Saturday, May 31, 2014

Catholic Tastes

I hadn't been inside a Catholic church in years - at least not in the US.  I would occasionally wander into one in another country, lured by the architecture, guilted into opening the doors by the great art that I was going to have to explain missing to those friends.  You know the type.

And after a while I'd be creeped out by the gloom, by the gory art, and I'd push open the small wooden door that opened to the side, next to the big wooden doors (why are the big front doors always locked?) and I would let the light and breeze wash over me and chase away the cooties.  

I know, I know - all those beautiful altarpieces, all that significant art.  With apologies to Frances Mayes and art lovers everywhere, give me a still life, a Dutch master, an Impressionist, a plein air painter, anything but a bleeding Christ and weeping virgins and souls melting off to eternal damnation.  If I want to be depressed  I can read the papers.  (On my computer.   I'm not a total Luddite.)

But this was Mackenzie's first communion.  Preceded by her first confession.  My confession: I feel like I get the fish-eye from those in the know the minute I walk into a Catholic church, priests and congregants alike.  I feel like there's a big neon sign flashing over my head that says "Protestant!  Philistine!" and you know how things were between Catholics and Protestants for the longest time. 

But Lisa is a dear friend, and we had watched Mackenzie grow up. We had met Lisa's gracious and warm parents, and heard stories of their big Italian family.  In an Italian family, there is no opt out.  (Carol, are you listening?)  You are family.  Forever.  And if you really believe the Catholic stuff, way beyond.  End of sentence.  

So we went.  And, totally intimidated by the crowds, we tried to sneak into a seat in the back of the church and waaaaaaay off to the side.  (Do you have any idea how many Catholics are having first communions every day?  Neither do I but I can tell you from the crowd of communicants at St Isidore's it's a lot.)  

Sitting quietly on the side, I heard, "Pssssst!   Psssssst!"  And then I heard someone call my name.  I looked up, and Lisa's mom was flapping her hand at me.  

"Come, come!" and she flapped her hand some more, and patted the seat next to her.

So we climbed over the dozen or so families sitting between us and Lisa's family, and squeezed in next to a handsome man and his beautiful pregnant wife  He introduced himself as Lisa's brother, Joey.

I don't know what to do at a Catholic mass.  Lutherans don't kneel except for communion, and altho I get the standing up and sitting down bits (it helps that they tell you when to do what) and I've jumped thru all the Lutheran hoops and feel smugly qualified to take communion, the Catholics, I fear, would disagree.  One true faith and all that.  

So I said to Joey, "I'm not sure what to do.  I'm not Catholic, I'm Lutheran.  You know, all of the guilt, but no confession, no absolution of sins - you're pretty much guilty for life."

He smiled, pointed at his mother, and said "That's what Italian mothers are for."  

Since that day, his mother Maria has taught me to make pomorolo, and zucchini soup.  She has shared her sugo and promised to teach me how to make that too.  Renzo is going to teach me how to cure olives - his are a religious experience.  I have helped Lisa make tags for her mother's birthday, and I swear I still find flecks of red glitter after all this time.   In the weirdest places - like inside cookbooks?

I fiercely love that family.  Mackenzie is getting confirmed soon, they are all gathering, and I wish they would adopt me.  Barring that, I hope they send a good word upstairs.  

Happy Confirmation, Macaroni.  I love you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A dining room that glows

At first I thought I'd made a big mistake - like the time I wanted to paint our living room the color of a chamois, and it ended up looking like a 70's era Harvest Gold Sears refrigerator...and then I panicked and chose a yellow so pale it looked like an old lady's bedroom. Oops.  You don't want to know what it took to set that to rights. 

So, older and wiser (or so I thought), I painted BIG swatches of several colors.  Swathes, really.  And I chose the brighter color.  Strong person, bold color.

Cutting in it looked all right...

And when I rolled the walls the wet paint was the color of mangoes and cream.  Yummy.

And then it dried.  Oops.  The next morning I hied it down to the paint store and bought the next color down...except it wasn't.  The chip I chose from and the chip they mixed from had the same name, but not the same color.  After some kerfuffle they agreed, and went thru several gallons and three days (at their expense) to get the color perfect.  

I painted a big swath of the new color, right next to the mirror...too pale.  Rats.  So  I got out the roller and brush, said a little prayer, and put on a second coat.  Of the bright color.  Knowing that we had black and white menus (framed in black and gold) that would cover lots of the wall helped me breathe.  Black and white make this color pop.  And knowing that it's just paint helped too, but by this time I was feeling quite attached to the saffron glow, and hoping the saffron crush lasted.
 I learned something about deep colors - pale when wet and just out of the can, they dry dark at first and then lighten as they cure.  

It glows in the light coming in the window - I keep going into the dining room to turn out the light...which isn't on.

My incredibly talented friend Cathy came over and helped me hang the menus.  I had hung most of them as they came from the framer (our wonderful fabulous framer, Aletha.  Studio Frameworks.  The Best.  Use no other.)   But they were hap-hazard, and a bit awkward as you can see...

Actually Cathy gave me a master class in picture hanging (move over, Mario Buatta!).  And in line and color, form and harmony, unity, balance and scale.  I learned more from Cathy Friday afternoon than I did in 5 years of design college.  And it looks incredible.  I find myself drifting into the room, smiling, sitting down. 

