling of Parmigiano and basil leaves. (The casserole can be assembled at this point up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate, letting come to room temperature 3 hours before the final cooking.)

Cover and cook casserole over low heat, pressing eggplant down occasionally with a spatula, for about 15-20 minutes, until oil begins to bubble up along the sides. Do not be tempted to rush the process by turning up the heat. Uncover and continue cooking about 10 minutes longer. The casserole should be tender and melting, with spots of oil bubbling on the top. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Lucia LoPresti’s marinara sauce makes a perfect sauce for pasta and a fine base for many dishes, from stuffed peppers to stews.


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped, about ¾ cup

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8-1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, optional

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or drained whole peeled plum tomatoes

1/4-1/2 teaspoon sugar

Pour olive oil into a large skillet and stir in onion. Over medium-low heat, saute onion until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute until it just starts to color. Add pepper flakes, if desired (they will add just a hint of appetizing heat), stirring them into the oil to release their flavor. Add tomatoes. (If using whole tomatoes, break them up with the edge of a kitchen spoon.)

Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn flame down to medium; simmer until oil rises to the top and separates from the sauce, 15-20 minutes. Stir in sugar to taste, to balance flavors. Makes about 2½ cups with crushed tomatoes, 1¾-2 cups with whole peeled plum tomatoes.

FAVORITE SEAFOOD DISH? Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree

I found this recipe in Giada De Laurentiis’ new cookbook. There aren’t many recipes in there that I consider clean due to high fat content and this recipe also has a bit more olive oil than I am comfortable calling clean but make it anyway. It is to DIE for. It seems labor intensive, but it’s really not. All steps are quick and easy – especially if you have prepared pesto already. (I love fresh pesto so I make it myself which is another step – but well worth it!)

Lemon Brodetto:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Pea Puree:
2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan


1/4 cup olive oil
4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the Lemon Brodetto, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Bring to a simmer, and keep warm, covered, over low heat.

To make the Pea Puree, combine the peas, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. Transfer the pea puree to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Set aside.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon until a golden crust forms, about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish.

To assemble the dish, add the tablespoon chopped mint to the Lemon Brodetto and divide between 4 shallow dishes. Place a large spoonful of Pea Puree into the center of each bowl. Place a salmon piece atop each mound of Pea Puree. Serve immediately.

FAVORITE DESSERT? Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh - Too many to count!!! BUT - I was turned on to something pretty darn special this summer - SUGAR!! Not the white granular kind - the bakery in East Haven, CT. With a name like SUGAR? How could I resist - you know - sugar addict and all... THE most amazing cupcakes! My BFF brought me a HALF DOZEN cupcakes for my birthday!! All different. All mouth-watering, fantastic!

PS You know what I do with all those surplus tomatoes? Roast them. They are so good. You can make sauce with them, freeze them and this weekend? My brother-in-law Stephen turned me on to eating them as a side or appetizer. Just halve or quarter or slice them, lay them out in a jellyroll pan, drizzle generously with olive oil, pepper and oregano or italian seasoning, basil, parsley etc. Roast at 275 for 2 hours. Amazing...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Look who found my hammock when I was out of town on Sunday! (Notice Daisy experiencing great JOY!) I am certain my friend Karen is catching joy in this second!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


If you have never spent time in a hammock, you are missing a big piece of joy. Come the first warm days of spring, the hammock gets hung, I dress it with comforters, burrow deep in and just breathe. I wait all winter for this ritual. I wait all winter to come home. And then I spend every free waking moment swinging in my nest with my ever present book of the week in hand.

I remember when I was pregnant with Michael, I spent so much time in my hammock that I was swaying when I laid down in bed at night. Kind of like when you hit dry land after you have been on a boat all day. And guess where I was when Yale Infertility called to tell me that I was MOST DEFINITELY pregnant with Brooke? Yup - swinging in my hammock on my birthday, June 21st - the best gift, huh?? I read in my hammock, talk on the phone in my hammock, text in my hammock, eat in my hammock, yell at my kids in my hammock and sometimes I even drift off to sleep in my hammock. Oh, and I also have Sunday afternoon cocktails...IN? Yup - my hammock.

Some years, my hammock season extends as far as November. I just pile on another blanket and slide deeper. I definitely go through a grieving period every year when it's time to take the hammock down. But for now? It's August. And even though everyone is complaining that the summer went so fast and they can't believe it's almost Labor Day, I smile - because I know it ain't over, till it's over. I'm home for a good two and a half - three months still. Joy - just waiting for me on the front porch...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

These Are the Days To Hold Onto

This is where it all began. A few weeks ago we spent some time with friends on Chappaquidick Island off Martha's Vineyard. Our friends had a dog named Chappy and Michael fell head over heels in love. Seeing my oldest son romping in the sand with Chappy made my heart smile. (JOY!!!!) It also made me sad to realize that Michael will be 11 in just a few months. My beautiful son is not going to be a little boy much longer and it just doesn't seem possible. Before our vacation was over, I knew I needed to get him a dog. If nothing else - maybe it would lengthen the time I have him as that little boy? Sniff...