It's a hit with our friends too.  We had a dinner party last night and we had so much fun!  So if you're looking for something to make you smile, try a bold color.  And an afternoon with a wonderful and talented friend.  Thank you Cathy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May 2014 Postcard From The Hedge

Okay, so I promised a monthly to-do list for the garden, and here - courtesy of Sloat Nursery (and please shop there - they are smart, helpful and funny!)  is your May to-do list.  Check out their advice, sign up for their newsletter - sign up for Orchard's newsletter too.  

Try something new - tomatoes among the petunias, basil and parsley edging a flower bed.  Sage by the front door (and google the folklore about that).  

Then go out and garden - there's a lot to do, and it's the perfect day for it - it's today.  Doesn't get any better than that.

􏰀 Plant annuals like petunias, marigolds, begonias, lobelia, and coleus. Re-seed radishes, carrots and beets.
􏰀 Plant late summer edibles such as pumpkins, squash, sunflowers and melons. 􏰀 Select garden-ready
blooming perennials.
􏰀 Fertilize rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with E.B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Food.
􏰀 Give vegetables a boost with E.B. Stone Organics Tomato and Vegetable Food.
􏰀 Use a time-release fertilizer such as Osmocote for your container plants.
􏰀 Prune spring-flowering shrubs after bloom is past.
􏰀 Mulch vegetable and flower beds with Sloat Forest Mulch Plus to control weeds and conserve moisture.
􏰀 Freshen up containers and replace spent annuals with colorful 4-inch perennials such as verbena, calibrachoa, bacopa and ipomoea.
􏰀 Release ladybugs and other beneficial insects to help control aphids, mites, white- flies, and other garden pests.
􏰀 Warm season annuals are here! Plant zinnia, salvias, cosmos, lisianthus and portulaca.
􏰀 Plant herbs for use in the kitchen. Re-seed or transplant salad greens, green beans and kales.
􏰀 Your spring plantings are getting hungry. Feed them with all-purpose fertilizers such as E.B. Stone Organics and Maxsea. 􏰀 Feed your lawn with Nature’s Green Lawn Food.
􏰀 Continue to deadhead roses, shrubs and other flowers with Felco pruners to encourage new blooms; for smaller jobs, such as grooming your container creations, use Fiskars Micro Tip Snips.
􏰀 Mulch shrubs and beds to conserve moisture.Try GreenAll Microbark for its beauty and utility.
􏰀 Make sure vegetables are supported with cages, stakes, or trellises.
􏰀 Check early-bearing fruit trees for heavily laden branches.Thin fruits now to increase their size and prevent branches from breaking. Harvest vegetables as they ripen so plants continue producing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

24 Hours Door to Door

Actually, by the time we got out of the airport it was closer to 30. Hours.  In airplanes and airports.  One thousand people got off planes at Denpasar Airport in Bali, and there were about 6 customs agents.  Gotta love it.  Or not.  

But Bali! Even the name conjures up tropics and mystery, steamy jungles and turquoise beaches.  The reality, we realized as we left the airport, is somewhat different.  Traffic:
with rules we could not begin to comprehend.   Notice there are 4 people on this scooter?  Do. Not. Drive. In. Bali.  You will die. The horn either means "Oh yes, by all means pass me," or "Huge oncoming truck that you cannot see."  They know the difference; we do not.  Ditto the flashing lights.  And the lane markers?  Just decorative.  Sidewalks? Nope.  

Hire a driver.  Preferably Drivers With Distinction.  And say hello to Dean from us.  And Norman.  They were incredible, great drivers, amazing tour guides.  We'd pile in the car in the morning and say "What are we doing today?"  and we were constantly amazed.  More on what we did later.

There was a fountain that looked like the Fountain of Apollo at Versailles - if the horses had all been on meth.  Which might help you navigate the traffic.
The villa was gorgeous, built for tropical living.  Big decks:
Huge open hallways...
...and living rooms.
Big airy bedrooms with mosquito nets.  If you get one, get one with two entries.  We used it, we didn't really need it.  But it added to the exotic tropical ambience.  Especially fighting to get out when we had to get up in the wee hours (and you know why they're called the wee hours).

A huge kitchen with the most amazing chef, Wayan, and her assistant, Ketut.  Who was also in change of the gorgeous gardens.

Balinese use only four first names.  Depending on birth order you are Wayan (#1), Made or Kadek (#2), Nyoman (we called him Norman - #3), or Ketut (#4).  If there's a fifth child it is Wayan Balik - Wayan again.  Our Wayan cooked for us - breakfast every morning, luscious tropical fruits and Bailnese coffee (ready when we got up the stairs, and she knew how each an every one of us liked our coffee.  Or tea.  We are so spoiled!)  We had toast with strawberry jam, scrambled eggs from the chickens that woke us each morning (it's a great way to wake up!) and bacon.  I do believe we ate all the bacon in Bali.    
And Wayan cooked us dinner every night, the most delicious things.  Satays and Balinese chicken soup, whole fried fish and the freshest vegetables.   All with interesting seasonings.  I'm looking for a Balinese cookbook...or maybe just a Balinese cook. 
And so many cozy corners where you could curl up with a book, or just stare out the window.  Listen to the birds in the trees, to the occasional tropical downpour hammering on the roof, to the Gamilan music from the temples nearby.  No Wifi.  A serious problem for some, but I think I may have finally learned how to relax.  Wonder if it will last?