So after much thought, I started my search. The on-line sites really frustrated me. The application process required turning over your first born and it seemed you were really boxed in with respect to making an informed intelligent decision on which dog you would like. Most/many were out of state dogs and the whole ordeal was just THAT - an ordeal.

After questioning a few people who had been through rescue adoptions, I located an organization http://www.companionpetrescue.com/ that rounded up dogs from something called kill shelters. Apparently there are a LOT of homeless dogs in the south of our country and the solution is to euthanize those unlucky enough to be captured and placed in a kill shelter. I found out there was an adoption event in the far Northwest of our state on August 7th and I decided to check it out.

At this point, I had not even told my husband I was thinking of getting a dog. So I had to get past that hurtle first. Surprisingly - that wasn't too difficult. I decided to take only Michael to the adoption site and we set out at 8:50 on Saturday morning. Who knew Northwest Connecticut was so far away!!! Yikes! It was a good hour and 45 minutes. But after only one wrong turn, we arrived at our destination.

Now mind you, I spent a good part of the ride talking to Michael about choosing carefully, the possibility of walking away without a dog, blah, blah, in one ear and out the other...

So we walk into the designated area and Michael makes a beeline to a pen with 2 tiny puppies in it.

"I want THAT one over there!!" "Not yet you don't."
"Yes, I do." "Mike, you haven't even looked at the other puppies!"
"I don't need to. I want the one over there." "NO - we need to look at other dogs. What if there's another one you like better?" "There won't be." "Mikeeeee."
"Okkkkkk." Mom - round one!
"How about this one, Mike?" "No."
"This one's cute, Mike." "I want that one over there."
Sigh, "Let's hold this cute black puppy." "Let's hold that black and white one over there."

And so - we adopted that one over there. Her name is Daisy and you know what? That one over there was the right one. She is an absolute angel and I am MADLY in love. I sense Daisy will be providing me many years of joy. Joy watching my oldest grow up with his dog. Joy because Daisy loves ME!!! Joy because all 3 kids AND Dad love Daisy. Joy because Daisy will be a part of our memories from this moment on. Joy because I am getting the SWEETEST revenge on my cats!!!!! (I did NOT just say that.)

It just occurred to me that dogs can live a long time. At the very least - 10 years! That means that 8 Augusts from now, Michael will be going away to college. And Daisy? She'll be home taking care of Michael's weeping Mom. Thank god for that one over there.

And OHBTW? Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. I LOVE YOU DAISY!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Look what I found driving in front of me the other day! You have to double click on the image so it blows up. Huh, what are the odds of that happening? Me - driving behind a car with the license plate "Joyota"? There are no coincidences, people!!!!

Nature's Anti-Depressant

So - been a bit down in the dumps lately. The best medicine for chasing the blues away for me (at least temporarily) is to go to the beach. Last week I spent Monday, Wednesday and Saturday down in the sand. I wanted so badly to just stay until sunset each day but alas, I have classes to teach on both Monday and Wed. evenings and had to leave under protest. But I vowed that I would go on a Friday or Saturday and stay till that fiery ball dropped into the ocean and Saturday was the day. It was so beautiful that day. Warm enough to sit and read all day long, yet cool enough not to sweat! The sky was that bright cloudless blue and there was a slight breeze - the perfect beach day.

And what else makes for a perfect beach day? Happy kids and a fabulous book! I have been reading the Dragon Tattoo series. You know? The trilogy the whole world has been peeing their pants over raving about?? Honestly? They are good. But I wouldn't characterize them as over the top, page turning FABULOUS. They all tell a good story and I do love Lisbeth Salander, the main character - you know - the girl with the dragon tattoo? But the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, took three tries before I finally settled into it. And I only stuck with it the third time because everyone said "You HAVE to get past page 61" or something like that. Aghhh those Swedish namessssss!!!! But I did finally get past page 61 and yes I "liked" it. I didn't love it. I liked The Girl Who Played With Fire better and I do like The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest also. Especially the end. I will be finishing it tonight (after I go pick it up out of my van, which is sitting at the local gin joint.) Sigh - yes I did it again. For those of you who follow my life, you will remember I did this a few weeks ago, too. HATE when I do that - twice!!!

Anyway - got a little off subject there...

So I had 5 kids with me and they were having the time of their lives digging a hole to China. Around 4, I texted my husband and suggested he grab a few pizzas and two a bottle of wine and meet us in the sand for the sunset and he said he wanted to weed whack for a bit and then he would be down. The kids were ecstatic and I was very happy to know I would be extending my day in the sun with a glass of Chardonnay in my hand.

Then it all fell apart. Here's the text I received at 5:03: "Call me. Dad did it again! I broke the front door glass. F#>%+@...it's cracking as we speak." The F'ing weed whacker! What IS it about men? What is the big freaking deal about having to weed whack? This is the THIRD time in 3 years that a stray stone has exploded a window. When our van was a week old, the passenger window exploded. A week later the rear window of our Saab and now 3 years later our FRONT DOOR! Obviously - there would be no wine at sunset on my beach afterall. SHIT...Sniff...sigh...

Oh well - it was almost a perfect day and - all in all, I still found some joy and soothed my battered soul for a few hours. There will always be another sunset on another day...